During the 2016 Presidential campaign, Donald Trump was perceived to be a true champion of the working-class by his supporters. Now, in a shocking turn, his recent Presidential actions are favoring the wealthy over average Americans. One advertisement, released just before the Election, featured Trump saying “The political establishment that is trying to stop us is the same group responsible for our disastrous trade deals, massive illegal immigration economic and foreign policies that have bled our country dry”. Despite his covenant with middle and working class families to “drain the swamp” and reverse burdensome regulations, President Trump has shown little resolve to uphold his end of the bargain. Legislation to allow the sale of private internet browsing data without consumer permission, as well as repealing a key portion of the Dodd-Frank regulations to protect the financial interests of middle-class Americans, are only the latest iterations of Trump’s catering to economic elites during his plutocratic Presidency.
Indeed, President Trump was never truly a champion of the working class, and the signs were clear early on. As the Washington Post reported in September of last year, an independent analysis by the Tax Foundation of Trump’s tax policy proposals found that the tax burden for the extremely rich would fall considerably, while low and middle income families would see little change. His plan would also decrease tax revenues by $2-3 trillion, expanding the federal debt whose effects will fall on the shoulders of working class families. A Forbes analysis released two days after Trump’s election also finds that Trump’s tax plan would decrease corporate taxes, especially for the over $2 trillion in cash multinational corporations keep overseas if they repatriate those dollars. As if President Trump’s favor for the banking and financial elite of America wasn’t clear enough, his cabinet is currently filled with an oil executive for ExxonMobil, a former senior executive at Goldman Sachs, and multiple billionaires. Most of his cabinet members have no previous government experience. Relying on these individuals to be attentive to the struggles of low income individuals (of which are predominantly people of color) would be unsubstantiated optimism at best.
Many of Trump’s supporters cautioned critical Americans to wait until President Trump took office before decrying his Presidency. Two months in, however, and President Trump has given little reason to be hopeful. President Trump is expected to sign a bill passed by the Republic Congress to allow internet service providers like AT&T or Verizon to sell individuals’ data to advertisers and other third-parties, like the current operations of Google and Facebook. This bill repeals an Obama-era regulation, and requires internet users to opt-out explicitly if they don’t want their information shared. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), the sponsor of the bill, claims that this new legislation increases consumer choice—which seems unlikely if information on how to opt-out of the information gathering is difficult to access. Sen. Flake’s bill is also part of a broader conservative assault on internet issues, namely the push to end “net neutrality”, a concept that preserves equitable internet access for all instead of pay-to-play schemes for ISPs. Not only is this bill a gross violation of one’s privacy (as it assumes individual data are free to use), but it documents another instance where the current Administration prioritizes corporate interests over those of American citizens. Regardless of whether one supports less regulations for businesses to pursue their interests, this bill betrays President Trump’s supporters and all Americans he is supposed to represent.
In February, President Trump also moved to erode the Dodd-Frank Act, financial regulations passed in 2010 to prevent a reoccurrence of the 2008 Great Recession. In consultation with J.P. Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon, President Trump has asked the Department of Labor to repeal the “fiduciary rule”, which would require financial advisors (including stock or mortgage brokers) to prioritize their clients’ interests with financial investments instead of their own. Criticism of the fiduciary rules centers on the decreased income financial advisors would receive, thus preventing them from serving lower-income clients. However, the need for individuals to trust that advisors will invest their funds wisely remains paramount—indeed, the lack of a fiduciary rule directly contributed to the greed that fueled the financial crisis of 2008. Rather than moderate the interests of the same financial and political elites that Trump criticized so vehemently during his campaign, he has made it easier for them to do business and repeat the mistakes that have weakened the American economy.
President Trump’s Administration continues to disadvantage the marginalized in American society with countless executive orders, including the multiple travel bans, a reversal of President Obama’s climate change policies, and vesting extraordinary national security powers in the hands of Steve Bannon, a white supremacist and founder of Breitbart News. He even pushed his own health care bill to replace Obamacare that would have stripped millions of Americans—including many of his supporters—of healthcare. The two recent bills concerning ISPs and the fiduciary rule are only the latest iteration in a clearly defined pattern to privilege the political and economic elite over the ordinary Americans who did—and did not—vote for President Trump. The repercussions of President Trump’s first two months in office remain to be seen, even as his approval rating slides to 35%. Already there are signs that President Trump is losing support among the constituencies that turned out overwhelmingly for him in November. We likely won’t see a true referendum on President Trump or the Republican Congress until the midterm elections in 2018. Until then, more legislation like this means that middle and working class Americans lose, while the power of the plutocrats increases.