Trump’s boasts about economy ring hollow given resounding facts

Posted Friday, 21 February 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

In a U.S. economy that is “the best it’s ever been,” as President Donald Trump claimed in his State of the Union address, the average U.S. worker’s inflation-adjusted wage wouldn’t have risen just 0.6% in the past three years. Manufacturing wouldn’t be slumping. American farmers wouldn’t be declaring bankruptcy and committing suicide at alarming rates. The truth behind Trump’s boasts is that there’s genuine economic pain from coast to coast, from cityscapes to farm country and everywhere between for blue-collar Americans and the middle class. So as Trump stands before a rally crowd today in Las Vegas and brags about leading the economy to historic levels, as he almost certainly will, he’ll be wrong. He’ll be lying. Enormous swaths of working-class Americans have seen little benefit from Trump’s supposedly roaring economy. Yes, unemployment is scant and 6.6 million jobs have been added since Trump’s inauguration, but both of those numbers have flipsides. As for unemployment, the low number should be translating into much higher wages for workers — it’s basic capitalism: Employers are competing ever-harder for workers, which should be prompting them to offer higher pay and better wages. Yet wage growth is lagging. Beyond that, more than 4 million Americans are classified as “involuntarily part-time,” meaning they’d like to find full-time work but can’t, and instead are stuck doing part-time jobs or working in the gig economy. Meanwhile, the job creation figure that Trump loves to tout is fine but certainly not unprecedented. In fact, during President Barack Obama’s last three years in office, the nation added 8.1 million jobs — 23% more than have been added since Trump took office. Then there’s manufacturing and agriculture, two sectors in which Trump outlandishly promised workers they’d flourish under his presidency. Instead, Trump’s calamitous tariffs caused crop prices to crater, which devastated the industry overall, and especially smaller family farms. As a result, bankruptcies in the farm industry shot up 20% last year and the suicide rate among farmers reached 1.5 times the national average. As for manufacturing, the latest index from the Institute for Supply Management — a key industry indicator — showed manufacturers came out of last year suffering their weakest performance in more than 10 years. As a result, the industry is losing jobs. So this is the best it’s ever been? That’s a flat no, at least as it applies to millions upon millions of Americans. There is one exception: Those at the highest levels of income have benefited preposterously from the tax cuts implemented by Trump and congressional Republicans in 2017. Those cuts left U.S. businesses bloated with cash, and they responded by offering massive stock buybacks and dividends to their investors — $1 trillion in 2018 among S&P 500 companies. That figure dipped slightly last year, but remained higher than before the tax breaks for the wealthy. So while Trump claimed the tax cuts would provide “rocket fuel” for the economy by giving businesses the means to expand their companies and add jobs, what happened instead was that companies funneled the wealth to investors who stashed it away. The cuts certainly didn’t rocket the average U.S. worker anywhere — the inflation-adjusted wage growth level of 0.6% under Trump translates to less than $7 per week. These are facts that Trump would rather Americans ignore or dismiss, while he tries to con them into believing he’s turned the economy around. Much like he’ll probably do today, Trump stood before a rally crowd in Michigan during 2016 and made all kinds of claims he couldn’t back up and promises he couldn’t keep about what, as president, he’d do for the economy. “It’s going to be a victory for the people,” he said. “A victory for the wage-earner, the factory worker, a victory for the everyday citizen — and for all the people whose voice hasn’t been heard.” Wrong. Wealthy types have won. Other Americans are making do.

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