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The rich get richer, don’t they? That’s Trump’s game plan.


“Trumponomics,” as The Washington Postcalls it, modernizes the proclivities of Republicans-past—Calvin Coolidge and Ronald Reagan in particular. “The Business of America is Business” said Coolidge in 1925. Reagan relied on trickle-down economics in the 1980’s to reconfigure Federal public policy.

The outcome? “Poverty is a state of mind,” Ben Carson opined during a recent interview. That’s another way of saying “living in poverty doesn’t suck quite enough,” wrote Catherine Rampell.

What a reversal. Candidate Trump “styled himself as an advocate of working people,” Yascha Mounk remembers. Trump declared “the state has an obligation to help struggling Americans, irrespective of why they are in need.”

But campaign rhetoric isn’t translating into reality. Trumponomics is—in a word—heartless.

For proof, let’s look at four interrelated initiatives—health reform, the Federal budget, privatization of public services, and tax reform. Each shows just how much the Trump regime neglects everyday Americans as it elevates the profile of America’s moneyed class.

First, there’s the plan to replace Obamacare. If the Trump-endorsed/House-passed health care proposal becomes law, then the Congressional Budget Office estimates that over 20 million Americans will lose health insurance over the next decade. This upside-down plan is best for those who are less likely to draw on insurance (e.g., the young and healthy Americans) and those with economic means.

The Draconian trade-off between rich and poor staggers the mind. Higher-income Americans will benefit financially in two ways—through tax credits and by eliminating taxes they pay currently in conjunction with The Affordable Care Act. What do the numbers look like? Forbes reports that there will be at least $880 billion in tax cuts over the next decade and least $274 billion of that total will go to the richest 2%. An equivalent $880 billion will be cut from Medicaid.

Everyday Americans lose. Rich Americans win.

The Administration justifies the budget by asserting that hard working, tax-paying Americans will finally get a budget about them. That’s another way of saying there are two types of Americans: Taxpayers and Moochers.

Second, there’s the proposed Federal budget, a cruel rendering that—among other things--hurts America’s most vulnerable; takes ‘public’ out of public education; reduces investments in science and medical research; downsizes/eliminates many other social, environmental, and development programs; and cleanses/reorients long-standing policies (e.g., “Climate Change” is out, budget cuts will hit antidiscrimination offices across cabinet offices).

The Administration justifies the budget by asserting that hard working, tax-paying Americans will finally get a budget about them. That’s another way of saying there are two types of Americans: Taxpayers and Moochers.

That interpretation in practice will kick people to the curb. Two examples are those on food stamps, which includes many children and older Americans (The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), and unemployed seniors who want to work (The Senior Community Service Employment Program).

Everyday Americans lose. Rich Americans win.

There’s a surprise in Trump’s proposed budget, too. it reduces funding for infrastructure improvements. That’s an odd stroke, given candidate-Trump’s campaign rhetoric. So what gives?

It’s the third way Trump wants to redefine The Commonwealth. He wants infrastructure improvements to come largely by way of privatizing heretofore publicly-funded enterprises. That preference is already evident in other schemes, most notably in Trump-DeVos education policy.

The problem with privatizing more public services is this: results to-date are questionable and troubling. Take, for example, The New York Times reporting on the practice—“When You Dial 911 and Wall Street Answers.” A must-read piece of investigative reporting, the article outlines issues in stunning clarity.

Diane Ravitch puts it this way: “Investors expect a profit…/and…/when possible, they eliminate unions, raise prices to consumers, cut workers’ benefits, expand working hours, and lay off veteran employees who earn the most.” Privately-offered public services—often managed by murky private equity firms—are known for offering lousy services, like inedible food and unreliable health services.

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Ravitch cautions that privatization advocates aren’t motivated by profits alone. Many believe strongly—ideologically so—in the Coolidge-esque supremacy of free-market capitalism. Privatization, they believe, is not only good for the private sector, it gets more public services off the government’s ledger. For Trump and cronies that’s a win-win.

Everyday Americans lose. Rich Americans win.

More privatization also means we won’t need as much money to support the public sector. That outcome offers a fourth opportunity to screw the public and privilege the rich. It comes by way of taxes cuts.

The Republicans call it “tax reform,” but it’s hardly that. It’s a ruse. How? It cuts taxes significantly for America’s most economically privileged citizens—a move that stimulates trickle-down.

To give you an idea of just how bad things are currently—not to speak of how much worse things can get—I heartily recommend reading Professor Julia Ott’s eye-opening, How Tax Policy Created the 1%. Her article focuses on the differential tax rate between earned income (the primary income source for everyday Americans) and capital gains (a preferred income source for America’s moneyed class).

Ott writes: “In 2016…nearly 76% of all capital gains went to households earning more than $1,000,000, according to estimates by the Tax Policy Center. And 96.2% of the households in the top 1% of the income distribution are white. Preferential treatment for capital gains meant that the federal government forewent $109.5 billion in taxes in 2016,”

Ott traces the evolution of preferential tax policy, starting in the 1920’s with the passage of The Revenue Act of 1921. What began as a reasonable way to approach tax policy has morphed over the years. Today the record shows that (In Ott’s words) there’s “little evidence that indicates that the tax break for capital gains benefits the economy overall, although its relationship to inequality is quite clear.”

Ott elaborates. “The net worth of the median white household was 13 times greater than the net worth of the median African-American household in 2013,” she writes. “40% percent of all African-American households were reported to have zero or negative net worth. And for black households that own assets, only 3.4 percent are the kind of financial assets that might receive a capital gains tax break.”

That’s just another example of how “The Commonwealth” gets redefined.

Everyday Americans lose. Rich Americans win.

Many Americans don’t see a problem with that. And they elected Donald Trump.

Trump’s philosophy and approach meshes well with a belief that many Americans have about this country. David Brooks calls it The Libertarian-Mercantile Narrative. It goes like this: “America is a land of free individuals responsible for their own fate. This story celebrates the dynamism of the free market. Its prime value is freedom…. We’re consumers, entrepreneurs, workers, taxpayers.”

I see that narrative reflected daily in Letters to the Editor. Read “No Free Lunch Available as an example.

But that thinking—reasonable as it is—can be taken too far … too far to the Right. And that’s where the battle line is drawn.

There’s a difference of opinion among Americans—those on the Right and those on the Left—about what’s right and just. Fundamentally at issue is what it means to use the word, “Commonwealth.” The question for me—and I know many others—is this: Why do some people have to lose for others to win?

For Progressives there’s no question about the road ahead. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash) said it well in her response to the proposed Federal budget. To support it, she says, means that we participate in a “betrayal” that represents a “loss of hope and opportunities for millions of families.”


It’s about commonwealth.

Frank Fear