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Leo W Gerard: Subjugation in Steel

Image of USW member at EVRAZ North America by Steven Dietz

One cost of freedom is steel. To remain independent, America must maintain its own vibrant steel industry.

Steel is essential to make munitions, armor plate, aircraft carriers, submarines and fighter jets, as well as the roads and bridges on which these armaments are transported, the electrical grid that powers the factories where they are produced, the municipal water systems that supply manufacturers, even the computers that aid industrial innovation.

If America imports that steel, it becomes a vassal to the producing countries. It would be victim to the whims of countries that certainly don’t have America’s interests in mind when they act. In the case of China, the attempt to subjugate is deliberate. Beijing intentionally overproduces, repeatedly promises to cut back while it actually increases capacity, then exports its excess, state-subsidized steel at below-market costs. This slashes the international price, which, in turn, bankrupts steelmakers in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Spain and elsewhere. Then, China dominates.

To his credit, President Donald Trump has said America can’t be great without the ability to make its own steel. He ordered the Commerce Department to investigate the extent to which steel imports threaten national security. Commerce officials are scheduled to brief Senate committees on the inquiry today. That’s because they’re being second guessed by a handful of federal officials, exporters and corporations whose only concern is profit, not patriotism. To protect national security, American steel and family-supporting jobs, the administration must stand strong against foreign unfair trade in steel that kills American jobs and creates American dependency.

Imports already take more than a quarter of the U.S. steel market. They rose in May by 2.6 percent, seizing a 27 percent market share. That is dangerous. America can’t rely on unfairly traded foreign steel as it tries to expand manufacturing jobs or when it faces foreign threats. Defense needs are the basis of the administration inquiry, called a Section 232 investigation under the Trade Expansion Act of 1962.

National security relies on dependable, modern transportation and utility systems as well as armaments. To produce defense materials, factories need supplies to arrive routinely and electricity to flow consistently. Steel is just as crucial for roads, bridges, airports and utilities as it is for armor plate.

Some importers are pressuring Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross not to recommend imposing limits or tariffs on steel imports, asserting that the only consideration should be price. They contend that if China, South Korea, Japan and Turkey subsidize their steel production, which lowers the cost of exports, then American builders should benefit – no matter how much that damages national security or destroys steelworkers’ family-supporting jobs. Their preoccupation with profit at their country’s expense should disqualify them from consideration.

To be clear, American steel companies and my union, the United Steelworkers, have tried repeatedly to resolve the problem of trade cheating through normal channels – filing trade enforcement cases against the violators. But the United States has refused to take currency manipulation by countries like China into account. And every time an American company wins an enforcement case against a trade law violator and tariffs are imposed on a particular type of steel import, China and other cheaters begin subsidizing a different type of steel and exporting that.

American companies  have won dozens of cases – welded stainless steel pressure pipe, rebar, line pipe, oil country tubular goods, wire rod, corrosion-resistant steel, hot-rolled steel, cold-rolled steel, cut-to-length plate, grain-oriented electrical steel. But in every case, countries like China and South Korea find a way to circumvent the rulings by subsidizing some new steel product and exporting that or by trans-shipping – sending the product to another country first to make it look like the steel originated there to evade the tariffs.

American steel producers and steelworkers can compete successfully against any counterpart in the world, but they can’t win a contest against a country.

The USW and American producers are looking for a broader solution now, something that will prevent cheating and circumvention across-the-board. And they have good reason to believe they can count on Commerce Secretary Ross. This is a guy who knows the industry and has a track record of saving steel mills and jobs.

At the turn of the century, as recession and the Asian financial crisis pushed more than 30 U.S. steel companies into bankruptcy, Secretary Ross bought a half dozen failing steel firms and restored them to solvency.

Because of his experience, Secretary Ross can be trusted to know the difference between China and Canada. American steelworkers and steel producers aren’t looking for blatant protectionism. American firms and Canadian companies have relationships in which steel from Canton, Ohio, may travel to St. Catherines, Ontario, where it is converted into engine blocks that are then shipped back across the border to Detroit, Mich., for installation in cars. Canada doesn’t illegally subsidize its steel industry or manipulate its currency. Only countries like China, Russia, South Korea and others that flagrantly violate international trade rules should be subject to the Section 232 sanctions.

Secretary Ross experienced the hell of 30 steel bankruptcies. He knows just how bad it can be for workers, companies and the country. With President Trump at his back, Secretary Ross now is key to ensuring American steel doesn’t descend back into that hell and that America remains steel independent.

Leo W Gerard: Trump Offers Fool’s Gold to Fund Infrastructure

Image from USW / Getty

Donald Trump surrounds himself in gold. The signs on Trump buildings shimmer in it. His penthouse in New York is gilded in it.

He claims now to have found the alchemy to conjure $1 trillion in infrastructure gold. He plans to put up a mere $200 billion in federal funds and stir it together with $800 billion in private investment and state dollars.

That is fool’s gold. A falsely-funded infrastructure program is a massive broken promise. America needs real improvements to roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, airports, water systems and railways. That requires a commitment of real tax dollars, not the relinquishment of America’s public assets to profit-seeking private Wall Street entities. Americans should not be charged twice for maintenance of the public good, once through tax breaks to investors and again in outrageous tolls and fees the investors charge.

On Wednesday, standing on the banks of the Ohio River in Cincinnati, Trump reiterated the pledge he made repeatedly on the campaign trail to put $1 trillion into infrastructure. He said “restoring America” is a promise that Washington, D.C., has broken. “It has not been kept, but we are going to keep it,” he said.

“Taxpayers deserve the best results for their investment,” he said, “and I will be sure that is what they get.” But the plan to turn over public assets to private corporations for tax-supported investment is gold only for the 1 percent who can afford to invest.

The Wall Street Journal reported last fall that to raise the private funds, Trump planned to give massive tax breaks of 82 percent of equity to investors that help pay for infrastructure repair. For citizens, that’s a crappy deal – giving Wall Street control over public assets in addition to being forced to fork over the taxes that rich investors will not pay.

That financial alchemy creates poison, not gold.

In addition, there is no profit in many types of infrastructure that need repair, like schools and hospitals. A corporation can’t collect tolls from children entering their elementary school each morning.

Despite Trump’s promise in Cincinnati that he would take care of rural areas, there’s no profit in many crucial infrastructure projects in such regions. Investors won’t pay for a highway needed to connect two isolated towns in West Virginia.

And the profit in some projects is highly questionable. Several corporations that have bought or built toll roads have filed for bankruptcy. This includes highways in Texas, California, Indiana and Alabama.

