Trump Republican Support Base: Construction Firm Owners

Construction firm owners throughout the US are unified in their appreciation for Trump-led policies like diminished corporate income taxation (down to 21%), the removal of labor protections like the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Act, and federal infrastructure investment. Despite regionalized labor strategies, they are committed to maintaining their solidarity as owners along with their support for Trump Republicanism.

The US construction labor market has been developed so that it cannot be sustained without sub-socially-average wages. Thus, construction labor wages and markets are tiered in two different regionalized ways in the US.

In deunionized US regions, construction firm owners depend on imported labor from global regions with lower social reproduction costs. 25% of the US’s construction labor are immigrants or migrants. With not only reduced rights, but also the complete absence of state rights protection, these workers are highly vulnerable to wage theft and inhumane working conditions, which class predation is institutionalized and normalized in anti-union regions. Latino workers are at higher risk of on-the-job fatalities than other workers, according to a recent report from the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), and 67% of Latino workers killed on the job are immigrants. In 2016, 991 construction workers were killed, which was the highest number of any sector.

Firmly in real estate capitalist Trump’s political coalition, construction firm owners in unionized construction regions are not directly, negatively impacted by anti-immigration policy. For flexible, cheap labor, construction firm owners in unionized economies, like New York, use high school graduates, women, and veterans in apprenticeship programs. Their second option for obtaining cheap, flexible construction labor is importing construction labor from deunionized US regions, as North Dakota did to build oil fracking infrastructure.

The democratic advantages of the union-region approach to below-market cost, flexible construction labor are that there is possibility for below-cost apprentice labor to eventually move into working at social reproduction cost. Depending on to what extent women are transitioning from apprenticeship to full-paid work, apprentice-based cheap labor may or may not eventually de-gender the construction labor market. The economic costs of the union-region apprenticeship system are socialized and spread over time: It requires public subsidy to firm owners for the employment of that cheap, flexible labor market, and it saddles those workers with apprentice backgrounds with lower lifetime earnings, which will suppress their consumption capacity and intergenerational social reproduction relative to workers paid at the socially-average wage.

However they are differentially-impacted by anti-immigration policy, they are unified by anti-immigrant, anti-worker, and pro-capitalist policies, and construction firm owners are able to prioritize owner solidarity.  Together they are calling for the expansion, to construction firms, of ag owners’ slaver exemptions from labor laws. US policy, rooted in the slaver-region institutions and relations that had to be maintained in the New Deal, exempts ag and domestic workers from state-protected citizenship rights, including civil rights, political rights, social citizenship rights, and human rights.

While expanding labor power resources, the New Deal also expanded slavers’ labor institutions across the agriculture-dominated regions, so that Southern Democrats were able to secure some of the slavery-expansion ambitions that the 1861-1865 Civil War foiled.

If such an exemption is granted, the current occupation of the US presidency, by real estate capital, may facilitate construction owners to further expand slavers’ labor institutions, shifting more weight in the US to the appropriation base of the capitalist economy.

It is for such reasons–opposition to slavery–that at the very least, the liberal-left should learn from all its regrets at repeatedly joining neoliberal intervention coalitions sold on behalf of the marginalized, including education privatization, managerializations and surveillance, and carceral expansion.

It is time to become politically literate to the fact that conservatism has an altruistic brand, and it has always been aestheticization and patronage of the marginalized, the exception. And yet, neoliberalization, the conservatization of liberalism, has not been, as it was philosophically marketed, a corrective to the excesses of egalitarianism. It offered us moral “sweeteners” for the marginalized, and diverted us from just egaliberte development.

Now here we are, with egaliberte at the vanishing point in the rearview mirror, with conservatism fully at the helm, and attempting to offer an expensive, wasteful, lame sweetener–a border wall–not for the margins, but symbolically for average people and materially, substantively for their construction bosses. This is what elitists call populism. It is time to consider the ways in which a contrasting egaliberte approach can alone humanize and liberate both average people and the exceptionally-dehumanized, at the cost of isolating those among the exceptionally-superhumanized who will not use their entitlements for democratic advancement–a cost which would be a benefit.

