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Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump: The GOP Grifters

By BERRY CRAIG
AFT Local 1360

Four sentences from Hillary Clinton’s Columbus, Ohio, speech should be tacked on bulletin boards in every union hall:

“Trump ties are made in China. Trump furniture in Turkey. Trump picture frames in Indiana. Trump barware in Slovenia and I could go on and on, but you get the idea.”

Donald Trump Fool AidIndeed most union members do, including this retiree who voted for Bernie Sanders in the Kentucky primary. We’re backing Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee who the AFL-CIO recently endorsed.

But it’s crucial that she keep hammering home the fact that Donald Trump is as phony as his orange-is-the-new blonde hair hue. That’s especially so on issues vital to those of us who pack union cards.

Oh, Trump the big-time outsourcer never misses a chance to trash U.S. companies that ship jobs and production to cheap labor countries—often after busting stateside unions.

It’s funny, though. The all but certain GOP nominee hasn’t denied what Clinton said about him. Nor did the self-appointed media “fact checkers” cry foul at her remarks.

Anyway, with Trump “it’s déjà vu all over again,” to quote the late Yankee great Yogi Berra. Trump is running a scam on working stiffs that reminds me of Ronald Reagan’s almost identical con job.

The Gipper, the most anti-union president since Herbert Hoover, claimed to champion blue collar America. The Donald does, too.

Sad to say, Reagan’s sucker play worked on more than a few union members. They helped elect the guy.

“Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost!” pre-President Reagan said. Only months after he took office, he smashed the Professional Air Traffic Controllers, one of the few unions that endorsed him.

When PATCO members went on strike for better pay and working conditions, Reagan fired them. Their union was decertified and strikers were prohibited from ever working for Uncle Sam again. (President Bill Clinton lifted the ban.)

By crushing PATCO, Reagan flashed “an unambiguous signal that employers need feel little or no obligation to their workers, and employers got that message loud and clear – illegally firing workers who sought to unionize, replacing permanent employees who could collect benefits with temps who could not, shipping factories and jobs abroad,” the Washington Post’s Harold Meyerson wrote.

(Before he decided to run for president, Trump was on board with outsourcing.)

Reagan’s bare-knucks union-busting shouldn’t have surprised PATCO. The AFL-CIO repeatedly warned that his sometimes pro-union rhetoric was a far cry from his anti-union positions. Reagan touted “right to work” laws when he ran for president.

The AFL-CIO endorsed President Jimmy Carter’s reelection. So did nearly every union.

“A union member voting for Ronald Reagan is like a chicken voting for Col. Sanders,” said a sign in a Paducah union hall 26 years ago.

I don’t know if anybody saved the sign. But if somebody did, it ought to go back up with “Ronald Reagan” painted out and “Donald Trump” painted on.

Like Reagan’s in 1980, Trump’s record is out there, plain for all to see.

Trump says he prefers “right to work” states to non-RTW states.

Trump is fine with U.S. companies pulling up stakes in one state and relocating in another. Translation: Trump is cool with companies busting unions in non-RTW states and moving to RTW states.

Trump is fighting tooth-and-nail to keep his Las Vegas hotel workers from organizing a union.

“Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.,” is the tagline The Huffington Post puts on its stories about the presumptive GOP presidential nominee.

I’ve packed a union card for more than 20 years. Trump mocks the fundamental principle of trade unionism: In a union, everybody is a brother or sister, regardless of race, creed, religion, ethnicity, sexuality or anything else.

In a 1967 speech, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, one of labor’s best friends ever in Washington, told a story that captured the essence of our movement:

“…Trade unionism is about human dignity, just as much as it is about wages, hours and working conditions. I remember vividly what ·an old Polish-American worker told a good friend of mine here:

“‘You know what the union really means to me. Twenty years ago, when I first came to this shop, everybody called me ‘dumb Polack.’ Now they call me ‘Brother.'”

Grifters Reagan and Trump also put me in mind of the old expression, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” Reagan was once. Trump would be twice.

Warning: More Campaign Fundraising Ahead

warning extreme danger

Photo by Paul Klintworth via Flikr

Some thoughts on the news that Rep. Frank Guinta has reached an agreement with the Federal Elections Commission to pay a $15,000 fine and repay $355,000.

First thought: this is a really big deal. Fifteen thousand dollars is a pretty big fine for the FEC.  In fact, it’s apparently the 24th-biggest fine the FEC has issued since 2000.  It’s more than three times the fine for failing to return excess campaign contributions issued to the campaign committee for House Speaker John Boehner earlier this year.

Second thought: it’s a minor miracle this happened at all.  The FEC has been mired in partisan gridlock for a long time now.  As FEC Chairwoman Ann Ravel told the New York Times a couple of weeks ago, “The likelihood of the laws being enforced is slim.”  FEC fines are at record lows.  If the FEC was able to agree on this enforcement action, that says something about how serious it was.

Third thought: repay $355,000?  How?   According to the *ahem* latest FEC report, Guinta’s campaign only has $312,432 cash on hand.  Which – I’m just guessing here – probably means the campaign is going to have to do some fundraising.

Fourth thought: the FEC itself has some real transparency issues.  I spent quite a while trying to find this enforcement agreement on the FEC website – and never found it.  I would have expected that large a fine would have merited a press release, but apparently I was wrong.

Fifth thought: does Guinta’s campaign even care about federal campaign laws?  Earlier this year, news broke that Guinta’s campaign was in trouble with the FEC over 2014 campaign violations.  Put this in context: even while the campaign committee was under FEC investigation, it didn’t pay close attention to the laws.  That’s sort of like running a red light when you know there’s a police car pursuing you for speeding.  Who does that?  And, what does it say about respect for the laws?