In other cases, the profits reaped are outrageous. After Chicago sold its 36,000 parking meters to Morgan Stanley, the Wall Street bank doubled the parking rates and charged the city tens of millions annually for meters Chicago took out of service for street repairs, mass transit stops and safety. A city inspector general report on the deal says Chicago under-priced the meters by nearly $1 billion when former Mayor Richard M. Daley signed the 75-year contract in 2008. The bank is expected to make back its $1.15 billion investment by 2020, giving it 60 more years to rake in pure profit on the backs of Chicago taxpayers who paid to install the meters and who feed them daily.

That’s gold for Morgan Stanley, grief for taxpayers.

Another part of Trump’s financing plan is to shift infrastructure costs to states and towns. This also cheats too many citizens. Sure, some places high on the hog like Silicon Valley might be able to afford that. But too many will be left out.

That’s because large numbers of cities and states are facing fiscal crises. Chicago sold its parking meters to fill a budget shortfall. In Oklahoma, where there’s a $900 million budget gap, schools are so underfunded that 96 of the state’s 513 districts have reduced the school week to four days and another 44 may be forced to do that in the fall. The state has shuttered rural hospitals, overcrowded its prisons and limited state troopers to 100 miles of driving a day.

In Kansas, with a $1.1 billion budget deficit, the state Supreme Court just ordered the legislature to properly pay for its schools. The court said Kansas’ under-funding meant inadequate education in basic reading and math for students in one fourth of its public schools. The state shortchanged half of the state’s black students and a third of its Hispanic pupils.

Illinois hasn’t had a budget for two years. The state’s credit rating has been downgraded eight times. It has accrued $14.5 billion in unpaid bills. As a result, more than 1,500 public university and community college workers have been laid off and untold numbers of social service agencies have closed or severely curtailed services.

Other states, including Connecticut, Kentucky, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, face massive pension shortfalls after years of failing to properly pay into the funds.

These places aren’t going to be able to jump up and take on the federal government’s responsibility to invest in infrastructure.

Even the $200 billion that the Trump administration is saying the federal government will provide is in question. It’s in the budget Trump submitted to Congress, but also in that budget is $206 billion in cuts to existing infrastructure programs, including those conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation and Army Corps of Engineers. That’s the very Corps of Engineers that would pay for the river lock and dam projects that Trump complained Wednesday in Cincinnati were grossly underfunded, causing costly breakdowns.

That kind of budgeting is bad alchemy. That’s not $1 trillion in infrastructure gold.

Trump said Wednesday, “We will build because our people want to build and because we need them to build. We will build because our prosperity demands it. We will build because that is how we make America great again.”

That sounds wonderful. But to build, projects must be properly paid for. And so far, the Trump administration has offered only pyrite.

Leo W Gerard: Workers Want A Green Economy, Not A Black Environment

The BlueGreen Alliance

To justify withdrawing from the Paris climate change accord, President Trump said during his press conference yesterday, “I was elected to represent the city of Pittsburgh, not Paris.”

From terrible experience, Pittsburghers know about pollution.

Before Pittsburgh’s renaissance, the streetlights Downtown frequently glowed at noon to illuminate sidewalks through the darkness of smoke and soot belched from mills. White collar office workers changed grimy shirts midday. To the west 130 miles, the polluted Cuyahoga River in Cleveland burned – several times.

Pollution sickened and killed. It triggered asthma and aggravated emphysema. In Donora, just south of Pittsburgh, an air inversion in 1948 trapped smog in the Monongahela River valley.  Poisonous steel mill and zinc plant emissions mixed with fog and formed a yellow earth-bound cloud so dense that driving was impossible. Within days, 20 people were dead. Within a month, another 50 of the town’s 14,000 residents succumbed.

Some viewed pollution as a blessing, a harbinger of jobs. Air that tasted of sulfur signified paychecks. For most, though, pollution was a curse. It meant scrubbing the grime off stoops daily. It meant children wheezing and gasping for air. It meant early death.

The preventable deaths are why my union, the United Steelworkers (USW), has fought against pollution for decades, long before scientists conclusively linked it to global climate change. That connection made combatting pollution even more urgent. It crystalized our obligation to save the planet for posterity. Signing the Paris Climate Accord last year committed the United States to preserving what we all share, the water and the air, for our children and their children. Donald Trump’s withdrawal from that agreement moves the United States, and the world, back in time to rivers so toxic they burn and air so noxious it poisons. Trump’s retreat makes America deadly again.

Don’t get me wrong. The USW supports job creation. But the union believes clean air pays; clear water provides work. Engineers design smokestack scrubbers, skilled mechanics construct them and still other workers install them. Additional workers install insulation and solar panels. Untold thousands labor to make the steel and other parts for wind turbine blades, towers and nacelles, fabricate the structures and erect them. Withdrawing from the Paris Accord diminishes these jobs and dispatches the innovators and manufacturers of clean technologies overseas where countries that continue to participate in the climate change agreement will nurture and grow them.

Eleven years ago, the USW joined with the Sierra Cub to form the BlueGreen Alliance because USW members believe Americans deserve both a clean environment and good jobs. The USW believes Americans must have both. Or, in the end, they will have neither.

The Alliance, which now includes more than a dozen unions and environmental groups, has collaborated with industry leaders to find solutions to climate change in ways that create high -quality jobs.

It’s an easy sell to many corporate leaders. Shortly after the election last fall, hundreds of companies and investors, including the likes of Nike and Starbucks, signed a letter asking Trump to abandon his campaign rhetoric about withdrawing from the Paris Accord.

In April, more than a dozen Fortune 500 companies, including giants Google, BP and Shell, also wrote Trump urging against reneging on nation’s climate commitment. They said that because the agreement requires action by all countries, it reduces the risk of competitive imbalances for U.S. companies that comply with environmental regulations.

More recently, Apple CEO Tim Cook told Trump that disavowing the accord would injure U.S. business, the economy and the environment. Tesla CEO Elon Musk told Trump that if he turned his back on the accord, Musk would resign from two White House advisory boards.

Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil, also urged Trump to keep the United States’ commitments under the 195-nation pact, rather than joining Syria as an outlier. Syria and Nicaragua are the only non-signatory countries, but Nicaragua declined to sign because its leaders felt the accord was not strong enough.

The streetlights never switch on at noon in Pittsburgh anymore. The Cuyahoga River now supports fish that live only in clean water. Donora’s sole reminder of those dark days in October of 1948 is a Smog Museum.

