Trump de­liv­ers a lump of coal to the­work­ing class

The Denver Post - - OPIN­ION - By E. J. Dionne Jr. E- mail E. J. Dionne Jr. at ej­dionne@ wash­post. com.

bloom­ing­ton, ind. » hat­ever hap­pened to the in­ter­ests of the work­ing class? Weren’t they sup­posed to be front and cen­ter in the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion?

Here’s one clue: When a pol­icy that helps some cor­po­rate sec­tor can be repack­aged to make it look like a pro- worker move, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump will al­ways hide his real pur­pose be­hind a pha­lanx of work­ers. Thus did he sur­round him­self with coal min­ers on Tuesday when he signed a shame­fully short­sighted ex­ec­u­tive order nul­li­fy­ing Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s cli­mat­e­change ef­forts.

“Come on, fel­las,” Trump said. “You know what this is? You know what it says, right? You’re go­ing back to work.”

Ac­tu­ally, Trump’s promise to the “fel­las” is no more be­liev­able

Wthan any of his other prom­ises. As Clifford Krauss and Diane Cardwell re­ported in The New York Times, the big­gest chal­lenges to coal come from mar­ket forces— cheap nat­u­ral gas and the in­creas­ing com­pet­i­tive­ness of wind and so­lar power, for ex­am­ple. So don’t count on those jobs.

And work­ers and con­sumers are nowhere to be seen or heard when it comes to the rest of Trump’s cor­po­rate pri­or­i­ties. The pres­i­dent, for ex­am­ple, is ex­pected to sign a bill passed on a party­line House vote this week that elim­i­nates Obama- era online pri­vacy pro­tec­tions. This is good for Verizon, AT& T, Com­cast and other providers who, as The Washington Post’s Brian Fung noted, “will be able to mon­i­tor their cus­tomers’ be­hav­ior online and, with­out their per­mis­sion, use their per­sonal and fi­nan­cial in­for­ma­tion to sell highly tar­geted ads.” Not ex­actly em­pow­er­ing to the av­er­age Amer­i­can.

Trump al­ready sig­naled his in­dif­fer­ence to the lives of his work­ing- class sup­port­ers by back­ing the failed House Repub­li­can health care bill. It would have de­prived 24 mil­lion Amer­i­cans of health in­sur­ance. And the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s next big pri­or­ity is cor­po­rate tax cuts, not an is­sue high on vot­ers’ wish lists in Erie, Pa., or Bay County, Mich.

Then again, not many pro­le­tar­i­ans hang around at the Trump re­sorts and golf cour­ses where our com­man­der in chief has al­ready spent nearly a third of his time in of­fice.

Al­most en­tirely lost in the Trumpian world of high- pro­file scan­dals and tweets is a great national tragedy in­volv­ing what Prince­ton econ­o­mists Anne Case and An­gus Deaton called “deaths of despair” among white Amer­i­cans with a high school de­gree or less.

In a pa­per re­leased last week by the Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion ( with which I am as­so­ci­ated), they show that the ris­ing death rates among less well- off whites aged 45- 54 con­trast sharply with the fall­ing death rates among com­pa­ra­bly placed cit­i­zens in Europe.

“Mor­tal­ity de­clines from the two big­gest killers in mid­dle age — can­cer and heart dis­ease— were off­set by marked in­creases in drug over­doses, sui­cides and al­co­hol- re­lated liver mor­tal­ity,” they write.

We are liv­ing in a so­ci­ety where the long- stand­ing in­jus­tices of racial dis­crim­i­na­tion against African- Amer­i­cans and Lati­nos are com­pounded by the in­juries of class. Th­ese af­flict all lower- in­come groups, but they are cur­rently hit­ting white Amer­i­cans par­tic­u­larly hard.

A well- func­tion­ing po­lit­i­cal sys­te­mand bold lead­ers would bring us to­gether to build a more just and so­cially healthy coun­try across the board. But we find our­selves in the Trump Era, where dis­trac­tion, delu­sion and divi­sion de­fine public life.

Trump has no co­her­ent ap­proach to lift­ing up work­ing- class Amer­i­cans. But Democrats need to do more than just em­bar­rass him about the tilt of his poli­cies to­ward the best- off. They need to put se­ri­ous thought and en­ergy into push­ing a com­pre­hen­sive pro­gramto re­lieve eco­nomic in­se­cu­rity across racial lines.

Alas, there will be no get­ting away from theTrump fol­lies, in­clud­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ob­ses­sive ma­neu­vers to bury the ques­tions that even­tu­ally will have to be an­swered about his cam­paign’s re­la­tion­ship with Rus­sia.

But it would be a national ser­vice for at least some politi­cians to point out that in­Wash­ing­ton’s an­gry noise, the voices be­ing drowned out are those of Amer­i­cans whose despair should be com­mand­ing our at­ten­tion.

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