Since 1932 there has been a part of the Republican Party that has consistently resisted the New Deal, the Great Society and whatever we have had for the last eight years. As Democratic administrations enacted Social Security, Medicare and the Affordable Care Act, this faction fought the descent of the country into the pit of “socialism.” Their nadir came when the Eisenhower administration accepted the basics of the New Deal, but they roared back in 1964 with the Goldwater nomination. The Republican right-wing has continued to grow, and the once-plentiful Republican moderate has gone the way of the dodo. Today these reactionaries are on the verge of control of the three branches of the Federal government, and early indications are that they plan significant damage, and even destruction, to the great achievements of Democratic administrations since Franklin Roosevelt took the oath of office. The super-wealthy 1% have already gained a share of the national wealth not seen since 1929, and destroying an already frayed safety net will take us closer to that halcyon year for the rich. Maybe Herbert Hoover will at last have his revenge.
The reactionaries have long held control of the Republican caucuses in the House and Senate,
but a new feature is Cabinet secretaries devoted to the destruction of the social programs administered by their departments. We will likely have an Attorney General who was rejected as a Federal judge because of a suspicion of racism, a Treasury Secretary who is a Goldman Sachs alumnus (big surprise!) and whose bank played fast and loose with California’s foreclosure laws, a Health and Human Services Secretary who has been the House Republicans’ expert on gutting the Affordable Care Act, a Labor Secretary who is a fast food executive, who opposes raising the minimum wage and who would prefer employing machines rather than people, an Environmental Protection Administrator who has sued the EPA, an Energy Secretary who, when enumerating agencies he wanted to abolish, forgot the name of the department he will now head, and so it goes. The leader of this assault on the safety web is a real estate billionaire who proposes a massive tax cut to aid the 1%.
While the Clinton wing of the Democratic Party is still stunned and largely silent, there are signs that progressives are girding for battle. Perhaps most important they have developed an attitude expressed by our comrade Don Seastrum: No retreat, no compromise, no
surrender. Had this attitude prevailed throughout President Obama’s administration, perhaps
the Congress would not have been lost in 2010 and the presidential election of 2016 would have had a different outcome. The President would have had to explain the Affordale Care Act on a class basis: millions of poor and middle class people were going to get the health care they deserved. Those who opposed the Act or who sabotaged its implementation, such as
the Republican governors who refused to allow expansion of Medicaid, were sentencing millions of poor people to poor health and even premature death. They should have been eviscerated, not placated. Now, with repeal of the Affordable Care Act as the number one Republican priority, it should be opposed on the same class basis. We may not have the numbers to stop the reactionaries but we should make crystal-clear just what was lost, just who lost it and just who was responsible. This may not be”cool,” but when was class war ever “cool?”
Another early battle will be the confirmations of the Trump cabinet. Progressives must show clearly what each confirmation will cost ordinary people. What do we lose by a Treasury Secretary who has drunk the supply-side kool aid and who will preside over a tax gift to those who already have too much? What does an anti-worker Labor Secretary cost the working people of this country? What is the cost in human lives and health of the plans of the proposed Health and Human Services Secretary? There is no place for politeness in this fight. The rhetoric must be blunt, and progressives must throw bricks, not cream puffs.
The Jewish Labor Committee has asked the Senate to reject the confirmation of fast-food executive Andrew Puzder to be Secretary of Labor in the Trump administration. Calling him a “rigid anti-worker ideologue,” the Committee observed:”It is unprecedented to appoint a corporate chief executive officer to this position, especially one who in his public positions, in the sexist advertising promoted by his company, and in his numerous writings has made clear he opposes most of the laws he will be sworn to enforce.”
The Committee pointed out that, under Puzder’s leadership, his company has been a conspicuous violator of the wage and hour rules whose enforcement is a major responsibility of the Labor Department. It noted that Puzder’s company has been cited 98 times for safety violations since he became CEO in 2000. 36 of these citations involved risk of life or grave physical harm to workers. Even the company’s filings with the Securities and Exchange
Commission admit that it faces multiple class action law suits for wage and hour violations.
Further, the JLC called attention to his hostile attitude toward improving the conditions
of low-wage workers, including those in the notorious fast-food industry. Puzder, it said,
opposed expanding coverage of overtime rules and raising minimum wages. The JLC has been a
strong advocate of low-wage workers and the “fight for $15 and a union” movement.
