Ever since Trump’s election, he has presided over a dedicated assault against the working class.
Despite his populist rhetoric, it was not surprising that a billionaire capitalist would side with the interests of business owners while eroding the ability of labor to interfere with their ability to amass profits. The surprising thing has been how much these efforts have flown under-the-radar. While the $1.5 trillion tax cut is correctly seen as a handout to the rich, there has also been a constant stream of other actions aimed at enriching the wealthy at the populations expense.
Focus, however, has been diverted to irrelevancies like scandals and Trump’s most recent exploit. So, I decided to give a brief rundown of the administrations recent efforts, sticking to just the past week.
While the tax cut was packaged as a way to inject a windfall of private investment into the economy, and thereby create jobs and increase wages, it became apparent that this was just a narrative used to justify a massive government welfare payment to the wealthy.
In a CNN report this week, “Tax cut sparks record-setting $178 billion buyback boom,” the journalists describe how “corporate America is throwing a record-setting party for shareholders” by “showering Wall Street with at least $178 billion of stock buybacks during the first three months of 2018.” In the past 12 months, this has resulted in payouts to shareholders that “could top $1 trillion for the first time ever.”
For context, around 84% of all stocks are owned by the top 10%, while the richest 1% own nearly 40%. A party indeed for the sectors of already exorbitant wealth and privilege, who are now “raking in monster profits”, in addition to the profits that were already accelerating before the tax cut. And, according to CNN, “they can thank President Trump for their success.”
In contrast, the promised job-creating investment has yet to materialize, which is not surprising, since there has never been any data to suggest that it would.
After giving a windfall of taxpayer funds away to investors, Trump moved to further disenfranchise the black working class—already the demographic most disenfranchised and harmed by our economic system—by making it harder for government agencies to enforce fair housing policies, which are aimed at addressing discriminatory housing practices.
The barely-disguised racism underlying this move was evident in the argument that was used to justify it: the Wall Street Journal reports that “Critics of the Obama administration’s housing policies said the tool was intended to force communities to integrate against their will and was cumbersome.”
One of the major facets of the Trump presidency has been to further blur the already blurry line between corporate representatives and government officials. For example, Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency chief, Scott Pruitt, is a climate denier with intimate relations with corporations that profit from burning fossil fuels. He is also the man appointed to the task of protecting our environment. It is not hard to see how this will turn out, especially within a system where business interests already determine policy.
This week, Pruitt headed off a public relations stunt meant to provide damage control to a story exposed by Politico. Documents proved that the EPA was blocking the publication of a federal study which revealed a nation-wide water-contamination crisis. Certain chemicals, found in products like Teflon and foam, have been seeping into the water supply and endangering civilians.
The deputy assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, the body that is supposed to protect us from harmful chemicals, went from working at the EPA under Obama to working at the American Chemistry Council, a trade association for US chemical companies, before then coming back to the EPA; government and private office are a revolving door.
It is therefore not surprising that representatives of the chemical industry would try to hide information showing that its chemicals are poisoning Americans.
On a similar note, it is widely expected that Trump will sign a “right to try” bill next week, which recently cleared Congress. It allows terminally ill patients to access experimental drugs not yet approved by the FDA. However, nearly all of the patients who ask to try experimental medication get approval to do so already. The bill is simply a way for Big Pharma to bypass FDA regulations and push unsafe and unproven medications onto patients; giving people on the cusp of death false hopes of remedy, while increasing bottom lines.
Trump also just signed a bill to deregulate the financial industry and roll back measures aimed at preventing another financial crisis. The Obama-era Dodd Frank regulations were exceptionally weak and did not adequately protect the economy. Yet the financial class refuses to even entertain minor curbs to their ability to accumulate wealth, no matter how harmful it is to the world.
The bill exempts a majority of financial firms from stronger regulatory oversight, and will be followed up by further measures to erase what little protections still exist.
It is important to understand that in the period after the New Deal when there were strict regulations there were no major financial crisis. Ever since the deregulation drive of the ’70s took off we have experienced intermittent and expanding crisis’, the last of which nearly brought down the global economy, and from which we have yet to recover.
Those who will eventually pay the costs of these measures, as happened after the last crash, will be working class, the poor, and the disenfranchised. The banks, on the other hand, don’t have to worry because they have a “Too Big to Fail” public insurance plan, paid by you, the taxpayer.
In closing, this headline from the Wall Street Journal says all that is needed to be said: “Trump Issues Orders Making It Easier to Fire Federal Workers.”
The executive orders further diminish the already marginal and decreasing leverage of workers over their employers. While making it easier to fire workers considered “poor performers”, the White House says it could save taxpayers more than $100 million a year. Of course, it is fine to charge the taxpayer $1.5 trillion over 10 years to pay for record corporate profits, but when it comes to public sectors jobs, that’s where we have to tighten the belt. It is unlikely this will be mentioned the next time Trump promises to “bring back our jobs.”
The orders also limit the power of public-sector unions, the last holdout of worker representation after years of assaults have reduced union participation to a shadow of its former self. It limits the amount of time employees can spend on union activities, while cutting union funding and also charging unions for rent space in federal buildings. The order will also “halt payments to unions specifically related to their time lobbying Congress,” the intent to decrease the influence of workers being readily apparent.
Given the anti-labor corporate agenda briefly outlined in the preceding examples, it is obvious that this move is just another example of the Trump agenda of further increasing the totalitarian nature of capitalism. Whereby owners and managers own the profits and exercise tyrannical control over decision making, while the workforce is subordinated to wage-slavery and order-taking from the masters, without there being even a pretense of a social contract or respect for worker rights.