Donald Trump has ginned up a continuous din in his first four months as president, with each outrage or grotesquerie immediately followed by another.
Amid the furors, it is easy to lose track of the key standard by which Trump will be judged by his key voters: his oft-repeated campaign pledge that “the American worker will finally have a president who will protect them and fight for them.” These pledges have continued since Trump became president. He told the Conservative Political Action Conference that “the forgotten men and women of America will be forgotten no longer.” In the flood of reviews of Trump’s first 100 days, which focused heavily on his scandals and gaffes, few noted that he failed on this measure.
The working people who were crucial to Trump’s victory may not be impressed by more evidence that he’s a scoundrel. Most of them considered him a scoundrel when they voted for him. Their hope was that he might be their scoundrel, in contrast to the “corrupted politicians” and “failed political elite” that he railed against.
Trump understands this. That’s why so many of his stunts and boasts—the Carrier deal to keep 800 jobs here, posturing over the North American Free Trade Agreement, claiming credit for new jobs stemming from corporate decisions made long before he was elected—are designed to be seen and loved by working people. But these stunts cover the reality: Trump is shafting the very working people who supported him.
Consider these key measures.
Trump constantly promises “lots of jobs,” and boasts of cracking down on companies moving jobs abroad. Trump officially buried the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but that was dead anyway. He issued a “Buy America, Hire America” executive order, but that just called for a review, not action.
Beneath the noise, workers are getting betrayed. Trump has introduced no jobs bill. His much-ballyhooed plan to rebuild America was glaringly absent from his first budget, which actually cuts spending on infrastructure. He has abandoned the End the Offshoring Act he promised in the first 100 days, which would use tariffs to discourage companies from moving abroad. Worse, he’s backed off pressuring China on the unprecedented trade deficits we suffer, and in so doing sacrifices American jobs for China’s supposed help with North Korea. Rather than ripping up NAFTA, he now says he’ll renegotiate it, with his Commerce Secretary bizarrely suggesting that the TPP might serve as the “starting point.” His tax proposal would end taxation on profits reported abroad, giving companies even more incentive to ship jobs or create tax dodges abroad.