But the United States remains the world’s second-largest greenhouse gas polluter. It has an obligation to lead the world in combating climate change. Great leaders don’t shirk responsibility.

Leo W Gerard: Trump’s Budget Slashes Opportunity

A few hundred billion cut here, a few hundred billion slashed there, and the Trump budget proposal released this week adds up to real crushed opportunity.

Image From Getty Images

The spending plan slices a pound of flesh from everyone, well, everyone who isn’t a millionaire or billionaire. For the rich, it promises massive tax breaks.

There are cuts to worker safety programs, veterans’ programs, Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, food stamps, vocational training, public education, environmental protection, health research and more. So much more. The list is shockingly long.

Each incision is painful. But what’s worse is the collective result: the annihilation of opportunity. The rich can buy opportunity. The rest cannot. What was always special about America was its guarantee of opportunity to everyone. All who worked hard and pulled themselves up by their  bootstraps could earn their own picket-fenced home. This budget terminates the goal of opportunity for all. It declares that the people of the United States no longer will help provide boots to those who lost jobs because of NAFTA, the residents of economically depressed regions, the children of single mothers, the sufferers of chronic diseases, the victims of natural disasters. No bootstraps for them. Just for the rich who hire servants to pull the straps on their fancy $1,500 Gucci footwear.

The minimum-wage servant class doesn’t have a prayer under this budget. Trump condemns them to a perpetual prison of poverty. His budget denies them, and even their children, the chance to rise. It treats no better the precarious middle class and workers whose jobs are threatened by imports. It even screws veterans.

Achieving the American Dream depends on a good education, and the Trump budget would extinguish that possibility for tens of millions. The breadth and depth of the cuts to public education are gobsmacking. They’ll enable billionaire Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to use the money instead to subsidize private school tuition for the Gucci class.

While DeVos helps the already-rich attend pricey private schools, she and Trump would cut $345.9 billion from public education, training, employment and social services. That includes $71.5 billion from public elementary, secondary and vocational education. They’d take $11.4  billion from education for disadvantaged children and $13.9 billion from special-needs children.

They’d withdraw $183.3 billion from higher education including $33 billion from financial assistance. They say to kids who failed to be born to wealthy parents – too bad for you, no low-interest student loans for brilliant poor students and far fewer grants for the talented who could cure cancer if only they could afford college tuition.

Many of these aspiring students can’t turn to their parents for help because they’ve lost jobs as manufacturers like Rexnord and Carrier closed American factories and shipped jobs to Mexico or China. Trump and DeVos would also decimate help for the parents to get back on their feet, eliminating $25.2 billion for training and employment.

If the parents’ unemployment insurance runs out as they search for new jobs and their cars are repossessed, mass transit may not be an option for commuting to new positions. Trump would cut it by $41.6 billion.

If a furloughed worker in North Dakota or Minnesota or Pennsylvania can’t afford to pay the heating bill, Trump’s government would no longer help. He would eliminate entirely the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, ending aid that can mean the difference between life and freezing to death for 6 million vulnerable Americans.

If laid-off workers ultimately also lose their homes to foreclosure, Trump is unsympathetic. He’d cut $77.2 billion from housing assistance. His advice: take your bootless feet and live in the street.

And don’t expect any government cheese once there. Trump would carve $193.6 billion out of food stamps. He doesn’t even spare infants, with an $11.1 billion smack to the program that feeds pregnant women and their babies. School kids can’t expect food either. Trump and DeVos say too bad for them if they can’t hear their teachers over their growling stomachs. Trump takes nearly 21 percent away from the Agriculture Department, which subsidizes school lunches for low-income kids.

Trump also stiffs families that lose their health insurance because they can’t afford COBRA premiums after a job loss or can’t find new employment before their COBRA eligibility expires. Trump slashes $627 billion from Medicaid, and that’s on top of draconian cuts in his so-called health plan that would cost 14 million Americans their insurance coverage next year and 23 million over 10 years. Trump says: no health care for the down and out.

For the residents of West Virginia glens with closed coal mines, and the citizens of shuttered mill towns in Western Pennsylvania and the in habitants of Michigan municipalities struck down by offshored auto manufacturing jobs, Trump would purge $41.3 billion from the community development program that provides both jobs and otherwise unaffordable crucial municipal improvements.

The unemployed or under-employed who hoped for jobs in Trump’s promised $1 trillion infrastructure program receive no reprieve in this proposed spending plan. It removes $97.2 billion from airports, $123.4 billion from ground transportation and $16.3 billion from water transportation projects.

Trump is mulling sending thousands of new troops to Afghanistan, and for some young people with few options, that service is attractive because it comes with good medical and education benefits. But the Trump budget diminishes that chance at success as well, ripping $154.1 billion from veterans’ services including $94.4 billion from hospital and medical care and $511 million from veterans’ education and training.

For young people who thought the AmeriCorps program might be an employment substitute for the military, no luck. Trump’s spending plan abolishes that service program.

Trump’s $4.1 trillion budget redefines America.  No longer the land of opportunity, it would be a place of welfare for the rich in the form of million-dollar tax breaks and subsidies for exclusive private schools. For the rest, hope would be extinguished. For them, Trump’s budget would convert America the beautiful into America the hellish hole.

Leo W Gerard: Stop China’s Stealth Invasion

A country claiming the greatest military on earth can’t be without some things. Steel is an obvious one.

Image from Getty Images

In the age of drones, aluminum is another. Aluminum is essential for flying machines like the F-35 joint strike fighter and Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, for armor plating on army vehicles and naval vessels and for countless infrastructure projects including bridges and roads.

Obviously, then, for the United States to retain top ranking, it must protect its aluminum industry. That industry, though, is under a two-pronged stealth attack from China. For more than a decade, the Chinese have ramped up their own aluminum production and dumped the excess on the world market, depressing prices and bankrupting Western producers. Now, a corrupt Chinese company that is under investigation by three U.S. agencies is trying to buy an American aluminum firm. To ensure national security, that must be stopped. America can’t be beholden to China for aluminum.

In 2000, China produced only 11 percent of the world’s aluminum. Now it’s more than 50 percent. Just between 2010 and 2015, China doubled production, even as demand for aluminum within the country slowed. Chinese companies continued to ramp up because they received massive government subsidies, including cheap power, loans and raw materials. That kept Chinese workers employed but created stockpiles of aluminum. So China exported the excess, overwhelming the world market and driving down prices.

This shattered the U.S. industry. In 2000, 23 aluminum smelters operated in the United States. Now there are only five, with just two at full capacity. Thousands of American aluminum workers lost their good, family-supporting jobs in just the past three years.

