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It’s the billions beyond the Cabinet who matter the most

grubaugh new picBy DENNIS GRUBAUGH
A few years ago, I was looking over a Social Security Administration recap of my lifetime earnings and was astounded to see that I had passed a coveted plateau. I had made my first million dollars.
    Alas, by that point, I had also spent my fortune, and more, dethroned by the essentials of living — college and medicine for the kids, Taco Bell for me, Home Interiors for my wife. Everything conspired to eliminate my goal of a lush life.
    Rather facetiously, I use the million-dollar mark because for so long in our history, having that kind of money really meant something. It spelled the difference between the rich and powerful and the rest of us.
    Times change, and a million today is a lot less meaningful, especially in the gilded age of Donald J. Trump, who has appointed the richest team of advisers in the history of our planet to serve as his Cabinet.
    As I write this, the confirmations are just about complete. It appears the president will have two billionaires and about 10 multimillionaires among those at his disposal.
    Mr. Trump suggests that the ability to become rich reflects a level of smartness necessary to solve problems, and as far as an individual’s ability to amass wealth goes, there is some wisdom in that statement.
    Yet, smart money says that real money means little when it comes to bridging the divides that exist inside and outside the United States. Frankly, when it comes to real-world wisdom, I’ll take diplomacy over wealth-building, a billionfold.
    And the new Cabinet is going to need the wisdom of Solomon. Members must look at a picture much larger than the nationalistic portrait painted by the president. Personal wealth won’t matter a whit compared to words, actions and convictions needed to properly guide a man whose scattershot approach is their biggest challenge.
    Mr. Trump seems to know what he wants but he is not very articulate, except at the most gut level. In deciphering their boss, the most important thing the secretaries of Defense, Treasury, Homeland, et al, can do is to channel Joe Average Citizen, the taxpaying-guy affected by health-care reform, wall-building, infrastructure spending, oil pipelines, world rogues and the rest.
    I was encouraged to see some nominees break with the commander-in-chief on some of his more irrational notions during their hearings. EPA pick Scott Pruitt said, for instance, that climate change is a real, scientific concern — not some Chinese-inspired hoax. And Defense Secretary James Mattis basically said Russia is a country to be kept at arm’s length, not coddled.
    Cabinet teammates, rich as they are in personal holdings, must be more concerned with personally holding the president to task for decisions that can affect all people, from the meekest among us all the way to those with nuclear force or nuclear ambition.
    Early on, we’ve seen the president rush through a number of executive actions that he promised, but as the months and years progress, I hope and pray we see a different kind of Trump, one who understands he has the wisdom of many, many people available to him — and takes a slower, more deliberate approach.
    Because of Mr. Trump’s inexperience, this Cabinet could be the most significant in American history. I wish the members success. Billions are depending on it.
    Dennis Grubaugh is editor and partner of the Illinois Business Journal. He can be reached at or (618) 977-6865.

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