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Trump: Waitress Who Makes $2.13 An Hour Is ‘Overpaid’

Reprinted with permission from DCReport

By multiple measures, workers are faring poorly under Donald Trump compared to his predecessor. Yet Trump keeps telling workers that because of him they are doing better. Let's examine the facts.

The latest news shows that growth in the last three months of 2019 was at a modest pace of 2.1 percent. That's a third of what candidate Trump promised (a ridiculous promise that many believed). It's lower than the 3.2 percent average growth of the last 73 years. And it's lower than during the second Obama term.

Gross Domestic Product growth has been slower each year Trump has been in office, we reported earlier.

Still earlier we gave Trump a grade of C.

A big reason for slow growth is that while cash piles up for those at the top, most struggle to make ends meet.

'Our wages are too high. Everything is too high. Having a low minimum wage is not a bad thing for this country.'

The Trump administration is hostile to the idea of a minimum wage and opposes any increase. The federal minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 an hour since 2009. Adjusted for inflation, its shriveled to just $6.05 per hour.

For people who get tips, like waitstaff, the minimum wage has been stuck at $2.13 an hour since 1992. Its real value has been halved in the last 28 years. Tips, under federal law, make up the $5.12 an hour difference to meet the $7.25 minimum wage.

Paid Too Much

Candidate Trump asserted in 2015 that American workers are paid too much.

"Our wages are too high. Everything is too high," Trump said on MSNBC's Morning Joe. "Having a low minimum wage is not a bad thing for this country."

Trump said it again at a Republican primary debate sponsored by Fox News and the Wall Street Journal. "Wages too high."

America can't compete in global markets because workers make too much money, Trump asserted. Never mind that few low-wage Americans work in jobs making goods or providing services our country exports.

Taking Credit

In recent months Trump started crowing that pay is "rising fastest for low-income workers." He said it in the State of Union, at rallies and in White House lawn comments. And he said it is his economic and tax policies that are making pay at the bottom grow.

Pay at the bottom is indeed rising after years in the economic doldrums. But Trump deserves zero credit for that. The credit goes to lawmakers in 22 states—and many cities and counties—who voted to raise the minimum wage.

As this graphic from the Economic Policy Institute shows, wages at the bottom are up because of those states and localities that increased the minimum wage.

Income growth began sputtering after Trump took office, Census Bureau data show.

The 22 states that raised their minimum wages since the start of 2018 by either a dollar amount or inflation adjustments are politically and economically diverse: Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont and Washington.

Trump and Obama Equal

What if we look at workers as a whole, mixing together those earning a paltry $2.13 an hour to those whose salary and bonus exceed $1 million a week? A record 211 American workers were paid more than $50 million in 2018. And more than 155,000 were paid more than $1 million last year.

Now consider the average wage for private-sector workers, which mixes these extremes of paltry and fantastic pay along with everyone in between.

In Trump's first three years the inflation-adjusted average wage increased 3 percent. That's exactly the same 3 percent as for Obama's last three years, Bureau of Labor Statistics data show. In other words, Trump did nothing special.

Growth at the Top

And what if we look at a broader measure—household income. That's wages plus business profits, capital gains, dividends, farm sales, rents, pensions and more. For those at the top income, growth has been fabulous. For everyone else not so much.

So what happened to median household income—half more, half less. It gives a solid sense of the typical American income.

During Trump's first two years, median household income rose $1,400. During Obama's last two years median income rose $4,810, more than three times as much.

Cuts Federal Workers' Raises

Finally, if you harbor any remaining belief that Trump is helping workers make more, consider these two facts from consecutive days earlier this month.

On Feb. 10 Trump said that due to a "national emergency or serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare," federal workers would not get a scheduled 3 percent pay raise. He cut their increase to just 1 percent, which considering inflation is a pay cut.

The next day Trump struck the opposite note when he tweeted:

"BEST USA ECONOMY IN HISTORY!"

Trump is nothing if not consistently inconsistent except for one thing: using his powers to make sure workers don't share in economic growth.

Will Democrats Be Democrats — Or Fraidy-Cats?

“Trust me!” bellowed the billionaire Donald Trump to working-class voters in 2016, promising he’d be the champion of what he called “the forgotten Americans.”

Trust him? He’s a lifetime real estate huckster infamous for ripping off workers and opposing union labor. You’d have better odds trusting a coyote to guard your last lamb chop!

Nonetheless, many working stiffs did buy his promises to stand up for them against corporate and political elites. But he quickly proved that, true to form, his promises had been just another Trump scam. Again and again, he has carelessly stiffed working stiffs, consistently siding with corporate powers to transfer more money and power from workers to corporations.

