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Forgetting the Forgotten: 101 Ways Donald Trump Has Betrayed his Populist Agenda

By Alan Zibel

Last we checked, handing over our government to giant corporations and Republican mega-donors was not part of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

Unfortunately, it has been a defining feature of his administration.

Trump has often said he would govern for the benefit of the middle class. In his postelection victory speech and inaugural address nearly one year ago, Trump claimed that “the forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.”

More recently, Trump blurted out the truth about which interests he actually represents.  “You all just got a lot richer,” Trump told friends at a holiday dinner at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, where the initiation fee is $200,000.

Trump was bragging about the giant tax cuts for big corporations and wealthy people he had signed into law that morning. But he could have been referring to any number of deregulatory moves and giveaways his administration has enacted on behalf of the super-rich – from tax breaks for families who send their kids to private school to cutbacks on worker safety protections.

The sad reality is that decision after decision by the Trump administration will benefit ultra-rich elites — at the expense of everyday American families. It’s all a stark betrayal of the populist promises Trump made as a candidate.

Much like other populist plutocrats who have come to power around the world, Trump used anti-elite rhetoric to gain office, then performed an about-face to govern for the benefit of the very elites he derided as a candidate.

We chronicled 101 examples of how Trump has contradicted his campaign’s populist agenda and betrayed the interests of his own supporters:


  1. Failing to divest his businesses: Trump maintained ownership of his businesses around the globe, leaving him vulnerable to the influence of foreign governments and other corporate interests. While Trump has turned over day-to-day control of his business to his sons, he has spent roughly a third of his time at Trump properties.
  2. Failing to release his tax returns, leaving a confusing and complex picture of his finances and business entanglements for the public to decipher.
  3. Staffing his administration with corporate insiders: Trump’s initial “landing teams” at federal agencies were chock full of corporate executives, corporate lawyers  and former lobbyists. When it came time to nominate permanent officials, nearly 70 percent of sub-Cabinet officials had a clear corporate connection.
  4. Naming a cabinet full of plutocrats: Trump named a corporate cabinet with deep connections to ExxonMobil, Goldman Sachs, Koch Industries, Devon Energy, Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics, among others.
  5. Hiring more than three dozen former lobbyists to handle the same issues on which they lobbied within the past two years.
  6. Picking a former Goldman Sachs executive to run his economic team: Not a shred of shred of populism here. Gary Cohn, the National Economic Council director, reaped more than $280 million by liquidating his Goldman Sachs holdings. Cohn was so enthused by a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity to cut taxes for the rich that he set aside misgivings about Trump’s failure to denounce neo-Nazis. And instead of resigning, he worked with Republicans to enact tax-cut legislation that will deliver massive benefits to his Wall Street friends
  7. Hiring more than 40 officials with close ties to the Koch brothers: Koch hires are staffing the White House, Environmental Protection Agency, Interior, Energy, and Treasury departments. They are pushing to shrink the size of government, cut aid for the needy, lower corporate taxes, loosen environmental regulations and open up public land to oil and gas extraction.
  8. Following the Koch Brothers agenda: Before Trump’s inauguration, a Koch brothers group published a target list of rules that constrain big corporations. Most of that to-do list has now been accomplished.
  9. Rushing cabinet nominees through the Senate without fully vetting  conflicts of interest and other ethics issues.
  10. Doing the bidding of big business by directing federal agencies to repeal two existing federal regulations for every new one without considering benefits to health, safety and the environment. (Public Citizen is suing the Trump administration over this action.)
  11. Keeping secret the names of who is meeting with top Trump administration officials. (Public Citizen is fighting back by filing a lawsuit against the U.S. Secret Service, seeking to compel the agency to release visitor logs.)
  12. Meeting with executives from more than 300 corporations in the early months of his presidency, three times as many meetings as President Obama held in the bulk of his time in office.
  13. Failing to “drain the swamp:” Trump’s election has been the opportunity of a lifetime for people in the influence business, as 44 individuals with ties to Trump or Pence have acted as registered lobbyists in 2017, according to a Public Citizen analysis.
  14. Withholding documents about his Washington, D.C. hotel: The Trump International Hotel which opened before the 2016 election, was constructed in a public building just blocks from the White House, resulting in highly unusual situation of a president deriving financial benefit from a private business used by entities with business before the U.S. government. Seventeen members of Congress have sued to  challenge a decision by the U.S. General Services Administration to withhold documents relating to Trump’s lease on a federal building.
  15. Putting severe strains on the Secret Service budget with bloated travel spending for Trump and his family. Trump has visited one of his properties on roughly a third of the days he has been in office, according to NBC News.
  16. Playing a lot of golf: After claiming during the campaign that “I’m going to be working for you, I’m not going to have time to go golfing, believe me.” Trump has made more than 90 trips to one of his golf resorts.


