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American workers will see through Trump's con

E.J. Dionne Jr. on

Reuther was unpersuaded. "Unfortunately," he asserted, "most everything that Congress has done in the past six or eight months has moved in the direction of giving more to the people who already have too much and taking away from the people who need more."

"Senator Taft," Reuther said at another point, "that is the same kind of economic theory that we practiced under Harding and under Coolidge and under Hoover."

Taft, to his credit, did not present to be someone he wasn't. He believed in the ideas he was pushing. But anyone who expected Trump to take the American worker to a new place should be profoundly disappointed. As for Reuther's description of conservative economics, it seems as relevant now as it was 69 years ago.

Trump moves us backward in other ways. Jared Bernstein and Ben Spielberg explained last week on The Washington Post's "PostEverything" blog that the president is using his executive power to undercut regulations on workers' pay, financial security, job safety, and also their right to form unions. Here again, Trump's actions belie his words.

Trump seems to think that if he goes after immigrants, picks fights about his border wall, regularly recites the words "law and order," and assails "political correctness," workers won't notice any of this. He'll keep attacking academic and media elites to distract from his service to financial elites. And there is so much focus on the scandals genuinely worthy of public attention that the substance of Trump's economic policies will be confined to the back pages of newspapers or the nether reaches of the internet.

Will it work? I'd insist that it's always safe to wager that over time, American workers judge politicians by looking at their paychecks, their working conditions, and the economic prospects of their families. Trump will discover the limits of his flimflam.

It was Walter Reuther who said: "There's a direct relationship between the ballot box and the bread box." I still think he was right.

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E.J. Dionne's email address is ejdionne@washpost.com. Twitter: @EJDionne.

(c) 2017, Washington Post Writers Group

 

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