Trump’s serial scandals — Stormy Daniels, the Russia investigation, the Paul Manafort verdict, the Cohen guilty plea, the juvenile tweets — fill the headlines. Beneath the noise, however, Trump’s appointees and the Republican Congress are relentlessly pursuing a radical right-wing agenda that is gutting basic protections for workers, consumers and the environment.
This is often characterized as Trump’s fixation on erasing everything Obama, but it goes far beyond that.
Trump’s administration and Congress are not only rolling back President Obama’s policies, but weakening the advances of the Great Society, the Civil Rights Movement, and even pillars of the New Deal. Consider:
Eviscerating the Voting Rights Act
The Department of Justice has essentially abandoned enforcement of voting rights. The signal was sent when DOJ lawyers withdrew from the Texas voter-ID case in which the Obama Justice Department was co-counsel, arguing that the Texas act was intentionally designed to discriminate against people of color. Combined with the Supreme Court’s right-wing gang of five weakening the act in Shelby County v. Holder, there is now a virtual vacuum of voting rights enforcement.
Savaging enforcement of civil rights
While Attorney General Jeff Sessions has dramatically weakened enforcement of basic civil rights in the Justice Department, the same is true across the government. The Labor Department disbanded its civil rights division. The Department of Education gutted the budget of its Office of Civil Rights. The Environmental Protection Agency targeted the Environmental Justice program for elimination.
For immigrants, basic civil rights have been trampled — from the travel-ban orders affecting predominantly Muslim countries, upending the DACA program for the young people who were born here and know no other country, to the grotesque policy that separated children from their parents at the border.
Under Sessions, the Justice Department has also essentially abandoned what was a bipartisan effort to bring about criminal justice reform, with Sessions ordering a review of the consent decrees that were addressing systematic racial discrimination and police brutality.
Climate change denial
Trump famously has announced he will pull the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement, while his appointees have sought to scrub any mention of climate change from government websites. EPA Director Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, replaced the Obama administration Clean Power Plan that limited the release of greenhouse gases from power plants.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has abandoned efforts to end the 30-year ripoff of government by fossil fuel companies mining public lands. At a time when even the Pentagon recognizes climate change as real and present threat to national security, the Trump administration remains in denial.
Undermining public education
Under Betsy DeVos, the Department of Education has become the vessel of for-profit plunder. Her budgets seek to use public funds for private school vouchers. Stunningly, the DOE is pushing plans to make it harder for students to repay their college debts, ending or weakening various plans to limit the burden.
Now DeVos is jettisoning rules that require for-profit colleges to provide an education that actually prepares graduates for decent jobs, opening the door for rip-offs like Trump’s own notorious university.
Savaging worker rights
In one of his first votes, Trump’s Supreme Court pick Neil Gorsuch provided the determining vote in the Janus decision that weakened the ability of public employees to organize and bargain collectively.
Trump’s Labor Department repealed the Fair Pay and Safe Workplace Rule that required companies with federal contracts to disclose and correct labor and safety violations. It also announced it would not defend Obama’s order that increased the number of employees eligible for overtime pay, effectively depriving tens of thousands of workers of a raise.
Tax cuts for the rich, cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security for the rest
Trump’s one main legislative victory — the Republican tax cut — lavishes its benefits on the rich and the corporations. Trump and Republicans are using the deficits they created to push for deep cuts in Medicaid, Medicare and — watch for it if they survive the November election — Social Security.
Trump’s budgets call for deep cuts in virtually every program for the vulnerable, including food stamps, affordable housing and more.
We can’t allow ourselves to be distracted by the circus which is the Trump presidency. Under the chaos, Trump’s appointees and the Republican Congress are pursuing a radical and very destructive agenda. These measures are incredibly unpopular, or would be if Americans knew about them.
They are done by executive order, by administrative rulings, by judicial decisions, by budget cuts. Their effect is masked by the good economy. But they are incredibly destructive, systematically making America more unequal, undermining equal justice under law and elevating corporate rights over worker rights.
They must be exposed and stopped. The elections this fall will be the first chance to curb this misrule.