Donald Trump dares to say out loud what many people secretly think.
It’s a dark
secret some people never share because they know it’s so offensive.
Sometimes they say it only when they feel safe, when they’re among
like-minded family members or with friends trying to drown financial
fear in mugs of beer.
Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO, talked to white workers in hardscrabble communities in Pennsylvania and Ohio
over the past two months and found “huge,” as Donald Trump would put
it, support for the Republican frontrunner, even among Democrats.
Backers said they admired Trump for speaking his mind. What they really
meant was that Trump spoke their minds. As one woman put it, “He says
what most of us are thinking.”
cash-strapped and fearful. They’ve been working hard, following the
rules and falling behind. They’re looking for someone to blame. That’s
when they think of “the other,” the black guy, the brown guy, the woman,
the Muslim, the gay, the person they don’t really know, the person a
little different from them who they suspect must have taken their job or
promotion or opportunity.
Like a preacher
of prejudice, Trump validates cursing the nation’s marginalized and
accusing them of emptying workers’ bank accounts. Trump tells workers to
point a finger at undocumented immigrants. He sermonizes excluding
desperate refugees based on religion. This high priest of hate urged
“Trumpeters” to stomp a Black Lives Matter activist seeking equal
Fight among yourselves! Fight among yourselves, he urges.
Trump was born a
one percenter. He went to an exclusive private school and college.
rich daddy gave him a big fat business loan to get him started. He
benefited from multiple bankruptcies, the use of low-paid undocumented workers on his construction projects,
tax breaks, tax havens and special rules and deals for the super-rich.
Wealth created by the productivity of laborers like those Working
America interviewed in Pennsylvania and Ohio flowed up to him. He got
richer; their wages stagnated. Now, he’s a billionaire telling them that
dirt-poor Hispanics caused their problems. He says, “Don’t blame
private-jet-owning one percenters like me! Blame those struggling
It’s a topsy-turvy Trump world.
It is a world,
however, where workers’ economic anxieties are totally legitimate. For
three decades after World War II, as worker productivity increased, so
did their compensation. Productivity rose 97 percent; wages 91 percent. This was a time of shared prosperity.
Trump, the already wealthy, benefitted from the difference. They took
for themselves virtually all of the wealth that flowed from productivity
growth. This terminated shared prosperity and spawned grotesque income
It is the real reason for worker anxiety.
If pay had kept
pace with productivity, the average income of the middle 60 percent of
American households in 2007, just before the Great Recession, would have
been $94,310 – instead of the $76,443 it actually was, according to
calculations by the Economic Policy Institute.
That extra $18,000 a year would have staved off foreclosure for
millions. But workers didn’t get that money; the wealthy like Trump did.
Americans bailed out Wall Street and Wall Street foreclosed on their
homes. And now Trump urges Americans to blame everything on immigrants.
And Muslims. And Black Lives Matter.
Since the 1970s,
as workers produced more but got virtually nothing in their paychecks
to show for it, the rich like Donald Trump grew fabulously,
outrageously, repulsively richer. The anti-poverty charity Oxfam reports
annually on the growing chasm between The Donalds and the downtrodden.
In 2010, for
example, it determined that the world’s 388 richest people had as much
wealth as the poorest half of the world’s population.
This year, it found that 62 super-rich people had accumulated sufficient wealth to equal everything owned by the poorest half – 3.6 billion humans. Oxfam explained
part of what happened is that since 2010, the poor lost $1 trillion in
wealth while the super-rich 62 gained $542 billion. That’s not just a
little trickle of money dripping from the pockets of billions of poor
people into the tax-sheltered secret bank accounts of the repulsively
rich. It is a raging torrent.
It is rules like
a poverty-level minimum wage that make guys like Donald Trump richer.
He can pay $7.25, which is too little to live on, to Trump hotel maids
who then must rely on food stamps and Medicaid to feed their children
and keep them healthy. The hotel workers could be condemned as welfare
mothers. But it’s Trump who is the beneficiary. Employers who provide
inadequate pay and benefits expect American taxpayers to make up the
difference. Then the rich employers pocket the profits.
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