Editor's Note: This post originally appeared on Medium. Republished with permission.
By Tom Steyer
Though much about Donald Trump is chaotic and unpredictable, his overall agenda as a businessman and politician is clear and consistent: He wants to make himself more powerful, and he doesn’t care how he does it.
As a businessman, Trump preyed on the hopes and anxieties of struggling middle-class families. He cheated and scammed employees and customers alike. He left behind a trail of bankrupted companies. Past is prologue, and Trump has continued to pursue his own aggrandizement ruthlessly and relentlessly as a candidate and as president-elect.
In 2006, he rooted for the housing market collapse because, though it devastated millions of Americans, it allowed him to buy cheap property. He repeatedly stiffed contractors, plumbers, painters and other workers. He ran a fraudulent “university” to swindle hard-working Americans out of their savings. When he paid $25 million to settle scam-related lawsuits, he bragged that it was a good deal given the possibility of a far larger judgment. Through his behavior, he made it clear that his only goal was more money, more attention and more power for himself.
This hasn’t changed in the weeks since the election. His children, who will run his businesses, attend meetings with world leaders, making a mockery of the sham “blind trust” arrangement. After a conversation with Argentina’s president, reports suggested that a long-delayed Trump project in Argentina would move forward. Trump has positioned his Washington hotel as a destination for visiting dignitaries, giving foreign governments the opportunity to pay the president while seeking favors — one of several Trump conflicts that could violate the United States Constitution.
As president, Trump’s economic proposals will bend our very economy and tax system to his purposes. His approach is strikingly familiar: He isn’t worried about hurting American families.
The billionaire who refused to pay his workers says that the wages of American workers are “too high.” Yet lower wages mean more poverty, a weaker economy and shrinking prosperity. That’s why higher minimum wages are a wildly popular idea, even with Republican voters. But not with those, like Trump, who rig the economic system to favor themselves.
While advocating pay cuts for workers, Trump has proposed tax cuts for the super wealthy. Because Trump broke with decades of bipartisan precedent by refusing to release his tax returns, we cannot know precisely how much he would profit from these, but he said he didn’t pay taxes for years because he was “smart.” If he thinks that “smart” means being entirely focused on his own interests and jimmying the rules, why would we expect him to change?
During the campaign, Trump feigned sympathy for working families while peddling the false promise of a return to the old days of a vibrant American manufacturing sector fueled by coal and other fossil fuels.
This promise was never serious and will quickly hit an insurmountable roadblock: technology. In the 21st century, our country and our economy will run on computers and automation. Increasingly, it will run on clean energy, not fossil fuels. The idea that he can restore the economy of the 1950s was always a false promise — another Trump University, Trump Steaks or Trump Vodka.
In any case, reverting to a dirty, fossil fuel-based system would hurt business. It would increase costs, pollute our air and water, and negatively impact the health of American families. (Not to mention the immense human and economic costs of global warming caused by burning more fossil fuels.) It would also kill one of the strongest and fastest-growing job creators in the country: clean energy.
But Trump wants to recut the pie, not grow it. If the pie is shrinking, he can pit us against each other, sow discord, and keep us too busy fighting each other to notice his lack of ideas.
As one who spent 30 years in business, I know Trump’s selfish, divisive agenda is the exact opposite of what we need. Trump’s proposals will lead to stagnation, at best. A breakdown in international economic cooperation, which he threatens, could lead to much worse.
What we need — instead of Trump’s rigged rules for the wealthy — are higher wages for workers and new rules to increase economic fairness at a time of historic shift. The problem isn’t just jobs going to other countries; it’s the hollowing-out of good-paying, middle-class jobs by technology. The tech-driven economy leads to a two-tier job market where workers are either critical or “commodity.” This divisive “winner-take-all” mentality hurts most Americans and worsens economic inequality.
That’s the biggest issue today, and the answer is clear: a sustainable economy powered by clean energy, and an economy where the rules work for the many rather than the few.