The Trump administration is slowly coming into focus. None of us should be surprised that it’s full of alligators from the swamp that’s supposed to be drained. It has more generals than any administration in memory. It’s loaded with special interests and, of course, people who hate government.

Gee, what a breath of fresh air.

Of course, we’ve seen this show before here in Maine, but without the generals. This is exactly what Gov. Paul LePage did when he was first elected. Here’s the script, for those of you who want to follow along at home. Act One: Pack government with donors and lobbyists who have been fighting the government’s regulation of their excesses. Be sure to put ideology and loyalty ahead of competence and experience. Act Two: Stand back and rub your hands with glee at the ensuing chaos. Act Three: Accomplish almost nothing. Finale: Blame the other party.

It’s a good show for a while, particularly if you rate movies on the number of crashes and explosions they deliver. That makes it look like something is happening. But when the lights go on, it turns out that taxpayers and the little guys are paying dearly and getting little in return.

I feel sorry for the frustrated working people who put their faith in this shameless showman, President-elect Donald Trump, because he promised to bring back the glory days of manufacturing. Here’s the secret that politicians don’t want you to know. The president – and for that matter, government as a whole – doesn’t have much to do with creating jobs. They can help, on the margins. They also can cause damage by getting behind the wrong things.

But the notion that campaign promises can revive the 20th century economy belongs on the pages of the National Enquirer at the supermarket checkout stand. It’s nonsense.

For every one manufacturing job we’ve lost to trade deals and government actions, we’ve lost seven to eight to machines, computers and robots. Governments don’t control technological progress, new inventions, time-saving devices and brilliant breakthroughs. Heck, government is usually the last place to employ those things. And technological progress is what’s costing us jobs. The sooner we understand that, the better off we’ll be.

What Trump sold to working Americans is snake oil, designed to cure all your ills and cost you almost nothing. And he isn’t alone. Politicians in both parties have been promising to bring back manufacturing jobs for two generations without so much as causing a ripple against the tide of change that is sweeping across the country and the planet. Why do they keep saying that? Because we keep telling them, in their polls, that’s what we want.

If there is a group of politicians more despicable than those who lie about manufacturing jobs, it’s those who make loud speeches about shrinking government when what they really mean is shrinking the part of government that helps you and puffing up the part that helps their friends.

We’re seeing a great example of that right now in Washington. Congressional Republicans have been jawing about big-spending government for decades, but every time they have a Republican president, they’ve lowered corporate taxes and driven military spending and deficits up. They say they want a smaller government, but they don’t really mean it.

Last week, The Washington Post reported that the Pentagon had ordered a review of administrative spending within their control. The report found $125 billion that could be saved in contracting. Congress and the brass quickly buried the report and classified the underlying data so nobody else could find it.

To put $125 billion in perspective, it cost $110 billion last year to insure 20 million Americans, including a million children, under Obamacare. It’s also enough to pay for 50 Army brigades or to modernize the nation’s aging nuclear arsenal.

This comes on top of earlier reviews that showed the Army can’t properly account for $6.5 trillion dollars in spending in 2015. That’s part of a pattern that we’ve known about for decades and that the fiscal hawks won’t touch. They’ve even made military spending the only part of the federal budget, since 1996, that is not audited.

I’m all for a smaller and smarter government, as I suspect most people are. But if we want to control spending at the national level, we can’t just be looking at social programs, education and health care. We have to go where the real money is, where half of all discretionary spending is: in military operations, contracting and administration.

Anything less is just selling people more snake oil.

Alan Caron is the owner of Caron Communications and the author of “Maine’s Next Economy” and “Reinventing Maine Government.” He can be contacted at:

[email protected]