  17. Going soft on corporate offenders: Trump’s Justice Department announced a new policy to forgo criminal charges for companies that admit bribing foreign officials. This decision to let corporations off the hook will foster more bribery, more corruption and more stripping of resources from poor countries.
  18. Encouraging private corporations to run prisons: Attorney General Jeff Sessions ended an Obama prohibition against for-profit businesses detaining federal prisoners. In May, the Justice Department awarded GEO Group $664 million in federal contracts.
  19. Criminalizing poverty: Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded  an Obama-era Justice Department letter that advised courts to not hit poor defendants with fines and fees they can’t afford.
  20. Proposing to eliminate funding for legal services that assist the poor.
  21. Encouraging police to take private property without proof of a crime.


  22. Giving colleges that don’t deliver a real education a free pass: Trump’s Education Department is delaying and reworking  a rule designed to protect students in career-oriented schools from programs that fail to deliver an education that prepares them for employment. Under the Obama-era “gainful employment” rule,the Education Department can cut off federal student loan money to programs that leave graduates with high levels of debt relative to their earnings.
  23. Making debt relief harder to get for students deceived by for-profit colleges: The Trump administration is also trying to gut protections for students defrauded by predatory for-profit colleges and career training programs. These Obama-era rules create a more transparent and specific debt relief process to be used by students whose colleges engaged in fraud and misrepresentation. (Public Citizen is suing to keep these “borrower defense” rules in place.)
  24. Ending cooperation between regulators charged with policing student loan industry:  Trump’s Education Department ended an agreement to share consumer complaints about student loans and information about student loan payment collectors with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The arrangement benefited consumers by allowing both agencies to crack down on predatory institutions and compensate students.
  25. Hiring a for-profit college lawyer to work as special assistant to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
  26. Giving tax breaks to wealthy families who can afford private schools: Tax legislation signed by Trump allows parents to use college savings accounts known as 529 plans for private and religious school tuition.


  27. Putting the future of human civilization at risk by ignoring climate change: Trump issued an executive order aimed at undoing President Obama’s Clean Power Plan and plans to pull out the United States from the Paris climate agreement.
  28. Picking an advocate for polluters to run the Environmental Protection Agency:  As Oklahoma’s attorney general, Scott Pruitt received more than $300,000 in contributions from the fossil fuel industry. This partnership between polluters and Pruitt has continued at the EPA, where he has targeted 19 rules for rollback and scaled back the agency’s enforcement activities.
  29. Weakening fuel economy standards: Trump ordered the review of Obama-era rules would raise the average vehicle’s official gas mileage to more than 50 miles per gallon by 2025. Big automakers like Ford and Volkswagen are working behind the scenes with the administration on the rollback.
  30. Hiring a former chemical industry trade group official to lead the EPA office that regulates the chemical industry.
  31. Refusing to ban a pesticide that causes brain damage in kids: Trump’s EPA refused to ban a brain-damaging pesticide sold by Dow Chemical, which contributed $1 million to Trump’s inauguration and whose CEO has met with Trump five times.
  32. Scaling back the EPA’s efforts to enforce pollution laws, while doing the bidding of a major coal baron.
  33. Making it easier for big companies to pollute our water: Under Trump, the EPA wants to eliminate a rule updating clean water regulations to make sure Americans’ drinking water isn’t contaminated by things like toxic pesticides that run off of golf courses, including the dozen owned by President Trump.
  34. Watering down protections against toxic chemicals: Trump’s EPA has weakened rules for evaluating dangers posed by thousands of chemicals used by consumers. The EPA will only evaluate most likely uses for a chemical rather than all uses for that chemical, a move that eliminates risks posed by spills and leaks of chemicals.
  35. Proposing to eliminate programs that protect kids from dangerous lead paint.
  36. Picking a climate change denier to run the Energy Department: Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who now runs the Energy Department,  has sharply criticized the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, which sought to lower carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. While in Texas, he sued the Environmental Protection Agency as part of a state effort to block the plan’s implementation. He has been an outspoken denier of the scientific consensus surrounding human-caused climate change. Until January 2017, he sat on the board of directors of Energy Transfer Partners, the corporation behind the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline.
  37. Propping up dirty energy: The Energy Department, under Perry has been pushing to bail out owners of outdated and environmentally damaging coal and nuclear power plants but was rejected by a federal energy regulator.
  38. Closing an Energy Department office that worked on international climate change.
  39. Leaving coastal communities vulnerable to flooding by revoking an Obama-era order requiring federal agencies to consider the future impact of climate change in federal infrastructure projects.
  40. Picking a fossil fuel enthusiast to run the Interior Department: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has said he believes in man-made climate change but has nonetheless been a big supporter of opening up public lands and waters to energy exploration, putting our planet’s future at risk.
  41. Repealing fracking rules that would have set environmental limitations and established disclosure requirements for use of the oil and gas fracking on public lands.
  42. Rolling back offshore drilling safety rules imposed after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion, which caused the largest oil spill in U.S. history.
  43. Renewing copper and nickel mining leases in a Minnesota wilderness area, benefiting a mining firm owned by the family of a Chilean billionaire who is Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner’s landlord.
  44. Proposing to hike entrance fees for national parks.
  45. Allowing construction of the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines, which would bring dirty fossil fuels to market and increase the risk of environmental damage from oil spills.
  46. Blocking new energy efficiency standards: Trump’s freeze on regulations put a hold on energy efficiency standards for portable air conditioners and commercial boilers. His first budget proposal would have gone further, eliminate energy efficiency requirements for appliances, automobiles and other energy-consuming applications in an effort that would raise costs for American families and consumers.
  47. Proposing to eliminate funding for low-income home heating


