Go behind the curtain of America’s ‘Great Economy’
And you’ll see a vastly different picture
September 12, 2018
News & Opinion
(NATIONAL) – How many times have you heard President Trump, Republican party officials and news reports say that America is experiencing a ‘great economy’ right now – often followed by some version of, it’s all the result of Donald Trump and his Republican party policies?
The tale has been told so often and in so many places, millions of Americans simply buy into it without investigating the claim any further than the news headlines and White House PR handouts.
But once you scratch he surface a bit, go behind the curtain as it were, you will find two things: (1) millions of working class Americans are not actually experiencing this ‘great economy,’ and (2) it most certainly IS a great economy if you’re well to do, rich, super-rich or are wealthy enough be in the “shareholder” class of Americans.
If you’re the Koch Brothers, Donald Trump, Trump’s kids, Jared Kushner, Betsy Devos and other cabinet members as well as CEO’s, many large corporations and Wall Street capos, you’re sittin’ in high cotton right now and you don’t want this second Gilded Age in America to ever end.
You’ve got the suckers right where you want them and you want this hand to play out as long as it can.
Lots of jobs, low unemployment rate? Look beyond that headline
Oh sure. There’s plenty of jobs out there and a low unemployment rate and the Stock Market is doing great. But what those numbers mask is: why kind of jobs are they, what do they pay and do they have benefits?
When you can go bankrupt in this country overnight from sky high medical bills, benefits is a very big deal. You might even notice that YOU, dear reader, are not actually feeling the love from this great economy. Why is that?
What you’ll find in America today – this ‘great economy’ America – is millions of people holding down two or three lousy paying jobs with no benefits just to put food on the table. You’ll see work a force where wages have stagnated for forty years and now under Trump, continue that slide unabated.
But if you really, truly believe America has a great economy right now, then you most certainly do not want to read two new reports in the New York Times (that ol’ debil fake news outfit) and New York Times Magazine that lay the claim of America’s great economy as simply bare naked stupid.
Some items from those reports:
~ Government data shows that over the last decade and a half, the proportion of family income from wages has dropped from nearly 70 percent to just under 61 percent. It’s an extraordinary shift, driven largely by the investment profits of the very wealthy. In short, the people who possess tradable assets, especially stocks, have enjoyed a recovery that Americans dependent on savings or income from their weekly paycheck have yet to see.
~ Ten years after the financial crisis, getting ahead by going to work every day seems quaint, akin to using the phone book. A decade after the housing crash/Great Recession, the typical middle-class family’s net worth is still more than $40,000 below where it was in 2007.
~ In 2016, net worth among white middle-income families was 19 percent below 2007 levels, adjusted for inflation. But among blacks, it was down 40 percent, and Hispanics saw a drop of 46 percent. And you just cannot “work” your way out of holes like that – not today. After unemployment peaked in the fall of 2009, it took years for joblessness to return to pre-recession levels. Slack in the labor market left the employed and unemployed alike with little leverage to demand raises, even as corporate profits surged.
~ When half the population watches its wages stagnate while the other half gets rich in the market, the result is….President Donald Trump and Brexit.
~ In recent decades, the nation’s tremendous economic growth has not led to broad social uplift. Economists call it the “productivity-pay gap” — the fact that over the last 40 years, the economy has expanded and corporate profits have risen, but real wages have remained flat for workers without a college education. Since 1973, American productivity has increased by 77 percent, while hourly pay has grown by only 12 percent. If the federal minimum wage tracked productivity, it would be more than $20 an hour, not today’s poverty wage of $7.25.
~ American workers are being shut out of the profits they are helping to generate. The decline of unions is a big reason. During the 20th century, inequality in America decreased when unionization increased, but economic transformations and political attacks have crippled organized labor, emboldening corporate interests and disempowering the rank and file. This imbalanced economy explains why America’s poverty rate has remained consistent over the past several decades, even as per capita welfare spending has increased.
~ Government numbers define a “working poor” person as someone below the poverty line who spent at least half the year either working or looking for employment. In 2016, there were roughly 7.6 million Americans who fell into this category. Most working poor people are over 35, while fewer than five in 100 are between the ages of 16 and 19. In other words, the working poor are not primarily teenagers bagging groceries or scooping ice cream in paper hats. They are adults — and often parents — wiping down hotel showers and toilets, taking food orders and bussing tables, eviscerating chickens at meat-processing plants, minding children at 24-hour day care centers, picking berries, etc.
And there’s much more you need to know. Bottom line: if you wish to continue buying into the myth of America’s ‘Great Economy” then please….do not read the Times report here and do not read the New York Magazine report here .
There's just no upside for believers in letting facts get in the way of a great story.