This is the tea-leaf administration. So far President-elect Donald Trump doesn’t hold press conferences, because apparently it is too much a bother to explain the incoming government’s plans to We the People. Everyone understands that Trump “conned” voters and the things Trump said he would do during the campaign bear no relationship whatsoever to what his administration actually will do. And no one – even the Trump people — know what they actually will do.
The press is left perching across the street from Trump Tower, spying on who is going in and out to try to figure out who might be in the incoming administration and what they might or might not do. Everyone is left reading tea leaves to try to discern what is coming.
And the tea leaves tell us that working people are in for a hard time.
In 2015 President-“Elect” Donald Trump insisted that American workers’ wages are “too high.” Now Trump and the entire Republican apparatus are getting ready to use their newly-gained power to do something about it.
Tea-leaf-readers are warning that what we are already seeing and hearing from the Trump crowd should, as Senator Bernie Sanders put it in a Washington Post op-ed titled “Carrier just showed corporations how to beat Donald Trump“, should send a shock wave of fear through all workers across the country.” Sanders explans, “who would pay for the high cost for tax cuts that go to the richest businessmen in America? The working class of America.”
The First Volley: Kill Overtime Rule
Last week a Texas-based federal judge overturned an upcoming Labor Department rule raising the threshold for receiving overtime pay from $23,660 to $47,476. (Like Republican FBI Director Comey, this judge was appointed by President Obama. He was recommended for the bench by Republican Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz.) This rule would have raised the pay of millions of American workers, as well as increasing hiring. Reversing this rule is an outrage. (And why did Obama wait 7 years to push this rule through? It would have taken effect too late to help workers before the 2016 election.)
This reversal — killing hopes for a raise for 4.2 million workers — is only the opening volley of the coming attack on working people.
A Cabinet Full Of Anti-Worker Oligarchs
Other tea leaf signs of a coming anti-worker rampage include Trump’s cabinet appointments. The Washington Post notes the oligarchical nature of his appointments, in Donald Trump is assembling the richest administration in modern American history, in which just one of his nominees has ten times the wealth of ‘W’ Bush’s entire cabinet,
When George W. Bush assembled his first Cabinet in 2001, news reports dubbed them a team of millionaires, and government watchdogs questioned whether they were out of touch with most Americans’ problems. Combined, that group had an inflation-adjusted net worth of about $250 million — which is roughly one-tenth the wealth of Donald Trump’s nominee for commerce secretary alone.
… His announced nominees for top positions include several multimillionaires, an heir to a family mega-fortune and two Forbes-certified billionaires, one of whose family is worth as much as industrial tycoon Andrew Mellon was when he served as treasury secretary nearly a century ago. Rumored candidates for other positions suggest Trump could add more ultra-rich appointees soon.
Business profits are at all-time highs, but businesses claim they can’t afford to pay workers more. Business leaders are fighting raising the minimum wage, fighting efforts to restore employee status to workers misclassified as contractors, and fighting Obama’s new rule requiring companies to pay overtime for workers who work … overtime. And Trump is appointed this crowd to run things.
Trump’s Treasury Secretary nominee, Steve Mnuchin, is known for running a “foreclosure machine,” forcing working people out of their homes. In one case he even tried to take a 90-year-old woman’s house because of a 27-cent payment error. No, really, the woman was 27 cents short on a payment so his bank used that as an excuse to try to grab her house. No, really.
Progressive Congress (an inside-outside strategy organization that works closely with the Congressional Progressive Caucus) issued a statement saying that Trump’s Treasury Secretary nominee “is a slap in the face to workers everywhere.” The statement concludes,
“President Elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet selections raise deep concerns for us,” stated Dr. Gabriela D. Lemus, President of Progressive Congress. “Though he vilified Wall Street and Washington, DC — stating he will ‘drain the swamp’— he has instead chosen people with deep Washington and Wall Street connections. These are the very same types of folks he vilified as greedy, corrupt and out of touch during his campaign for the Presidency. Steven Mnuchin’s ties to Goldman Sachs — whose CEO was featured in one of Trump’s campaign ads with the accusation of ‘robbing from the working class’— is a slap in the face to workers everywhere and stands in stark contrast to his rhetoric. Mnuchin as Treasury Secretary is akin to putting the fox in the hen house and expecting the chickens to thrive.”
And Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren issued a joint statement that ends saying, “This pick makes clear that Donald Trump wants to cater to the same Wall Street executives that have hurt working families time and again.”
“An Extinction-Level Event For American Labor”
Harold Meyerson writes at The American Prospect, in How a Trump Presidency Could Kill the American Union,
[O]ne longtime union staff member told me that Trump’s victory was “an extinction-level event for American labor.”
He may be right.
Elaine Chao was ‘W’ Bush’s Secretary of Labor. Trump has nominated her to be his Transportation Secretary. She is the wife of Republican Senate majority Leader Mitch McConnell. (So much for “draining the swamp.”) She is the daughter of an American shipping-company owner whose ships are all registered in Liberia to dodge US taxes. She was a banker at Citicorp and is a Board member of Wells Fargo, the fraud bank, and News Corp, parent of FOX News.
Secretary of Labor Chao led efforts to fight against unions and working people. The NY Times covered this in a 2009 story, Departing Secretary of Labor Fends Off Critics,
“We don’t think the secretary serves the interests of workers very effectively,” said Bill Samuel, the A.F.L.-C.I.O.’s director of government affairs. “There have been virtually no new regulations on workplace hazards except those required by the courts. And she seemed to take the side of employers more than workers when there were conflicts.”
… “It feels like when my kids boast I’m getting a ‘C’ rather than a ‘D,’ ” said Kim Bobo, executive director of Interfaith Worker Justice, a group of religious and labor leaders that seeks to help low-wage workers. “What they’ve done is a drop in the bucket compared to the size of the problem of wage theft.”
The Communications Workers of America (CWA) wrote in 2003, in Chao’s ‘Insulting’ Behavior Stuns Labor Leaders,
“Insulting” and “condescending” comments by Labor Secretary Elaine Chao so angered union leaders at last week’s AFL-CIO Executive Council meeting in Florida that even those unions that have been largely supportive of President George W. Bush — the Teamsters and some building trades — are now expected to oppose his reelection.
… The Post reported that Chao “shocked the group by opposing any increase in the minimum wage, showing no sympathy for retired steelworkers who lost pension benefits, and reciting a list of legal actions her department has taken against unions and their leaders.
Bloomberg News, in Transport Pick Chao Gets Conservatives’ Praise, Labor Criticism, looked at her record as Labor Secretary,
“She was not only hostile to unions, she was hostile to all workers,” said David Madland, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a progressive policy group. “The only thing they really did was promulgate new rules to make it much harder for unions to operate.”
Chao issued regulations requiring more disclosure of union spending on lobbying and politics and passed rules that Democrats said created too many white-collar exemptions to overtime pay requirements. Republicans, however, defended the rules as adding overtime protection for 1.3 million workers.
An Administration Staffed By Goldman Sachs
Another tea-leaf sign of things to come is the number of appointees who come from giant investment bank Goldman Sachs. Politico noticed this, in Goldman Sachs poised for return to power in Trump White House,
After a decade in the wilderness, Wall Street’s most powerful firm, Goldman Sachs, is dominating the early days of the incoming Trump administration. The newly picked Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, spent 17 years at Goldman. Trump’s top incoming White House adviser, Steve Bannon, spent his early career at the bank. So did Anthony Scaramucci, one of Trump’s top transition advisers.
Goldman’s president, Gary Cohn, spent an hour schmoozing with President-elect Donald Trump on Tuesday and could be up for an administration job, possibly as director of the Office of Management and Budget, people close to Cohn and the transition said. Cohn, a long-time commodities trader, is friendly with Trump’s powerful son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
[. . .] Now Goldman, whose proximity to the levers of power dates to the early 20th Century and the creation of the Federal Reserve, stands to return to a level of influence unmatched by any other company in America.
Rachel Maddow, in a segment titled Goldman Sachs already reaping Trump rewards, explained that Goldman Sach’s stock is soaring on the news.
Tea Leaves Not Good For Workers
Billionaire oligarchs, anti-labor business leaders, foreclosure kings, Wall Street bankers and people on the boards of fraudster corporations. This is not quite the crowd you would think would usher in a new age of good jobs with good wages and benefits for working people.
The tea leaves — and that’s all we have from this already-secretive administration — are telling us that things are going to be very, very bad for America’s workers under a Donald “wages are too high” Trump administration.