Donald Trump loves to pat himself on the back for, as he puts it, the “greatest economy we’ve had in the history of our country.” Actually, the economy is great for Trump’s rich friends he plays golf with at his private country clubs and others in the top 1 percent who will ultimately receive over 80 percent of the benefits of the Trump/GOP 2017 tax cut. But for most of us, the economy is anywhere from middling to a daily struggle to make ends meet.
People are working two to three jobs to get by, wages are essentially flat, and layoffs are on the uptick. And it’s time the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates make this a top campaign issue, right up there with calling out Trump’s efforts to end you and your family’s coverage for pre-existing medical conditions—along with all the other benefits of the ACA—in a lawsuit now in federal court.
To be fair, almost all Democratic presidential candidates have touched on how the economy is working for the wealthy but the not the rest of us, with Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders the most vocal. But it still feels like the 2020 Democrats as a group have not made challenging Trump’s claims about the economy a top issue.
This reminds me of the debate surrounding the Affordable Care Act in 2010, when Republicans painted this legislation as the worst thing since the bubonic plague (remember the GOP’s “death panels”). The Democrats’ failure to push back on the GOP’s lies resulted in the ACA being defined in a horribly negative light, which in turn delivered control of the House to the GOP in 2010.
It wasn’t until 2017 when Trump and congressional Republicans were trying to end the ACA that Obamacare was viewed as positive by a majority of Americans as people finally realized how much the ACA was actually helping them.
The lessons from the ACA debate make it clear Democrats must call out Trump’s broken promises and lies about the economy or he will control the narrative on this issue in 2020.
Trump surrounds himself with the millionaires and billionaires—just look at his Cabinet. Trump isn’t spending time with Americans who take a shower after work. He has no idea or simply doesn’t care that Americans are struggling. For example, four in 10 adults can’t afford to pay an unexpected $400 expense, per a recent report by the Federal Reserve.
And where is the $4,000 each household Trump promised us from his massive tax cut that benefited corporations and the wealthy enacted in 2017?! It didn’t trickle down to us, it stayed in the corporate board room with Trump’s big donors. As the Congressional Research Service found recently, Trump’s tax cut resulted in corporate profits that “grew faster than wages" and worse, "ordinary workers had very little growth in wage rates." The real-world result is that wage growth in virtually non-existent. In 2019, after you subtract inflation of nearly 2 percent, the average American worker will see a net wage increase of slightly over 1 percent. One percent!
Do you think Trump even knows—or cares—that truckers are hurting horribly? I’ve spoken to countless truck drivers who have called my SiriusXM radio show to detail how they are struggling and trucking companies are going under. In fact 2019 has been a “bloodbath” for the trucking industry, with approximately 640 trucking companies going bankrupt in the first half of the year alone, that’s more than triple the number that went bankrupt in all of 2018.
Look at our nation’s farmers. Thanks in large part to Trump’s failed trade war, farm bankruptcies are skyrocketing. For the 12-month period ending September 2019, Chapter 12 bankruptcy filings by farmers are up 24 percent from 2018—the highest level since 2011. Even worse, there has been a spike in suicides by farmers linked to their economic despair.
And Trump won’t even talk about how our nation’s manufacturing sector is not only officially in a recession, but one that is becoming worse each month. In November, new manufacturing orders and employment dropped at a rate worse than the month before. That marks the fourth straight month that the manufacturing sector has contracted.
But Trump loves to tweet every time the stock market breaks a new record. Well, in reality only about 50 percent of Americans own stock. And a whopping 84 percent of those stocks are owned by Americans in the wealthiest 10 percent of households.
When you look at the overall economic numbers, they utterly destroy Trump’s claim to have created the best economy ever. In 2014, under President Obama, we hit over 5 percent economic growth in one quarter and 4.9 percent in another. Where are we now? Trending downwards, with last quarter our economy growing at barely 2 percent, down from nearly 3 percent the year before. What a contrast to Trump’s promise in 2017 that his policies would cause our economy to grow by “4, 5, and maybe even 6 percent” a year.
If the economy was as great as Trump claims, why is it that the percentage of Americans currently working or looking for a job is almost unchanged since he took office? That metric, known as the Labor Force Participation Rate, was 62.9 percent when Trump was sworn in. Three years later it’s at 63.3 percent, less than one half of a percentage point increase. In fact when the labor participation rate was almost identical to today’s, Trump claimed during the 2016 election that we had a real unemployment rate of over 40 percent.
And now, alarmingly, we’re seeing an uptick in layoffs announced in the last few weeks, from a U.S. Steel plant in Michigan closing to Morgan Stanley cutting 2 percent of its banks’ total workforce because of economic uncertainty to Haliburton laying off 800 people in Oklahoma. In fact, unemployment in key swing states such as Michigan and Wisconsin unemployment are up from a year ago.
This is not a political game, this is real life. Millions are living paycheck to paycheck with little to no savings. Yet Trump tells them—insultingly--that this is the best economy in our nation’s history.
The 2020 Democrats must call out Trump’s broken promises and outright lies about the economy. And then offer policy prescriptions to address them so that working-class Americans understand that Democrats are fighting for an economy that helps all Americans, not just those who can afford to play golf at Trump’s private country clubs.