Donald Trump kicked off the 2020 Republican National Convention on Monday with a speech where—in between his lies, claims of victimhood, and spewing of conspiracy theories—he unveiled his economic message for his 2020 campaign: “Make America February Again. #MAFA.” Seriously, Trump’s economic plan is that he wants you to close your eyes and remember the economy before he horrifically screwed up the handling of COVID-19.
Did Trump share a roadmap with how to lower our current unemployment rate of 10.2 percent to the 3.5 percent that we had pre-recession? Stop laughing. Of course not. In fact, Trump doesn’t think we need any type of job creation program, boasting that we are seeing a “Super V” economic recovery, while urging everyone who needs proof to: “Take a look at the stocks. We are very close to breaking the record and NASDAQ.”
The reality is that 88 percent of the stock market is owned by the top 10 percent wealthiest Americans, per a Goldman Sachs study. In fact, the top 1 percent own 56 percent of the entire value of the stock market. So to be fair, for Trump’s rich friends in the pampered class who don't blink at the $350,000 to join his exclusive country club in New Jersey, I’m sure things are great. But back in the world of people who don’t have a caddy to hand them a sand wedge and can’t afford to buy Apple stock at $500 a share, there’s pain… lots of economic pain that shows no signs of ending in the near future.
As of last week, nearly 30 million Americans are drawing some form of unemployment. On Thursday, we learned that 1.1 million Americans filed first-time unemployment claims over the past week—up from 960,000 the week before. To give you some perspective, before the current recession, the highest number of unemployment claims in a week was 695,000 back in 1982. These jobs numbers are hideous.
On Monday, Trump also declared that “the economy is coming up very rapidly.” Meanwhile, back in the real world, only 35 percent of Americans think the economy is “good,” while 61 percent think it’s “bad,” per a CBS poll released Sunday. Trump apparently doesn’t get or simply doesn't care that a recent study found over 110,000 small businesses have closed for good. You can’t go back to work if your work isn’t there anymore. That’s in part why the Congressional Research Service wrote in a July report that “current projections show persistently high unemployment for the next few years.”
Trump’s #MAFA also dismisses the reality that even before this recession, things weren’t as wonderful for many as Trump claims. Our economy was not just slowing but various sectors were in big trouble. For example, due to Trump’s failed trade war with China, farmers had seen a 24 percent jump in bankruptcies between 2018 and 2019—the biggest spike since 2011. Our manufacturing sector was already in a formal recession by the end of 2019, while the trucking industry was seeing a “bloodbath” in terms of companies shutting down.
And a 2018 Federal Reserve study found that 40 percent of Americans would not be able to come up with $400 for an unexpected expense. I can’t even imagine how this group of people is surviving, given that the $600 federal weekly unemployment benefit ended because Trump and the GOP Senate refused to agree to the House Democrats’ HEROES Act that would’ve extended these benefits through 2020.
And on top of all that, the pre-virus economy, while good in terms of unemployment and certain other basic indicators, was still the same kind of American economy we’ve had since the '80s—defined by an inequality that has only gotten worse under Trump. According to a Fast Company article last November, the top 1 percent now hold one-third of the nation’s wealth, and the bottom 50 percent owns just 1.2 percent.
Now the economy is a nightmare across the board. Except apparently for Trump’s rich friends. And it’s about to get worse. Thanks to Trump’s refusal to extend the federal moratorium on evictions that expired at the end of July, 12 million Americans now risk eviction. Add to that, even before the $600 a week benefits ended, a late July study by the U.S. Census found 30 million Americans reported “food insecurity”—or to put it more bluntly, “they did not have enough to eat at some point in the week before.” And as with all things COVID-related, people of color were disproportionality affected.
Trump’s answer to all of this is just more Trump—with reports that he will speak every day of the convention. Trump’s meandering, idiotic speech on Monday was apparently a preview of what to expect each day as he implored the audience to chant “12 more years” instead of “four,” accused Democrats of “using COVID to steal the election,” and where he shared how he’s the biggest victim of all.
In normal times, maybe Trump’s antics could work. But in these dark economic times, Trump’s “red meat” won’t fill an empty stomach. Only real food will, and Trump has no actual plan on how to do even that.