Is the Transportation Secretary Taking America for a Ride?

This is an excerpt from the 2018 Steve Dustcircle book, Trump’s Cabinet: The Rise of Each Appointed Deplorable, available in ebook and paperback from The book contains links to multiple references and citations.



The United States Secretary of Transportation was created by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1966 in order to provide an efficient and economical system based on national needs, as well as national defense and the environment.

The Secretary oversees the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration), as well as ten other organizations including highway and railroad transportation agencies.

The salary of the position is roughly $200,000 and has no fixed term limit. The agency’s budget is about $75 billion and has around 60,000 employees.

President Trump nominated to the position Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s wife and Taiwan-born Chinese woman, Elaine Lan Chao. She is an immigrant, having come to America with her parents when she was eight years old and had to learn English with the help of her father.

She has several siblings, many of the girls have married Wall Street tycoons. Like her theocratic husband, the Trans-Pacific Partnership-supporting Mitch McConnell, Chao is a Republican.

Chao went to high school in New York and received a B.A. in Economics in Massachusetts. Afterward, she went to Harvard Business School, where she was the first woman at Harvard to be elected to a class office. She earned her MBA in 1979. Three of her sisters also have Harvard MBAs.

She has 36 honorary doctorates, including one from Georgetown in 2015.

Prior to being involved in politics, Elaine Chao was V.P. for syndications for the Bank of America and was an International Banker at Citicorp.

In 1986, she was involved with the Department of Transportation as one of its Maritime administrators. Three years later, she was Deputy Secretary. From 1991 to 1992, she was the Director of the Peace Corps, a volunteer-based government program.

Afterwards, Elaine Chao was the CEO of United Way of America (now known as United Way Worldwide). She was a Distinguished Fellow for the Heritage Foundation (a far right-wing policy influencer), contributes to Fox News stories. She is a board member of the Independent Women’s Forum (a conservative, anti-feminist group ran by women).

Chao serves for a number of corporate and non-profits as a director, including News Corp, Dole Foods, and Wells Fargo. Because she is against Sierra Club’s positions on the environment, she left her position on the Bloomberg Philanthropies board and their evolving stance on moving “beyond coal.”

She was the first Asian American woman to be appointed to a presidential cabinet position, placed as Secretary of Labor under President Bush. She was also the longest running ever since 1945, and the only Bush Cabinet member to last all eight years of his presidency.

Hongda “Harry” Wu showed shock and concern about her appointment under Bush because of her ties to communist China through her father’s shadowy shipping business. She wasn’t loved by labor unions either.

Republican John Thune of South Dakota says that Chao has an awesome opportunity to utilize her position to improve this country’s infrastructure so that rural and urban areas can both benefit.

Democrat Bill Nelson of Florida had no issue with Chao becoming Secretary. He praises her “experience and common sense.” The highway trust fund spends more than it collects in gas tax: about $10 billion more.

While liked by both political parties—due to her being known as a “campaign hugger”—she has received some criticism for two major things: her kickback from Wells Fargo in the millions, and her receiving monies from an Iranian exile group for speeches.

Her first year will be a busy one, as President Trump had proposed a $1 trillion, one-decade long budget for roads, bridges and airports. He has also tempted private investors with mentioning the possibility of making public lands available for their business investment.

With the FAA contract [having expired in] September and possibly privatization on the horizon—add to this, foreign airline competition—Chao has some interesting challenges ahead. Hopefully, that MBA and those honorary doctorates can be helpful.


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