When I was in political policy, we had to, standard, concoct “sweeteners” to package with (and market) policies that civil society groups would dislike. For Republican coalition members like construction firm owners, that packaging is reversed, as massive social wealth is funneled to them, with bitter (or small annoyance) pills tucked in to maintain the broader coalition.

Construction owners in the Trump coalition contemplate the Trump regime’s package of gifts and bitter pills. The chief bitter pill for construction owners is reduced access to migrant labor, but this only immediately impacts construction firm owners in deunionized regions.

The US government gave construction firm owners the following gifts, acknowledged in the industry’s online reporting:
1) Reduction of the official corporate income tax rate down to 21%.
2) Making labor more vulnerable: Dismantling labour protection legislation, including the Labor’s Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Act.
3) Proposal for $200 BN in federal infrastructure spending, with bipartisan support, as post-2007 economic stimulus ends.
4) $1.2 BN in federal funding to states for vo-tech training for the construction industry and to proliferate small business.

 

For construction trade news & analysis, see: https://www.constructiondive.com/deep-dive/

In 2004 the International Court of Justice, citing human rights and humanitarian law, ruled Israel’s settlement barriers through the West Bank to be illegal. In Israel’s online comms, it cites the following as justification for its walls clearing out Palestinians and North African immigrants and establishing Israeli settlements, and its further plans for surrounding the entire territory in a “security fence.” Note that the US plays a primary role in the justification, and Britain, Saudi Arabia, and India are also primary models of–and possibly exponents of–the policy and militarized gating market.

“The United States is building a fence to keep out illegal Mexican immigrants.

Spain built a fence, with European Union funding, to separate its enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla from Morocco to prevent poor people from sub-Saharan Africa from entering Europe.

India constructed a 460-mile barrier in Kashmir to halt infiltrations supported by Pakistan.

Saudi Arabia built a 60-mile barrier along an undefined border zone with Yemen to halt arms smuggling of weaponry and announced plans in 2006 to build a 500-mile fence along its border with Iraq.

Turkey built a barrier in the southern province of Alexandretta, which was formerly in Syria and is an area that Syria claims as its own.

In Cyprus, the UN sponsored a security fence reinforcing the island’s de facto partition.

British-built barriers separate Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods in Belfast.” –AICE Jewish Virtual Library

Open Borders has been the longtime position of the Chamber of Commerce. But since the rise of the DHS’s E-Verify employer-worker surveillance program at the turn of the 20th century, and subsequently I-9 software programs, and particularly since Trump instituted the Family Separation policy, the Chamber and the Business Roundtable have led a coalition of legal institutes, particularly immigrant-defending legal institutes, and organizations opposing ethnic and racial discrimination, around the fight for the Chamber’s Open Borders interest.

They are opposed by those software firms selling HR departments I-9 software, as well as by private prison corporation Southwest Key (Texas nonprofit that repurposes Walmarts into prisons as well as owning charter schools. Its CEO makes $1.5/year.); MVM (Virginia prisoner transport business); Comprehensive Health Services (Florida), Dynamic Services Solutions (Maryland), Exodyne-Dynamic Educational Systems (Phoenix, AZ) suppliers of child imprisonment guard staff. One-fifth of Americans today work in guard labour, according to Bowles and Jayadev.

Border Wall Profiteers:

Congress set aside $20 million grants for businesses to build border wall prototypes.

The companies chosen for the concrete prototypes were Caddell Construction of Montgomery, Ala.; Fisher Sand & Gravel/DBA Fisher Industries of Tempe, Ariz.. (HQ ND); Texas Sterling Construction in Houston; and W.G. Yates & Sons Construction in Philadelphia, Miss.

“According to the GAO report, CBP spent only about $5 million directly tied to the construction and testing of the prototypes themselves, including $3 million for the eight contracts awarded to the six companies, including two from Arizona.