Aluminum producers filed formal complaints with the U.S. Department of Commerce about the illegal subsidies and about Chinese companies dumping products in the United States at prices below production costs. And in 2011, the department penalized Chinese extrusion producers, including one called China Zhongwang, with tariffs as high as 374.15 percent.

With that added cost, China Zhongwang’s U.S. sales plunged. Zhongwang, the world’s second-largest producer of aluminum extrusions, then schemed to dodge the sanctions, leading to criminal and civil investigations of possible smuggling, conspiracy and wire fraud. The Justice Department, Department of Homeland Security and Commerce Department are all scrutinizing Zhongwang.

Zhongwang and associates are accused of shipping nearly 1 million tons of aluminum to Mexico with the intent of then sending it across the border tariff-free under the terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement, as if it had been manufactured in Mexico. Shortly after the aluminum trade association discovered this massive stash, amounting to 6 percent of the world’s aluminum inventory, much of it was whisked away to Vietnam, another country notorious for involvement in what is called transshipment, that is, concealing commodities’ country of origin to evade tariffs.

In addition, the U.S. Aluminum Extruders Council accused Zhongwang and companion companies of another plot to skirt tariffs. Firms associated with Liu Zhongtian, a Chinese billionaire who controls Zhongwang, shipped thousands of tons of pallets made of aluminum extrusions to a factory in a Philadelphia suburb.

These “pallets,” which weighed more than three times American-made aluminum pallets, escaped tariffs specific to extrusions because, supposedly, they were pallets. Pallets, typically though, are designed to be light to reduce shipping costs.

Company officials contended the heavyweight pallets made from extrusions were to be sold as pallets, not dismantled or melted for other uses. Shortly after the Wall Street Journal began asking questions about them, though, they disappeared. Just like the $2 billion worth of aluminum in Mexico.

The Commerce Department wasn’t fooled by this sleight of hand. In November, it announced that the pallets were an attempt to circumvent the 2011 tariffs on extrusions.

Even while Zhongwang remains under investigation, it announced plans to buy American aluminum company Aleris for $2.3 billion from a private equity firm. Aleris, with 14 plants around the world, makes rolled aluminum for a variety of industries, including aerospace and automotive, and significantly, armor plate for the U.S. military.

The U.S. military cannot be dependent on a Chinese-owned company to outfit American armored vehicles or meet other critical needs. In November, a dozen U.S. senators asked Obama’s treasury secretary to block the deal because it would “directly undermine our national security, including by jeopardizing the U.S. manufacturing base for sensitive technologies.” My union, the United Steelworkers (USW), which has 950 members employed at Aleris, also has repeatedly protested the proposed sale, including in a letter sent last week to new Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

It would be far too easy for Zhongwang to appropriate Aleris’ trade secrets, then run the company into the ground, further cementing China’s illegally-subsidized domination of the world aluminum market. Zhongwang could also exploit Aleris operations to circumvent U.S. tariffs. Based on past performance, that would be no surprise.

The U.S. government has taken important steps toward protecting the crucial American aluminum industry. Before he left office in January, former President Obama launched a formal complaint with the World Trade Organization against the Chinese government over its subsidies to the aluminum industry.

In March, the Commerce Department began investigating complaints that Beijing illegally subsidized aluminum foil shipped to the United States by 230 Chinese companies.

Last month, the Trump administration initiated an inquiry into the effect of aluminum imports on U.S. national security, which could lead to tariffs or import restrictions. But it’s not Canada or some other allied country causing the problem. It’s China.

And just last week, the Senate confirmed Robert Lighthizer as U.S. trade representative. He has railed against America’s comatose response to abusive Chinese trade practices that have bankrupted American industries and killed American jobs. That includes dirty tricks like creating pallets out of extrusions and transshipping from Mexico and Vietnam.

Lighthizer assured the Senate he intended to firmly enforce trade law. That’s good because he must stop China’s stealth invasion before it overcomes the entire U.S. aluminum industry.

Leo W Gerard: Another GOP Tax Plan For Captains

Donald Trump
Image by DonkeyHotey CC FLIKR

It’s based on the same voodoo economics we’ve heard many times before.

As he ran for office, Donald Trump repeatedly reminded audiences that he was “really, really rich,” but assured voters that as president he would be a working man’s champion, a blue-collar Superman.

He said he would stop corporations from offshoring manufacturing jobs with a border adjustment tax on imports. He would end trade cheating and declare China a currency manipulator on his first day in office. He would launch within his first 100 days a $1 trillion infrastructure improvement program to create millions of jobs fixing the nation’s airports, bridges and roads.

Trump’s record of promise-keeping to America’s working men and women in his first 100 days is this: So far, no good. The tax plan, well, the one-page tax sketch that the administration released last week is symbolic. While it would slash federal levies on fat cats and corporations, administration officials refused to say it would help the middle class at all. And it contains no border adjustment tax.

The tax plan rewards the captains of industry, the captains of Wall Street, the captains of real estate, like, well, like Trump himself. But the middle class, not so fast. The poor, not at all. Someone needs to tell Donald Trump that banksters and real estate tycoons sporting navy golf polos aren’t blue-collar workers. The tax scheme, like so many of Trump’s other pledges to workers, is a stab in the back of that indigo shirt.

On the campaign trail, Trump said rich people like him should pay more in taxes. Yet, the tax plan he offered last week would cut his taxes – by tens of millions a year. That’s because it would eliminate the alternative minimum tax. This is a levy intended to require billionaires like Trump to pay at least something after subtracting their multitude of special-rich-people deductions.

Trump has refused to release his tax returns – the first American president to keep them secret since Gerald Ford, who provided summaries. But Trump’s 2005 return, uncovered in part by a newspaper, shows that he had to pay $31 million as a result of the alternative minimum tax.

Trump’s plan also calls for eliminating the estate tax. That is paid only by people who inherit more than $5.5 million – as Trump’s children will. And it calls for cutting by more than half, to 15 percent, the tax paid by entities called pass-through corporations. Trump’s attorneys indicated in his presidential financial disclosures that his approximately 500 businesses are almost all pass-throughs.

Trump will be hobnobbing with his country club buddies in benefitting from this break. A 2015 study by the nonpartisan National Bureau of Economic Research found that the top 1 percent gets 69 percent of pass-through income.

Right now, a worker can’t get in on that low 15 percent tax rate unless reporting income below $37,950. But doctors and lawyers and investment bankers would get that special discount rate, no matter how much they make, as long as they pay a few bucks to establish a pass-through corporation. Trump’s plan would allow a lawyer paid $1 million a year to cut his taxes by $180,000 by setting up a pass-through.

