American workers deserve honor and respect, on Labor Day and every other day of the year. Unfortunately, despite the populist rhetoric, that’s not what we’ve been getting from Donald Trump and the Republican Party. Instead of promoting policies that help America’s working families, the GOP has spent the year waging war on working Americans.
Due to a massive uprising from grassroots activists, the GOP plan to take health care away from over 20 million Americans was defeated. But the next priority on their agenda is just as bad: Pass massive tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and giant corporations, paid for by starving vital services and benefits.
Billionaires and Fortune 500 Companies are the last ones who need — or deserve — a tax cut. Due in large part to government policies like deregulating Wall Street, cutting taxes on the rich, privatization, and keeping the minimum wage low, America’s income growth has gone overwhelmingly to the top 1 percent in the last four decades. During this time, the productivity of American workers has continually increased — but only those at the top pocketed the rewards for everyone else’s hard work.
It hasn’t always been this way: From 1948 to 1979, two-thirds of aggregate income growth in the United States went to the bottom 90 percent. But from 1979 onward, nearly two-thirds of growth went to the top 1 percent. Perhaps even worse, the aggregate income of the bottom 90 percent actually declined!
Yet this level of skyrocketing income and wealth inequality is not enough for Trump and the GOP. They are determined to provide trillions in tax giveaways to their wealthy donors. The budget proposals released by Congressional Republicans and the White House, together with their rhetoric about what they offensively call entitlements, make it clear exactly how they plan to offset these tax giveaways: By cutting our earned Social Security and Medicare benefits.
Social Security and Medicare are deferred compensation. Just as we earn our current cash compensation, we earn our Social Security and Medicare with every paycheck. That includes Social Security disability benefits, which the Trump Administration has been particularly eager to cut.
This is the exact opposite of what the American people voted for. Trump ran on a promise to protect Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. This was shrewd political strategy, given that not cutting Social Security was one of the only issues that Bernie Sanders voters, Ted Cruz voters, and everyone in between agreed on. But as with his promise to raise taxes on the rich and his promise to provide quality affordable health care for everyone, Trump has done the exact opposite now that he’s in the White House.
The good news is that his efforts to cut these programs have so far failed. Trumpcare was a not-so-veiled assault on Medicaid. Working people around the country saw that Congress was about to pass a disastrous bill, and they rose up in fury to defeat it.
For as long as Trump and the GOP continue to wage their war on workers, the American people must — and will — keep fighting back. In a little over a year, when every member of the House and one-third of the Senate is up for reelection, all of us together will have the opportunity to fight back at the voting booth.
November 2018, and the primaries that proceed it, will not just be an opportunity to throw out anti-worker politicians. It will also be an opportunity to elect political leaders who run on a bold pro-worker platform: Expanded Social Security, a $15 minimum wage, Medicare for All, paid family leave, improved worker health and safety protection, and more.
This Labor Day comes at a difficult time for American workers, but we should take heart in remembering our nation’s history. The Great Depression was the darkest time of all for American workers, and it led to unprecedented solidarity and demand for change. Workers elected President Franklin D. Roosevelt and successfully fought for the passage of the New Deal, including Social Security, the minimum wage, and the right to fight back through collective bargaining. Now is the time for another massive workers’ movement to demand a modern New Deal, with expanded Social Security, an increased minimum wage, and a more even field on which to bargain.
The donor class will fight to protect their unearned gains, using much of the wealth that has been upwardly redistributed to them. But there are more of us. We can and must win at the ballot box to make future Labor Days fairer and more equal for all of us.