Customs and Border Protection said the remaining $15 million was used for “planning activities such as environmental and real estate planning,” for the current fiscal year in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, the busiest area along the border, and the top priority to build additional fencing.” –AZ Central.

 

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Dysfunction-function junction

“Hamilton-Paterson sees the destructive impact of the ‘money men’ on industries more clearly. The catastrophic and unnecessary fate of ICI (which broke the hearts of some of my own chemical-engineering relatives) came about as men and women with long shop-floor experience and technical qualifications were pushed out of management by newcomers who claimed to be financial wizards. They weren’t. They played the great corporation for short-term stock-market gains, and they lost.

Hamilton-Paterson adds the example of Network Rail’s bungled electrification of Great Western (its cost rose in two years from £874 million to £2.8 billion). ‘That’s privatisation for you: layers upon layers of managers and accountants who know nothing about railways. The old British Rail alternative was layers upon layers of experienced railwaymen who knew nothing about accountancy but who did know exactly what electrifying a line entailed and simply got on and did it.’ Later in his book, he attacks the notion (‘holy writ’ today) that a college degree in management enrols one in a portable profession in which it hardly matters what a company does.”

Neal Ascherson, “As the toffs began to retreat” LRB 40(22).

If your goal is to play the institution housing an accretion of wealth–the corporation, or the privatized public good/service–for stock-market gains, then it very much doesn’t ever matter if you accomplish any substantive social or environmental goals.

“People talk easily about political ‘consensus’ in the postwar years. Edgerton disagrees. There was no lasting consensus between the parties on the welfare state, he says, and the idea of a ‘Butskellism’ common to Labour and Tory is a myth. Only for the ‘warfare state’ was there a consensus, to keep its secrets and to pay its vast bills. Britain’s hugely profitable arms trade is an enduring by-product of that state, and here Hamilton-Paterson contributes an unsettling thought. ‘It is the arms industry perhaps more than any other that best preserves the inventive standards and traditions of British engineering, research and technical expertise.’”–Ascherson

Michael O’Hare’s "Letter to my students"

Here is the link to Michael O’Hare’s “Letter to my Students.” Berkeley Blog 8/24/10.


An excerpt:


“Swindle – what happened? Well, before you were born, Californians now dead or in nursing homes made a remarkable deal with the future. (Not from California? Keep reading, lots of this applies to you, with variations.) They agreed to invest money they could have spent on bigger houses, vacations, clothes, and cars into the world’s greatest educational system, and into building and operating water systems, roads, parks, and other public facilities, an infrastructure that was the envy of the world. They didn’t get everything right: too much highway and not enough public transportation. But they did a pretty good job.

Young people who enjoyed these ‘loans’ grew up smarter, healthier, and richer than they otherwise would have, and understood that they were supposed to “pay it forward” to future generations, for example by keeping the educational system staffed with lots of dedicated, well-trained teachers, in good buildings and in small classes, with college counselors and up-to-date books. California schools had physical education, art for everyone, music and theater, buildings that looked as though people cared about them, modern languages and ancient languages, advanced science courses with labs where the equipment worked, and more. They were the envy of the world, and they paid off better than Microsoft stock. Same with our parks, coastal zone protection, and social services.

This deal held until about thirty years ago, when for a variety of reasons, California voters realized that while they had done very well from the existing contract, they could do even better by walking away from their obligations and spending what they had inherited on themselves.”

the context of falling bridges

Empire Burlesque has a good analysis of the crumbling US infrastructure.

See: http://www.chris-floyd.com/Articles/Articles/Everything_is_Broken%3A_Money_Power_and_the_Minneapolis_Bridge/

Look at the recent collapse of a major Minneapolis bridge. It was a bridge over 60 feet above the Mississippi, over 1000 feet long (450 of which were only supported by a steel beam inserted in 1967), smack in the middle of the city.
See: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6927113.stm.

The communications professionals are reporting it as “not involving a terrorist attack”. OK. Good semi-diversion. But what is it–and all the other growing infrastructure fatalities around the US–the result of then?

