By K of S&D Detroit and First of May Anarchist Alliance
Mr. Trump campaigned as an outsider, the voice of the forgotten, who was going to challenge the Washington establishment on behalf of the downtrodden. Although workers in places like Warren and Sterling Heights were always aware that Trump is a childish billionaire, at least it looked as if he wasn’t at least pretending he was not. The candidates of the neoliberal technocracy, whether republicans or democrats, always try to bullshit us, and we can always tell. But with Trump, it’s not as if we were getting the truth either; it’s almost as if pure bullshit, presented as pure bullshit and nothing more, was somehow refreshing to millions of Americans — something that tells us more of the state of American and global politics than anything else. The question that needs to be asked by workers of places like the rustbelt is this: the cathartic middle finger has been given to the establishment, yes, but was that all just a show? What does a Trump presidency mean for the working class in substance, above and beyond the world of spectacle and television?
If there’s one sure thing to be said about the Trump administration is that it has been less than effective at achieving its goals. The liberals want to hammer on the fact that Trump is incompetent and “not fit to be president” because he apparently does not know how to work through the Washington institutions. If I were to call Trump incompetent, it would be because he does not know how to effectively fight those very institutions; however, incompetence has very little to do with the glaring flaws even of what Trump claims he wants to do. Specifically, Trump’s ideas on economic policy are anti-worker and frankly fall more in line with the establishment he claims he wants to overthrow. In fact, it doesn’t just fall in line — at some points, it even exceeds it. I feel that simply calling the man incompetent is both a cop out and symptomatic of liberal elitism; we need to take Trump’s actual political positions seriously, and we need to, as workers of every race and gender, seriously challenge them.
Take Trump’s plan for tax reform as an example, where Trump and his Republican buddies are literally proposing that tax cuts should increase with wealth. The wealthier you are, the bigger proportion of money you save, according to this tax plan (1). The workers at the lower rungs of the income ladder — the factory worker, the retail worker, the server — whose wages have been stagnant or in decline for the last few decades are actually going to see less tax relief (in proportion to income) than millionaires and billionaires. Why does Mr. Trump feel that he can campaign on the idea that the wealthy should pay their fair share, and then as president actually shift more of the tax burden on the worker? Is this what it means to be the voice of the forgotten? A regressive tax plan is an assault on the working classes, plain and simple; it is a policy designed in the interests of the bosses.
Of course, there is a shallow conservative logic to this, based on economic models that have no bearing on reality, which needs to be interrogated a little. Plainly speaking, the logic behind regressive taxation is that if you allow bosses to save more money, they will invest more money in their business and that should eventually lead to increased wages and employment. This is the essence of “trickle-down” economics, a joke played on working people for decades. The fact is that there is no correlation between job growth and tax cuts for the wealthy, according to the Congressional Research Service (2). In fact, it appears that there is actually more evidence that tax cuts on low-income Americans (coupled with tax hikes on the wealthy) generate more job growth (3). Beyond the immediate effects of Trump’s tax cuts, which sees the wealthy pocket more money than the worker, you have the subsequent loss of tax revenue resultant of these tax cuts. This loss will impact poor and working people more than anyone, from budget shortfalls in our school districts, to pothole filled roads, to cuts to the programs that assist our senior citizen population. Trump is putting the wealthy parasite over working people, children, and the elderly, and he is doing it while claiming to be fighting the establishment — one needs to ask: if this anti-establishment, then what the hell is the establishment?
Beyond favoring the wealthy in tax policy, Trump has promoted a plethora of anti-worker positions. At this very moment, Trump’s labor department is exploring ways to allow bosses to rob their waitstaff by shifting ownership of tips away from servers and into the hands of employers (4). The president has also declared that wages for American workers are “too high”, when those very wages on average have remained stagnant for decades (5). He has appointed two people to his labor board that have had a history of fighting unions, and brought Neil Gorsuch, who has a history of siding with bosses over workers, to the supreme court (6).
And really, although Trump’s honest brand of bullshit maybe refreshing to some, none of this is a surprise. Trump is a billionaire who was born a millionaire; he has absolutely no connection to the average working person whatsoever. We’ve witnessed the man claim to be fighting the establishment, but when it comes down to it, he will blame immigrants rather than blame the bosses. This is because Trump is a boss. He believes that he can divide up working people in ways that will be advantageous to him and his friends in the ruling classes, pit white against black, Christian against Muslim, man against woman, straight against gay, America against the world. This is all a way to obscure the real enemy of working people worldwide, a common enemy we need to unite against. Instead of blaming the super-exploited Mexican or Indonesian worker for the loss of American wages, we need to look who is making us compete against each other as workers in the first place. We need to recognize that we are fighting over scraps, and that the majority of our resources are being funneled upward to people like Mr. Trump. Global labor competition facilitates all of our exploitation. Trump claims to be against neoliberal globalization, yet he claims our wages are too high to be competitive. His opposition to globalization is a farce — it’s just a disgusting mix of nationalism and racist opportunism. And one can easily see this in who he favors in his tax plan. He thinks he can pacify us with xenophobia, with a wall, with a slight change in trade agreements — but in the end, we will all still feel the impact of his anti-worker, anti-poor policies.
Trumpism is not a populism of the downtrodden, its advertising and branding at its most effective. The sooner we realize this, the sooner we can unite against it!