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Est. April 5, 2002
November 11, 2016 - Issue 674

Of Golden Trump Toilets
and an
End to The Minimum Wage


"We know that there are those who agree
with Trump’s racist and misogynistic attitude
and other negative inclinations that never
should be present in a president of the
United States, but those people were there
all the time, waiting for a Trump to unleash
their hateful bile, and he did."

One of the first things that came to mind early on the morning after the election was a question: Will President-elect Trump install golden toilets in the White House, or just the one he will use?

But then, other, more serious, things came to mind. As a candidate, Donald Trump said on the stump that wages in the U.S. are too high and that makes the nation noncompetitive in the global economy. He, like so many before him, would opt for allowing the “free market” set the wages, including the minimum wage. So, what would it be? Six dollars an hour? Five dollars an hour? Two dollars an hour? How low is low enough for making the U.S. competitive with the rest of the world, including nations like Vietnam, Haiti, or Honduras?

Candidate Trump stood at a podium during the campaign and reassured Americans that they would be safe, that he would keep them safe. When was the last time anyone running for the highest office of the land guaranteed the “safety” of every individual? Such a thing did occur in several European countries 80 or 90 years ago and we know how well that turned out.

In one of the most rancorous and viciously cynical presidential election campaigns in U.S. history, the two candidates tore into each other, day after day, with the tone of the rhetoric having been set by Trump in the Republican primary debates, in which he demolished the other GOP candidates much as a sixth grader would dispatch a kindergartner during playtime. With name-calling and derision, he saw to it that they dropped like flies in a toxic spray.

He was just warming up to take on the nominee of the Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton, who was the recipient of the same kind of talk he used on his Republican competition and which became the stock in trade of both candidates. There was very little discussion of real issues and very broad promises to make things better. Clinton was described by many pundits as the policy wonk and touted her “experience in public life” over the past 30 years, whereas he was described as a neophyte, never having held public office or done much of anything but cut deals and make billions of dollars in the high stakes game of real estate and construction development.

True to his opinion about wages in the U.S., he was said to have stiffed workers and contractors alike, deciding for himself when he had paid enough when contract work was halfway completed. He apparently was accustomed to dealing with people to whom he owed money throughout his career as developer and mogul in that manner. One contractor that provided paint for one of his projects, however, reportedly spent $300,000 to recover $30,000 that he owed the company. That’s acting on principle.

But Trump didn’t only stiff individuals and workers, he has stiffed the country, having set up a tax scheme that allowed him to write off a loss of a billion dollars, or so, so that he didn’t have to pay taxes for about 20 years. He claimed that such a scheme (legal, of course) showed that he was a “brilliant” businessman. That, however, makes him a free rider, as a good trade unionist would describe him, because he reaps the benefits provided by all of the other taxpayers and he gets it all for nothing. For that, others would say he’s a deadbeat. And, he never did release his tax returns, as presidential candidates have done for many years.

Some of his positions (which, in many cases, were just throwaway comments in some of his rambling speeches) are threatening to the environment, especially to water and air. He said he would open up the coalmines and promote fossil fuel production, putting people back to work in those most polluting industries. Sounds like the most toxic jobs program possible, which would include drilling anywhere the oil companies would want to drill, fracking and mining on public lands, installing pipelines anywhere, and giving the trains that carry the flammable oil (bomb trains, they’re called by the people whose communities are crossed by the tracks that carry and store them) very long distances a thumbs-up, wherever they want to go.

It is not yet clear whether he would curb research into alternative energy sources, such as wind, solar, geothermal, tide power, and run-of-the-river hydro (as opposed to big dams). He said he would increase the strength of the military, so that everyone else in the world would fear the U.S., but, if he had been paying attention, he would know that the rest of the world is already in fear of U.S. military power and its drone and missile warfare (no boots on the ground). Since more than half of the discretionary federal budget (nearly $600 billion) goes to the military and defense, it is hard to see how a President Trump could increase it by a few hundred billion dollars, without slashing social programs and environmental protection. Think privatizing Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps and other vital programs.

But, enough of the positive things he could bring to the lives of ordinary wage-earning men and women. It is very difficult to determine what he would do in any circumstance, because he is so inexperienced in democratic processes. He will probably leave much of his programs for the House and Senate to carry out, especially with both chambers controlled by the GOP, the party he said he could do without. The party regulars did fall into line behind him, to a small extent toward the end of the campaign, so they will try to comply with his wishes to make the U.S. more competitive globally, by reducing wages and removing all of the fetters of regulation of corporations (watch out, Environmental Protection Agency).

