Is President Trump a Working-Class Hero? Hardly

May 11, 2017 
By Larry Cary

Well, it’s been a bit more than 100 days.  That’s enough time to see the outline of where President Trump stands on helping working people, the group that abandoned the Democratic Party in three key states and gave him a victory because they wanted someone to “shake-up” the establishment.

Unfortunately, President Trump and his right wing Republican friends in Congress have been a disaster for the working class.

His tax proposal is a case in point.  Trump recently released his outline of what he wants to see by way of so-called tax “reform.”  If enacted, it the biggest give-away to the rich this country has ever seen.

His proposal would benefit 5,000 of the wealthiest families in America (and his own family) by eliminating the federal estate tax.  Under current law, before the government taxes your estate you get a deduction of nearly $6,000,000.  Each year about 2.7 million people die, with only 5,200 having to pay any estate tax.  Under President Trump’s proposal, on average these lucky few will each save $25 million, and in total, the US Treasury will forgo about $20 billion in revenue that can only be made-up by cutting programs that benefit the average person. 

As a candidate, Trump promised he would replace Obama Care with something “beautiful,” that was cheaper and guaranteed everyone better health care.  The bill repealing and replacing Obama Care passed by the House of Representatives with President Trump’s adamant support will cause more than 24 million people to lose health insurance.  Worse still, it eliminates the rule requiring that policies cover preexisting conditions, and some of the essential benefits like maternity. 

President Trump has eliminated the ability of cities and states to create portable 401(k)-like pension plans that a worker can carry from one job to the next when their employer does not offer a pension.  And why did President Trump do this?  Because the finance community lobbied him; they make more money with the present set-up than they would under government-managed pension funds.  President Trump also eliminated the requirement that financial advisors for 401(k) participants give their best advice to help their client realize a secure retirement rather than line their pockets by sticking participants with costly investments that do little more than make the advisors billions of dollars in commissions.  It’s bad enough that real pensions have been eliminated but now President Trump scuttles any reform to make the existing system better.

President Trump made it more expensive for students to pay back their loans whenever they fall into default.  He reversed an Obama Administration policy limiting assessment of collection fees when a loan is put back into payment status.  Such fees can raise a student’s debt by over $5,000.  Since the children of working class families need to borrow more frequently than the upper middle and rich classes and have more trouble paying back their loans, this change will directly hurt as many as 7 million working class college students with outstanding loans.

President Trump is also proposing that education funding is cut by $7 billion while allowing taxpayers’ money to be used to subsidize for-profit charter schools that are not required to provide an education to every student. Our public school system will be further eroded, which working families depend upon to educate their children.

President Trump is also proposing a 20 percent cut to the Department of Labor which is responsible for enforcing laws that protect workers.  Without adequate enforcement businesses will more likely not follow the law and workers will be hurt. 

He has elevated management attorney Philip A. Miscimarra to the chairmanship of the National Labor Relations Board.  He has a long history working for management-side law firms before going into government.  While a Board member, he racked up a consistent history of dissenting from the decisions that limited employer power and protected the rights of workers and unions.  We can expect a roll-back of labor law decisions returning the law to what it had been, pro-employer.  And with Justice Gorsuch, a darling of the conservatives, on the bench we can expect to see union security eliminated in the public sector the next time it comes before the court.

President Trump is hardly a working-class hero.  For that reason, it is hard to accept the validity of polls showing Trump is as popular among his base as he was when elected in November 2016.  While most people do disapprove of how Trump is handling the Presidency, the people who voted for him still do not regret their vote because, for a variety of reasons, they did not want to vote for Hillary Clinton. But in assessing Trump’s continued popularity, we should realize that the polls also show that more people disapprove of the Democratic and Republican Parties than Trump.  In other words, he is still viewed as the lessor of two other evils.

If the Democrats can get their act together for the midterm elections in 2018, they possibly can retake the House.  And, if they do that, it is possible for a Democrat to win in 2020.

Winning elections will require the Democrats to have candidates with some credibility among the working class of this country. It will not be enough to simply show that President Trump hurt workers and helped the rich.  Ronald Reagan proved that an incumbent could win despite having policies that hurt working people.  President Reagan won reelection by higher margins from seniors, college students, and workers, despite his policies directly aimed at hurting every one of these groups.  Workers must believe that the Democratic Party is really on their side.

Let’s hope the Democratic Party learns from the 2016 election.  Otherwise, there will be no place to go, other than to the right, when the workers realize that President Trump has failed to bring back the millions of good, high-paying jobs he promised.  And, mark my words, global economics dictates he will fail.

*Larry Cary is a partner in Cary Kane LLP, a Manhattan labor law firm.  He can be emailed at see his firm’s website:


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