Plenty of Nominees for 2016 Grinch Award

--This blog by Patrick Brantlinger originally appeared in the "Herald-Times" (Jan. 30, 2017) as a guest column.

At its Jan. 11 meeting, South Central Indiana Jobs with Justice voted on nominations for Grinch of the Year for 2016. We decided not to include Donald Trump in the vote as too obvious. But, among many other Grinch-like attributes like being too “smart” to pay taxes, Trump has been sued over 4,000 times by individuals and businesses that he has “stiffed” or failed to pay what he had promised for their work. We also excluded Mike Pence, who was named Grinch of the Year not long ago. But we considered some of Trump’s picks for cabinet positions fair game. And we also selected a corporation — two of them, in fact — for Grinch-like behaviors.

First, the corporations we chose are Carrier and Rexnord. Both are closing some or all of their operations in Indiana and moving plants and jobs to Mexico. Rexnord’s closing will cost 300 jobs. Carrier agreed to retain about 800 jobs in Indianapolis while eliminating another 1,700 jobs there and at its plant in Huntington, Indiana. Both Trump and Pence claimed the Carrier deal as a great victory. Yet Carrier will receive $7 million as a tax rebate over 10 years for keeping only a third of its jobs in Indiana. Some victory!

As to the award for an individual Grinch of the Year, nominations included Andrew Puzder, Trump’s choice for secretary of Labor; Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s choice for Treasury secretary; and Betsy DeVos, Trump’s choice for secretary of Education. We agreed that most of Trump’s other picks for his cabinet would also qualify for Grinch of the Year, in large measure because most of those picks are threats to the very agencies Trump is asking them to oversee. Perhaps most ludicrous is Trump’s selection of Rick Perry, former governor of Texas, to head the Department of Energy. During a presidential debate, Perry said he would close down three federal agencies, but could not remember one of them. That agency was the Department of Energy.

Betsy DeVos came in third in our deliberations. As she has done in Michigan, in her new post as Secretary of Education, she is sure to work hard to undermine public education by privatizing as much of it as possible. Steven Mnuchin came in second. In 2009, while the American economy nosedived, Mnuchin, as head of mortgage lender IndyMac (later renamed OneWest), enriched himself through fraudulent deals. In one case, OneWest attempted to foreclose on a woman, 90 years old, because of a 27-cent payment mistake. OneWest has also been accused of refusing mortgages to people of color.

But our grand prize winner, Grinch of the Year for 2016, is Andrew Puzder, Trump’s pick to become secretary of Labor. Puzder is CEO of CKE Restaurants, including Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. Puzder is an outspoken opponent of increasing the minimum wage. If restaurants are forced to pay $15 an hour, “I think you would see a devasting impact to the country,” Puzder said on Fox News in 2014. But Seattle and other places that have raised their minimum wages show no evidence of lost jobs or businesses. According to Kendall Fells, one of the leaders of the Fight for $15 campaign, “Puzder as Labor secretary is like putting Bernie Madoff in charge of the treasury.”