  48. Undoing protections against Wall Street excesses: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s has embraced the goals of big banks in his plans for the financial sector, which would undermine the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as well as the Volcker Rule, which prohibits banks from making short -term “proprietary” trades for profit.
  49. Reversing course on a promise to reestablish the separation between commercial and investment banking.
  50. Installing a former financial industry lawyer as acting Comptroller of the Currency, a top bank regulatory job. That appointee, Keith Norieka, claimed that banks’ financial health could be harmed by a rule that ensure consumers can file class-action lawsuits against financial firms, rather be forced into bank-friendly arbitration.
  51. Installing a former banker to run the OCC, despite a recent fraud settlement: Norieka was replaced by a bank executive, Joseph Otting, whose bank settled a fraud case with the federal government over reverse-mortgage practices.
  52. Blocking consumers and workers from banding together against corporations in class-action lawsuits:  Lawmakers voted to repeal a rule that would have made sure consumers can band together and seek compensation from financial firms. Vice President Mike Pence broke a tie in the Senate to overturn the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s rule which would have prevented big financial companies from using arbitration clauses to cut off class action lawsuits.
  53. Installing White House budget director Mick Mulvaney to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau despite his claim that the regulator, which created after the financial crisis as a watchdog against predatory financial practices is a “joke… in a sick, sad kind of way.” Mulvaney was placed in the job even though former CFPB director Richard Cordray had already named an acting director, Leandra English,  and has quickly put a hold on the agency’s work.
  54. Enabling predatory lenders: Under Mulvaney, the CFPB is reconsidering protections against predatory payday loans, and regulators may let banks get into the high-rate loan business.
  55. Undermining protections for retirement savers: Acting on orders from President Trump, Labor Secretary Alex Acosta has set the stage to backtrack on a Obama-era rule requiring investment advisers to act in the best interest of their clients. The Labor Department allowed the rule to go into effect over the summer, but sought public comments on how it should be revised. However many comments received by the government were fake, according to a Wall Street  Journal analysis.
  56. Abandoning a plan to cut premiums charged by a government mortgage-insurance program.
  57. Scaling back penalties for Wall Street: Trump named a corporate lawyer to lead the Securities and Exchange Commision, and the size and number of the agency’s penalties for Wall Street firms dropped shortly thereafter.
  58. Dialing back requirements that banks lend to minority communities.


  59. Ignoring small farmers by withdrawing Obama-era rules that would have empowered farmers to challenge Big Meat’s unfair practices.
  60. Undermining efforts to improve the quality of school lunches: The Trump administration has rolled back the Obama administration’s efforts to serve more nutritious foods to students, rather than sugary, salty, fatty foods that lead to obesity and poor health. Trump’s agriculture secretary, Sonny Perdue, told school nutrition officials that “your dedication and creativity was being stifled.” by the Obama-era nutrition rules.
  61. Scrapping animal welfare standards for organic meats: The Trump administration nixed an Obama administration rule that would have increased the amount of living space required for livestock and poultry and provide more access to the outdoors.
  62. Delaying improved nutrition labels: The Food and Drug Administration delayed new nutrition labels that give consumers more information about added sugar and nutrient content in packaged foods. 


