How Anti-Worker Venom Fueled Trump’s Government Shutdown

Tim Libretti, PhD
6 min readJan 28, 2019

Though the U.S. government has opened for business again, it is worthwhile to understand the anti-worker venom that perhaps motivated and certainly prolonged Trump’s Republican-backed government shutdown, which has the notoriety of being longest shutdown of the federal government in American history.

Justifiably, the lion’s share of the media coverage and political debate around the shutdown has focused on Trump’s anti-immigrant racism embodied in his obsessive insistence on, desire for, funding to build that infamous wall, whether literal or metaphorical. This insistence he rationalizes and roots in a mythical border crisis he has rhetorically manufactured, which, saner minds show us, bears no relation to reality, as even some Republicans admit.

An undercurrent to the shutdown that has received little to no attention, however, is the anti-worker venom that fueled and even possibly played some role in motivating the shutdown. Indeed, while Trump often frames his anti-immigrant racism as support for the American working class, recycling the hackneyed argument that “illegal” immigrants drive down wages and steal jobs from “real Americans,” we actually need to understand Trump’s anti-immigrant racism as working hand in hand with his assault on the U.S. working class as a whole.

The shutdown, if we listen closely to the loudmouth Trump whisperers, reveals these links.

Certainly, People’s World has covered the way the shutdown constituted an effective assault on workers as well as workers’, and particularly unions’, responses to the injustices the shutdown perpetrated on workers, such as forcing certain groups of federal employees to work without pay. And a previous article by John Wojcik covers in detail Trump’s complete lack of concern for workers, revealed in his repeated lies that he would somehow prevent plant closings.

And certainly the callous responses from voices in the Trump administration made clear both their thorough ignorance of how the average worker lives in America, such that they couldn’t comprehend the devastating impact of the shutdown on people’s lives, as well as their complete lack of clear. This combination of ignorance and carelessness was clear in Wilbur Ross’s dismissal of people’s hardships in suggesting workers just take out loans to survive the shutdown; in Lara Trump’s assertion that the “little bit of pain” workers were enduring was worth the sacrifice for the bigger…

Tim Libretti, PhD

Professor of Literature, Political Economy enthusiast, Dad, always thinking about the optimal world