The Class Struggle According to Donald Trump

the fact that a worker’s wealth and well-being is much more dependent upon her employer than the employer is on a given worker tilts things in the employer’s favor.

.. Two trends demonstrate the decline of labor and the ascent of business. Since 1979, after-tax corporate profits as a share of gross domestic product have grown by 22.8 percent, while the share of nonfarm business sector income going to labor has dropped by 10.3 percent.

The decline in worker bargaining power in the United States is the cumulative effect of numerous small and large changes over recent decades reaching into almost every area of law and policy. This combines with a decline in the enforcement of existing laws that could protect workers’ bargaining power — laws protecting unions, laws against wage theft, nondiscrimination laws, and more.

.. Among these changes is the requirement that employees sign what are known as “noncompete” and “no-raid” agreements, both of which restrict workers’ ability to extract pay hikes by threatening to take similar jobs at competing companies.

.. “less than half of workers who have non-competes also report possessing trade secrets.”

When entry-level workers at fast food restaurants are asked to sign two-year non-competes, it becomes less plausible that trade secrets are always the primary motivation for such agreements.

.. The treasury report estimated that 30 million American workers have signed noncompete agreements.

.. 94 percent of the net employment growth in the U.S. economy from 2005 to 2015 appears to have occurred in alternative work arrangements.

The growing emphasis on “shareholder value” has provided additional justification for all of these anti-worker developments.

.. “the shareholder value movement starting in the late 1980s and now institutionalized through industry analysts” was crucially important in the devaluation of employees:

.. Accounting in business is mainly about costs. Finance people hate fixed costs because of the challenges they raise to share price valuation when there is uncertainty, and the biggest fixed costs are labor. Simply moving the same labor costs from employees to outside staffing companies moves it from one part of the accounting ledger to another and makes analysts happier.

This mentality, in turn, encourages “the use of temps and contractors” to fill high-wage jobs because “that way the employer doesn’t have to raise wages for all their employees.”

.. Companies could outsource work to areas with cheaper labor and less of a union presence. This both weakened the union and ramped up competitive pressure on the companies that were unionized. The result was fewer unions.

.. In 2017, 6.5 percent of the private sector work force was unionized, down from 35 percent in 1955.

.. The contemporary weakness of organized labor and the threatened status of employees has roots in the breakdown in the 1970s of the postwar capital-labor accord — what A.H. Raskin, the legendary labor reporter for The Times, called a “live-and-let-live relationship” that held sway for 30 years.

.. First, they would alter antitrust enforcement to require consideration of the likely effect of mergers on concentration in the labor market, in order to prevent “too high a risk of wage suppression.”

.. Second, Krueger and Posner would support legislation making noncompete agreements “uniformly unenforceable and banned if they govern a worker who earns less than the median wage in her state.”

.. ban no-poaching arrangements altogether:

We propose a per se rule against no-poaching agreements regardless of whether they are used outside or within franchises. In other words, no-poaching agreements would be considered illegal regardless of the circumstances of their use.

.. In the 2016 election, Trump profited from the conviction of rural and working-class voters that they were on a downward trajectory. If anything, Trump appears to be gambling that letting those voters’ lives continue to languish will work to his advantage in 2020.

.. His administration has turned the executive branch, the federal courts and the regulatory agencies into the sworn enemy of workers, organized and unorganized. Trump is indisputably indifferent to the plight of anyone in the bottom half of the income distribution:

  • look at his appointments,
  • look at his record in office,
  • look back at his business career and
  • look at the man himself.

The Roots of Poland’s Defiance of the European Union

last week, Poland challenged the very notion of what it means to be part of the bloc when the country pushed ahead with controversial measures to overhaul its judicial system and essentially put the courts under the control of the governing party. The action set off unprecedented censure from the European Union.

For the first time, the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, used the most powerful threat in its arsenal to try to stop the measure, invoking Article 7 of the European Union treaty, which could strip Poland of its voting rights. It accused the government of trying to undermine core democratic values.

.. it also challenged the very notion of how effectively the bloc can deal with countries that step out of line. If Brussels fails to curb what it sees as behavior that undermines democratic values in Poland, other nations with their own populist leaders, like the Czech Republic and Romania, will be emboldened to chart their own course.

.. Poland is not Hungary, where Prime Minister Viktor Orban frequently antagonizes European Union leaders and cozies up to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

.. But when the Constitution was enacted in 1997, no right-wing party was represented, including Center Agreement, a Christian democratic party and the predecessor to Law and Justice, the current ruling party.

“They refused to give this Constitution legitimacy,”

.. this lack of inclusion led to a bitterness that still fuels the governing party and its powerful leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

.. When Law and Justice briefly held power before, from 2005 to 2007, its leader, Mr. Kaczynski, found himself stymied by the courts at every turn. He coined a term for what he viewed as obstructionism: prawny imposybilizm, or legal impossibilism.

.. The first move was to dismantle the Constitutional Tribunal, which is empowered to review Poland’s laws. They removed unfriendly justices and ensured the once-powerful body was little more than a rubber stamp for the party

“The mechanics of this attack on the Supreme Court are very similar,” he said. “First, you have an attack on judges.”

.. “The whole idea behind these two bills is to have full control over the national judiciary council, which has control over appointing judges,”

.. “And if you have control over the selecting committee, you need vacancies.”

.. He pointed to a new provision that allows for something known as a special extraordinary appeal, which would essentially allow any case over the past 20 years to be reopened.

.. “I am ashamed now,” he said. “We were a paragon of transformation of the rule of law. That has all changed.”

Trump talked about rescinding Gorsuch’s nomination

For nearly eight months, President Trump has boasted that appointing Neil M. Gorsuch to the Supreme Court ranks high among his signature achievements.

