White House

From taxes to health care to NAFTA, President Trump has forgotten his 'forgotten people'

Key Points
  • President Trump has forgotten "the forgotten people" on health care.
  • He forgot them on financial regulation.
  • He forgot them on NAFTA.
  • And now, he's forgotten them on taxes.
President Donald Trump gives a thumbs up as he walks to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC on Monday, Dec. 04, 2017.
Jabin Botsford | The Washington Post | Getty Images

In the ways that directly affect their pocketbooks, President Donald Trump has forgotten what he calls "the forgotten people."

He forgot them on health care. Jettisoning his campaign pledge to "take care of everybody" regardless of income, he proposed cutting federal health subsidies for the hard-pressed blue-collar voters who put him into office.

He forgot them on financial regulation. Abandoning talk of cracking down on Wall Street executives who "rigged" the economy to hobble the working class, he seeks to undercut the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which has recovered $12 billion for consumers from financial institutions that exploited them.

And he forgot them on taxes. Discarding his vow to reshape taxation for average families at the expense of rich people like himself, he's working with Republican leaders to hand the biggest benefits to corporations and the wealthy.

Under the Senate-passed bill, the president would deliver a near-term tax cut to most middle-income families. The Joint Committee on Taxation in Congress says more than 70 percent of those earning $40,000 to $100,000 will see their taxes reduced in 2019 by at least $100.

But vastly larger tax cuts would flow to wealthy Americans and corporations. The corporate cuts are permanent; the individual cuts are temporary.

Thus by 2027, 8 in 10 households in the $40,000-to-$100,000 range would receive less than $100 or a tax increase. Even in 2019, more than 15 percent of them will see their taxes go up. Moreover, by eliminating the individual mandate to purchase health insurance under Obamacare, the Senate bill would raise premiums for some middle-income families who remain in the individual marketplace after healthier customers requiring fewer medical services leave.

The president insists cutting corporate taxes will ultimately benefit workers by generating a surge of growth, hiring and wage increases. But instead of a surge, the Joint Tax Committee and other mainstream forecasters say the tax-cut will generate only modest growth while adding $1 trillion to the national debt.

Added debt, in turn, heightens pressure for Congress and the administration to cut spending programs that benefit Trump's blue-collar supporters. Though candidate Trump promised to protect major entitlement programs, he and his party have identified them as targets.

Obamacare repeal efforts sought to cut hundreds of billions from Medicaid. That program covers health care, some opioid addiction treatment and nursing home expenses for millions of blue-collar workers and their parents.

The president has announced a forthcoming push for "welfare reform." His budget proposed cuts in Social Security disability payments, the principal income source for millions of people candidate Trump championed as casualties of unfair foreign competition.

Nor has Trump delivered on promises to upend U.S. trade policy to their benefit. He hasn't withdrawn from the North American Free Trade Agreement. Early in the tax debate, he jettisoned the House plan for a "border adjustment tax" that might have spurred domestic employment, after import-dependent businesses objected.

The huge infrastructure plan he pledged would create new construction jobs also has not materialized.

The president hasn't forgotten everything. In lieu of big financial benefits, Trump has steadily given "the forgotten people" one visceral commodity that research shows many of them value.
That commodity is affirmation of shared racial grievances. Research by the Democracy Fund after the 2016 election identified Trump's most important group of supporters as voters with strong identities as white Christians and negative feelings toward immigration, blacks and Muslims.

Trump keeps advocating a travel ban on residents of some majority-Muslim countries and a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. The administration backs curbing legal immigration and ending protections for young illegal immigrant "Dreamers."

His attorney general halted federal efforts to change local law enforcement practices in response to complaints of excessive force against minorities. Indeed, the president once suggested explicitly that police rough up criminal suspects.

He praised "very fine people on both sides" after a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville that killed one counterprotester. He has maintained a running battle over Twitter with prominent African-American athletes about their protests against racial injustice.

As Trump's first year ends and Republicans face 2018 elections, most of his supporters have stayed loyal. But not all of them.
As he took office, a Gallup poll showed that 45 percent of Americans approved Trump's job performance. On Monday, 35 percent did.