We don’t win anymore. Our jobs were stolen by the Chinese and by NAFTA. Immigrants are keeping our wages low. We’re in an unprecedented crime spree. We have massive voter fraud. Obamacare has failed. These were among the lies — out-and-out untruths and mischaracterizations of reality — that helped elect Donald Trump. They were and remain justifications for his monstrous ethno-nationalist agenda build on xenophobia, protectionism and, rather than populism, a belief in outmoded tax theory.
- If we’re really not on the brink of a recession, job growth and the economy are humming along and incomes are rising, what’s the justification for enormous tax cuts for the rich?
- If we gained jobs and our incomes rose during a time of trade deficits, what’s the point of a trade-protectionist scheme that blocks imports or makes goods more expensive for everyday Americans?
- If record numbers of people are covered by health insurance, why destroy Obamacare instead of fixing its deficiencies?
- If crime has ticked up in some discrete cities but generally remains at lows not seen since the 1990s, what’s the rationale for mandatory minimum sentences, civil forfeiture and other kinds of criminal-system overreach?
Sure enough, it turns out many of the premises on which Trump’s agenda rests are utterly untrue. The Post reports:
Median household income in America was $59,039 last year, surpassing the previous high of $58,655 set in 1999, the Census Bureau said. The figure is adjusted for inflation and is one of the most closely watched indicators of how the middle class is faring financially, as the Census surveys nearly 100,000 homes.
The Census said the uptick in earnings occurred because so many people found full-time jobs — or better-paying jobs — last year.
America’s poverty rate also fell to 12.7 percent, the lowest since 2007, the year before the financial crisis hit. The percent of Americans without health insurance for the entire year also dropped in 2016 to just 8.8 percent, largely thanks to expanding coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
Republicans are championing destructive policies for problems that do not exist while missing the opportunity to broaden our middle class and avert further income inequality.
Given the data — presumably it cannot be written off as “fake” by the alt-right now that Trump is there — let’s look at some policy choices that should be ditched.
- We don’t need a massive, debt-created tax plan that allows the rich to keep even more of their wealth. Maybe instead we need to use revenues to enhance the earned-income tax credit (to encourage work) and infrastructure spending. (By the way, corporate America has gobs of cash sitting on the sidelines, so it’s not hurting for capital.)
- Instead of draconian immigration policies such as expelling “dreamers,” which will shrink the economy by billions of dollars, or cutting immigration, which we know will not boost the economy, why not legalize those who are here, do a better job of policing visa overstays, and encourage high-skill immigration and seasonal agricultural immigration?
- If we are at an all-time low rate of uninsured Americans, why is Trump sabotaging the Affordable Care Act instead of fixing the insurance exchanges, offering states flexibility on Medicaid and funding advances in medicine?
Trump has sold the country a bill of goods about the state of the country, inventing or exaggerating problems to justify his nativist agenda, which he correctly figured out could be spoon-fed to low-information viewers (with a huge boost from Fox Non-News). It is not that we lack problems — e.g., declining labor participation, income inequality, climate change, the opioid epidemic, a workforce not prepared to thrive in globalization and the coming era of artificial intelligence, etc.; it is that Trump and his ilk make up phony problems and then propose “solutions” that are not economically or politically viable.
Rather than go along with the charade, wouldn’t it be nice if a significant number of Republicans (together with Democrats) called out the lies about the state of our country and offered proposals to address the actual challenges we face? The proposals that might help improve the lives of Trump’s base may require effort (e.g., get back into the workforce), flexibility (why not move to find work?) and an appreciation for the contribution newcomers make (e.g., stop fueling the anti-immigrant hooey), but then Republicans used to believe in personal responsibility and fair play. Gosh, that might be a group the country would listen to.