But earlier this year, Trump talked about rescinding Gorsuch’s nomination, venting angrily to advisers after his Supreme Court pick was critical of the president’s escalating attacks on the federal judiciary in private meetings with legislators.

.. Trump, according to several people with knowledge of the discussions, was upset that Gorsuch had pointedly distanced himself from the president in a private February meeting with Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), telling the senator he found Trump’s repeated attacks on the federal judiciary “disheartening” and “demoralizing.”

The president worried that Gorsuch would not be “loyal,” one of the people said, and told aides that he was tempted to pull Gorsuch’s nomination — and that he knew plenty of other judges who would want the job.

.. Trump was especially upset by what he viewed as Gorsuch’s insufficient gratitude for a lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court

.. Advisers also told Trump that Gorsuch was trying to demonstrate the independence necessary to make it through the confirmation process and that pulling the nomination would have far-reaching repercussions and might infuriate supporters who were enthusiastic about the conservative jurist.

.. In a meeting with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Trump attacked the judge in sharp terms, surprising his fellow Republicans.

He’s probably going to end up being a liberal like the rest of them,” Trump told the Republican leaders, according to a person with knowledge of the comments. “You never know with these guys.”

Jared Kushner’s Vast Duties, and Visibility in White House, Shrink

At a senior staff meeting early in President Trump’s tenure, Reince Priebus, then the White House chief of staff, posed a simple question to Jared Kushner: What would his newly created Office of American Innovation do?

Mr. Kushner brushed him off, according to people privy to the exchange. Given that he and his top lieutenants were paid little or nothing, Mr. Kushner asked, “What do you care?” He emphasized his point with an expletive.

“O.K.,” Mr. Priebus replied. “You do whatever you want.”

.. the do-whatever-you-want stage of Mr. Kushner’s tenure is over.

.. Mr. Kelly has made clear that Mr. Kushner must fit within a chain of command. “Jared works for me,” he has told associates.

.. Mr. Kelly has even discussed the possibility of Mr. Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, departing the West Wing by the end of the year.

.. The president’s affections are fickle, and he tends to keep relationships open even if they are strained.

.. that reflected his success, not failure. By helping to push out Mr. Priebus and Stephen K. Bannon, the president’s chief strategist and acerbic nationalist infighter, they said, Mr. Kushner helped stabilize the White House, allowing him to focus on his own projects rather than feeling compelled to weigh in on so many different issues.

.. In the first months of the administration, Mr. Kushner typically would spend five or six hours a day with the president in what his advocates described as playing defense, making sure others were not gaming the system by persuading Mr. Trump to make decisions without consulting others who had interest in the issues. Now under a less freewheeling system, Mr. Kushner and other aides are expected to stay in their own lanes.

..  “But now he is no longer seen, and we are only left to wonder about the boy whose father-in-law placed the hope of unraveling the world’s most intractable public policy puzzles from peace in the Middle East to reinventing government” in him.

.. Worried that his conversations might have been picked up on a government-authorized wiretap or perhaps by Russia or China, Mr. Kushner has become increasingly cautious about how he communicates, even with friends.

.. Mr. Kushner expressed relief over Mr. Mueller’s appointment in May, assuming that the prosecutor’s inquiry would effectively freeze congressional investigations and therefore free up the White House to pursue its legislative agenda.

.. At one point this fall, a scenario circulated in which Ms. Trump could replace Nikki R. Haley as ambassador to the United Nations if Ms. Haley replaced Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson.

.. they have found more satisfaction in recent months now that Mr. Bannon is no longer inside the West Wing fighting them

.. The building at 666 Fifth Avenue is awash in $1.2 billion in debt, and a key business partner recently declared that a redevelopment plan created by Mr. Kushner before he joined the government is unfeasible.

 .. it has remained a jumble of seemingly random projects, ranging from addressing the nation’s opioid crisis and infrastructure needs to trying to modernize the government’s antiquated computer systems.
.. Congress appears to be on the verge of creating a $500 million fund to help agencies modernize outdated information technology systems, some of which are at least 40 years old.
.. Mr. Kushner’s push for technological advances is hobbled by a lack of permanent officials to carry out policy changes at the agency level. The White House has failed to name chief information officers for nine major agencies, including Defense, Treasury and Homeland Security. Even the federal chief information officer is only an acting official, and the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy is largely a ghost town.

Kristof: Trump’s Successes, But Cycle Turning

President Trump has now been in the White House for six months, and Democrats are fairly gleeful in noting that he is: a) deeply unpopular; b) mired in scandals; and c) bereft of any legislative victories. That’s all true, but also I think too glib. Trump has been quite successful, in my view, in two areas:

  1. appointing conservatives to federal courts, most notably Justice Gorsuch to the Supreme Court; and in
  2. changing the regulatory landscape by removing environmental safety standards.

.. Since the 1970s we’ve seen a long-term trend toward cutting taxes and social services, and there have been a series of grim consequences: rising inequality, stagnant high school graduation rates, rising incarceration rates, rising narcotics use, stagnant earnings for the bottom half of Americans, and so on. So many national problems seem to have their roots in a cycle that started then, but I wonder if the cycle is turning.

  • The failure of Trumpcare is a case where a program for the poor, Medicaid, won a political battle, and
  • Kansas has shown that at some point voters prefer to raise taxes than see service cuts. More broadly,
  • even conservative states like Texas have reversed themselves on mass incarceration, and high school graduation rates are again going up.

Could we be turning a corner?

.. For me, the most chilling aspect of President Trump’s interview with The Times on Wednesday was his insistence on reserving the right to fire Bob Mueller. That would be ten times bigger than firing Jim Comey, and the fact that Trump even brings it up makes me think that he fears Mueller is getting close to something the president wants hidden.