While Biden is happy to tout the economic blessings from “the Obama-Biden administration,” many of his opponents have no alternative but to double down on waging class warfare. For working-class Americans who are seeing their wages increase, financial security rising and plenty of jobs available for just about anybody who wants one, the message from these Democratic presidential hopefuls is simple: You’re wrong.
The first Democratic presidential debate started with a moderator asking Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) whether her various big-government economic proposals would create economic risks “at a time when 71 percent of Americans say the economy is doing well.” Warren responded, “Who is this economy really working for? It’s doing great for a thinner and thinner slice at the top.”
Only progressive math could turn 71 percent into “a thinner and thinner slice at the top.” This remarkable percentage came from a March CNN poll that recorded an 18-year high in the percentage of Americans giving the economy positive marks. The “thinner and thinner slice” in the poll was the 27 percent of Americans who gave the economy negative marks — the lowest number since February 2001.
The CNN poll reflects more than public opinion, it reflects reality. In June, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a historic high of 157 million people were employed and fewer than 6 million people were unemployed (a recent low last seen nearly 18 years ago, when the labor force had 20 million fewer people). The result was an unemployment rate of 4 percent or less for 16 consecutive months, a streak last matched nearly 50 years ago.
The demand for workers is driving wages at rates last seen in 2009. According to the BLS, wages for all non-farm employees rose 3.1 percent in June, compared with June a year ago. Wages for production and nonsupervisory employees (workers, in other words) increased 3.4 percent. Workers who were employed 40 hours per week saw their incomes increase an average of $1,500 over the past year.
Those production and nonsupervisory employees make up 80 percent of the workforce, which means that year-over-year wages for higher-compensated supervisory employees — the remaining 20 percent — increased at a far slower 1.9 percent.
If your concern is economic justice, all of this should be great news. The only way to truly reduce income inequality is for the incomes of the lower-wage earners to increase faster than the incomes of higher earners. That is exactly what’s happening.
Don’t tell that to the Democratic presidential hopefuls, however. On July 7, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) wrote on Twitter: “This economy is not working for average Americans. It’s about time we had a president who champions working people.” The “economic justice” section of the campaign website for Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) says, “Our economy isn’t working for working people” and her “first priority as president will be to give working and middle-class families an overdue income boost.”
Last month, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) gave a speech at George Washington University specifically to define and defend his brand of democratic socialism. “It is not just that the very rich are getting much richer,” Sanders said. “It is that tens of millions of working-class people, in the wealthiest country on earth, are suffering under incredible economic hardship, desperately trying to survive.”
Perhaps the most succinct encapsulation of how the candidates view the nation’s economy is a line favored by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio: “There’s plenty of money in this country, it’s just in the wrong hands.”
It’s difficult to overstate either the disdain these presidential hopefuls harbor for the U.S. economic system or their willingness to ignore its benefits. At the very least, it’s a politically risky stance. A recent Gallup poll found that while less than a third of Americans take pride in the U.S. political system, 89 percent of Republicans and 64 percent of Democrats are proud of America’s economic achievements.
Trump’s policies of lowering taxes, reducing regulations and encouraging domestic energy production have spurred economic growth that is reflected in the president’s rising approval rating. Democratic presidential contenders who keep asking American voters “Who are you going to believe, me or your lying wallet?” might not like the answer.