Supervillains have seized power many times over the past several decades. Sometimes they simply want domination, or they employ military might to eliminate those they hate or fear. Sometimes, it’s even worse. Our current government may not be hunting the X-Men (at least not yet) but it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that the people in power are doing things so awful, comic book supervillians have basically done them first.
For example, the Supreme Court has agreed to reinstate some provisions of Trump’s Travel Ban through October, allowing legal discrimination against people from Muslim-majority countries. Jeff Sessions and the Department of Justice are pursuing harsher sentences for non-violent drug offenders. Trump sold fighter jets to Qatar less than a week after accusing the country of sponsoring terrorism. And that’s just to name a few—we’ve got more below. This country is a mess, and we don’t even have Lex Luthor to blame for it.
In Our Worlds At War, Lex Luthor willingly keeps the public in the dark about an invasion by Impereix, leading to Topeka, Kansas, being destroyed. He does this so he can look like the hero in response to the attack, at the cost of knowingly letting thousands of people die. Likewise, a small group of Senate Republicans spent weeks trying to secretly dismantle the American health care system to finally mar Obama’s legacy and look like heroes... even though thousands of people will die as a result.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, if the new AHCA bill passes, at least 22 million people would lose health insurance over the next nine years, and Medicaid and other programs will be gutted in order to fund tax cuts for the wealthy. As much as Republicans slammed Obamacare for so-called “death panels,” the BCRA is far crueler. There’s not enough money to combat the opioid epidemic, which could kill 500,000 Americans within a decade. People over 65 years old would see their health insurance premiums rise to over $20,000 per year, almost half the average senior’s annual retirement income. That’s an impossible expense, but if you miss one payment, you have to wait six months before you can even apply again. For anyone on life-saving medication, that’s a death sentence.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell postponed the vote until after July 4 recess, due to opposition from a few Republicans. It doesn’t mean BCRA is dead (the same thing happened to the House bill), but it does mean the secret meetings to ram it through didn’t work as well as they’d like. Speaking of which...
Throughout the excellent Injustice comic book prequel, evil Superman had a secret way of communicating so his plans while ruling the world wouldn’t be discovered by spies. He and the Flash had conversations at super speed—mainly on the topic of Superman wanting to take everyone’s guns away, which would definitely be something conservatives would be opposed to—too fast for anyone else to understand.
Likewise, the manner in which Senate and House Republicans have worked on the American Health Care Act have undermined the concept of American democracy. While the Affordable Care Act had dozens of meetings stretched out over a year with hundreds of amendments (including several from Republicans), Senate Republicans brought 13 mostly white men together and hashed out a plan that would affect one-fifth of the economy... in complete secrecy. As of now, they have had no debates or hearings on the measure, and it looks like no Republicans have scheduled town halls during the July 4 recess.
When Franklin Hall first became the gravity-controlling villain Graviton during a lab accident in the pages of 1977's Avengers #158, his first response was to use his new powers to stage a hostile takeover of his research facility, forbidding his scientists from communicating with the public about his scientific errors. That’s a pretty shitty thing to do... unless you’re the Environmental Protection Agency, who’d rather secretly fire all the scientists and then bully one of its remaining head scientists to keep quiet about it.
Last month, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt (a climate change denier) sent an email to 18 members of the Board of Science Counselors that their contracts would not be renewed. This means, as of August, 47 BOSC members will be out of a job, leaving just 11 members on the board. And when Dr. Deborah Swackhamer, an environmental chemist and board leader, was set to testify before the House Science Committee about it, the EPA ordered her to change her testimony and downplay the mass firings.
This would be bad enough, if it weren’t for the fact that the EPA is looking into replacing those scientists with representatives from industries like oil and gas... meaning the regulatory agency would be supervised by the very people it’s supposed to be regulating. It’s just one of many ways the Trump administration is filling its ranks with the worst of the worst. And on that note...
The Trump administration is still woefully short of filling key government jobs. As of June 23rd, it has only sent about 160 positions to the Senate (most presidents were at 300+ by this point in their presidency). And much like Norman Osborne during Dark Reign, who wormed his way into Government to turn the Avengers into the Dark Avengers, and S.H.I.E.L.D. into H.A.M.M.E.R in the wake of the Skrull’s invasion of Earth, Trump’s few picks have been downright villainous. Case in point: Goldman Sachs.
The bank is reportedly under investigation for Wall Street’s rigging of the $14-trillion Treasury market... and yet, Goldman Sachs alum are now in charge of the department they’re accused of rigging. Current Treasury secretary is former Goldman Sachs partner Steven Mnuchin, who was caught last month secretly using a Sachs banker to help run the department. Gary Cohn, director of Trump’s National Economic Council, was president of Sachs when it was reportedly rigging Wall Street.
Trump’s been asked how he’s okay with this, given his promise to “drain the swamp.” His response? When it comes to managing the economy, “I just don’t want a poor person.”
The Mutant Registration Act, introduced by Senator Robert Kelly over the course of three issues of Uncanny X-Men in 1984, forced Mutants, already persecuted by the general populace, to openly register their status with the US Government, opening Mutantkind up to wider discrimination in the US. In an earlier form during the famous 1981 storyline ‘Days of Future Past’, the MRA became the much harsher Mutant Control Act, which lead to the Sentinel Program being reinstated and Mutants hunted down and killed by an oppressive government regime.
There are plenty of steps the US government has been taking to aid and abet open discrimination against some of America’s citizens, mainly people in the LGBT community. The Departments of Education and Justice have withdrawn federal protections for trans students, which will allow schools to enact discriminatory bathroom policies. An appeals court upheld a Missisippi law that lets businesses deny service to same-sex couples for religious reasons, and the Supreme Court will hear a case about a Colorado cake baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. Considering the newest judge, Neil Gorsuch, just opposed putting same-sex parents on a birth certificate, the outlook isn’t good.
Sometimes comics can be a little more on the nose when it comes to their political overtones. Case in point, a recent Gwenpool story in Secret Empire: Brave New World #1 called “Propagandamonium” is a suitably absurdist take on the world of modern news programming and censorship that might hit a little too close to home in 2017, featuring a Hydra-controlled news program (with Gwenpool as an unwilling guest) descending into ever-growing madness with false stories and outright propaganda.
Likewise, Republicans have learned to accept, tolerate, or downright believe the falsehoods of the Trump administration. Trump has taken the term “fake news” and used it to create his own reality where the truth is what he makes it—even when reality directly contradicts his claims. This goes whether it’s something small, like featuring a fake Time magazine cover at one of his golf courses, or something big, like the health care bill, which Trump promised wouldn’t cut Medicaid even though it does. The New York Times has created a definitive list of all the times Trump has lied since he took office.
When confronted by these lies, the response has been to block and censor access to the president and his administration. Trump hasn’t done an interview outside of Fox News in weeks, and those mainly consist of leading questions designed to make Trump look better. Sean Spicer has prohibited recordings of the daily White House briefings. The Senate even tried something similar, blocking hallway interviews in the Capitol, but later recanted due to backlash.
Unlike Lex Luthor, Trump may not have allowed an American city to be destroyed (though Trump did approve deploying the world’s biggest non-nuclear bomb on Afghanistan), but the administration is still doing things that hurt millions of lives. At least Lex Luthor is fictional, while the Trump administration, as well as the Republicans currently in control of the House and Senate, are all too real. Really, the fact that the government can be correlated to supervillains at all should tell you how bad things have gotten.
Additional reporting by Zach Ezer and James Whitbrook.