Donald Trump Is Wrong. Hiring Workers Isn’t a Sacrifice.

"I even pay them more than the minimum wage. I'm basically Jesus."

“I even pay them the minimum wage. I’m basically Jesus.”

In all the Trump-related news that happened over this hellacious weekend, I just wanted to highlight one specific thing that Donald Trump said. When asked by George Stephanopoulos from ABC News to respond to gold star father Khizr Khan’s claim that he has sacrificed nothing, Trump replied: “I think I’ve made a lot of sacrifices. I work very, very hard. I’ve created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures. I’ve had tremendous success. I think I’ve done a lot.”

Now. Of the many things Trump said this weekend, this is nowhere near the most shocking. His continued assault on the Khans—implying that Ghazala Khan didn’t speak at the Democratic National Convention because of Islamic law; suggesting that Khizr Khan didn’t have the “right” to challenge him on the Constitution—was so shameful that Republican leaders have had to run away from him. This weekend, in fact, was quite possibly the lowest point in a campaign that is relentlessly pitted with low points.

But I want to focus on what Trump said about “creating…jobs” as a sacrifice because it’s something that I see a lot. The 2012 Republican convention famously adopted “You Didn’t Build That” as a theme, and the speaker rotation featured business owner after business owner being applauded for hiring workers. Not featured in the speaking slate at the 2012 RNC? Actual workers.

Look: small business is a great thing. We want to create an environment that encourages as many people as possible in America to start businesses, because that’s how you create growth. Saluting employers is a wonderful and meaningful thing for a political party to do.

But. Sometimes you’ll find employers in the spotlight who complain about the expense of employing workers. They’ll argue against raising the minimum wage by calling their employees unworthy of a living wage. They’ll describe hiring workers as a sacrifice. And that’s the point when we should stand up and say something.

Hiring workers isn’t something that business owners do out of the kindness of their hearts. They hire workers because they have work that needs to be done, and because they don’t have the expertise, the time, and/or the desire to do that work themselves. Workers are hired to solve problems. Without the workers, problems don’t get solved and businesses fail.

This argument that paying people to work for you is a sacrifice strikes me as very similar to the argument that if employers are forced to pay employees more, they’ll turn to automation. It casts the employer as a force for good, as someone who employs people out of the kindness of their hearts when they could pursue other, more profitable avenues instead. This is not true. If Jimmy Johns could buy affordable sandwich-making robots instead of paying human workers, they would.

Employers need their workers, but to publicly admit that they need the workers would put them at a disadvantage when it comes time to negotiate salaries. Trump expects us to believe that he’s sacrificing by paying workers for their time when he’s actually fulfilling the bare minimum requirement for a businessperson. (And in fact many times he has failed to fulfill that requirement.) He’s not a hero for hiring people, and I stand with Khizr Khan: Donald Trump has sacrificed exactly nothing.

 

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Paul Constant
Paul Constant has written about politics, books, and film for Newsweek, The Progressive, the Utne Reader, and alternative weeklies around the country.