Trump’s unhelpful hand to workers

It is easy to get fixated on the circus act that has taken up residence in Washington. With Ringling Brothers pulling down the tent after 146 years, as if on cue a new show featuring clownish antics and erratic policy juggling has become a nonstop attention-getter.

But whether it’s the sacking of the lead investigator looking into his campaign’s possible collusion with Russians or attacks on federal judges who don’t rule in his favor, President Trump has made it hard to pay attention to the day-to-day work his team is surely doing to make America great again — especially for the beleaguered working class whose cause he pledged to champion.

It turns out, however, there isn’t very much work of that sort to see. In fact, writes Dante Ramos in today’s Globe, the new president and his Republican allies in Congress would “rather cozy up to the financial sector than deal with the economic anxiety that helped get Trump elected.”

Everyone knows that the retirement safety net once provided by employment-based pension plans has all but disappeared. We’re on our own to plan for retirement, mainly through 401(k) savings plans now offered by many employers in place of defined-benefit pensions.

But not everyone has access to those plans. The Obama administration had put in place a rule that helped states establish automatic individual retirement account plans for workers without employment-based savings options.

The Senate voted last week to roll back that rule, and Ramos says Trump is expected to sign the repeal.

Some states already have such plans in place, and there is legislation pending in Massachusetts to launch a similar effort here. The financial services sector isn’t happy about the idea of public option plans, which could cut into their business, and their view seems to be prevailing with the new president who railed indignant in his campaign against Wall Street elites.

The irony, says Ramos, is that the idea of automatic IRAs, like the concept of an individual mandate to buy health insurance, originated with the conservative Heritage Foundation. “Washington’s current crop of Republicans isn’t interested in such wonkery,” he writes, “especially when the financial sector lines up against it.”

In Trump World, well-considered policy ideas to help the beaten down middle class, evidently, will have wait for another day.

–MICHAEL JONAS


BEACON HILL

Michael Widmer questions Gov. Charlie Baker’s claim that the number of people on Medicaid is soaring. (CommonWealth)

A new poll shows strong support among Massachusetts voters for broad criminal justice reform. (CommonWealth)

The Massachusetts House votes to give more rights to pregnant workers. (MassLive)

A MassDevelopment CEO candidate who was about to take the reins of the agency abruptly withdraws. (CommonWealth)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Worcester City Manager Edward Augustus Jr. says “the city is blossoming before our eyes.” (Telegram & Gazette)

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh has been touting Boston as “the safest city” in the country but, after being challenged with different numbers that suggest otherwise by Greater Boston’s Adam Reilly, changes his tune a little.

Cape towns are weighing the costs of shark-detection technology, with most proposals coming in at hundreds of thousands of dollars for a season of monitoring. (Cape Cod Times)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Less than a week before his firing, former FBI director James Comey asked the assistant attorney general who eventually penned the memo for his dismissal for more resources to conduct the agency’s probe into ties between Russia and the Trump administration. (New York Times) US Rep. Seth Moulton says Trump’s firing of Comey is “worse than Watergate.” (Salem News) The New York Times in an editorial asks Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint an independent counsel. Meanwhile, the Senate issues a subpoena to Trump’s former national security advisor Michael Flynn seeking documents. (Associated Press) The firing has turned Washington on its head and created a sense of deep uncertainty in the capital. (Boston Globe)

Oops: Sen. Ed Markey issued a retraction after “erroneously” saying yesterday morning on CNN that a grand jury in New York was investigating Trump’s campaign ties to Russians. (Boston Herald)

The Kaiser Family Foundation releases a briefing on what’s happening with Medicaid in Washington.

ELECTIONS

Telegram & Gazette columnist Dianne Williamson interviews Steven Fisher, a Trump supporter who posted a comment on one of her recent column calling former president Obama a “monkey.”

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh got a $1,000 campaign donation from GE chief executive Jeff Immelt the day after he took part in this week’s groundbreaking for the company’s new Boston headquarters. Twenty-two GE executives have donated more than $12,000 to Walsh’s bulging campaign kitty so far this month. (Boston Herald)

Two former City Hall aides to Walsh facing federal extortion charges won’t go on trial until January, good news for the mayor’s fall reelection campaign. (Boston Globe)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Amazon will earmark half of a new six-story building it plans in Seattle for a shelter for homeless families. (New York Times)

EDUCATION

Rep. David Nangle comes out against locating a new Lowell High School at the site of Cawley Stadium, one of four locations under consideration. He said it was one of the most stressful decisions he has faced. (Lowell Sun)

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was loudly booed and jeered while delivering the commencement speech at the historically black Bethune-Cookman University in Florida. (U.S. News & World Report)

Brockton’s school system is facing huge layoffs because of budget constraints. (Boston Globe)

The Marlborough School Committee voted against opening up the city’s schools to the state’s choice program even though the district loses about 85 students a year to other systems. (MetroWest Daily News)

A vote on the Silver Hill Horace Mann Charter School by unionized teachers in Haverhill is postponed until next month. (Eagle-Tribune)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

The rate of increase in opioid-related deaths slowed in 2016, and most involved fentanyl. (Telegram & Gazette) Meanwhile, preliminary data for the first three months of 2017 suggest the number of overdose deaths may be declining. (Boston Globe)

Steward Health Care and a physicians group swap fraud charges. (CommonWealth)

A new study finds a 20-year gap in life expectancy between some counties in the United States, attributable to differences in education, medical care access, and income levels. (U.S. News & World Report)

After splitting off from Newton-based Atrius Health, physicians at Reliant Medical Group agree to be acquired by a Minnesota health care company. (Telegram & Gazette)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Three Republican senators — Sens. John McCain, Susan Collins, and Lindsey Grahambroke party ranks to vote down a measure to roll back limits on methane gas release enacted in the waning days of the Obama administration. (New York Times)

Federal regulators issued their inspection report of Pilgrim nuclear power plant and cited 11 violations, most of them minor, but held back on assigning a safety risk grade to the failure of a back-up generator that had not been maintained since being installed 17 years ago. (Cape Cod Times)

Massachusetts has made some progress in reducing the amount of trash it needs to dispose, but it has a long way to go to reach its goal for 2020. (State House News)

CASINOS

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission approves using grant money awarded to the Hampden County Sheriff’s office to help an addiction center forced to relocate because of the MGM casino. (MassLive)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Dan Flynn, a prominent Quincy real estate magnate who was sentenced to four years in federal prison for bilking investors out of more than $9.5 million, dodged a much lengthier sentence in part because of letters of support from Quincy Mayor Thomas Koch and Norfolk Sheriff Michael Bellotti. (Patriot Ledger)

The former accountant for the Framingham Housing Authority was sentenced to five months in prison for embezzling more than $70,000 from the agency’s rental payments. (MetroWest Daily News)

MEDIA

Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price commended West Virginia police who arrested a reporter for shouting questions at him. He said the police did what they thought was appropriate. (Stat)

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, 21st Century Fox says it spent $45 million in payments and costs to settle sexual harassment claims at its Fox News division. (New York Times)