———-

A few other random thoughts:

Congratulations to the citizens of Newport!  Yesterday, Newport became the 69th New Hampshire municipality to pass a local resolution calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and limit #MoneyInPolitics.   (See the complete list here.)  Special recognition to Robert Seavey and Robert Naylor for their work on the resolution.

If your town isn’t on that list – and you want it to be – click here for more information about how to pass a local resolution to #GetMoneyOut of politics.

Did you think 2012 was bad?  This presidential election is shaping up to be a real doozy.  In January, The Hill was predicting that the 2016 elections would cost about $5 billion (with a B) – or, about twice what was spent on the 2012 election.  Now they’re guessing it will be $10 billion (with a B).  How high will it go?  Nobody knows.

Worth reading: Why are Corporate Lobbyists the Only Ones Heard?  “Corporations and organizations representing corporations spent $2.6 billion on lobbying last year and labor unions spent $45 million.”  That’s almost a 60-to-one spending ratio.  When it came time to issue regulations to prevent another Wall Street meltdown, “among the lobbyists who had contacted the agencies, 78.2 percent represented financial institutions, 7.9 percent were law firms representing financial institutions, and 7.2 percent were financial trade association. Only 4.1 percent represented public interest and labor groups.”

I’m feeling old this morning.  I’ve been working on #MoneyInPolitics since the 1980s, when we were all concerned about PACs.  That seems positively quaint, in retrospect.

A quick trip down memory lane: 1984 was the first year that any presidential candidate raised the maximum contributions under the public financing system spending limits.  That candidate was Ronald Reagan.   That amount was about $10 million (with an M).  The spending limit was $20.2 million (with an M).

Lessee.  Accounting for inflation, that campaign spending limit that Ronald Reagan agreed to would be equal to about $46 million in today’s dollars.

And yes, that sea change in campaign spending is why “The US government does not represent the interests of the majority of the country’s citizens, but is instead ruled by those of the rich and powerful.”

There is some light on the horizon.  People around the country are working toward a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United – and there has been a lot of progress made in a remarkably short time (particularly given the resistance from federal elected officials).

There are a whole lot of groups working on this.

And people are even having fun doing it.  Watch this, from the “1% News Network”:

An organizing pitch: these days, I’m working for the Stamp Stampede — and I hope you will join us in our campaign to help #StampMoneyOut of politics.

The Stamp Stampede is tens of thousands of Americans legally stamping messages on our nation’s currency to #GetMoneyOut of Politics. As more and more stamped money spreads, so will the movement to amend the Constitution and overturn Citizens United.

You can get your own stamp online at www.stampstampede.org. Or, if you’re a member of CWA, you can get a stamp from your LPAT coordinator. The average stamped bill is seen by 875 people – which makes stamping a highly-effective way to get the message out about how money in politics is corrupting our government.

It’s time to #GetMoneyOut of politics and take back our government.  Join the #MoveToAmend!

“GOP VALUES” — How The GOP Shows Favoritism to Unearned Income over Hard Work

Something else I don’t understand about Republican dogma…

GOP rhetoric seems to idealize the virtues of hard work:  “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” “Just get a job.”  “Quit freeloading.” It’s like they actually believe the Horatio Alger myth.

But look at our federal tax structure, and the changes Republicans have forced through since Ronald Reagan.   There is no reward for hard work.  Instead, our current tax system is tilted strongly in favor of those who already have money.  Investment income — unearned income — is now taxed at about half the rate of wage income.

Flashback to the 2011 debt-ceiling crisis: “Even an architect of the Bush tax cuts, economist Glenn Hubbard, tells Rolling Stone that there should have been a ‘revenue contribution’ to the debt-ceiling deal, ‘structured to fall mainly on the well-to-do.’ Instead, the GOP strong-armed America into sacrificing $1 trillion in vital government services – including education, health care and defense – all to safeguard tax breaks for oil companies, yacht owners and hedge-fund managers. The party’s leaders were triumphant: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell even bragged that America’s creditworthiness had been a ‘hostage that’s worth ransoming.’ ”

Now, let’s look at the impact that this VERY ODD tax preference has had on the US economy.

What happens, when our tax system rewards investment income, rather than actual work?

  1. Private equity “investors” use acquired corporations to borrow money – and then use that borrowed money to pay themselves dividends.  “Investment”?  Not hardly.  The acquired corporations go belly-up when they can’t pay pack the debt, leaving hundreds (or thousands) of workers unemployed.  Read “What Mitt Romney Taught Us about America’s Economy.”
  2. CEOs take more compensation as dividends, rather than wages.  Even accounting for inflation, top-tier taxpayers took home six times more dividends in 2009 than in 1992.  “But each dollar paid to the CEO in dividends costs the company (and the economy) a whole lot of money that could have been reinvested. Going back to Fred Smith as an example, his 15 million shares in the company represent only a fraction of the outstanding stock. For Mr. Smith to receive $8.5 million in dividends, personally, the company has to pay out well over $100 million in total dividends – money that could have been invested in new hires, or new planes, or new facilities (or improved employee benefits).”
  3. Some of those CEOs “invest” that money in politics.  And the cycle repeats itself.

“Pull yourself up by your bootstraps”??!? Bootstraps are getting very hard to find, these days.

(But please don’t shop for them at Walmart.  The corporation’s “Lowest Prices” policy has had a devastating effect on the US economy.  “Wal-Mart has the power to squeeze profit-killing concessions from vendors. To survive in the face of its pricing demands, makers of everything from bras to bicycles to blue jeans have had to lay off employees and close U.S. plants in favor of outsourcing products from overseas.”   Meanwhile, Walton family members – who receive about half of all dividends paid by Walmart – are doing just fine.)

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