Certainly, with all of those perks going to the nation’s most wealthy, Trump’s tax men would assure workers that they will benefit too.

Not really. When asked on ABC’s “Good Morning America” last week whether the middle class would pay more under the plan, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said: “I can’t make any guarantees.”

And the director of Trump’s National Economic Council, Gary D. Cohn, could not say how much of a break – if any­ – a middle-income American would get under the plan.

If it’s not absolutely clear who Trump’s tax plan would benefit, there’s also this from George Callas, the senior tax counsel for the Speaker of the House. Callas wants a permanent break for corporations, saying of a temporary one:

“It would not alter business decisions. It would not cause anyone to build a factory. It would just be dropping cash out of helicopters on corporate headquarters for a couple of years.”

Lots of small towns in Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania – towns that suffered when corporations offshored factories, towns that voted for Trump – would really benefit from cash dropping out of helicopters for a couple of years.

But that’s not Trump’s plan.

Trump’s money men, Mnuchin and Cohn, said slashing levies on the wealthy will pay for itself because giving the rich more cash will spur economic growth. So, no need to worry about Trump’s tax cuts ballooning the national debt, they assured.

This is called the Laffer Curve. Really.

Economist Arthur Laffer, an adviser to Trump, explained to the Washington Post last week that it works like this: “When you think about cutting that corporate rate, let’s say, from 35 to 15, that’s not going to cost you any money.”

He convinced the likes of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush this hocus-pocus would work. And now, he has bamboozled Trump.

Both Reagan and Bush cut taxes. Both also left the country with larger deficits and uneven economic growth. Reagan raised taxes several times after his initial 1981 cut. Bush gave the country the Great Recession.

Laffer still insists his curve works, contending, “It’s a no-brainer.”

No. It’s voodoo economics. That’s what George H.W. Bush called it.

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a nonpartisan group that advocates fiscal restraint, estimated that Trump’s Laffer tax plan could reduce federal revenue by $3 trillion to $7 trillion over a decade. The economy would need to grow at a rate of 4.5 percent to make that proposal self-financing.

It grew at a pathetic 0.7 percent during Trump’s first quarter in office. In President Obama’s last quarter, the fourth of 2016, it increased at 2.1 percent. To rise at 4.5 percent would be phenomenal. Maybe paranormal.

Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, put it this way: “It seems the administration is using economic growth like magic beans: the cheap solution to all our problems.”

Ronald Reagan, who like Trump was adored by blue-collar workers, promised that benefits from his massive tax cuts for the rich would trickle down to the rest. That never worked. But now Trump is taking advice from the same Svengali and promoting the same flim-flam plan.

Those heartland workers can’t tolerate another hit. But it’s not just taxes. The health insurance proposal Trump is pushing would cost many low- and middle-income workers thousands of dollars more a year. Trump has proposed eliminating the Chemical Safety Board, which prevents workplace deaths. He delayed rules protecting workers from deadly silica and beryllium. He signed a law ending a requirement that large federal contractors disclose and correct serious safety violations. Trump has no federal infrastructure plan and reneged on naming China a currency manipulator.

These are all the actions of a president protecting the captains of commerce, not one championing blue-collar workers.

Leo W Gerard: Speak Loudly And Carry A Big Aluminum Bat

During this very month last year, aluminum smelters across the United States were closing, one after another. It was as if they produced something useless, not a commodity crucial to everything from beverage cans to fighter jets.

In January of 2016, Alcoa closed its Wenatchee Works in Washington State, costing 428 workers their jobs, sending 428 families into panic, slashing tax revenue counted on by the town of Wenatchee and the school district and devastating local businesses that no longer saw customers from the region’s highest-paying manufacturer.

That same month, Alcoa announced it would permanently close its Warrick Operations in Evansville, Ind., then the largest smelter in the country, employing 600 workers, within three months.

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Worker at Alcoa’s Warrick smelter in Evansville, Ind., before it closed in 2016. Photo by Steven Dietz, Sharp Image Studios, Pittsburgh.

Then, Noranda Aluminum fell. It laid off more than half of the 850 workers at its New Madrid, Mo., smelter in January, filed for bankruptcy in February and closed in March. The smelter was a family-supporting employer in a low-income region, and when it stopped operating, the New Madrid County School District didn’t get tax payments it was expecting.

This devastation to workers, families, communities and corporations occurred even after Ormet had shuttered a smelter in Ohio in 2013, destroying 700 jobs and Century closed its Hawesville, Ky., smelter, killing 600 jobs, in August of 2015.

It all happened as demand for aluminum in the United States increased.

That doesn’t make sense until China’s role in this disaster is explained.

That role is the reason the Obama administration filed a complaint against China with the World Trade Organization (WTO) last week. In this case, the president must ignore the old adage about speaking softly. To preserve a vital American manufacturing capability against predatory conduct by a foreign power, the administration must speak loudly and carry a big aluminum bat.

The bottom line is this: American corporations and American workers can compete with any counterpart in the world and win. But when the contest is with a country itself, defeat is virtually assured.

In the case of aluminum, U.S. companies and workers are up against the entire country of China. That is because China is providing its aluminum industry with cheap loans from state-controlled banks and artificially low prices for critical manufacturing components and materials such as electricity, coal and alumina.

By doing that, China is subsidizing its aluminum industry. And that is fine if China wants to use its revenues to support its aluminum manufacturing or sustain employment – as long as all of the aluminum is sold within China. When state-subsidized products are sold overseas, they distort free market pricing. And that’s why they’re banned.

China agreed not to subsidize exports in order to get access to the WTO. But it has routinely and unabashedly flouted the rules on products ranging from tires to paper to steel to aluminum that it dumps on the American market, resulting in closed U.S. factories, killed U.S. jobs and bleak U.S. communities.

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Worker at Alcoa’s Warrick Operations in Evansville, Ind., before the smelter closed in 2016. Photo by Steven Dietz, Sharp Image Studios, Pittsburgh.

In 2000, China produced about 11 percent of the aluminum on the global market. That figure is now 50 percent. A big part of the reason is that China quadrupled its capacity to produce aluminum from 2007 to 2015, and increased its production by 154 percent.

When China threw all of that extra, cheap, state-subsidized aluminum on the global market, it depressed prices. In that eight-year period, the price sank approximately 46 percent.

To compete, American smelters tried cutting costs and getting better deals on electricity. But even as U.S. demand increased, U.S. production declined 37 percent. And capacity decreased 46 percent.

