Back in 1789 there was nothing in the federal Treasury worth stealing but Thomas Jefferson wrote John Adams it was only a matter of time: He didn’t see, he said, how the Constitution would stop a scoundrel (or a group of scoundrels) clever enough and ruthless enough to cajole (or buy) 51% of the votes in Congress from reaching into the Treasury to take other people’s money.
Time made Jefferson a prophet: After he was President, Congress passed tariffs to protect New England manufacturers from British imports.
Later, in the Gilded Age, Congress gave railroad tycoons land grants as subsidies (in all Congress gave the tycoons more Western land than there was the entire nation of Germany).
Then as cold hard cash rolled in over the next century the system evolved – as Congress passed out loopholes, tax breaks, government contracts and bailouts for corporations ‘too big to fail’ – into a near perfect system of plunder.
Then, last election, disgust with Washington politicians left hard-pressed Millennials voting for a socialist leveler and working class families cheering for Donald Trump to drain the swamp – and Trump landed in the White House, rocking the Old World to its foundations.
But the same Old World that gave us plunder had virtues too: Power was divided. And limited. No politician had enough power to run the government alone.
And Trump, heading to Washington to drain the swamp, is about to come face to face with those limits.