Trump’s economy is great for billionaires, not for working people | Bernie Sanders | US news | The Guardian

Trump’s economy is great for billionaires, not for working people | Bernie Sanders | US news | The Guardian

Donald Trump tells us the US economy is “absolutely booming”, the “strongest we’ve ever had” and “the greatest in the history of America”.

Well, at his Mar-a-Lago country club where the price of admission has doubled to $200,000, he is right. The economy could not be better for the top 1% and corporate America.

In 2017, the top 10 corporate executives in America saw their combined compensation skyrocket by over 60% from the year before soaring to $1.85bn.

The top 25 hedge fund managers on Wall Street made over $15.3bn in compensation in 2017, up 40% from 2016 – the highest in four years. Incredibly, this $15.3bn is nearly double what all 140,000 kindergarten teachers in America made last year.

Not surprisingly, since Trump was elected, the five richest people in America have seen their wealth go up by over $100bn and corporations have announced over $1tn in stock buybacks in 2018 alone.

Yes, under Trump, the economy is “absolutely booming” for the billionaire class and corporate America. But for working families, the economy is not doing so great.

Remember when Trump promised that his tax giveaway to the rich would put an extra $4,000 into the pockets of middle-class families?

Well, it didn’t quite happen that way. The reality is that bonuses for average workers are up by just two cents an hour since Trump’s tax plan was signed into law.

Over the past year, wages for average workers are up by 1.2% – just $9.11 a week after adjusting for inflation. Meanwhile, while the very rich get richer, millions of Americans are working longer hours for lower wages. That is the economic reality under Trump and that is the economic reality of the past 40 years.

The truth is that the average worker makes less today than he or she made 43 years ago after adjusting for inflation. In other words, as the price of healthcare, prescription drugs, housing, childcare and a college education continue to go through the roof, wages for the average worker have not kept pace.

Further, while the official unemployment rate is relatively low at 3.9%, the real unemployment rate is much higher. If you include those who have given up looking for work and those who are working part-time when they need a full-time job, the real unemployment rate is not 3.9%. It is 7.6%. Even worse, over 20% of Americans in their prime working years (between the ages of 25-54) do not have a job – which is higher than was the case 11 years ago.

And the real unemployment rate for young adults is still off the charts. According to the most recent data from the Economic Policy Institute, over 25% of young white Americans between the ages of 18 and 21 who have graduated high school are unemployed or underemployed. For Hispanic people in the same age group it is nearly 27%. And young African American adults are unemployed or underemployed to the tune of 40%.

No, Donald Trump, the economy is not “absolutely booming” when nearly 80% of workers live paycheck to paycheck – hoping that they don’t get sick or that their car doesn’t break down.

It’s not the “greatest” economy in “the history of America” when 43% of households can’t afford to pay for housing, food, childcare, healthcare, transportation and a cellphone without going into debt.

The economy is not “booming” when Americans are reaching retirement age in worse financial shape than their parents and when about half of older Americans have no retirement savings and no idea how they will be able to retire in dignity.

It’s not the “strongest” economy “we’ve ever had” when hundreds of thousands of young people are unable to go to college because of the cost, over 30 million Americans have no health insurance, one out of five Americans can’t afford the medicine prescribed by their doctors and over 40 million Americans are living in poverty.

This is not an economy we should be proud of when we have the highest childhood poverty rate in the developed world and life expectancy in the US has gone down for the third year in a row.

While working families continue to struggle, the US now has more income and wealth inequality than at any time since the 1920s. Since the Wall Street crash, 46% of all new income that has been created in the US has gone to the top 1%. Corporate CEOs have seen their incomes go up by 937% over the past 40 years and now make over 360 times more than their average workers. While corporate profits are near an all-time high, wages as a percentage of the economy are near an all-time low.

The most important economic reality of our time is that over the past 40 years there has been an enormous transfer of income and wealth from the middle class to the wealthiest people in America. Since 1979, the bottom 90% of Americans have seen their share of national income decline from 58 % to just 46% costing them nearly $11,000 per household.

As bad as income inequality is, the inequality in wealth is even worse.

In America today, the top 0.1% owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90%. The three wealthiest people in this country own more wealth than the bottom half of Americans – 160 million people. Meanwhile, the median household in America has less wealth today than it did 35 years ago after adjusting for inflation, and the average wealth of those in the bottom 40% is virtually zero. While low-income workers at Walmart are forced to rely on food stamps, Medicaid and public housing to survive, the Walton family is now worth nearly $170bn.

Shockingly, the wealth gap between white Americans and African Americans has more than tripled over the past 50 years. Today, the median white family has almost 10 times as much wealth as the median black family.

At a time of massive income and wealth inequality, Trump’s policies are moving this country in exactly the wrong direction. Over 83% of the benefits of Trump’s tax plan is going to the top 1%. The morally bankrupt budget Trump released last year would have made massive cuts to programs desperately needed by working families, the elderly, the sick, the children and the poor.

That is unacceptable. Instead of giving tax breaks to billionaires and large corporations, we must demand that they pay their fair share in taxes. Instead of an austerity program for working families and the poor, we need austerity for billionaires and large multinational corporations.

Instead of throwing millions of Americans off of the healthcare they have, we must join every other major country on earth and guarantee healthcare as a right, not a privilege, through a Medicare for All system.

Instead of cutting social security and nutrition assistance for seniors, we should expand those programs so that every American can retire with dignity and respect.

Instead of gutting the social safety net, we should raise the minimum wage to a living wage of $15 an hour.

Instead of cutting Pell grants and increasing interest rates on student loans, we should make public colleges and universities tuition free and substantially lower student debt.

Instead of privatizing our infrastructure, we should rebuild our crumbling roads and bridges, transit and rail, water systems and electric grid, and create up to 15m good jobs in the process.

Together, we must fight for a society that works for the many, not the few. We must fight for economic, social, racial and environmental justice, not unbridled greed.

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