Few can figure out how someone like Trump can relate to “the people,” those who work for $8 or $10 an hour and struggle to take a child to a doctor. After all, in his New York digs, he has a golden bathroom, befitting of someone who described himself as “really rich.”

There is little that is too ostentatious for Trump, who has named his buildings and casinos after himself and has sold his name, his “brand,” to developers around the world.

In race relations, he declared during the campaign, “I have a great relationship with the blacks.” Shades of Cliven Bundy, a hero of the “Sagebrush Rebellion,” whose participants want the federal government to give public lands (our lands) in the west to the states, so they can be mined, grazed upon, fracked, and logged without fear of interference. Bundy wondered aloud whether black Americans were better off under slavery. And, who can forget Trump’s anti-Mexican rants, his Islamophobia, and his intent to build a wall at the Mexican frontier. On the day after the election, in which he lost the popular vote, but went over the top in the archaic Electoral College, groups that have been fighting for change ever since the Bill Clinton presidency were ramping up their efforts to fight for the environment, civil rights, human rights, and social justice, and against militarism, to face an even tougher foe in a Trump Administration.

Not all of the Trump supporters and voters were “a basket of deplorables,” as Hillary Clinton described them. Many have been so frustrated and enraged at their economic condition (joblessness on a grand scale and monumental student debt, to name a few) that they wanted to throw a monkey wrench into the works. They did, and the monkey wrench is named Donald Trump. We know that there are those who agree with Trump’s racist and misogynistic attitude and other negative inclinations that never should be present in a president of the United States, but those people were there all the time, waiting for a Trump to unleash their hateful bile, and he did. Trump supporters must have had more help than from just Republican voters, since there is a large and growing cohort of voters who register in no political party. Lots of them voted for Trump.

What happened to Clinton’s supporters, who expected from about two years ago that she would be crowned the first woman president? That was the problem. Rank-and-file Democrats rebelled against the set-up, from the beginning and straight through the primaries, an effort over which they had no control. Then there was the Bernie Sanders candidacy for the nomination. The poor and dispossessed responded to him, as did, especially, the students who face years or decades of monthly payments for their educations. They responded to his call for revolutionary change, reining in the banks and financial institutions, improving social programs, a single payer health care program, and other benefits for people, not corporations.

Sanders’ primary campaign was gaining momentum right up to the Democratic convention last summer, but the party was not having any of it, even though he consistently polled ahead of Clinton in a match-up with Trump, who he easily was ahead of in most polls. She campaigned throughout, as if she were entitled to the presidency, but the voters wanted nothing of it.

There were two campaigns, one Democratic and one Republican, each of which consisted of millions of enraged voters, but concentrated on different objects: Democrats angry at their own party, and Republican voters enraged at the system, itself. It’s something that pollsters don’t seem to get and they didn’t get it this time, at all. They were just wrong.

Those who blame the people who voted have not been watching American politics closely enough. The Right Wing and its billionaire backers have been concentrating on state legislatures and governorships and they have succeeded. Over a few decades, the Republicans and right-wingers in the states have provided the base for a solid Right Wing Congress and now, the presidency. Liberal fury about the outcome of this election should not be against the people, but those who control the two major parties and, particularly, the Democrats who set up this election outcome.

The working class has been trying to tell the political and economic elites what was happening to them for many years, but the complaints fell on deaf ears. Only a small number of the electorate was fighting for working people, minorities, poor people, and indigenous people, and they have shown it in places like Seattle in the World Trade Organization, rallies around the country to mitigate crushing student debt, and at Standing Rock, where many Indian nations have gathered to fight against the Dakota Access pipeline. Neither Democrats nor Republicans have taken up the cause of workers and the working class, to their eternal shame.

After Tuesday, they will have a president who has been one of the most divisive characters in the nation’s political history, and, in victory, he claims to represent all of the people, but his positions on the issues (if you can call them that) are sound bites from the campaign trail and are rather meaningless.

Improvement in the lives of ordinary Americans, most of whom work for wages, is not likely to come from someone who sits on a golden toilet and finds the minimum wage too high for the U.S. to be competitive around the world. It’s going to be a long four years, with emphasis on “do as I say, not as I do.” And, he’ll mean it. Columnist, John Funiciello, is a long-time former newspaper reporter and labor organizer, who lives in the Mohawk Valley of New York State. In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. Contact Mr. Funiciello and BC.




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David A. Love, JD
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