Is President Trump a Friend of Labor
In the 2016 United States presidential election a surprisingly high percentage of American labor, including unionized labor supported Donald Trump. Traditionally and historically, US labor solidly votes with the labor left. Why did labor break ranks in this election cycle?
President Trump made campaign promises to renegotiate or abandon a number of international trade agreements, to benefit American business and ostensibly to benefit American labor. He promised to bring good paying jobs back to America. Thus far, early in his presidency it appears, to begin fulfilling his promises, Trump has made moves against existing international trade agreements. That is all well and good and we shall see how it plays out. American labor should not, and I believe has not allowed itself to be seduced by a Republican president. The American financially enfranchised, private sector, entrepreneurial inclined constituency, the substance of the American Republican Party, the American right is solidly fiscally conservative capitalists. Ultimately, that means they will do all they can to reduce business costs and the burden of government on business at all levels. That initiative to reduce labor costs and throw off government regulation and oversight is intrinsic in American style capitalism and conservatism. The single greatest financial factor many businesses have to consider in the formation and operation of their business is either the cost of labor or the burden of government taxation and regulation. The public sector is to the private sector American right what a parasite is to its host. To the capitalist fiscal conservative government and labor are costs centers, burdens to be reduced wherever possible. President Trump, I believe is a patriot who genuinely wants to make America great again. In these first days of his presidency, during this honeymoon period he is meeting with both business and labor leaders and moving to renegotiate international trade agreements to fulfill his campaign promises. What will he be doing two years, three years into his presidency? In the long run I believe it is disingenuous for any Republican president to pretend to be a friend of American labor. Republicans are capitalists and it is contradictory for a capitalist to assert any sympathy for affinity for labor. For the fiscal conservative looking upon the American scene from the private sector, labor is to be exploited extracting surplus value. In practice there is little humanity in this equation.
The true colors of the American right can be seen in the initiative to pass right to work laws throughout the United States at the state level. The true heart of the Republican Party wants to crush labor unions and eviscerate labor’s capacity to engage in collective bargaining. Right to work laws are union-busting laws whose truest function is to financially starve labor unions to death. If the far right of the Republican Party obtained the political majority needed to do so, they might set about to repeal all the progressive pro-labor legislation of the last two centuries and return American labor to the conditions of the early Industrial Revolution. The Republican Party, President Trump included is not a friend of labor. It may be the case that President Trump’s business acumen will enable him to bring jobs back to America, to return some of the prosperity that has gone off shore to America. In the short term President Trump may foster an American industrial revival, create new jobs and elevate labor. However, labor should not trust President Trump. Having said all this I confess that I am a far right fiscal conservative. Nonetheless, I contend, I am also a lifelong friend of labor. What would impress me would be a right wing initiative to pass federal legislation to overturn all right to work laws passed at the state level. Such right wing support of unionization and collective bargaining would impress me. Don’t hold your breath.
Conservatives as a category endeavor to live in the real world. Consider all the leftist people in America who go to the least expensive grocery or department store to buy those products they need for their lives. All those liberals, while shopping are in their hearts hardcore fiscal conservatives. They want to buy milk for the lowest price per gallon possible. They do not care about dairy farmers or the milk producers association or the middlemen who brought product to market or the retail store owner maintaining the brick and mortal store. They just want what they want as cheaply as possible. In this way when liberals shop, without really realizing it they are as heartless and selfish and self-serving and callously indifferent to the plight of others as private sector, fiscally conservative employers who want to hire and exploit labor as cheaply as possible. That is why I confess, I am a fiscal conservative, because from a practical standpoint I have to be. We all have to be. It is the reality of competitive life on sinful planet earth.
