By Amy Traub, Demos
This Halloween, Donald Trump’s “friend of the working man” costume is getting increasingly threadbare. While the purported billionaire has long tried to masquerade as an ally of the little guy—a champion of ordinary American workers and consumers overlooked by Washington—the substance of his actual policies offer far more nasty tricks than treats. From his sabotage of the nation’s health care system to a rollback of chemical safety and workplace safety rules, Trump stands squarely against the interests of the ordinary American. He has made it easier for for-profit colleges to scam students, for health plans to scam patients, for retirement advisors to scam workers saving for their golden years and for nursing homes to scam and abuse elderly residents. Now he stands poised to sign legislation making it harder for Americans to hold big banks accountable for scamming their customers.
The masquerade continues: Trump is ludicrously trying to sell a massive corporate tax cut as a sure-fire way to raise pay for ordinary workers. Meanwhile, his administration is needlessly reevaluating a powerful Obama-era regulation that would actually raise workers’ pay by enabling millions of Americans working long hours to be compensated for their overtime.
With corporations already sitting on trillions of dollars in un-invested profits, the idea that further tax cuts will spur $4,000 wage increases for front-line employees defies belief—as a rule, corporations only raise pay when they’re forced to (by the law, by worker demands, or by a tight labor market that makes it hard to attract and retain a cheaper workforce).
In contrast, revised overtime pay rules would mandate a pay increase, benefitting 12.5 million workers and their families by broadening the pool of workers eligible for overtime pay. This would both increase the pay many salaried employees receive for working long hours, and enable others to work fewer hours for the same pay (potentially cutting child care costs and other expenses of long work days). According to an analysis by the Department of Labor, the overtime rule would result in an average annual increase in pay of $1.2 billion per year. Since women, people of color, and younger workers are the most likely to work in moderately-paid salaried jobs, these workers would experience the greatest gains.
This week, the Trump administration appealed a district court ruling that had prevented the overtime rules from going into effect—not because Trump or his Labor Secretary want to save these critical regulations, but because they want to preserve the Department of Labor’s power and authority even as they water down the rules. If Trump really cared about raising pay or standing with working people, fighting for strong overtime rules is just one avenue he could pursue. Yet this was never the goal in the first place.
The cheap masks disguising Trump and the Republicans pushing forward an anti-worker agenda in Congress are starting to fall apart. Even Trump’s frantic use of strategic racism and xenophobia—from verbally attacking black athletes and members of Congress to yanking protections from Dreamers and repeatedly attempting to ban Muslim refugees—is no longer enough to check the declining support among his base. At long last, Trump’s supporters may be growing tired of being tricked.