Q. What do you get after 25 years with the dogma “No taxes”?

A. The infrastructure of the US is collapsing.

Get it?

Here’s the report card on American infrastructure from the American Society of Civil Engineers:
http://www.asce.org/reportcard/2005/page.cfm?id=103.

If you want to be honest about it, it’s not just transportation infrastructure. It’s obviously education. Plus the complete lack of healthcare for the underclass. In our faith that inequality is OK, we are bringing not just the underclass but the whole society down, while the happy, blithe, unaccountable overclass builds themselves golden rafts.

With any luck, MInnesota will realize what they’ve done to themselves, vote the Republicans out, start paying taxes again, and stick in a light rail where the bridge used to be.

Don’t know where to start? Call up the Swedes. Go ahead. They speak English really well, due to their excellent and affordable PUBLIC education system. And don’t call up those fucking Alliance vultures. Call the LO economists. They’ll help you figure out how to run a vibrant society that doesn’t foster greed and corruption. I’d recommend doing it quickly, before the neoliberals eradicate social democracy and all we’ve got left is our fat asses propped up by the stump of the giving tree.

US Infrastructure Collapse

Below Christopher Dreher interviews Richard Florida on the collapse of our cities, since we have stopped trying to improve mass quality of life.

“Florida: Cities are the places that attract talent. I mean, consider that 90 percent of GDP comes out of metropolitan areas. And yet somehow some people think that we don’t need cities. Not only do we have to open our borders, we have to strengthen our cities massively because they’re the cornerstones of our ability to compete for talent. But for the past four years the Bush administration has done everything to prevent that, from huge decreases in infrastructure spending to drastic cuts in block grants.

And now most cities aren’t equipped to compete anymore. The only policy we seem to have to revive our cities is to build another stadium. What does that have to do with attracting foreign talent? Who cares? No one cares. I’ve never met one foreign-born person that said “a new stadium” was an important factor when deciding where to live and work. The national government is clueless and our cities would rather be distracted by sports mania instead of paying attention to more serious issues.

Once I heard a former high-ranking member of the Bush administration on economic policy, when asked about immigration and national security, say, “If it comes down to a question of national security and economic growth, we will always choose in favor of national security. I don’t care if it means that the next Bill Gates can’t get in …” And that’s a view shared by many members of the administration, at least what we’ve seen in policy.

But the bigger issue is not the Bush administration. The bigger issue is the class divide, which is destroying our country. And that divide is between people who are members of the creative class and fortunate enough to migrate from Pittsburgh or Cleveland or Buffalo or St. Louis to these great thriving creative centers like New York and Boston and Washington and San Francisco and Chicago and Los Angeles. Those people are doing just fine. But the people left behind got really pissed off and got angrier and angrier and madder and madder, and they looked at these cities filled with single people, filled with young people, filled with successful people, filled with immigrants, filled with people cohabitating, having fun, vibrant night life, filled with gay people, and they said “Enough’s enough!”

The blame for this situation also goes to the Democrats, because when the Democrats were in power President Clinton, whom I admire greatly, did not build a society that provided a way for these people to become part of the creative economy. So it’s this anxiety that’s grown up as a result of the rise of the creative economy — whose benefits are extraordinarily concentrated among a relatively small group of people in an even smaller group of regions — that’s ripping this society apart. And that’s what political polarization really is. It isn’t just an issue between red and blue states, it’s a political polarization which has underneath it a new economic geography of class. And it’s terrifying.

What (Franklin) Roosevelt (said is), ‘I’m going to make sure that these working-class people get to be part of the industrial economy. I’m going to build an industrial society that allows people to organize and bargain collectively, raise their wages, has affordable housing, get long-term mortgages, provides occupational safety and health, Social Security in their old age and welfare in their spells of poverty. And I’m going to make sure that their kids can go to college.’