Linda Greenhouse, the long-time Supreme Court reporter for The New York Times, has a vision
of the first meeting of the Trump cabinet: seated around the table are Cabinet officers who have been chosen because they oppose the missions or long-term policies of the agencies that they have been picked to run. She writes,” They will have been placed in their positions and handed the reins of power not to govern, but to destroy.”
The competition is difficult, but Andrew Puzder is certainly a top contender for the title of “Chief Agency Destroyer.” In an appointment that is absurd even by the low standards of Donald Trump, Puzder, a fast-food executive, has been selected to preside over the Department of Labor, a department whose mission is:” To foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.” Judging by his announced views, Puzder, whom AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumka has called “a man whose business record is defined by fighting against working people,” will not be a Secretary whose aspirations are guided by the Department’s mission statement. He will be the Anti-Labor Secretary.
Some of his positions are predictable. He is, of course, opposed to any serious increase in the minimum wage; the “$15 and a union” poverty-stricken fast food workers should not look to him for any sympathy, much less help. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees says that his company is a regular violator of wage and hour laws, so don’t expect an aggressive enforcement of fair labor standards. On the other hand, do expect an early attack against the Obama Executive Order that requires Federal contractors to grant up to 7 days of paid sick leave in a year, an order that affects more than a million workers. Certain to draw his ire is the Executive Order that sets a ceiling of $47,476, below which salaried workers must be paid time and a half for overtime. This order, making an estimated 4.2 million workers eligible for overtime pay, is now being held up by a Texas court. To kill the order, Puzder need only stop the appeal from going forward.
Then there are his own eccentric, individual opinions. Like any respectable Trumpist, he wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Beyond the usual arguments, however, he maintains that the high premiums of the ACA have created a restaurant recession because they have left people little money to dine out. His attitude toward workers is unique in the history of Labor Secretaries: on the whole, he prefers machines. He observes that they are never late for work, never take vacations and never sue because of age, sex or race discrimination. We could add that they never whine about poverty wages, need time off because of a sick child,
or want to join a union. They are, in short, the ideal workers by this Secretary’s lights.
Andrew Puzder will harm the working conditions of millions of laboring people; he will destroy the opportunities for a better life of millions. The Senate should protect America’s workers by refusing to confirm him.
Yesterday the Jewish Labor Committee urged the Senate to reject the nomination of David M. Friedman as the next Ambassador to Israel. In a statement, the JLC noted its opposition to new or expanded settlements in the West Bank territories and its support for a “…reasonably negotiated, fair and secure two-state solution for Israel and its Palestinian neighbors.” Declaring that it was essential for a United States Ambassador to be supportive of the two-state solution, the Committee said,”…Because Friedman is an active supporter of the West Bank settlement movement and because he does not believe in a two-state solution… he is not an
appropriate nominee for this crucial post.”
The JLC expressed its concern that the incoming Trump administration wishes to express its endorsement of Friedman’s views by his nomination. Such an endorsement, it said “…Will communicate to Israel, the Palestinians, the Arab world and the entire international community that the United States is no longer interested in using its good offices to promote a peaceful
resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
The Committee said that not only were Friedman’s views contrary to decades-old bi-partisan American policies but contrary to Israel’s long-term interests: ” Rejecting the two-state solution would doom Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state.”
Ameinu, the Labor Zionist organization, has similarly condemned Friedman’s nomination and has started a petition campaign to urge the Senate to reject it. The petition can be found at the group’s website, www.ameinu.net.
The Principles of SDUSA express strong support for the existence of the State of Israel within secure borders, while opposing settlements and advocating an independent Palestinian state at peace with Israel. We share these beliefs with the Labor and Socialist Zionist movements which largely led and fought for the creation of Israel, and we are comrades of the modern forms of those movements, the Israel Labor Party and the Meretz Party.
David M. Friedman, a bankruptcy lawyer and Donald Trump’s designated American Ambassador to Israel (related facts), is about as far from our principles as it is possible to be. He has been an outspoken supporter of settlements on the West Bank, has denigrated the idea of a Palestinian state and even suggested that President Obama is an anti-Semite. His extreme views are to the Right of even Prime Minister Netanyahu’s public positions. He has made despicable statements likening progressive American Jews to Jewish collaborators with Nazis in the death camps and denied that members of J Street, the progressive Jewish lobby, are even Jews.
Resistance to his confirmation has begun, with Ameinu, the Labor Zionist organization, beginning a petition asking the Senate to block his nomination. The petition and related statements can be found on Ameinu’s website, www.ameinu.net. You don’t have to be Jewish to sign– just a person who believes in a just, fair, peaceful solution to a very complicated problem!