Trump’s speech: More of the same scapegoating, racism and xenophobia
Jim Lo Scalzo/AP

WASHINGTON — Only hours before he told a joint session of Congress last night that as president he will reduce violent crime in our cities, Donald Trump signed a bill promoted by the National Rifle Association to make it easier for mentally ill people to purchase guns.

According to Trump, that’s okay because immigrants are to blame for crime.

“For that reason,” he said in his address to Congress, “we will soon begin the construction of a great wall along our southern border. … when finished, it will be a very effective weapon against drugs and crime.”

Furthermore, he said “I have ordered the Department of Homeland Security to create an office … called VOICE –- Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement.”

However, even the right wing CATO Institute, founded by the Koch brothers, has stated definitively that “immigrants are less crime prone than natives or have no effect on crime rates.”

By scapegoating immigrants, Trump diverted attention from the real cause of crime in this country: Our government has been making the rich richer while leaving millions in poverty with virtually no economic opportunities and with substandard education systems.

Overall, Trump’s entire address last night was an exercise in diversion and reeked of racism and xenophobia.

He repeatedly blamed immigrants for all our country’s ills: crime, unemployment, lack of economic security and a plummeting standard of living.

Over and over again he said that by limiting immigration “we will raise wages, help the unemployed, save billions of dollars, and make our communities safer for everyone.”

After Trump’s speech, commentators described its “tone” as “mild.” But Tom Perez, the newly elected chair of the Democratic Party, hit the nail on the head. He said on MSNBC that the address was “Steve Bannon on steroids, masked by the smile of Mike Pence.”

When he wasn’t scapegoating, Trump was hiding the real effects of his policies and programs.

And when he wasn’t lying about his goals, he did what he does best. “I play to people’s fantasies,” he wrote in The Art of the Deal, published in 1987. “… People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular.”

In other words, Trump lies.

Last night he said, “My administration wants to … help ensure new parents have paid family leave, to invest in women’s health, and to promote clean air and clear water.”

The truth? Trump strongly opposes the The Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act introduced by Democrats in the House, backs cutting federal funding for Planned Parenthood and has announced he wants to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency.

Trump said, “We should give our great state governors the resources and flexibility they need with Medicaid to make sure no one is left out.”

The truth is that the Affordable Care Act, which Trump has pledged to repeal, does just that, but Republican governors have refused to expand Medicaid coverage.

Trump said, “A new national pride [and a new surge of optimism] is sweeping across our nation.”

In fact, millions of people are living in fear of being deported or of losing Social Security and Medicare benefits. As of yesterday, before he spoke to Congress, Trump had the lowest approval rating of any new president in history.

Trump said he wants to help more families enter the middle class. Yet, less than an hour after his inauguration he signed an executive order that makes it more difficult for low income homeowners to pay off their mortgages. He is proposing to gut the Dodd-Frank Act, which prevents banks from risking the savings of working people on risky speculations. And he’s paved the way for repealing the fiduciary rule, which requires financial professionals to act in the best interests of their clients when giving advice about their retirement account. Before this rule was passed, financial advisors often steered clients toward investments that made money for the advisors themselves.

Trump said he is “imposing a five year ban on lobbying by executive branch officials –- and a lifetime ban on becoming lobbyists for a foreign government.”

Maybe so. But the truth is that large corporations no longer have to lobby government. With Trump in the White House, their representatives now run the government. And the Trump administration is riddled with people who have lobbied for or done business with many foreign governments.

Playing to “people’s fantasies,” Trump promised to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with a program that would “expand choice, increase access, lower costs, and at the same time, provide better healthcare.” He also promised that “dying industries will come roaring back to life.”

However, no one has yet designed a better plan than the ACA and two days ago Trump said Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.”

What’s more, as Republican House members hold meetings in their home districts, they are finding that thousands of their constituents are demanding “hands off the ACA.”

Bringing “dying American industries back to life” is possible, but not, as Trump proposes, by giving huge tax breaks to the super rich. Time and time again such plans, which purportedly result in “trickling down” wealth from the top one percent to everybody else, have failed. Corporations do not use their tax savings to create new jobs. They rake in higher profits by investing in other corporations.

Trump knows this to be true.

However, last night’s speech illustrated that what Trump knows to be true and what he says are two different things.

According to New Yorker Magazine writer Jane Mayer, most of Trump’s bestselling book, The Art of the Deal, was written by ghostwriter Tony Schwartz.

Mayer says that “when Schwartz began writing he realized that he needed to put an acceptable face on Trump’s loose relationship with the truth. So he concocted an artful euphemism. Writing in Trump’s voice, he explained to the reader, ‘I play to people’s fantasies … People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it ‘truthful hyperbole.’ It’s an innocent form of exaggeration—and it’s a very effective form of promotion.”

Mayer continues, “Schwartz now disavows the passage. ‘Deceit,’ he told me, is never ‘innocent.’

“He added, ‘Truthful hyperbole’ is a contradiction in terms. It’s a way of saying, ‘It’s a lie, but who cares?’ Trump, [Schwartz] said, loved the phrase.”

Read Trump’s full speech here.


Larry Rubin
Larry Rubin

Larry Rubin has been a union organizer, a speechwriter and an editor of union publications. He was a civil rights organizer in the Deep South and is often invited to speak on applying Movement lessons to today's challenges. He has produced several folk music shows.