The big story behind Trump’s electoral victory in the election of 2016 in addition to Russian meddling and FBI bungling was the unexpected support from the disgruntled, white working class. They saw him as the only true anti establishment candidate and their best hope for turning Washington upside down. Current polls indicate huge Republican support for Trump, and there is no indication of loss of support from those blue-collar workers who voted for him enthusiastically.
So let’s take a look at what Trump has in store for them. First health care. While the CBO has not completed its evaluation of impact of repealing and replacing the ACA, some think tanks have, and it looks like between 10 and 15 million people will lose the insurance they had under Obamacare or find the replacement unaffordable. A large percentage of these people are white working class, many of whom probably voted for Trump. The big winners of Trump/Ryancare, if it passes, will be the billionaires who will no longer have to pay the extra taxes that funded Obamacare. So much for healthcare.
What about jobs? The job market is continuing to do well though the gains in the first quarter of 2017 are probably due more to Obama than to Trump according to many economists. No matter. Who is to complain about job growth? But the nagging, national problem is income disparity.
Trump and the Republicans remain openly hostile to the idea of raising the national minimum wage or requiring more pay for low income, salaried workers who work overtime. They are fiercely anti Labor. Trump is also against free trade—as are many of his working class supporters—and is toying with the idea of import taxes. Most economists see trade restrictions and trade wars as job killers. Trump’s jawboning big companies to keep some Midwestern factories open makes a good sound bite but is not expected to produce or retain a huge number of good paying jobs. To pay for the Big Wall and military increases Trump is dismantling as much of the social safety net as he can get his hands on including job retraining and support for displaced workers.
Finally, there is the promised trillion dollar infrastructure initiative. That would produce jobs, but when was the last time you heard a word about infrastructure?
The Republican Congress is adamantly opposed to spending on infrastructure, so for any major initiative to pass Trump will need Democrats. These are the same people whose beloved president has been falsely accused by Trump of illegally tapping his phones. They are not big fans of The Donald. So will Trump be the savior in producing good paying jobs and reducing income disparity and inequality? Do not hold your breath.
Tax reform is also high on the agenda. Tax reform for Trump and for the Republicans means lower taxes for the rich and super-rich. It is not likely that the working class will get more than a few crumbs. The envisioned tax breaks also mean sky rocketing deficits, which will spur the call for more cuts to safety net programs like child care, education and affordable housing. Entitlement cuts will not be far behind. Another nail in the coffin for any hope of working people benefiting from the Trump presidency.
Speaking of housing, Trump is calling for a huge cut of over $6 billion to the HUD budget, which will cut the number of Housing Choice Vouchers, gut already troubled public housing authorities, and virtually eliminate block grant programs which produce dollars for localities to help distressed neighborhoods and fight homelessness. My entire career has been in affordable housing, and I view the current situation as the most dire I have ever seen. You think we have a homeless problem now. Just wait until these cuts go into effect.
One might counter by arguing that the safety net programs help the poor, not the working class, so destroying the social safety net will not really be a problem for these Trump supporters since working people are supposed to look down on the lazy, no good deadbeats who have only themselves to blame for their poverty. Wrong. The era of the so called “welfare queens” died with welfare reform under Clinton. The poor are the working class. They have jobs—often multiple jobs—it is just that the jobs they have pay very little, offer no benefits, may be part time, and are often unstable.
So the agenda of the populist Donald Trump offers nothing for the people who are responsible for his election. The multiple billionaires on his cabinet do not give a twit about the working class nor does anyone in his administration. It is not clear how long it will take for his ardent, white working class supporters to realize they have been had. It could be as early as the elections in 2018 when the tide could begin to shift. It may be later. At some point they are going to figure out they have been duped, and it will not be a pretty picture for Trump or for the Republicans. The challenge to the Democrats is to offer positive, practical alternatives that do make a difference in the lives of the working class.