Opinion

Michael A. Cohen

Trump promised to drain the swamp. How’s that going?

The audience 
awaited President Trump’s March 20 speech in Louisville, Ky.

Al Drago/New York Times

The audience awaited President Trump’s March 20 speech in Louisville, Ky.

Remember when Donald Trump ran for president and he said that he would fight for American workers and bring back jobs?

Remember how he said “I’m going to fight for every person in this country who believes government should serve the people — not the donors and special interests,” or that time he said would “drain the swamp in Washington?”

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Millions of Americans, many of them working class or fighting to stay in the middle class, believed him.

So how is Trump doing at keeping his promises? This might come as a shock, but it turns out, not so well.

For example, this week the president signed a law that will end an Obama-era regulation that would’ve forced Internet providers to get permission from their customers before selling their browsing information.

Last week, he signed an executive order that did away with the Fair Pay and Safe Pay Workplaces rule, which prevented companies with a history of labor or workplace safety violations from receiving federal contracts. The rule required companies to provide their employees with detailed paychecks to prevent against wage theft. Another provision made it harder for companies to keep hidden allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination. That has now been overturned.

Then there is the elimination of a Bureau of Land Management rule, which would have increased the federal government’s involvement in land use decisions. It was opposed by the energy, logging, and mining industries.

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Trump has also signed bills lifting the federal restrictions on dumping waste in streams and rivers and ending a requirement on energy companies to disclose payments given to foreign governments.

Trump also signed one piece of legislation lifting the restriction on people with mental impairments from purchasing guns and two others that weakened federal regulations on teacher training and measuring school performance.

Anyone notice a pattern here? The key beneficiaries of these measures are construction companies and contractors, Internet service providers, the energy industry, coal mining companies, loggers, and even gun sellers. This looks suspiciously like the big donors and special interests that Trump decried on the campaign trail.

Now the Trump administration and its supporters will argue that the president is simply undoing job-killing regulations that undermined the free market and tied the hands of big business. But it’s hard to see the benefit to, say, coal miners of poisoning the streams where they live and undermining public health. How exactly are jobs saved — and workers helped — by making it easier for companies to underpay their employees, cover up sexual harassment and mistreat their workers? How is it “draining the swamp” to let ISPs violate the privacy of their customers?

And what about the infrastructure bill that Trump has touted, which would create hundreds of thousands of new jobs? This week the president spoke to a group of building unions about the potential measure and spent as much time talking about reducing red tape for private sector companies — and the size of his electoral victory — as he did providing specific details about his construction plans.

The simple fact is that Trump is following the lead of congressional Republicans, who have little interest in creating new jobs, but rather would prefer to focus on maximizing profits for the businesses that have long been the primary constituency of the GOP.

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All of these pro-business measures come at the same time that Trump has proposed a budget that would, among other things, cut spending to improve workplace safety and eliminate job training programs that help senior citizens, those with disabilities, and young people.

Two and a half months into his presidency, it’s clear that Trump’s campaign talk was just that — talk. He is nothing more than a pro-business Republican, utterly disinterested in the fate of American workers.

If anything, he’s a more extreme example of a pro-businsess Republican, because as someone who has spent his entire life in business his first, second and third impulse will be how to help his fellow millionaires and billionaires - not those at the bottom of the economic ladder.

In retrospect, believing that an alleged billionaire who lived in a gold-plated penthouse and had spent his entire life grubbily trying to accumulate as much money as possible — even if that meant ripping off the contractors who built his hotels or the workers who toiled there — would be a voice of the working man was a tad misguided. But, of course, as we know more than 60 million Americans fell for this con man. Unfortunately, they are the ones who are going to bear the consequences.

Michael A. Cohen’s column appears regularly in the Globe. Follow him on Twitter @speechboy71.
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