  63. Endangering worker safety and health. Trump’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has bowed to industry pressure and delayed rules intended to protect workers from exposure to deadly silica dust, and  proposed to strip away worker protections from construction and shipyard workers to cancer-causing beryllium.
  64. Failing to hire workplace safety inspectors at OSHA, making it harder to issue citations for health and safety violations.
  65. Withdrawing a plan to test truck drivers for a sleep disorder: The Trump administration, in a giveaway to the trucking and rail industries, scrapped a proposal that would have required truck drivers and train engineers to be tested for sleep apnea, a fatigue-inducing disorder blamed for deadly rail crashes and several highway crashes.
  66. Repealing rules that helped states provide retirement programs to private-sector workers.
  67. Eliminating restrictions on states’ ability to require drug tests for unemployment benefits.
  68. Naming the former chairman of a coal mining firm to run the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, even though that company “repeatedly clashed”  with the mine-safety agency.
  69. Nominating a FedEx executive to lead the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Trump’s pick to lead OSHA , FedEx executive Scott Mugno serves as chairman of the anti-worker U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s OSHA Subcommittee.
  70. Cutting labor protections for fast food and hotel workers: With Trump’s appointees at the helm, the National Labor Relations Board overturned a 2015 decision that enabled workers to challenge businesses such as fast food and hotel chains over their labor practices, even if labor law violations happen at a subcontractor, employment agency or franchise.
  71. Undoing the expansion of overtime pay:  Trump’s Justice Department declined to defend the Obama administration’s overtime rule from legal challenges. This rule by the Obama-era Labor Department  would have raised incomes for more than 4 million workers by $12 billion over the 10 years by allowing more workers to qualify for overtime pay.
  72. Undercutting American workers by allowing low-wage temporary workers to compete against them: The Trump administration has raised the cap on foreign nationals employed through the H-2B visa program, which allows corporations to undercut American workers with low-wage, temporary workers. Abuse and exploitation of foreign workers hired through the program is rampant, and unions oppose raising the cap because of the harm to American workers. The same week in July that the Department of Homeland Security temporarily raised the cap to 81,000, Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Springs sought to hire 76 new H-2B workers.
  73. Allowing bosses to run stealth campaigns against unions: Trump’s Labor Department has reversed course on the requirement that businesses disclose efforts to dissuade employees from joining a labor union.
  74. Giving restaurant bosses the power to keep or redistribute workers’ tips through a “tip-stealing” rule:  The Trump administration is changing the rules so business owners can take a portion or even all of a worker’s tips or redistribute tips paid to one worker to other workers. That means an extra $5.8 billion in the pockets of employers, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
  75. Preventing workers from organizing: The Republican-controlled National Labor Relations Board made it harder for workers to form unions by repealing a 2011 decision that allowed unions to organize parts of companies for bargaining rather than the whole firm. Without the protections provided by the prior decision, companies could thwart union organizing drives by insisting on a large bargaining unit.
  76. Making it harder to find out whether workers have been injured on the job:  Trump signed legislation to repeal a requirement that employers keep records of serious workplace injuries and illnesses going back five years. Now employers must maintain injury and illness data going back only six months.
  77. Killing a rule requiring federal contractors to disclose past safety violations: Trump signed legislation overturning the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule which required contractors bidding on federal projects to disclose all labor law violations – including workplace safety violations – for the past three years. In reviewing this information, government agencies could better determine whether or not the companies merited taxpayer dollars.
  78. Scrapping an effort to collect data about unequal pay among women and men: Despite Ivanka Trump’s promise that her father would “fight for equal pay for equal work,” the Trump administration put on hold a rule that would have required large companies to report salary data by gender and race.
  79. Reducing the amount of information about workplace fatalities disclosed by the government.


