But to believe that Trump's political fortunes are all about his empathy for and ability to speak to the American working class, you must first ignore the growing body of evidence that many of Trump's voters appear motivated -- at least to some degree -- by Trump's call for a temporary ban on all Muslim immigration, his plan to deport just over 11 million undocumented immigrants, his plan to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico and his support for a repeal of birthright citizenship. And to stick with the white working-class economic anxiety theme, one must absolutely block out the truth about who comprises the modern American working class.
The share of white workers who rank among the working class is rapidly declining, and the portion who are white men is absolutely heading in the same direction. In her new book, "Sleeping Giant: How the New Working Class Will Transform America," Tamera Draut explores how the changing demographics and job duties of America's new core workforce have contributed to a decline in political attention and cultural respect afforded the working class. American culture just does not foster the same regard for home health-care workers and people putting in work at Walmart as it did for men who once assembled boat-sized cars and erected record-setting skyscrapers in American cities.
A firm reminder of this reality emerged Wednesday from that mysterious but often ignored space called plain sight. The Obama administration unveiled a new overtime pay rule slated to go into effect Dec. 1. (A path remains for the Republican-controlled Congress to block the new rule.)
The rule sets a new and far-higher wage threshold for who is and is not eligible for overtime pay. It also requires a reset of that figure every three years. In simple terms, the Obama administration thinks too many employers have taken advantage of a 12-year-old standard that allowed employers to classify workers as exempt from overtime pay based on their duties or a paycheck of as little as $415 per week. These workers were then often scheduled or given workloads that required them to spend more than 50 hours a week on their jobs. Now, the Obama administration has created a new, simplified pay-based standard of $913 per week. Those earning less than that generally will be eligible for overtime. These people, in effect, are the American working class.
And when you look at who will benefit from the rule change, it's not exactly a snapshot of a Donald Trump voter. Take a close look at the chart below. It depicts a May Economic Policy Institute analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data. The institute's researchers estimated that as many as 12.5 million workers stand to gain some income or added free time thanks to the new rule.
Just to be totally clear, there are more women than men who will benefit from this change. And black and Latino workers together comprise about 28 percent of those who stand to gain from the rule change. Similarly, about 33 percent of these workers are parents, and 36 percent are millennial workers between the ages of 16 and 34. Sure, there are men in this group, and plenty of white men too. But they just don't comprise the lion's share of the working class dealing with stagnant wages that it appears many people believe.
And it's these figures that make some people believe that the rule change will do a lot to boost household-level financial fitness and slash the gender and race wage gaps. Now, no one should take that to mean that these problems will evaporate on Dec. 1. They will recede, a bit. How much will depend on precisely how employers decide to respond to the new rule.
Proponents of the measure -- which include liberal economists such as those working for the Economic Policy Institute, labor unions and employee rights organizations -- say forcing employers to pay these workers overtime will encourage some to take the cheaper option. These employers will raise some of their workers' wages to the new $913 a week, no-overtime standard. Some will give additional hours to existing lower-paid workers already eligible for overtime pay or hire new workers to fill the gap. Either way, workers will get more money or free time.
Opponents of the change, which include House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), argue that it will force employers to hire fewer workers and shed some existing ones to cover the rising cost of wages. Ryan released a statement calling the rule change "an absolute disaster for our economy."
This, of course, brings us back to the modern working class and the Trump political machine. The chart above really does not depict the heart of the Trump voter coalition. It does, however, look a lot like modern-day America's broader population, its total workforce and its electorate.