Editorial cartoon (2/22/2017)

Help me understand this.

During last year's presidential campaign, Donald Trump promised all of us that he was going to help America's forgotten working people who've been abandoned by the powers that be in this country. Believe me, he professed.

I'm trying to figure out, though, how this city slicker's initial actions are going to help the beleaguered working stiffs he claims to care so much about.

How, for example, is dismantling the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform going to help the country's struggling middle class? The reform was enacted because once again a loosely regulated financial sector let greed get in the way of protecting consumers and sent the nation's economy into the worst recession since the 1930s.

Millions of ordinary working Americans lost their homes and some their life savings while the money changers walked away. At least Dodd-Frank set in place rules and regulations to prevent such a debacle from happening again. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen says the new regulations have made our banks stronger and safer and refutes claims that they are slowing down loans to businesses.

Now some eight years later we're going to help the middle class by giving the keys back to the guys who drove the economy over the cliff? Worse, Trump has gathered those money changers around him to advise him on economic affairs.

And only last week, the Senate confirmed Trump's appointment of former Goldman Sachs guru Steven Mnuchin as treasury secretary. He's the Wall Street hotshot who engineered the foreclosure of thousands of homes owned by middle-class working people. Now that's really draining the swamp.

How is reversing an Obama administration rule that financial advisers have to act in their clients' interests when investing their money going to help the middle class? One of Trump's first actions was to trash that rule and allow the advisers to consider their own profits over the interests of folks who have a little money to invest. Some help for the working people that is.

Then along with Dodd-Frank, he wants to do away with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the federal agency that's charged with helping consumers who are regularly bilked by outlandish bank charges, usurious credit card interest, misleading credit terms and unfair demands.

Since the bureau was established in 2011, it has handled more than a million complaints from consumers and has helped them through some nightmarish predicaments. Plus, it has helped countless grads restructure their college debt with reluctant lenders. Doing away with the CFPB will really help the little guy. As Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman said the other day, it will "make financial predators great again."

Gretchen Morgenson, a New York Times business columnist, called the bureau "a watchdog too good at its job." That's why the big financial interests that have Trump's ear are urging him to get rid of it. We don't want to give the little guy a level playing field now, do we?

This is just for starters. There aren't going to be many farmers who will be helped by trade wars that Trump has vowed to start. Nor are there many upper-class folks among those 20 million people who, many for the first times in their lives, have health insurance under Obamacare. It, of course, is another program to help the working poor that Trump and his Republican colleagues have pledged to dump.

Trump's base contends that he's only doing what he promised — build a wall, curtail Muslims from immigrating, shake up Washington. Even my old Republican friend Tommy Thompson has fallen for that line, telling a TV talk show audience last week that Trump gets an A for his first days in office. Good thing Tommy isn't a teacher; he'd be the poster child for grade inflation.

No, Trump doesn't get an A. He hasn't delivered on one promise to improve the lives of the workers he wooed during the campaign.

When he does that rather than wallow in meaningless hyperbole to make him look tough and please his base, then we'll decide whether he deserves anything above an F.

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. dzweifel@madison.com and on Twitter @DaveZweifel

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