Trumpkins and their defenders have argued that they are victims, understandably enraged because of economic hard times. They don’t favor Donald Trump’s racist and misogynistic outbursts; they are just down on their luck, desperate even. They may need a new narrative.
For one thing, FiveThirtyEight and others have figured out that Trump supporters are better off than the average American. In May, Nate Silver wrote: “The median household income of a Trump voter so far in the primaries is about $72,000, based on estimates derived from exit polls and Census Bureau data. That’s lower than the $91,000 median for [John] Kasich voters. But it’s well above the national median household income of about $56,000. It’s also higher than the median income for Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders supporters, which is around $61,000 for both.”
Now comes along more economic data to burst the bubble of Trumpkin apologists. The Post reports:
The incomes of typical Americans rose in 2015 by 5.2 percent, the first significant boost to middle-class pay since the end of the Great Recession and the fastest increase ever recorded by the federal government, the Census Bureau reported on Tuesday.
In addition, the poverty rate fell by 1.2 percentage points, the steepest decline since 1968. There were 43.1 million Americans in poverty on the year, 3.5 million fewer than in 2014.
The share of Americans who lack health insurance continued a years-long decline, falling 1.3 percentage points, to 9.1 percent.
This does not mean every American has benefited, but it sure dispels the notion that “we don’t win anymore.” With the country approaching full employment, incomes up and poverty down, there is confirmation that Trump’s entire economic narrative of loss, decline, estrangement and the rest is hooey. We have not lost “millions of jobs” because of free trade, nor has our manufacturing sector been “stolen” by China. (Manufacturing is rebounding of late.)
The Buckeye Institute, a conservative Ohio think tank, has released a statement in response to the new numbers, which reads in part:
The Buckeye Institute’s executive vice president, Rea S. Hederman Jr., says these findings are very strong and encouraging, showing income gains at every level and for almost every demographic. “As many Americans returned to the labor force and found work,” Hederman said, “it is not surprising there was strong income growth in the last year.”
In examining today’s Census Bureau report, Hederman also found:
- There was no income growth for rural Americans. From 2014 to 2015, their incomes remained flat at around $44,700.
- The Midwest continues to lose population, making it the country’s only region from 2014 to 2015 to experience population decline.
- The South continues to be the fastest-growing part of the country.
The regional figures are interesting. The South, where population is burgeoning (which generally means there are economic opportunities), is Trump’s most dependable region. The Midwesterners left behind as many neighbors and friends move south for jobs may feel “things aren’t like they used to be,” but that is not the fault of Mexico or China or illegal immigrants. It is in large part due to business seeking economically more desirable locales (e.g. a lower cost of living, non-unionized workforce) within the United States. Ironically, if farmers (a substantial segment of rural America) want to raise incomes, the best things would be — you guessed it! — free-trade deals that open new markets.
In other words, it is hard to square economic reality or self-interest with support for Trump. Perhaps Trumpkins like him because he suggests that whatever their life’s disappointments, it is not their fault. Maybe he has roused resentment and latent racism, or made white Christians feel they can once again be in the cultural driver’s seat. Whatever the reason, however, it does not appear to be economic calamity that has fueled Trump’s rise.