For example, candidate Trump pledged to hike the minimum wage to $10 an hour, but once in office, President Trump coldly turned his back on underpaid workers, never mentioning — much less fighting for — any increase in our nation’s shameful, poverty-level wage floor of $7.25 an hour.

Also, Trump’s Labor Department — headed by anti-labor corporate executives he intentionally appointed — ruled that millions of service workers are “independent contractors” rather than company employees. Thus, he decreed, they’re not entitled to any minimum wage, overtime pay or other labor protections. Then, last year, this “worker’s champion” mandated that, instead of monitoring corporate violations of wage laws, his administration would trust top executives to monitor themselves and self-report any violations. Plus, he grants them clemency if they do cheat workers.

Moreover, the Trumpsters have gutted the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, cutting the numbers of job safety inspectors to the lowest level in the agency’s history. As a result, it’s open season on maiming workers. For example, when an assembly line worker at an Arkansas chicken processing plant had a finger cut off last September, OSHA didn’t even send an investigator. The next month, Trump’s OSHA “regulators” let the plant’s owners speed up their assembly line. Then, two months later, another worker lost a finger. Again, Trump’s job safety officials didn’t inconvenience the corporation by sending an inspector to question its practices.

It’s true that Trump has not “forgotten” the forgotten working class. Indeed, the pampered son of privilege remembers to slap them with plutocratic policies every chance he gets.

As an old saying puts it, “Where there’s a will, there are a thousand won’ts.”

Sure enough, while there’s a large and steadily growing public will across our country to take bold steps to battle the plague of inequality ripping America apart, here come the won’ts: The corporate powers, plutocratic elites and their political hirelings hate the very idea of public action to restore economic fairness and equal opportunity for all people. So they’re frantically trying to scare the public away from big ideas like Medicare for All, free college tuition and a wealth tax by branding them with the hoary old right-wing bugaboo: “Socialism!”

However, they have three major problems in selling this scare tactic:

1. Such progressive ideas are quite popular.

2. The greedy rich are quite unpopular.

3. The cry of “socialism” has lost its sting.

A July poll shows that Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s idea of a new tax on fortunes greater than $50 million is favored by two-thirds of Americans, including 55 percent of Republicans. Nearly 6 out of 10 people favor Medicare for All, including a majority of high-income Americans. And nearly 60 percent of us — including 72 percent of independent voters — favor free tuition.

Ironically, the major barrier to passing such changes is not the one thrown up by big money lobbyists and Republican congress critters. Rather, it’s the meekness of establishment Democrats — including many elected officials and operatives — who don’t have the courage of their party’s democratic convictions. They whimper that it will be hard to pass the sweeping changes Americans need and want, that those ideas might offend some of the party’s big donors and scare off some crossover Republicans in 2020. So rather than respond to the grassroots will for real change, those weak-kneed forces are opposing strong advocates like Warren and Bernie Sanders. They’re urging the party to back off from its core values and fighting spirit and instead seek small incremental adjustments in the status quo that might win support from Republicans and corporate chieftains.

If the meek ever inherit the earth, these timid do-nothings will be land barons! If Democrats don’t stand for the people, why should people stand for them?

Labor Secretary Nominee Puzder Can’t Take The Heat, Withdraws From Consideration

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – In a blow to President Donald Trump as he tries to assemble his administration, his nominee for labor secretary, Andrew Puzder, withdrew his name from consideration on Wednesday amid concerns that he could not garner enough Senate votes to be confirmed.

Puzder’s decision to withdraw is yet another setback this week for a White House still grappling with fallout from Monday night’s abrupt resignation of national security adviser Michael Flynn, after less than a month in the job.

Puzder, the chief executive officer of CKE Restaurants Inc, which franchises fast-food chains including Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr, has been at the center of a swirl of controversies, complaints, and potential conflicts.

He admitted earlier this month that he and his wife had employed an undocumented person as a housekeeper. He faced a flurry of complaints and legal cases brought in recent weeks and months by workers against his business and its franchises. Most recently, a decades-old Oprah Winfrey tape raising allegations of domestic abuse by his ex-wife resurfaced, though those allegations had been withdrawn.

“After careful consideration and discussions with my family, I am withdrawing my nomination for Secretary of Labor,” Puzder said in a statement.

Puzder’s withdrawal came one day before his scheduled confirmation hearing.

At least seven Republican senators, including Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, declined to publicly back Puzder in advance of the confirmation hearing.

For weeks now, Republican senators have been telling Senator John Cornyn, the second-highest ranking Republican, that they believed some of their colleagues would join Collins and Murkowski in opposing Puzder, according to a senior Senate Republican aide.

DEMOCRATS CHEER

The Labor Department oversees compliance with federal laws that mandate safe working conditions, a minimum hourly wage, overtime wages, and prohibit employment discrimination.

