I get the message. You voted for Obama twice. In fact, you do not recall ever voting for a Republican before, but these times are different. You voted for Trump. You sent a message: You are fed up.
There are a whole bunch of reasons why Hillary lost the electoral college vote, but surely none is more important than you and others like you crossing over the line to vote for Trump. You voted for him, not because Trump is a Republican but because he is an outsider, someone who is new to politics, who is not beholden to the elite who control both parties, who seems to understand your predicament, who “tells it like it is,” and who will shake up Washington.
You are right. We Progressives have let you down. Under our watch despite gains in a number of areas, over the past eight years, your life has not gotten better. Your job is shaky. Many of your friends have lost theirs, and your income has stagnated. You no longer have a old fashioned pension and have borrowed against your 401K to help get your kids through school. The thought of maintaining even a modest standard of living after retiring is quickly vanishing. One kid has graduated from college and the other from a community college, but they have taken on debt and are having trouble finding openings for career jobs. You are watching them struggle as they marry, have kids and can’t afford decent child care or even a nice house. You do not have enough money for you and your wife to go out more than one night a week to a chain restaurant and an occasional movie; and vacation travel is out of the question. You have health care at work, but many of your friends and relatives don’t; and those who signed up for Obama Care are watching their premiums sky rocket. Then there is the opioid epidemic. The list goes on.
You look at Progressives like me and conclude—justifiably in many ways—that we just do not get it. We talk about equality and diversity; but when it comes to helping the backbone of America, you argue that the folks like you who really were responsible for making America great in the first place, the white working class, have been left hanging out on the line to dry. We Democrats have taken you for granted and given you very little in return. You are mad as hell, and it does not mean that you are a racist or a sexist or intolerant of Muslims and immigrants.
You don’t ask for much—just to have a decent life with some security and reason to believe that the future will be better for your children and grandchildren. You do not think that has happened during the last eight years ( and before that too), and you have had enough: you voted for the long shot. What did you have to lose?
Were I in your shoes I would probably have done the same thing. But here is the problem: you have been duped. Trump is a sham, who has never given a twit about the working class or for that matter about anyone else except himself and his immediate family. He is a fraud. But let’s leave aside his personality and past history of exploiting workers and contractors. Let’s look at what he says he is going to do and then what he actually does do and its impact on you and your family.
The first thing he is likely to do (with help from his Republican Congress) is drastically cut taxes for the rich. Yes, there will be some across-the-board cuts and crumbs for those toward the bottom, but the bulk of the cuts will go to the rich. We have seen this movie before. Trickle down economics does not benefit working people like you. That is why the trickle down policies in the past–championed by Republicans by the way, not Democrats—are in part responsible for the disparities in income we see today. And if he does get a big tax cut through Congress, it will create huge deficits and dampen chances for job creation, paid family leave, infrastructure development and other things he has talked about.
His argument is that tax cuts and deregulation will stimulate the economy and create jobs. But will the jobs be in the U.S. and will they be the kind of jobs that will benefit you and your family? More jobs have been lost due to technology than off-shoring. Most economists agree that the job train that we used to know has done left the station and will never return.
The question of jobs coming back to the U.S from around the world is important because another item high on Trump’s list is to sharply reduce Chinese and Mexican imports. Trump will impose tariffs of up to 45% on goods shipped to the U.S. from these countries. You don’t have to be an economist to figure this one out. The goods you buy at Walmart and Dollar General will cost more. Plus, do you think the Chinese—which have a whole bunch of problems themselves—will roll over on this? They will impose tariffs on our products. The main problem with tariffs is that a lot of economists believe they are likely to start a trade war, which could cause a global recession. It would not be a pretty picture for you and your family.
I know that you probably think that free trade has been a disaster. You are wrong. It is responsible for most of the extraordinary gains in incomes and living standards around the world. But you are also right. There are winners and losers in international trade; and many working people –especially in Mid Western industrial states—have gotten the short end of the stick. People like Bernie Sanders think we should have done a much better job. This is another way we Progressives have let you down. We have not been able to protect many American jobs or provide the retooling for the new global economy that is necessary to get you in the right job.
(For the record, Trump is also strongly against having any minimum wage at all, let alone establishing a national living wage minimum. There is a long list which if you look at it carefully, you will come away wondering what is in it for you. The answer: very little.)
But what about infrastructure? Trump has said he wants to spend a trillion dollars on infrastructure. That should create jobs. Spending money on roads, mass transit and bridges was a big part of Hillary’s platform as well. This could be one item on Trump’s otherwise worker-hostile agenda that Progressives could support if handled properly so that the money goes to job creators and workers, not tax breaks for wealthy investors as appears to be the case now. So it could be a start and a silver lining in what otherwise is a dark cloud with few benefits for you and your family. This is something to pull for.
And what about Obama Care? According to Trump, this will also be among the first to go. We are talking about 20 million people who for the first time have affordable health insurance. Many are working class families. Yes, premiums are going up, but 85% of the people using Obama Care receive government subsidies. What will replace it? We have no idea.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news. But the facts are what they are. Who knows? It is theoretically possible that Trump could move toward a more worker-friendly agenda, but there is no sign of it happening yet.
So what are you to do? First, listen to what Trump says and figure out how it will affect you and your family. Second, watch very closely what he and the Republican-controlled Congress actually do. If they pursue the bait-and-switch scam which now appears to be unfolding, you have friends who want you back in the Democratic fold. We are going to fight Trump, and we need your help. I know, we have let you down in the past—not, I might add, because we wanted to but because we were not able to get progressive laws passed in a Republican-controlled Congress. But I also know you are not looking for excuses. You are looking for answers. The answers are that we need a progressive agenda which supports job growth, provides for job retraining, affordable child care and affordable public college, higher taxes on the rich to pay for it, universal health care, and a minimum living wage.
Watch what he does. If Trump does not deliver, we want you back. Together we shall overcome.