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Trump’s presidential con job

Melvin B. Miller
Trump’s presidential con job
“I always thought those super-rich guys were supposed to be the enemy” (Photo: Dan Drew)

Political operatives agree that a good slogan is helpful in a political campaign. It must be short enough to be a bumper sticker; but most important, it must stimulate the subconscious support of potential voters. Many Democrats believed that Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” missed the mark. As Hillary Clinton said, “America is already great.” Democrats still do not realize that the slogan was viewed as an effective and nostalgic call to a time when white supremacy was scarcely restrained.

The conventional view is that “Make America Great Again” primarily expresses economic concern for the working poor and the declining middle class. Of course Trump realized that he needed the support of whites in the lower economic categories in his bid for the presidency. Undoubtedly Trump was well aware of the delusion of white racial superiority in America. According to the esteemed journalist Bill Moyers, President Lyndon Johnson once observed, “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket.”

As he assembles his administration, Trump has begun the process of picking the pockets of the poor. Never before have so many multimillionaires been appointed to high government posts. Andrew Puzder, the wealthy CEO of fast food restaurant chains, is Trump’s choice for Secretary of Labor. Puzder is generally opposed to the $15/hour minimum wage which is pushed primarily by employees of fast food restaurants.

Trump’s choice for Secretary of Health and Human Services, Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, threatens the survival of the Affordable Care Act. Conservative Republicans have opposed the ACA which was called Obamacare during their protests. The primary reason for the objections is that the wealthy are reluctant to be taxed to provide health care for the indigent. But 20 million citizens have already been added to the insurance rolls, many of them white Americans. In the decades of their opposition to universal health care the conservatives have failed to develop a suitable alternative plan, so the battle lines are drawn.

A fundamental problem has been income disparity. Wage levels have stagnated over the last 35 years even though productivity has increased. Income growth has been disproportionately distributed to CEOs and other top corporate executives. The median compensation for the 200 highest paid CEOs has grown to $19.3 million, up from $9.5 million five years ago.

Although there is some puffery about building the middle class, the real strategy seems to be to kill Obamacare and cut that cost, reduce taxes on the wealthy and eliminate provisions in the Dodd-Frank Act that would require corporations to publicize how much greater executive salaries are, relative to the pay grade of average employees. Wealthy executives fear that publicity on that issue might stoke congressional attention.

There is no benefit to working Americans in any of this maneuvering. So what is the perceived advantage to the white working class? A recollection of the campaign rallies indicates that the crowds would become more excited when Trump insulted and attacked Latinos, Muslims and African Americans. Trump’s support from the KKK and other white nationalist groups suggests that despite the lack of any economic advantage, the resurrection of racial superiority is benefit enough for some citizens.

LBJ had it right. There seems to be no limit on the price that some whites are willing to pay for the delusion of white supremacy. And Trump, the consummate conman, knew just how to pick their pockets.