What capacity decrease means is closed plants. The number of smelters dropped from 14 in 2011 to five last year, with only one operating at full volume.

Many of these manufacturing workers, thrown out of their jobs by what is clearly unfair trade, saw President-elect Donald Trump as a champion. Donald Trump said he would hold China to account on trade. He promised he would impose massive tariffs on goods imported from China. He said he would confront Beijing on currency manipulation, a practice that makes Chinese goods artificially cheap.

Many of those manufacturing workers voted for Donald Trump. Monroe County, Ohio, is a good example. That was the home of the Ormet smelter. The workers, who belonged to my union, the United Steelworkers, and the company asked Ohio Gov. John Kasich in 2012 and 2013 to intervene with the utility to get lower rates to help Ormet survive.

Kasich refused. The smelter closed. Monroe County’s unemployment rate now is the highest in Ohio at 9 percent, nearly twice the national rate.

Monroe County voters didn’t forget. Theirs was among the counties in Ohio that went for Donald Trump in the Republican primary. Though Trump didn’t win the Ohio primary, he got 35.9 percent in the crowded GOP field, and he took virtually all of the places in Ohio that, like Monroe, would say Kasich and other politicians turned their backs on them.

President-elect Trump carried 29 of Ohio’s Appalachian counties in the primary, those described as “geographically isolated and economically depressed.” These are counties that, like Monroe, lost family-supporting jobs in steel, manufacturing or mining. For the workers who haven’t left, the jobs that remain, in retail and fast food, don’t pay much, don’t provide benefits and aren’t secure.

When Donald Trump came to town talking tough about China, that sounded a hell of a lot better to those workers than their governor telling them he wouldn’t help with electrical rates – especially after they watched the governor in New York work a deal to save an Alcoa smelter and 600 jobs for 3 years in Massena.

And, of course, Donald Trump won Ohio in the General Election.

Workers across America, from Sebree, Ky., and Mt. Holly, S.C., where Century smelters are threatened to Wenatchee, Wash., where Alcoa has held out the possibility that the smelter could be restarted, were galvanized to support Donald Trump by his promises to confront China on its predatory trade practices.  If he fulfills those pledges, he will have the back of the blue-collar workers who had his.

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Worker at Alcoa’s Warrick smelter in Evansville, Ind., before it closed last year. Photo by Steven Dietz, Sharp Image Studios, Pittsburgh.

Leo W Gerard — Coming Soon: American Made Battle Of The Heavyweights

Screenshot from CNN Video

Screenshot from CNN Video

Virtually every time President-elect Donald Trump performs in cities across America on his thank you tour, he mentions, to grand applause, his preference for Made in America.

He describes his plan to create jobs with a federal infrastructure spending project – that is improvements to the likes of crumbling roads, bridges, waterlines and airports – and then says, “We will have two simple rules when it comes to this massive rebuilding effort. Buy American and hire American.”

That American-job-creating, buy-American thing is supported by 71 percent of the American public. But it is a smack in the face to GOP Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who just made it clear in the Water Resources Development Act that he’s fine with creating slave-wage iron-and-steel-making jobs in China with U.S. tax dollars so long as a few fat-cat iron-and-steel importers make a profit on the deal.

So, clearly, there’s a battle brewing between the President-elect and the Speaker of the House. This is the President-elect who has repeatedly promised the working class men and women who elected him that he’d support Buy American provisions in federal law to create jobs for them. And it’s a GOP Speaker who wants to ship taxpayer-financed work overseas and let the working class wait a couple more decades to just possibly feel a tiny pinch of trickle down from the largess of filthy rich iron and steel importers. This, also, is a clash between a New York real estate titan who won the presidency and a Wisconsin lawmaker who lost the vice presidency.

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By advocating night after night for American Made, President-elect Trump essentially warned Ryan not to strip the Buy-American provisions out of the Water Resources Development Act. But Ryan did it anyway early in December when he got the act from the Senate.

The act contained strong, permanent Buy America language when the Senate sent it over. These provisions are significant because they use tax dollars to create 33 percent more U.S. factory jobs, something that is, again, important to voters, 68 percent of whom told The Mellman Group  & North Star Opinion Research in November in a national survey conducted for the Alliance for American Manufacturing that they were worried that the country had lost too many manufacturing jobs.

In addition, and President-elect Trump knows this from the response he gets at his rallies, Buy American policies are very popular. Seventy-four percent of voters say large infrastructure projects financed by taxpayer money should be constructed with American-made materials and American workers. And those who voted for President-elect Trump agree more strongly – 79 percent of them say American-made should be given preference over the lowest bidder.

This is a very big deal to iron and steel producers and workers in the United States. Far too many mills are closed or partially shuttered because of unfairly traded imports, and more than 16,000 steelworkers across this country have been laid off over the past year.

China is the main culprit, but there are others. China produces so much steel now that it has managed to inundate the world with more steel than anyone needs. It is dumping steel on the world market at such low prices that no one can compete. As a result, producers from places as far flung as Mexico, the U.S., Canada, India, the U.K. and Spain are shutting down and throwing workers out of their jobs.

China props up that excess steelmaking capacity with methods that are illegal under the terms of the agreements it entered into to gain access to the World Trade Organization and Permanent Normalized Trade Relations with the United States. If steel is sold domestically, a country can provide steel firms with subsidies like exemptions from utility payments and taxes, interest-free loans and free land.

But those free market-warping subsidies violate international trade agreements when the steel is exported. That’s what China is doing. And it’s killing American steel companies and American jobs.

When Ryan eliminated the permanent Buy American provision in the Water Bill, essentially saying it’s fine to import illegally subsidized Chinese iron and steel for taxpayer-financed water projects, he was also saying it is fine to bankrupt American steel companies and destroy American jobs.

If the United States is reduced to buying steel from China to build its military tanks and armor, that’s okay with Ryan, as long as he maintains a great relationship with the lobbyists for the foreign steelmakers. They pushed him hard to drop the Buy American provision through Squire Patton Boggs, a Washington, D.C. lobby and law firm employing Ryan’s predecessor Speaker John Boehner and numerous former top GOP aides.

He got hit with a Tweetstorm after he chose Chinese jobs over American jobs, though. Buy American supporters and members of the Congressional Steel Caucus began pointing out on Twitter just how good #BuyAmerica is for American jobs and the economy and cited @realDonaldTrump, the President-elect’s Twitter handle on every Tweet, which means his account was alerted.

This, for example, came from Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown:

.@RealDonaldTrump: Tell @SpeakerRyan to put #BuyAmerica back in Water bill. American tax dollars for American jobs.”