  80. Nominating a former pharmaceutical company executive to run the Department of Health and Human Services:  Just weeks after denouncing “out-of-control” prescription prices, Trump nominated former Eli Lilly and Co. executive  Alex Azar  to run Department of Health and Human Services. Under Azar’s watch at Eli Lilly, prices spiked for diabetic Americans. Azar opposes measures to restrain pharma industry profiteering by having the government negotiate drug prices and limit improper marketing, while favoring weaker safety approval standards.
  81. Backtracking on a promise to negotiate prices on prescription drugs purchased through Medicare:  Trump correctly identified the solution to out-of-control drug prices, calling on Medicare to take advantage of its massive purchasing power and cut better deals for consumers. Instead, a draft presidential order that would reduce safety, help drug companies raise prices overseas and do virtually nothing to cut Americans’ drug prices
  82. Hiring a former lobbyist for giant drug company Gilead to work on pharmaceuticals in the White House, where he heads a working group on drug pricing issues.
  83. Abandoning promises to preserve Social Security: Trump pledged repeatedly during the campaign that he would protect Social Security and Medicare. He even tweeted that “I am going to save Social Security without any cuts. I know where to get the money from. Nobody else does.”  But his budget proposal contained cuts to the Social Security program for the disabled, and Trump’s Republican allies on Capitol Hill are openly discussing deep cuts to federal entitlement programs.
  84. Trying to repeal — and sabotage — Obamacare: The White House and Republican lawmakers spent months trying — and failing — to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which enabled millions of Americans to have health care. They also have slashed spending on advertising for Obamacare signups, tried to sabotage Obamacare plans by getting rid of the mandate that Americans carry health insurance and worked to use their administrative powers to undermine the law.
  85. Allowing junk health plans:  The Trump administration proposed to allow skimpy health care plans to be sold to Americans without coverage for essentials such as prescriptions and quality maternity care. These plans could be sold more cheaply and could target younger and healthier people. Those who have these plans and get sick may find themselves responsible for significant expenses, forcing them to go into debt and even bankruptcy.
  86. Failing to ensure that poor children have healthcare: The failure to reauthorize a program that provides health insurance for roughly 9 million children covered by the Children’s Health Insurance Program has unnerved working class families around the country, including many in Trump-supporting states.
  87. Dialing back the use of fines against nursing homes that harm residents:  Under pressure from the nursing home industry, the Trump administration is discouraging Medicare officials from issuing fines to nursing homes, even if a resident dies.
  88. Allowing states to impose work requirements on poor people who receive their health care through Medicaid.


  89. Misleading the public about who will benefit from Trump’s tax plan: Trump adviser Gary Cohn claimed “the wealthy are not getting a tax cut” then shifting to assert that he was  “really not upset” that the wealthy are getting a tax cut, then saying, perhaps most accurately, that “The most excited group out there are big CEOs about our tax plan.”
  90. Failing to publish a thorough analysis of how the GOP’s tax cut plan would be funded: The Trump administration claimed that its tax legislation would pay for itself, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin promised an analysis to prove the point. In the end, all Treasury published was a one-page document that a former Obama economic official called an “embarrassing joke.
  91. Removing from the Treasury Department website a 2012 study refuting Mnuchin’s claim that corporations would pass most of the savings from tax cuts to their workers.
  92. Repeatedly lying about how the Trump tax cut would affect his personal finances:  Trump falsely claimed that Republican tax-cutting legislation “is going to cost me a fortune” even though several provisions directly benefit Trump and his family. Lower taxes for so-called pass-through corporations Trump’s empire includes about 500 of them – would enable him to slice his tax rate by a third or more.
  93. Heeding the wishes of a phalanx of tax lobbyists: More than half of the lobbyists in DC worked on tax issues this year. That’s more than 6,000 lobbyists, all too many of which are corporate mouthpieces plying for more loopholes and giveaways, according to Public Citzen research.
  94. Making rich families even richer: The Republican tax bill loweres the top tax rate for the wealthiest Americans and allows families with incomes of up to $500,000 claim a tax credit of $2,000 per child.
  95. Doing the bidding of big corporations: The GOP tax bill lowers the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21% even though corporate profits are at their highest in more than a decade.  It gives a tax holiday to corporations that have evaded taxes by parking profits overseas,  and providing them with incentives to transfer more profits and jobs overseas. It also gives big breaks to owners of real estate such as Trump, Kushner and Sen. Bob Corker (R.-Tenn.)
  96. Backtracking on corporate tax evasion: The Trump administration is reviewing Obama-era rules that track down on corporations that cut their U.S. tax bill by merging with foreign companies in so-called “inversions.”
  97. Caving in to hedge funds and private equity firms:  Despite Trump’s pledge to end the “carried interest” tax loophole that allows investment firms and other partnerships to pay lower taxes, the Trump tax bill failed to close this loophole.


  98. Installing a former Verizon lobbyist as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. Led by Ajit Pai, a former Verizon lobbyist the FCC voted months later to repeal net neutrality rules that keep the internet open and free.
  99. Repealing rules that prevented Internet companies from tracking the online behavior of customers without their permission.


  100. Establishing a disingenous commission to “investigate” phony allegations of voter fraud: Trump appointed Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to lead a panel studying alleged voter fraud. This commission was shut down after states objected to intrusive data requests and amid criticism that the panel as designed not to protect the integrity of the vote but to intimidate voters, especially people of color.
  101. Supporting a move by Ohio to purge its voting rolls of thousands of people who hadn’t voted in recent elections.