A Secy of Labor Who Doesn’t Believe in the Minimum Wage
By John Lawrence
Trump has chosen fast food executive Andrew Puzder as Secretary of Labor. Puzder is chief executive of CKE Restaurants, the corporation that owns Hardee’s and Carls Jr fast food chains. The corporation has 3300 locations in 42 states and 28 countries. Puzder has advocated replacing human beings with machines in fast food restaurants.
He famously said, “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.”
So Puzder advocates automation in the fast food industry replacing minimum wage jobs, which are the last bastion of hope for those trying to gain a foothold in the workplace and provide for their families. These are mainly entry level positions for young people just starting out in life.
Puzder also is against the minimum wage altogether, let alone raising it to $15 an hour. He sees his job as executive of CKE as driving down the cost of labor and this means lowering the minimum wage and replacing workers with automated machines. Already he has replaced the order taking bit with machines designed by Microsoft so that customers can place an order without speaking to an employee. As Puzder has commented, machines also do a better job of “upselling.” That’s when you drive up to the kiosk and instead of the employee asking you what you want, they try to sell you the most expensive burger right off the bat. Then it’s up to you to say, “No, that’s not what I want. I want a (fill in the blank).”
So as far as Puzder is concerned, his role as Secretary of Labor will probably be to drive down the costs of labor. In other words, he will represent corporations in their continual quest to get out of actually paying people to do work. At the same time, executive salaries and stock values will go up while labor costs will be reduced by automation. Trump has said he’s going to save American jobs and not let them be offshored. Puzder will eliminate them not by offshoring, but by automation. I guess that’s a solution that’s alright with Trump. At least the jobs, those that are left, will not be leaving the country. They will simply be eliminated.
Marie Antoinnette said before the French Revolution, “Let them eat cake.” Does the Trump administration represent the Marie Antoinette moment when the peasants rise up against the machines and corporate executives who have taken their jobs from them? At least by keeping fast food prices down, the homeless and dispossessed will probably be able to afford a cheap hamburger. They will probably place their orders to the automated order takers laced with a few expletives though. But the machines won’t mind. They don’t mind taking crap from customers. They’ll just say “$2.95 at the window.”
An EPA Leader Who Doesn’t Believe in Global Warming
Trump is out to cut EPA regulations by “70 to 80 percent.” So he appoints Myron Ebell to lead the EPA transition team. Ebell is Director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a conservative think tank funded by the polluting industries like Marathon Petroleum and Koch Industries.
Ebell will oversee the dismantling of the EPA and the institution of the “coal as king” philosophy at the highest levels of government. Ebell, like Trump, is a global warming denier. It will be full steam ahead for fossil fuels under a Trump administration.
Ebell has been a major player in putting the strategy of confusing the science regarding global warming into effect. He just loves carbon dioxide and maintains that it has a salutary effect on the environment. “And as for carbon dioxide, it isn’t smog or smoke, it’s what we breathe out and plants breathe in. They call it pollution. We call it life.”
Huffington Post reports:
Myron also chairs the Cooler Heads Coalition, a coalition built to “question global warming alarmism.” Cooler Heads goes further than standard climate deniers, occasionally spreading happy visions about global warming, such as this from their December 2014 newsletter: “The natural warm up since the mid-nineteenth century, the end of the Little Ice Age, is climate change that all can applaud.” – Cooler Heads Coalition newsletter, Dec. 2014”
Ebell’s first employer was the Frontiers of Freedom Institute which lobbied extensively in favor of the tobacco industry. In a letter sent to Philip Morris in 1998, Frontiers requested more funding from Phillip Morris for several staff, including Policy Director Myron Ebell, as part of a broad campaign to make regulating the tobacco industry “politically unpalatable.” The letter stated: “Frontiers will achieve this goal by changing the debate from one about teenage smoking and industry practices to one about massive tax increases, bigger government and loss of individual freedom.”