There is a strong socialist undercurrent in American political culture today. It must be said, socialism will not work. History has proven that everywhere it has been tried. In order for socialism to work capitalism must be enslaved to the service of labor. That is, those who would supply initiative and inertia and leadership, who would work the long hours and take the risks necessary to make a business run well must be enslaved to the service of the greater mass of people who do not have such ability. This cannot be done. Sadly, history demonstrates, labor can be enslaved to the service of capitalism as a practical reality, odious though it may be. We see labor enslaved throughout history and decry the practice. However, capitalists cannot be enslaved to the service of a socialist system. Capitalist simply will not serve. People who might do the work that would uphold a Socialist system lack the motivation they would have in a capitalist system. They simply will not do the work if they do not stand to benefit inordinately from their efforts. That is why the shelves go bare in stores in socialist countries. If you are a liberal, again, imagine you are in a grocery store shopping for milk. You pick out a gallon marked $2. When you get to the checkout counter with your gallon of milk priced at $2/gallon, it rings up as $3.35/gallon. You complain to the clerk that the price is not right. It should be $2/gallon. The clerk then explains that the extra $1.35 is a government surcharge, imposed so all the people in the business supply chain can receive equitable compensation for their effort in bringing you this gallon of milk. That liberal grocery shopper finds themselves confronted by application of a socialist principle to their pocketbook. Someone has deemed it just that they pay extra to take care of someone else. Of course, this does not happen when buying milk. However, what does happen in American society today is that liberals do want and expect government to enforce levels of compensation for labor on their behalf, or on behalf of some class or category of people, above the natural order of things. This is no different than the milk illustration. It is just a question of who pays and who gets paid.
When Obama was president it seemed like every time I heard him speak he would use the phrase, “those who should pay their fair share.” He was talking about climbing into my pocket and giving my money to his bought and paid for constituency. Obama is a pure socialist and my wallet was his target. Obama knew nothing about private sector reality and wealth creation. He only knew public sector aka government parasitic power for fiscal confiscation and redistribution. I am a capitalist fiscal conservative because that is the natural order of things in the economic world, not because I find it good or moral or pleasant. For the record, my father was a union organizer in Michigan back in the 1930 and 1940s. Under the protection of the Wagner Act he organized a small grinding wheel factory called, “Macklin Wheel”, in my home town of Jackson, Michigan. I was never more proud of anything my dad did than his success in organizing that shop. He brought better wages, benefits and quality of life for decades to his fellow employees in that shop. Throughout my childhood he was union steward, local president and heavily involved in Democrat politics. He only had a 9th grade education but he was well read and he rubbed elbows with governors, senators and congressmen. Because of my dad’s involvement, I grew up on the labor far left, immersed in Democrat labor union politics. So why am I now on the right? As an idealist I am really not on the right. I lament the sin and inherent selfishness of the capitalist system. Nor am I a centrist. I am the voice of one crying in the 21st century and I represent the entire American socio political spectrum. I have lived it all from left to right. We need a new kind of unity. I am wondering how I can help optimize the American business paradigm for the benefit of all.
If Trump is a friend of labor now then that is great, but it likely will not last. American labor needs to come together and watch Trump and the congressional Republicans carefully. My dad, as a union man taught me that you can only way to deal with Republicans is to get them by the throat. He was hardened and jaded, involved in the most profound violence of the mid 2oth century American labor movement. So we cannot trust Trump to be a friend of American labor. Watch him. The American labor constituency, the entire lower to middle class needs to hold his feet to the fire for as long as he holds office regarding his promises to bring good paying jobs back to America. My dad told me, “Republicans think that what the country needs is thousands and thousands more millionaires.” “Democrats think that what the country needs is millions and millions more thousandaires. My position, we need both plus a cadre of billionaires for the really big initiatives.
Finally, perhaps this was not the most lucid explanation of capitalism, socialism and the current American economic landscape. Forgive me if my analysis seems paltry. I do wonder if we, the people can create a new sustainable and more equitable economic prosperity in America. I would ask you to pray about and discuss it with others. God willing, surely we can build a better world.
God bless you all with a new and enduring American prosperity.