originally written 1/3/2017
Throughout his campaign, we were told Donald Trump was a “populist,” someone who wanted to Make America Great Again for the rank and file workers who have seen America constructed from their blood, sweat, and tears only to be ignored when it came time to share in the American Dream. Being one of these workers, I’d love if that really came to pass. But it’s clear that Donald Trump’s idea for Making America Great Again is not making a better America for workers, but making America more attractive – more profitable – for their employers. It’s time the American worker asked what price they’ll have to pay, what sacrifices they’ll have to make on the altar of Great America – For Corporations. It’s a cost every American worker – even those who right now feel they are secure – will bear.
Since the election, Trump has taken credit for decisions by both Carrier Corp and Ford Motors to retain or create some jobs in the USA rather than in Mexico. Neither company actually made a deal with Donald Trump or the Federal Government – Carrier received $7 million in tax breaks from Indiana while Ford stated decreased demand for the Ford Focus compact car drove their decision making – but both companies cited confidence in the new administration’s ability to create a more business-friendly environment through “pro-growth policies” “corporate tax overhaul” and “tax and regulatory reforms,” thus creating a more profitable environment for their corporations.
That sounds harmless enough, especially if you buy what the GOP has been selling for years – that high corporate taxes and onerous regulations are hurting corporations and therefore hurting workers, and that increased corporate profits eventually “trickle down” to workers. But it’s been obvious for years that, when given the choice, corporations would rather pocket money than hand it to an employee, every time. You can ask anyone that’s ever worked for one.
That’s why CEO pay has gone through the roof while the average worker has seen their pay decline, their benefits reduced, their rights and protections eroded, almost eradicated. That’s why, during the recovery, corporate profits grew while middle class wages declined. Money that should have gone to the worker in the recession went instead to big business, shareholder profits, foreign investors, and, through shady backdoor real estate and development deals like the kind our President-elect has engaged in on a regular basis, into the pockets of grifters and charlatans.
This article demonstrates how, since the mid-70s, wages have dropped about 7% while corporate profits have increased 7%. This gap has grown faster and become much more pronounced since 2000.
Increased corporate profits have never meant increased worker profits or a better environment for workers. And the Obama administration and, to a larger degree, our Congress deserves criticism for allowing those profits from the recovery stimulus and growth to be consumed by the corporate class and the top 1%.
Trump was supposed to change all that and make this an economy for the workers instead of Wall Street. But none of his policy proposals translate to better jobs or better compensation for us American workers. In fact, most of them will cost us. We should be looking at how – and how much.
What will we have to pay for? Trump has said multiple times we can’t remain competitive with other countries because “our taxes are too high, our wages are too high.” He’s promised to create an environment where companies can be competitive with companies in other countries. How will this Greatness be achieved?
Obviously, the high taxes will be dealt with by lowering corporate taxes, handing out tax breaks. But how much ground can be made up there? Even though Trump constantly claims we have the highest corporate tax rate in the world, we don’t. At 35%, it’s not even that much higher than Mexico’s, which is 30%. How many tax breaks can we give? Ford Motors already receives Billions of dollars in tax breaks in the US. Besides $2.3 Billion from the state of MI, they get hundreds of millions from IL, KY, MO, etc. They are already not paying close to that 35%, tax money that could be going to reform our VA, feed our hungry kids, improve our health care and education systems. How much more can we cut their taxes before we’re just handing them money straight out of Joe Workingman’s pocket in the name of Greater profits?
Trump said in addition to taxes being too high, wages are too high. Again, he has said it multiple times, and I imagine every chairman and CEO feels the same way. The average worker in the US makes 10x more than the average worker in Mexico. Ford pays its Mexican manufacturing employees $3 an hour.
That’s an awful lot of space to make up to get “competitive.” How would that be done? For starters, look at how it’s already started. Through reduction in benefits, paid time off, sick leave, maternity leave, paid holidays and overtime, and the systematic decimation of our unions. For years, corporations have used the recession as an excuse to depress wages. This continued with the implied blessing of the Obama administration, but the Trump administration, led by his cabinet of Wall Street financial kingpins, will be complicit in the theft, direct accomplices, ringleaders, even. In the Trump administration, it will be considered patriotic for the average American to work for less money so the corporate machine can have a Great deal more. All our wages will continue to stagnate. Your health benefits, retirement benefits, vacation and sick packages will all continue to decline in quality and your employers will tell you it’s so “we can remain competitive.”
But even this group of robber barons will have trouble depressing wages and compensation far enough to satisfy the folks who watch the bottom line for Corporation USA. So the Trump administration will ask, for us, without asking us: “How else can they, the American people, pad your pocketbooks enough so that you might deign to employ some of them when you obviously don’t really feel they’re worth it?”
Ford and Carrier both named regulatory reform as being part of what they expect from the Trump administration to make it worth their while to keep some (not all) of their jobs in the US. This “reform” will surely include the destruction of regulations at the state and federal level dealing with worker protections against harassment, persecution, and discrimination. Safety protections in the workplace will be severely relaxed, and employer liability will be severely reduced.
Other regulations you can expect to come under attack in the name of Making America Great Again are regulations that have to do with the amount of pollutants a manufacturer can dump into the atmosphere and water table, costing us our children’s health and well-being. Look to the poisoned water of Flint, MI to see an early symptom of America’s future Greatness. No doubt Ford Motors is looking forward to relaxed standards for fuel economy and emissions, leading to higher costs at the gas pumps for the American consumer, and more carcinogens in their air supply, as they lose their health insurance, which their employer probably doesn’t have to provide anymore. I know Carrier expects a relaxation of the energy saving technology required on their appliances, which will allow them to make them cheaper, but will also cause the American consumer to pay more in electricity costs for the privilege of owning one.
So it won’t just be the employees of these corporations themselves that pay the price, in reduced wages, benefits, and protections. At least those people will grateful to still have a job. But even those that have what they consider to be a secure job already will pay through the general stagnation of wages, destruction of benefits packages, and erosion of workplace protections that will result in a worse work environment for all of us. Even those that don’t work will pay the cost through the deterioration of their environment and higher energy costs due to reduced controls on emissions and efficiency, and less safety for ourselves and our families due to lower standards in the manufacturing of our cars and appliances.
All these costs to pay, and all right from Joe Workingman’s hand directly to Corporate USA’s pocket. Trump asks nothing from Corporate USA. He threatens tariffs on imports and on companies that move jobs overseas but since Carrier is still moving over 1,000 jobs to Mexico and getting a $7mil tax break from the state of Indiana for the trouble, it’s been made clear to Corporate USA that those threats are not genuine. In fact, they’re a sign that the Government is sitting there waiting to hand out a big tax break and who knows what backdoor promises in order to get a nice press release where they can claim to have saved a small number of jobs they didn’t actually “save” while not securing anything in the way of a better wage or work environment or guarantee of worker security past what next quarter’s profit margin dictates. In exchange for a few hundred jobs at a swipe, the Trump administration is eroding the wages, rights, and protection of everyone in this country.
Nothing in this world is free, and the government welfare Trump is promising these already profitable corporations has to be paid for by someone. As always, that someone will be the rank and file worker and the middle and lower class taxpayers. Even if you voted for him, you’ll be asked to pay. And if people get angry, thinking the country is looking too much like the countries we’re trying to remain “competitive” with? Maybe we’ll get those riots that Donald Trump and Steve Bannon think the country really needs. The ones that Trump said will get us “back to where we used to be, when we were Great.”
See You Soon