As labor secretary, Puzder would have shaped the department’s approach to these issues, including whether to defend an Obama administration rule expanding overtime pay to millions of workers that has been challenged in the courts.

Earlier this month, Puzder admitted he and his wife had employed an undocumented person as a housekeeper and had to pay back taxes as a result.

Workers at some of CKE’s restaurants have filed claims in recent weeks alleging they were victims of wage theft or victims of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Another possible problem were allegations dating back to 1986 that Puzder had physically abused his now ex-wife, Lisa Henning, now known as Lisa Fierstein.

Fierstein filed for divorce in 1987 and later retracted her allegations, but not before appearing anonymously as a victim of domestic abuse on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Last week, the OWN Network released a copy of that tape to the Senate committee so both Democratic and Republican members could view it, according to an aide.

Democrats on Wednesday cheered over the news of Puzder’s withdrawal.

“From the start, it’s been clear that Puzder is uniquely unqualified to serve as secretary of labor,” said Patty Murray, the ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

(Additional reporting by Timothy Ahmann, Richard Cowan, Robert Iafolla and Amanda Becker; Editing by Linda Stern and Leslie Adler)

IMAGE: Andrew Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants, takes part in a panel discussion titled “Understanding the Post-Recession Consumer” at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California  April 30, 2012.  REUTERS/Fred Prouser

Elizabeth Warren Forcefully Challenges Trump’s Labor Nominee

Reprinted with permission form AlterNet.

Elizabeth Warren has set the table for Andrew Puzder, the burger chain executive and Secretary of Labor nominee, with a blistering 28-page letter outlining the likely line of Democratic questioning in this Thursday’s confirmation hearings.

Warren’s letter widens the attack on Puzder beyond his record as CEO of CKE, a privately held company that owns the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s fast-food chains, to a broader indictment of Trump policies for the American workforce. While Warren cites Puzder’s much-quoted preference for robots over human workers, the Massachusetts senator also challenges Trump’s likely efforts to weaken the federal overtime, paid sick leave, and minimum wage rules, as well as regulation of retirement advisers and the ongoing investigation of Wells Fargo’s fraudulent sales activities.

While Trump built his presidential campaign on defense of American workers, Warren’s letter illustrates several ways Puzder’s nomination will pit the reality against the rhetoric.

Fiduciary Duty

Warren will challenge Puzder to clarify a Feb. 3 Trump memorandum on the so-called Fiduciary Duty rule requiring retirement advisers to act in their clients’ best interest. The rule, promulgated by the Obama administration after years of public comment, is set to go into effect April 8.

The Obama regulation is already having a positive effect, Warren points out in the letter.

“Major financial institutions such as Fidelity, Charles Schwab, BlackRock, and others have announced they are slashing fees for their funds,” she writes. Bank of America and Merrill Lynch say they will no longer offer investment advisory services on a commission basis—an incentive to put the salesperson’s interests ahead of the retiree’s.

Warren wants Puzder to disclose who is behind the effort to delay or rescind the Fiduciary Duty regulation. She notes that CKE’s retirement plan was “riddled with high-fee investments and low participation rates.”

Sexual Harassment

Citing a Capital and Main study finding Carl’s and Hardee’s have been hit by more federal discrimination lawsuits than any other national burger chains, Warren asks Puzder if he will keep an updated 2016 Obama anti-discrimination regulation that protects workers against a sexually hostile work environment, and discrimination based on pregnancy and transgender status.

Mandatory Overtime Pay

Warren notes that 22 percent of Americans work for federal contractors. In return for government contracts, those companies have to comply with laws protecting workers, including mandatory overtime. Puzder opposed the Obama administration’s overtime rule, which requires federal contractors to pay overtime to anyone making less than $47,500 a year.

Warren cited the video testimony of Laura McDonald, a manager at Carl’s Jr. from 1998 to 2012, who says the chain made it impossible for her to do her job unless she worked “off the clock.”

Warren wants to know if Puzder will advise Trump to keep or dump mandatory overtime pay, which she says helps boost the wages of 4.2 million workers.

Federal Minimum Wage

Thanks to another Obama regulation, federal contractors have to pay a minimum wage of $10.10 per hour, giving a wage boost to some 200,000 workers. Will Puzder advise Trump to dump or keep the executive order on the federal minimum wage?

With Puzder’s nomination, Senate Democrats face the same daunting challenge they did with other Trump Cabinet choices: persuading at least three Senate Republicans to break ranks. In the confirmation of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Democrats got two GOP converts: senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, who are now being lobbied by Puzder supporters, according to The Hill.

Jefferson Morley is AlterNet’s Washington correspondent.

IMAGE: U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) shows company documents to Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf during his testimony before a Senate Banking Committee hearing on the firm’s sales practices on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 20, 2016. REUTERS/Gary Cameron