President Donald Trump ran for office promising to bring back good jobs, accusing entrenched corporate interests—as well as falsely blaming immigrants—for many Americans’ economic struggles. During the closing months of his presidential campaign, he spoke out against “economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities.”
One hundred days into his administration, it is clear that Trump’s economic populism was mostly just talk. He has broken his promise to stand up for American workers, and his administration’s actions have combined the worst elements of right-wing policies: doing the bidding of corporate interests while attacking immigrants and people of color.
Workers have little to celebrate about the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency. Trump’s administration has repeatedly delayed court proceedings on the Obama administration’s expansion of overtime protections, failing to defend the rule that would have raised wages for workers by $12 billion over the next 10 years, extended overtime protections to 4.2 million more Americans, and created new jobs. He has also attacked workers by delaying the enforcement of the silica rule, which would protect 2.2 million workers from deadly crystalline silica, saving the lives of more than 600 workers per year. And one of his first actions as president was to enact a federal hiring freeze, making it harder for workers, especially veterans—who made up nearly one-third of federal hires in fiscal year 2015—to get a job. This action also raised costs for taxpayers.
In contrast, wealthy CEOs have much to cheer about, as Trump has fought for their interests when he has taken executive action. Trump is working to eliminate the U.S. Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule that ensures that retirement advisers act in the best interests of their clients. Without this rule, savers in individual retirement accounts are estimated to lose $17 billion per year in high fees. And while Trump spoke out against mergers in the past due to fears of concentrated power, he has appointed administration officials ready to take a lax approach to fighting monopolies.
Corporate influence has also shone through in the few pieces of legislation that Trump has, for the most part, quietly signed into law: resolutions of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act. These resolutions to overturn regulations have provided businesses with more than $7 billion in giveaways while stripping consumer protections, eliminating jobs, and lowering wages. In two particularly notable examples, Trump stood with corporate interests over consumers by signing a bill to allow internet providers to sell their customers’ browsing data and protected the oil and gas industry from public scrutiny by signing a bill eliminating transparency requirements on payments to foreign governments.
And instead of standing with workers at federal contractors who were facing unsafe workplaces, wage theft, or discrimination on the job, Trump sided with the law-breaking employers and their lobbyists by repealing the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order. As a result, huge amounts of government dollars—$81 billion in FY 2012—will now continue to flow to businesses that break the law and mistreat their workers.
Beyond the bluster, failed executive orders, and rollbacks of worker and consumer protections, Trump’s legislative agenda has focused on stripping health insurance from millions of Americans. Trump promised the American people that his replacement for the Affordable Care Act would provide “insurance for everybody.” But instead, he worked “hand-in-glove” with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) and proposed a plan that fell far short of that goal. Their resulting replacement plan, the American Health Care Act, was a disastrous proposal that was estimated to kick 24 million Americans off health insurance and kill 1.8 million jobs. Public outcry against the bill was so strong that the Trump administration was embarrassingly forced to call off the House vote for the legislation.
Trump’s much-touted legislative agenda to help workers is nowhere to be found. While he pledged to bring forward a bill to create jobs and rebuild our nation’s infrastructure in the first 100 days, his administration has failed to do so. And in fact, Trump’s campaign plan—which funds infrastructure projects through special-interest tax breaks instead of direct spending—would simply cut taxes for Wall Street while requiring working families to make up the difference through higher fees and tolls.
Trump gave Americans a preview of his upcoming priorities in March when he released his so-called skinny budget for FY 2018. If implemented, this budget would seriously harm the very workers he promised to protect. Its cuts would eliminate job training and employment services for more than 2.7 million Americans in 2018 alone. While Trump promised to bring back good manufacturing jobs, his budget would defund the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, eliminating 41,000 jobs. Trump’s proposed cuts would also make housing less affordable, harm public schools, and reduce access to crucial services such as Meals on Wheels and the Legal Services Corporation.
The few policies that Trump has announced that are ostensibly billed as helping American workers are largely devoid of substance. For example, while Trump claimed that an early executive action required the Keystone XL pipeline to be built using American steel, the White House later admitted that the “buy-American” requirement did not apply to this particular project. And while Trump has taken credit for job announcements from private-sector companies, the vast majority of these jobs were already on track to be created before his election. Even Trump’s much-touted Carrier deal only saved 800 of the 1,400 jobs at their Indianapolis plant and did nothing to stop the outsourcing of 700 jobs at Carrier’s Huntington, Indiana, plant.
Even though Trump promised to “announce our plans to renegotiate NAFTA” on day one of his presidency, the administration has yet to notify Congress of its intention to do so, and leaked draft proposals show “mostly modest changes.” And Trump’s recent executive order on high-skilled H-1B visas makes no actual policy changes—instead, it just instructs his administration to “as soon as practicable, suggest reforms.”
His actions during the first 100 days show that Trump has sharply reversed from decrying corporate influence as a candidate to welcoming it as the president. This is no surprise considering the backgrounds of those in his administration. After railing against Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street banks on the campaign trail, Trump chose to stack his administration with top Goldman officials: Trump’s National Economic Council is led by Gary Cohn, formerly the firm’s COO and president, and Goldman-alum Steven Mnuchin now serves as Trump’s treasury secretary. And in perhaps his most influential appointment, Trump placed Justice Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court—a jurist with a long record of favoring corporations instead of their workers.
Big business ties are found throughout the Trump administration, including with former Exxon CEO and current Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, an ex-board member of Wells Fargo and News Corp. Trump is also allowing lobbyists to join his administration by reversing the rule that prevented lobbyists from being hired by agencies that they had lobbied in the past two years and issuing waivers to lobbyists that exempt them from the administration’s weaker ethics requirements.
And the breadth of corporate influence goes further than just hiring former business leaders. Trump has been hosting a near-constant stream of wealthy donors and corporate CEOs to hear how to further tilt the economy in their favor. Perhaps ashamed by the degree to which he is listening to special interests instead of “draining the swamp,” Trump has chosen to keep the White House visitor logs hidden from the public.
During the campaign, Trump laid out a test for every policy he would make as president: “[D]oes it create more jobs and better wages for Americans?” Almost none of the policies that have been enacted by his administration pass this test, and in several cases, they do the exact opposite. By his own chosen measures, Trump’s first 100 days have failed American workers.
Alex Rowell is a Research Associate for the Economic Policy team at the Center for American Progress.
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