Dear Forgotten Men and Women of America:
I bear sad tidings: President Donald Trump appears to have forgotten all about you.
“Corporations have NEVER made as much money as they are making now,” the nation’s 45th chief executive trumpeted on Twitter this week, as he threw a shout out to his favorite show “Fox & Friends.”
On July 31, Trump boasted that the nation was enjoying its “highest stock market EVER, best economic numbers in years, unemployment lowest in 17 years, wages raising, border secure, S.C.: No WH chaos!”
There are some structural problems with Trump’s claims, notably that while wages have been growing, they have been rising at a much slower pace than the rest of the economy.
That’s a long way from the Trump of “I am your voice,” at last summer’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland. And it’s light years away from the man who vowed that “the forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer,” during his inaugural address in January.
No matter how you slice it, the self-styled populist still has heart-eyes for Wall Street.
Take tax reform, for instance.
Senior House Republicans have poured water on a plan, advanced by White House senior adviser Stephen K. Bannon, to impose a top rate of 44 percent on Americans earning more than $5 million a year.
U.S. House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, told Fox News that he didn’t “intend” to include Bannon’s top rate in his committee’s considerations.
“We’re going for growth, which means lower rates at every level,” Brady said.
House Speaker Paul J. Ryan, R-Wisc., said he supported a previous administration plan, released in April, capping the top rate at 35 percent. Ryan told Fox that “We’re not in the business of raising tax rates.”
That 9-percentage point shift may not seem like a big deal, but it’s one of the clearest signs that Trump, who ran as a populist, is being forced to behave like a rank-and-file conservative by Washington’s Republican establishment.
Lacking any substantive legislative victories, the White House appears willing to play along.
In an op-ed for The Washington Post, Matt Grossmann and David A. Hopkins, the authors of “Asymmetric Politics,” argue that most mainstream observers overstated Trump’s ability to bend the GOP to his will.
“Instead of transforming the Republican Party, Trump has assembled the most conservative administration and agenda of any modern president,” they wrote. “Analysts overstated Trump’s distance from Republican campaign orthodoxy and expected him to be able to avoid the challenges of leading his party from opposition to governing mode. As a result, they underestimated the resilience of the GOP’s basic character.”
And after vowing during the campaign to provide “insurance for everybody,” with “no cuts to Medicaid,” and that “no one will lose coverage,” Trump and his White House put its muscle behind Republican-authored healthcare reform plans that did all three of those things.
As an added bonus: Analysts further concluded that the GOP-authored plans would specifically hurt voters in counties that went for Trump during the 2016 campaign.
“The white working class will very much be hit by the cuts in Medicaid that will be the major offset for the tax cut,” Dean Baker, the co-director of the Center for Economic Policy & Research, wrote in a July 4 column for The Huffington Post.
“The plan being considered by the Senate cuts projected spending by more than 10 percent over the period from 2018 to 2026, but the cuts increase in size each year. By 2026, the last year in the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) projections, the cuts will be more than 25 percent. They will get even larger in the years beyond the forecasting horizon,” he wrote.
Previously immune to external influences and criticisms, there are signs now that Trump’s base may be tiring of his broken promises and his antics.
Barely a third of Americans, 33 percent, approve of Trump’s job performance, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday.
White men — Trump’s traditional wheelhouse — were divided, 47-48 percent, on the POTUS’ job performance, the poll found. Three-quarters of Republicans (76 percent) said they approved, compared to 17 percent who said they did not.
Critically, Trump is underwater, 41-52 percent, in his handling of the economy – a quality he argued made him best suited for the White House. Trump takes further dings for his handling of the ongoing probe of Russian interference in the election.
“It’s hard to pick what is the most alarming number in the troubling trail of new lows for President Donald Trump,” Quinnipiac pollster Tim Malloy said in a statement.
“Profound embarrassment over his performance in office and deepening concern over his level-headedness have to raise the biggest red flags.”
But still he tweets on.
An award-winning political journalist, Micek is the Opinion Editor and Political Columnist for PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa. Readers may follow him on Twitter @ByJohnLMicek and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.