President Donald Trump’s major economic policy actions in his first 39 days form a concerning agenda that puts corporate profits ahead of everyday Americans. After just one month in office, President Trump has already endangered Americans’ retirement savings and access to expanded overtime pay and affordable mortgages. While President Trump has undermined the economic security of the middle class, he has also ensured that the wealthy have benefited by beginning to rollback regulations on the financial and energy industries. A new Center for American Progress Action Fund analysis found that President Trump’s early policy actions set the middle class on a path to lose nearly $189.5 billion over the next decade or, on average, $1,331 per middle-class household. Meanwhile, these same policies will provide Wall Street and Big Industry $106 billion over the same period.
Nearly $189.5 billion cost to the middle class
Trump’s executive order takes $150 billion over 10 years from middle-class retirees
One of President Trump’s first executive orders was aimed at eliminating the fiduciary rule. Also known as the conflicts of interest rule, the fiduciary rule protects Americans saving for retirement from self-dealing financial advisers who line their own pockets instead of acting in the best interest of their clients. According to a U.S. Department of Labor analysis, before the fiduciary rule, the underperformance associated with conflicts of interest—in the mutual funds segment alone—was expected drain $210 billion from American individual retirement accounts, or IRAs, over the next 10 years. Getting rid of the fiduciary rule might make financial advisers very happy, but it will cost retirees $210 billion over the next 10 years.
Given that IRA accounts are the only tax-advantaged retirement savings vehicle available to virtually all of America’s workers, the effect on the middle class will be severe. In 2013, nearly 30 percent of all U.S. households had an IRA and the median household income for these families was $93,000. Rolling back the fiduciary rule will once again allow self-dealing financial advisers to conceal potential conflicts of interest and put their own interests ahead of their clients. This will directly reduce the value of retirement savings accounts held by many middle-class Americans. According to the Internal Revenue Service, in 2014, 71 percent of the market value in IRA’s was held by taxpayers with an income level of under $200,000 per year. As a result, these families will lose $150 billion over 10 years from Trump’s actions.
Trump’s attempt to rollback overtime protections will cut the expected wages of 4.2 million workers by $12 billion
Last year, the U.S. Department of Labor expanded overtime protections and directly benefited 12.5 million workers and extended overtime benefits to 4.2 million workers. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals paused enforcement of the rule in November, 2016. The Obama administration challenged that ruling. Last month, however, the Trump administration took its first step toward halting the lawsuit and killing the rule. Trump’s actions to kill the rule will cut the expected wages of an estimated 4.2 million workers—all of whom make less than $50,000 a year—by $12 billion over the next 10 years.
Trump’s actions on Federal Housing Administration premiums will raise costs for homeowners by $27.5 billion over the next 10 years
On his first day in office, President Trump made it more expensive for nearly 1 million American homeowners to pay their mortgage bills in 2017. The Trump administration blocked a planned decrease to Federal Housing Administration, or FHA, insurance premiums that would have saved new homebuyers and homeowners refinancing their mortgages with FHA an additional $500 on their annual mortgage payments, on average, this year alone. Over the next 10 years, American homeowners could pay $27.5 billion more in insurance fees on FHA mortgages than they would have had the Trump administration allowed the relief to take effect.
Nearly $106 billion boon to Wall Street and Big Industry
Trump’s executive order aims to rollback capital requirements for Wall Street, giving them a $100 billion windfall
Trump’s attempts to rollback Wall Street reforms aim to allow Wall Street banks to reduce their capital, making them less resilient to potential losses and more likely to decrease lending over the long term. According to RBC Capital Markets, the top six banks have over $100 billion in capital above the legally required minimums. But rather than raise the still-too-low minimums to ensure that taxpayers are better protected against “too big to fail” and bailouts, Trump’s rollback of Wall Street reforms will likely allow the big banks to use even more risky debt and let their executives receive even higher paychecks. And, instead of lending, banks will likely provide a $100 billion windfall to management and major stockholders. This extra cash to Wall Street will mostly take the form of dividends and stock buybacks, which primarily benefit the wealthy. Stock buybacks, in particular, line the pockets of Wall Street’s top executives and hedge funds while undermining the amount of economic prosperity that flows to the middle class.
The actions of both Trump and Congress to gut environmental protections will give the oil, gas, and coal industries nearly $6 billion
Trump and the Republican-led Congress have wasted no time rolling back environmental protections, to the delight of the oil, gas, and coal industries. Trump has already signed a bill, H.J. Res. 41—which then-Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson once lobbied for—that overturns protections against corruption in the oil industry. By enabling the oil industry to bypass common sense anti-bribery and transparency standards when trying to gain access to foreign oil reserves, the bill delivers an estimated $2.16 billion in benefits and cost savings to multinational oil companies over the next 10 years.
Trump and Congress also killed the Stream Protection Rule, which protected the safety of Americans’ drinking water from being polluted by toxic coal mine waste. Trump promised to rollback this rule on his transition website and signed legislation rolling it back, handing the coal industry $810 million over the next 10 years.
Finally, the Republican-led Congress and President Trump are angling to overturn the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s Methane and Waste Prevention Rule, a protection that reduced the waste of taxpayer money and cut air pollution. Rolling back this rule gives the oil and gas industry up to $2.79 billion over the next decade.
In total, Trump’s first steps toward gutting environmental protections amount to a $6 billion gift to the oil, gas, and coal industries over the next decade, while shifting the costs of increased pollution and higher health costs to America’s families.
Further enriching the wealthy by hurting the middle class
In just 39 days, President Trump has already issued policies that cost middle-class families nearly $189.5 billion over the next decade. While hurting working Americans, Trump has taken steps to provide Wall Street and Big Industry nearly $106 billion. It hasn’t taken long for Trump to line the pockets of those at the top at the expense of the middle class.
Molly Cain is a Senior Researcher in the Center for American Progress Action Fund War Room. The author would like to thank Corey Ciorciari, Joe Valenti, and Jenny Rowland for their help with this column.