From the “better late than never” file, Martin and Haberman:
History will record last week as a moment when President Trump turned to raw racial appeals to attack a group of nonwhite lawmakers, but his attacks also underscored a remarkable fact of his first term: His rhetorical appeals to white working-class voters have not been matched by legislative accomplishments aimed at their economic interests.
As Mr. Trump was lashing out at Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna S. Pressley, House Democrats were passing a minimum wage bill with scant Republican support and little expectation of Senate passage. On the same day, the president issued a perfunctory announcementnaming Eugene Scalia, a corporate lawyer and the son of Antonin Scalia, the former Supreme Court justice, as his new secretary of labor on the recommendation of Senator Tom Cotton, a hard-line Arkansas conservative.
The events offered a reminder not only of what Mr. Trump was interested in — racially driven grabs of media attention — but also of what he was not: governing the way he campaigned in 2016 and co-opting elements of the Democrats’ populist agenda to drive a wedge through their coalition.
Since he became president, Mr. Trump has largely operated as a conventional Republican, signing taxes that benefit high-end earners and companies, rolling back regulations on corporations and appointing administration officials and judges with deep roots in the conservative movement. His approach has delighted much of the political right.
Who could have seen this coming except literally anybody who thought for 5 seconds about how a Trump/McConnell/Ryan government would work and realized that his many statements committing to standard Republican policies would prove more reliable than his vague gestures at populism?
Here’s some more Trumpism:
The Trump administration moved to end food stamp benefits for 3.1 million people with proposed new regulations curtailing the leeway of states to automatically enroll residents who receive welfare benefits.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said state governments “have misused this flexibility.”
“We are changing the rules, preventing abuse of a critical safety net system, so those who need food assistance the most are the only ones who receive it,” he added.
But don’t worry, FIGHTIN’ JOSH HAWLEY will be there to take on COSMOPOLITAN ELITES and make it a working man’s party again…
At least some progressives have taken the populist rhetoric at face value. “Progressives should recognize there is a real debate on the right about social and political assumptions, probably for the first time in four decades,” says Open Markets fellow Matthew Stoller. “They noticed the financial crisis and the war in Iraq. There’s a conservative rebellion against corporate power.”
But what, if anything, do the National Conservatives plan to do about the money changers and the growth of Wall Street? That question remains largely unanswered. And the gap between Hawley’s amorphous rhetoric and the concrete dilemmas he elides is thrown into sharp relief by the Trump tax cut.
The tax cut represents Trump’s sole legislative domestic accomplishment. It is also an issue Hawley emphasized in his campaign, lambasting his opponent for opposing it (on the grounds that too much of it benefited the rich). The Trump tax cut has failed to bear out any of the hopes Hawley and other supporters placed in it when it passed. It did not increase corporate investment, nor did it encourage enough growth to meaningfully offset the lost revenue. Corporate tax revenue has instead plummeted. The only measurable impact of the cuts has been to give more money to the immediate beneficiaries: business owners and heirs to large fortunes — or, as Hawley put it, “those who have the money to start with.”
Meanwhile, the New York Times reported Friday on a little-noticed Treasury Department initiative that will “allow foreign banks to largely avoid” paying corporate tax in the United States. The tax cut has already enriched large banks by billions of dollars. The administration’s new rules could expand the windfall to foreign banks.
If you give even the faintest credence to National Conservative rhetoric, lavish American subsidies for foreign banks would seem to be the stuff of nightmare. But if Hawley and his National Conservatives harbor any intention of reversing Trump’s giveaway to coastal cosmopolitan financial elites and the aristocratic heirs to large fortunes, they have kept their plans secret. Meanwhile, the policies Hawley would add to the Trumpist formula — “allow job training, apprenticeship, and certification programs to be eligible to receive Pell Grant dollars” — are comically meager.
What’s particularly hilarious about people on the ostensible left falling for Hawley’s utterly transparent bullshit is that we’ve just been through this with Trump. I think when he buys a car Matt Stoller not only initiates the request for TruCoat but asks for $10,000 worth just to be sure.