And Steelworkers wrote protests on Ryan’s Facebook page and hundreds called Ryan and his anti-American-made Congressional crew.

Ryan responded. Sort of. He restored one-year Buy American language to the bill. Nothing like the permanent provisions achieved in other federal laws, but it does keep the jobs for 12 months and the issue alive until President-elect Trump can take on Ryan mano-a-mano on Buy American after the inauguration.

Ryan has made clear his anti-American preference, so this will be a royal rumble. But the Speaker should beware. The last time the President-elect stepped into the ring with a heavyweight, it was with the ring’s owner, World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Vince McMahon. And the former professional wrestler McMahon left bald and defeated.

Leo W Gerard: Fire Ants Killed The TPP

The defeat of the TPP is a tale of ants slaying a dragon.

It seemed a fearsome task, challenging the powerful behemoth that is Wall Street, Big Pharma, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Big Ag, Big Oil, all their lobbyists, and all the Congress critters they’d “campaign-financed” to support their money-grubbing 12-country trade scheme.

The battle was engaged, though, for the sake of workers’ rights, clean air and water, food safety, reasonably priced pharmaceuticals, national sovereignty, internet freedom, financial regulation, public control of public lands, the right of governments to pass laws for the public good without corporations suing for so-called lost profits in secret tribunals adjudicated by hand-picked corporate jurists, and the freedom of local governments to buy American-made products for taxpayer financed projects to create American jobs. And, frankly, so much more.  For a righteous, just and equitable society. That’s why there were so many ants.

Literally thousands of civil society groups coalesced to combat the TPP. These included labor unions, health care organizations, food safety advocates, environmentalists, churches, family farmers, social justice societies, indigenous rights organizations and allied groups in the 12 TPP partner countries. My union, the United Steelworkers, was among them. It was an overwhelming number of groups with an overwhelming number of members who conducted an overwhelming number of events over years to make it clear to lawmakers just how strongly citizens opposed the TPP.

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USW members at a 2016 anti-TPP rally in Washington, D.C. organized by the USW Rapid Response Department. Photo are by Steve Dietz of Sharper Image Studios

It began slowly with warnings about the secret negotiation process itself. Arthur Stamoulis, executive director of Citizens Trade Campaign, which was instrumental in organizing the collaborative action against the TPP, said groups started telling politicians early on that they weren’t going to tolerate another NAFTA. No one listened. As a result, he wrote:

“. . .first thousands, then tens of thousands, then hundreds of thousands and then literally millions of Americans signed letters and petitions urging the Obama administration and Congress to abandon TPP negotiations that gave corporate lobbyists a seat at the table, while keeping the public in the dark.”

Let me tell you about the fire ant. They mostly live in mounds. If an animal steps on the mound, the ants will attack. A few ants are irritating. A bunch are annoying. Half a million fierce fire ants with tiny venomous stingers working together can kill a 10-pound animal. That’s what happened to the TPP.

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USW members at a 2016 anti-TPP rally in Washington, D.C. organized by the USW Rapid Response Department. Photo by Steve Dietz of Sharper Image Studios

The anti-TPP forces conducted call-in days that resulted in hundreds of thousands of calls to Congressmen and women. When Congress was weighing whether to fast track the TPP, in other words to approve it without even bothering to amend it to fix it, the anti-TPP forces conducted an encampment on Capitol Hill for three weeks. This, and many other anti-TPP demonstrations, occurred a year before either party chose its presidential nominee.

The USW Rapid Response, Legislative and Political departments worked with USW members to send to Congress more than 350,000 postcards protesting the TPP. USW members met with their Senators and Congressmen 1,500 times this year to oppose the deal. They held rallies, demonstrations, town hall meetings and even rock concerts to inform their communities about the problems with the TPP. They conducted large rallies and other events in Washington, D.C. They built support with their state legislatures and local governments, persuading cities and towns across the country to pass resolutions officially opposing the TPP.

And that’s only what the USW did. The AFL-CIO was an important leader on this issue. And many other unions were just as active, and so were groups like the Sierra Club and the BlueGreen Alliance. The effort was relentless and concerted. And that’s why it was successful.

For the USW, this win was a long time coming. It began 22 years ago when the USW took on NAFTA. The union filed a federal lawsuit trying to overturn that scheme. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court refused to hear it, and the USW lost. Workers continue to suffer devastation from NAFTA today, as manufacturers close profit-making American factories and re-open them across the border in Mexico where greedy corporations can make even more profit by destroying the environment and paying slave wages then shipping the goods duty free back to the United States.

For example, Carrier announced in February that it would close two profit-making factories in Indiana and reopen them in Mexico. The result is 2,100 workers, members of the USW, will lose their good, family-supporting jobs.

That’s NAFTA. That’s a trade deal negotiated by corporations for corporations. After that came Permanent Normalized Trade Relations with China in 2000. The USW strongly protested that as well, because the union believed none of the hype about how China was a huge market, and the United States was going to do all of the selling there.

As it turns out, the USW was right. China has relentlessly dumped government-subsidized products on the American market, baldly defying the international trade laws it agreed to abide by when it signed that agreement in 2000. That has devastated companies that want to manufacture in America, including steel, aluminum, paper and tires producers. These manufacturers have repeatedly had to pay untold millions to file trade cases to obtain limited relief in the form of tariffs, and tens of thousands of workers have paid in the terrible form of lost jobs.

The USW has protested virtually every so-called free trade scheme proposed since NAFTA, most particularly those with Korea and Colombia. In the case of Colombia, where more trade unionists were murdered than in any other country in the world, we asked for a delay in approval of the deal at least until safety for collective bargaining could be assured. We were ignored. And more trade unionists have been murdered every year since the deal took effect.

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Image from the Rock Against the TPP concert in Pittsburgh and is by Chelsey Engel, writer, photographer, singer.

Photo are by Steve Dietz of Sharper Image Studios

Photo are by Steve Dietz of Sharper Image Studios

Then came the massive, hulking dragon of a TPP, the likes and size of which had never been seen before. This time, the corporatists really stepped in it. This time it wasn’t just a few angry trade unionists stinging their ankles. This time the self-dealing free traders had pissed off far too many civil society groups. And they were organized. And they weren’t going to take it anymore.

It’s not over, though. None of us oppose trade. We just want trade deals that, as economist Jared Bernstein and trade law expert Lori Wallach put it, are “written for all the cars on the road, not just the Lamborghinis.” For that to happen, all the groups that protested this deal must be at the table to negotiate the next deal – not just the corporations. The Lamborghinis are one interest group. We are many.