What’s happening in Canada, in Australia, in Scandinavia — I went and met with the premiers of West Australia, South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales. I met with labor governors and liberal party mayors. All of them are building platforms, and the one in South Australia was remarkable — they invest in productivity and prosperity, invest in economic opportunity, use the market and make sure they’re a creative society with ecological sustainability and social inclusion. So the dialogue in Australia and Canada and Scandinavia is about how to build a creative or innovation economy and how to build that kind of social safety net. Or, a better phrase than social safety net would be socially inclusive innovation. It’s not so much a social safety net like the old industrial economy but it’s a way of making sure people are included as a part of it. But that dialogue isn’t happening in the United States and this is what abjectly terrifies me.

What no one really understands is that in the creative economy, what makes us different and yet the same is our creativity. Every single human being is creative. Every single human being has creative possibility. Whether it’s a blue-collar worker or somebody who cuts your hair, or somebody who waxes your back, or somebody who works in a high-tech company, or somebody who writes poems. What we all have is our creativity. And we can actually organize people on that basis. We can say, ‘We’re all different yet we’re part of the same whole thing.’ Why can’t the Democrats articulate that message?’

Dreher: Why do you say the anti-elitism of George Bush & Co. is so harmful?

Florida: Here’s a guy who went to a private prep school, to Yale and to Harvard. And he’s developed a posture as an anti-elite to cultivate the support of the people who are terrified, legitimately terrified, about how they fit into the creative economy. He’s appealing to the common man by saying, “You know what we’re going to do, we’re going to stop this. All these things you’re afraid of, we’re going to stop. We’re going to stop this gay marriage thing and we’re going to stop women’s rights, we’re going to make sure not as many immigrants will get into your country and we’re going to make sure terrorists don’t take over your cities!” It’s the old Know Nothing platform.

Dreher: The idea of promoting “socially inclusive innovation” might fly in Australia and Scandinavia, but I can’t think of any politician out there who could weather the fury of rote partisan criticism supporting that sort of change would bring out.

Florida: Yes, what scares me is that that force is absent from present-day America. Instead of bemoaning low-wage service jobs and then just talking about restoring manufacturing and dealing with outsourcing, someone somewhere has to say that the real key to the future is to make these service jobs good jobs. I mean that’s the real policy point — the service economy, which represents 40 to 45 percent of the lowest paying jobs in our economy with the least protection, has to become part of the creative economy. We have to change those jobs in the way industrial jobs were once changed from being terrible jobs to being good jobs. We’re in deep trouble if we can’t focus on and address the externalities of the creative age — income inequality, the class divide, housing unaffordability, traffic congestion, and the one also talked about in the book, the incredible amount of mental stress, which is the occupational health and safety issue of the 21st century.

The point is that if all this continues, America’s economic advantage is gone. It’ll become an intolerant place, the kind of place where lines are drawn in the sand, where gays don’t feel comfortable, where young people don’t feel comfortable, where immigrants and newcomers don’t feel comfortable. The fact is that according to our rankings, the U.S. is 20th in tolerance out of 45 countries. As a country we’re not ranking with the equivalent of the San Franciscos or Austins, we’re ranking with the equivalent of the conservative Southern areas. And that’s a huge problem.

If we fail to address this fundamental class divide — on which these evangelicals and social conservatives and all this stuff is being promulgated — if we can’t address that class divide, we are in very deep shit. And it’s not enough anymore to just say, ‘Well, we’re going to tweak our immigration policy,’ or ‘We’ll take a closer look at what’s happening to our cities.'”

(Excerpted from Dreher, Christopher. 2005. “The Gay/Hipster Index.” Salon.com, April 21. http://dir.salon.com/story/books/int/2005/04/21/florida/.)

See: http://pragid.blogspot.com/2007/07/tolerant-creative-class.html
For a review of Florida by an urban historian.

As an economist, Florida doesn’t see how the traumatic and stultifying rise of inequality relates to our subserviance to the economics dogma–our elite-dictated worship of inequality and market efficiency, as well as our incapacity to overhaul a patronage and pork barrel political system.