So Ebell’s career has been based on deregulating the tobacco industry and confusing the public about global warming. As head of the EPA transition team, Ebell will do all he can to deregulate consumer protections regarding the environment. Arsenic and lead will be acceptable at high levels in the water supply. Whoever said that asbestos was harmful to human life? GMO vegetables will become the standard as organic foods will be shown to be a threat to the American food industry. Lobbyists for polluters will rule the day. The Dakota Access pipeline will be given the green light to go across tribal lands and pollute their water supply. This will all be in the cause of saving American jobs which are always at stake when environmental regulations go into effect. In addition Ebell will probably identify those at EPA who need to be fired based on their belief that global warming is a real and present danger.
But wait, there’s more. This just in. Trump’s pick to be EPA Chief is Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma’s Attorney General.
Science magazine said:
President-elect Donald Trump is poised to name Scott Pruitt, a prominent skeptic of climate science and an ardent foe of government action on climate change, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), according to media reports. Pruitt, the attorney general of Oklahoma, has been a leading architect of legal opposition to President Barack Obama’s climate and environmental policies.
“Healthy debate is the lifeblood of American democracy, and global warming has inspired one of the major policy debates of our time,” Pruitt and Luther Strange, the attorney general of Alabama, wrote in a May opinion piece in National Review, criticizing plans by some state attorneys general to investigate fossil fuel companies. “That debate is far from settled. Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind. That debate should be encouraged—in classrooms, public forums, and the halls of Congress. It should not be silenced with threats of prosecution. Dissent is not a crime.”
In other words let’s just argue about climate change instead of doing something about it.
Clean Air and Clean Water Will be at Risk
The Huffington Post notes:
Rolling back clean air and clean water regulations would leave our most vulnerable populations — young children and infants, the elderly, the sick — at the mercy of the good will of corporate polluters. Cutting funding for enforcement will increase the risk that bad actors run amok as responsible corporations do their part to protect public health. Nobody is safe from the dangers of air and water pollution, but impoverished and minority communities around the nation will be open to the kinds of injustice faced by the residents of Flint, Michigan from lead contamination of their drinking water.
The Trump administration is dedicated to promoting the values of deregulation. They will let corporations off the hook to maximize profits by polluting the environment freely. The costs of these externalities will not be borne by industry but by the citizenry in the form of increased health problems short term and increased weather disasters long term. Coastal flooding will become endemic as sea levels rise and glaciers melt. Fracking will leave the state of Oklahoma in a situation of constant earthquakes and consequent destruction. Homeowners in the state are already suing the energy companies for the destruction they’re causing.
So Trump is appointing a veritable basket of deplorables who care nothing about the average American family, their jobs or their health care since all are in favor of getting rid of the Affordable Care Act which is badly in need of revision anyway due to rising premiums for those enrolled in it. The pharmaceutical industry is largely responsible for that as they continue to raise prices with reckless abandon. The Trump administration will do nothing to rein them in.
Common Dreams reported:
SEIU International president Mary Kay Henry said Puzder’s intended nomination exposes Trump as “out-of-touch…with what working Americans need.”
“Throughout his career, Andrew Puzder has shown he does not believe in the dignity of all work and has used his position to line his own pockets at the expense of workers,” Henry said. “In 2012, Puzder made $4.4 million, a full 291 times more than the average food worker. He doesn’t support measures that would help families who work hard to build a better life, such as the overtime rule, which would put more money in the pockets of millions of workers for the extra work they do. He wants machines to replace workers because robots ‘never take a vacation’—even though robots can not ever replace the work that people do. He has stood with Republican congressional leaders who want to repeal the Affordable Care Act—even though his underpaid workers and millions of working Americans depend on it for healthcare.”
Which one is worse — Puzder or Ebell or Pruitt? It’s hard to say. What can be said is that all represent a regression into the Dark Ages of global warming denial and the increasing serfdom of the American people as the economic divide widens. Right wing extremists are getting everything they want, including all three branches of government. The Marie Antoinette moment is close to being at hand.