If Americans are looking for a Labor Secretary who would be a voice for working people, Trump's pick of a fast-food billionaire won't super-size their prospects.
Donald Trump would agree that America was “great” during the 1950s (at least for white people). But he doesn’t want to emulate President Dwight Eisenhower’s 90 percent tax rate for the richest Americans. Nor does he like Ike in his nomination of Andrew Puzder as Secretary of Labor.
Eisenhower’s first Labor Secretary was Martin Durkin, a member of the “Nine Millionaires and a Plumber” cabinet. Durkin was the plumber. He resigned in frustration when Eisenhower refused to revise the Taft-Hartley Act, which imposed major constraints on unions. Sen. Robert Taft himself was said to have some remorse about how far the bill went, but by this time Taft was dead.
Durkin was replaced by James Mitchell, who had worked in FDR’s Works Progress Administration, headed labor relations for Army construction during World War II and was director of labor relations for Bloomingdale Brothers. Mitchell was a progressive Republican who supported unions’ right to organize and named the first African-American to the level of Assistant Secretary. Ike’s relations with labor were generally cordial: AFL-CIO President George Meany famously said that during his two terms “everything is booming but the guns.” Union membership reached its peak and the American middle class expanded.
Mitchell was the kind of person who typically serves as Secretary of Labor. Ever since the pioneering Frances Perkins, the first woman cabinet member (1933-1945), this was the most senior position in the administration to advocate for working people and at least not be hostile to unions.
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Now comes Andrew Puzder, the billionaire chief executive of CKE Restaurants, parent of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s. Puzder opposes a higher minimum wage and the labor protections instituted by the Obama administration. He discussed the benefits (to shareholders, at least) of replacing human workers with robots, saying, “They’re always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex or race discrimination case.”
If that’s not enough to disqualify him, he’s also drawing fire on the right for supporting comprehensive immigration reform.
Puzder shows how the con-man-in-chief played the white working class, to the extent that they voted based on their economic discontent. Puzder and much of the other cabinet are the kind of billionaires who have gutted good jobs and robbed towns of their economic crown jewels.
At least so far, evidence hasn’t emerged that Puzder was talking with Russian intelligence. There are 12 Carl’s Jr. in Russia.
[UPDATE: As of 1 p.m. PST, the New York Times is reporting that Puzder has withdrawn amid falling GOP support).
Today’s Econ Haiku:
Most of the bonus
Went to the port’s managers
Their ship has come in