Entire oceans of ink have been spilled over the question of how much of Trump’s support came from prejudice versus economic anxiety (hint: it’s both and they’re interconnected.) But no matter the answer, what’s clear by now is that Trump’s economic populist agenda on behalf of the white working class no longer exists if it ever did. His betrayals of Main Street on behalf of Wall Street have been gradual and numerous, but two executive orders yesterday seal the deal:
President Trump signed a set of executive actions Friday ordering a review of significant 2016 tax regulations along with two separate reviews aimed at rolling back Dodd-Frank financial regulations.
The president visited the Treasury Department to sign the actions, saying the administration wants to “help struggling Americans achieve their financial dreams, earn a great paycheck, have a job that they love going to every single day and have real confidence in the future.”
He also teased that there will be a “big announcement” on tax reform next Wednesday.
The first action is an executive order that directs the Treasury Secretary to review “all significant 2016 tax regulations to determine if they impose an undue financial burden on taxpayers, are needlessly complex, create unnecessary requirements, or exceed what’s allowed under law.”
Trump has trussed up giveaways to Wall Street in worker-friendly language, but the intent is clear: to give the finance industry free rein to predate at will–though as Matt Yglesias notes, even the executive orders themselves are empty legislative husks designed to give Trump the illusion of accomplishments before the 100-day mark. Still, even an empty gift to Wall Street remains a gift.
There is now nothing left of Trump’s promises to workers. Better healthcare and lower premiums than the Affordable Care Act? Nope. Pressure against Chinese currency manipulation and offshoring of jobs? Not anymore. Keeping advisers who listen to Trump’s base instead of Goldman Sachs? Suckers.
Greg Sargent at the Washington Post has been pounding this theme for the last couple of weeks now. Whatever may have motivated Trump’s voters in the election, Trump himself is now banking that pure bigotry will keep the ground troops in line while he loots the treasury on behalf of himself and the traditional Republican plutocratic class.
Wall Street and GOP elites may be glad to see Trump reverting to form on the issues that matter to them. But — while these elites would perhaps like to see immigration reform — how much do they really care about the ugly nativist stuff that’s proceeding under the radar? Meanwhile, the trips to Mar-a-Lago (which use the White House to enrich the Trump family) and the refusal to release Trump’s tax returns and show transparency about his finances (which allows untold other conflicts of interest to remain undetected) doesn’t appear to concern them too much, either. The “economic” nationalism is no longer operative (if it ever was), but the ethno-nationalism and the corruption are running as strong as ever.
If the Vox-aligned crowd is right–they’re not, but just for the sake of argument–that it was purely racism and not economic anxiety and working-class nationalism that motivated Trump’s base, then none of this will matter. But there is significant evidence that Trump’s voters are waking up to his lies, and that Trump’s abandonment of the core economic issues he promised will seriously hurt him and his party. That will be especially true if Democrats take a stronger economic populist stance as party leaders seem more willing to do than ever before.