A PAI Special Report:
By Mark Gruenberg
PAI Staff Writer
Part 1 in a 3-part series
WASHINGTON (PAI)—Forget Steve Bannon. Forget the White House merry-go-round. Forget scandals over high spending on government planes for private travel – including mil-lions to take the president to Mar-A-Lago or Manhattan. Forget even Donald Trump’s tweets.
We’d say forget the Russia investigation, too, until the special counsel’s mass indictments on Feb. 15 covering three years of interference in the U.S. election system blew that mess wide open.
All of that is a smokescreen. By design or not, coverage and concentration on those issues lets the GOP president skillfully divert attention, at least among the chattering classes and the so-called mainstream media, away from what his government in general and Trump in particular are pulling off.
As the late John Mitchell, former Republican President Richard Nixon’s attorney general, said near the end of Nixon’s first year in office: “Watch what we do, not what we say.”
So let’s do that. Trump and his troops — his Cabinet, his agency appointees and his Republican enablers from Capitol Hill to City Hall – are, or should be, better known for what they’re doing to the people, not “of… by… and for the people,” to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln.
The list is long and getting longer. From letting restaurant bosses steal servers’ tips to letting shady for-profit private colleges steal students’ tuition – and the federal aid that makes it possible for the students to go to school – before closing up shop, the abuses are rife.
And that’s even before the Trump-GOP tax cut for the rich and corporations kicks in. Not to mention the Republicans’ administrative attacks on the Affordable Care Act along with their sabotage of both its finances and the health exchanges the act established.
Union presidents Lee Saunders of AFSCME and Randi Weingarten of the Teachers are among those who realize what the president and his zealots are doing.
“Trump is a master marketer and a master of diversion and deflection,” Weingarten said in an interview. “The Russian” election interference “investigation is very Washington-centric and it’s easy to cover” for national media, just like “law and order and Watergate.”
“But what is really happening is that Trump ran as a populist but is governing as an elitist. We are seeing that things people need as part of the social contract – such as health care and public education – are being ignored.”
Saunders agreed. The Russian election interference and the scandal “tend to deflect attention from what’s really happening” to people nationwide from Trump-GOP policies, Saunders said in an interview. “If you ask somebody who’s suffering every day” about the Russian election interference or the Trump scandals “It’s not their #1 priority.”
And while the Trump-GOP tax cut enriches the rich and corporations, here’s just a partial list of what the Republican president, his appointees and his congressional puppets are doing to the rest of us. Just in major issues involving workers, the record can be summed up in one word: Horrifying.
UNIONS, WORKERS RIGHTS IN DANGER
In the biggest workers’ rights case to hit the Supreme Court in decades, the Trump Justice Department sided with the rabid and vicious anti-labor National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, in Janus v AFSCME, which the justices will ponder on Jan. 26. An anti-worker decision would make every state and local government worker in the U.S. a “free rider,” able to use union services without paying for them. It would rob unions of thousands of members and millions of dollars in revenue to use for basic bargaining and grievances.
The non-unionists whom the unions represent in state and local government worksites pay “agency fees,” where the law allows, to cover only costs of collective bargaining and grievances. Echoing the RTW crowd, the Trump Justice Department says those fees – which do not cover politics or other activities – “are coerced payments” and violate the workers’ 1st Amendment free speech rights.
- The arguments over Janus wouldn’t matter, except Trump virtually ensured workers and unions will lose. Aided and abetted by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kent., Trump elevated federal appellate judge Neil Gorsuch to the High Court, filling the year-long vacancy there. McConnell refused to even hold hearings on Democratic President Barack Obama’s nominee, appellate judge Merrick Garland.
Gorsuch, son of a right-wing Reagan Republican official, showed persistent anti-worker bias in his lower court rulings and writings. Unions expect he’ll be the guaranteed fifth Republican vote on the court to throw out a 43-year-old precedent which lets unions – in non-right-to-work states – collect “agency fees” from non-unionists whom contracts cover, to pay only for bargaining and grievances.