When I was a kid, Frank Sinatra sang a song called High Hopes, and the most famous verse was this:

“Just what makes that little old ant

Think he’ll move that rubber tree plant

Anyone knows an ant, can’t

Move a rubber tree plant.”

No ant can move a rubber tree plant. But let me tell you, a couple million ants just killed a TPP monster. There’s high hope in concerted action.

Leo W Gerard: Goon-Busters Prepare For Trump’s Poll Trolls

Republicans have conjured for Americans a monster more frightening than any Hollywood has ever produced for Halloween. It pales “The Shining.”

It is a two-headed beast Donald Trump calls voter fraud and rigged elections.  Like Hollywood creatures, though, this goblin is completely imaginary. It’s fake like the sasquatch and chupacabra. There’s no scientific evidence of its existence.

The GOP antidote for its imaginary monster is horribly real, however. It is voter suppression and intimidation. That is a tangible two-headed beast of appalling proportions. Fearing they could not win fair and square, Republicans took steps to prevent young, old, black and Hispanic people – people likely to vote Democratic – from reaching the polls. This GOP Frankenstein threatens democracy itself.

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Image by Ryan Merkley on Flickr

Two statistics are important to know when trying to detect which election monsters are real and which are not. Loyola Law School professor Justin Levitt, an expert on civil rights, has tracked allegations of in-person voter fraud for years. In-person fraud is the kind Republicans are talking about, someone pretending to be someone else, or a dead person, to vote.

Levitt, who is on leave from the law school to serve as deputy assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, tracked down and validated 31 instances of that happening since 2000.

It’s probably 32 cases now, since police in Iowa charged a 55-year-old Des Moines woman Thursday with felony voter fraud. The Republican admitted casting two early votes for Donald Trump.

That is 32 cases out of more than 1 billion ballots cast. That’s fraud, but it’s not a real problem.

Republicans across the country insisted on “solving” this non-problem by forcing all voters to obtain very specific types of identification. In Texas, for example, the GOP said an open-carry gun permit would be fine, but a student ID card from a state university would not. That would help keep those pesky young people, who tended to vote Democrat, away from the polls.

In many states, civil liberties groups like the ACLU sued to overturn the voter ID laws, forcing the GOP to search for voter fraud cases to justify their legislation. In Pennsylvania, the state had to stipulate in court that none existed, and the law was overturned. Not surprisingly, the GOP failed to dig up cases in Wisconsin or Indiana either. Thirty-one in 1 billion is kind of few and far between.

The second statistic is this: if Pennsylvania’s voter ID law had taken effect, it could have prevented more than 1 million citizens from voting. That’s the number of registered voters in just one state who did not have the required ID. Again, that’s a state where Republicans could show not one single case of voter fraud.

While the ACLU and other civil liberties groups continue to try to overturn unnecessary voter ID laws, the Democratic National Committee asked a federal judge last week to prevent Republicans from intimidating voters, particularly at minority polling places, as Donald Trump has encouraged his supporters to do.

The Democrats requested an injunction, saying Trump’s threats violate a 1982 consent decree that Republicans entered into after they stationed pseudo-guards at minority polling places in New Jersey to intimidate voters. Some of the guards were off duty police officers, were armed and wore arm bands marked “Ballot Security Task Force.”

Trump has repeatedly contended the election is “rigged” against him and asked his supporters to wear red shirts and stand as sentinels at the polls to prevent dead people from voting. Speaking in Altoona, Pa., in August, he said he wanted uniformed officers like the GOP had in 1982: “We have to call up law enforcement. And we have to have the sheriffs and the police chiefs and everybody watching.”

He added, “We have a lot of law enforcement people working that day. . .We’re hiring a lot of people. We’re putting a lot of law enforcement — we’re going to watch Pennsylvania, go down to certain areas and watch and study, and make sure other people don’t come in and vote five times.”

“Trump said to watch your precincts. I’m going to go, for sure,” said Steve Webb, a 61-year-old carpenter from Fairfield, Ohio. “I’ll look for. . .well, it’s called racial profiling. Mexicans, Syrians. People who can’t speak American,” he said. “I’m going to go right up behind them, I’ll do everything legally. I want to see if they are accountable. I’m not going to do anything illegal. I’m going to make them a little bit nervous.”

Despite Webb’s assertion that he’s not going to do anything illegal, deliberately attempting to make racially profiled voters “a little bit nervous” while they are attempting to exercise their most basic right as citizens violates federal law as well as the terms of the consent decree.

In addition, the lawsuit notes that the Pennsylvania GOP has attempted to reverse a state election law requiring poll watchers to be registered voters in the county where they are monitoring balloting. That law makes it impossible for Trump’s rural white supporters to guard the polls in inner city Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to ensure that the undead from George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead,” filmed near Pittsburgh, don’t vote repeatedly there.

There’s no reason to reverse this state law, the lawsuit says, except to license Trump supporters to intimidate and harass minority inner-city voters.

Republicans tried to wriggle out from under the constraints of the consent decree in 2009. But Federal Judge Dickinson R. Debevoise thwarted them. He wrote then: “It does not appear that the RNC’s incentive to suppress minority votes has changed since 1982. It appears that the RNC has been largely unsuccessful in its efforts to attract minority voters. Until it is able to do so, it will have an incentive to engage in the type of voter suppression that it allegedly committed in the actions that led to the enactment and modification of the consent decree.”

Judge Debevoise dismissed GOP arguments that voter fraud is a problem. By contrast, he said that suppression of minority voters is a serious issue.

That was seven years ago. But it was a point the DNC repeated in its arguments last week. It acknowledged that Trump keeps harping about a rigged election and dead people voting. And it provided lengthy proof that these are fears without basis in fact. They are boogeymen.

“On the other side of the ledger,” the DNC wrote, are the “constitutional rights of all Americans to cast their ballots without fear of intimidation or harassment . . .This is therefore a case of a real, impending harm balanced against an imaginary one.”

The DNC asked the court to extend the consent decree another eight years and to issue an injunction forbidding intimidation at the polls. Election Day is just a week away, however. Even if the court rules for the DNC, it’s not clear that every Trump supporter with a red shirt, a gun and ill-intent will hear about the decision before Nov. 8.

So civil liberties groups are preparing for the worst. If a red-shirted goon shows up at your polling place, call the ACLU at 866-OUR-VOTE or the Department of Justice Voting Rights Hotline at 800-253-3931. They have goon-buster teams nationwide. Don’t let anything frighten you from voting on Nov. 8.

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