Today, what we need more than anything is the capacity to have intelligent and cordial political conversations with one another without fear of reprisal or retribution. My wife recently engaged in such a conversation with a Trump supporter at work and was astonished to discover just how much they had in common and the extent to which they agreed on political issues. However, when the conversation switched to discussing Trump policy, the supporter was unable to articulate a single policy attribute which he had in common with the Trump agenda. This was stunning to my wife – after all, how could someone claim to support a President, but have no idea where that President stood on issues like economic inequality, tax reform, distribution of wealth, consumer protection, or collective bargaining. Many of the issues supported by Donald Trump happen to be traditional Republican issues which have not always been in the best interest of working-class Americans. This encounter, and others like it, exemplifies the fact that many people who voted for Donald Trump were not aware that they weren’t just voting for Trump, they were voting for a Republican agenda which has failed the working-class in this country for decades.
1) Convincing workers that unions were bad for them
2) Convincing workers that giving tax breaks to the rich is good for everyone
3) Convincing workers that regulations are bad
It was in the early 1980s when the political deception first began. This was the era of the so called “Reagan Revolution” when then President Ronald Reagan first came to power with the support of what would come to be called the “Reagan Democrats”. These were working-class voters throughout the rustbelt of America who decided to shift political alliances and vote for Reagan in big numbers. However, like is the case today, voters were not just voting for Ronald Regan, they were voting for a conservative Republican agenda as well. One of Reagan’s first actions as President came on August 5, 1981, when he fired 11,000 air traffic controllers setting the stage for a massive attack on unions in this country by Republicans.
Historically speaking, unions have always been the linchpin to working-class prosperity in this country. Before the advent of unions, the American working-class faced dangerous working conditions, no employment benefits, low wages, and little (if any) time off. After the arrival of unions – American working-class incomes rose, worker protections increased, and this country experienced the largest boom in middleclass prosperity in our nation’s history.
However, Republicans were able to convince working-class Americans that unions were bad for them despite the evidence suggesting the opposite. Republicans were also successful in convincing working-class Americans that a new economic strategy called “trickled down economics” was going to create wealth for them and expend the middleclass. This strategy essential provided massive tax breaks for the upper-class and business with the idea that if the rich and businesses do good, we will all eventually benefit from their success. The final Republican deception was designed around convincing the working-class that government regulations were job killers and prevented growth. The truth was that many of these regulations protected the pocketbooks of average Americans and placed checks on out of control industries which attempted to take advantage of working-class families through price gouging and fraud (think of the Wells Fargo banking scam as an example).
After the successful campaigns of the 1980s designed to convince working-class Americans to vote against their own self-interests, almost ever statistical measure of working-class performance began to show drastic declines year after year. The middleclass began to decrease while upper-class incomes grew and the number of lower-class Americans ticked higher and higher. This was a trend which started in the 1980s and continues today. What most Americans don’t understand is that regardless of who has been in the Presidency over the last 30 years, we have lived under a conservative economic philosophy all of that time (Clinton embraced cutting regulations and Obama continued Bush tax cuts for the rich).
Today, we find that Trump’s policies mirror the same conservative economic policies which have failed to produce anything of benefit for working-class households for over 30 years in this country. Trump’s current tax plan, which is expected to be released in the middle of March, would provide upward of a 1.6% tax break for working-class families while wealthy households would see anywhere from 6-9% reductions in taxes. This represents the same old failed conservative policies which have destroyed the working-class in this country.
The same can be said for Trump deregulations which have taken affect over the past 30 days. Mostly all the deregulations would impact the working-class negatively – like for instance the FCC rules which are sure to increase cable and internet bills for consumers (see Tracking Trump facts). And sadly, this is just the beginning. The Republicans in the House and Senate plan to use Trump’s presidency to push through legislation which benefits their rich Wall Street friends at the expense of the American working-class. After all, the current Trump administration has a collective net worth larger than the 70 smallest countries in the world. With wealthy people like this now running the government, what would make anyone think they are interested in favoring working-class policies over their own interests. I for one, don’t see that happening…..do you?