Tom Steyer is the founder of NextGen America and the Need to Impeach campaign.
With 24 days left before the midterm elections, a lot is going wrong for Donald Trump and the Republican Party. Between the implications that Trump conspired in federal campaign crimes, numerous federal indictments connected to Trump associates, and public dissatisfaction with the country’s direction, the party of George W. Bush, Paul Ryan, and Mitch McConnell is scrambling to come up with a story to hold back a Blue Wave.
That’s why, in the run-up to November 6, they’ll be repeating over and over: “But the economy is booming.” In response to which, voters should be asking one question: “Booming for whom?”
A rising GDP doesn’t mean Americans are doing well
The rosy numbers Republicans will point to don’t communicate what’s happening in all too many American households. They mix the soaring outcomes for the richest Americans with the 51 million families that can’t afford to cover all their basic monthly expenses. Really good for a few and consistently poor for everyone else averages out to a decent and misleading facade.
Our rising GDP can’t paper over the fact that four in ten American adults would struggle to come up with $400 in the event of an emergency. A climbing stock market doesn’t reach the wallets of the 46 percent of Americans who own no stocks at all. Low unemployment numbers don’t reflect the 96 million Americans who are out of the workforce, so disheartened by their limited prospects that they’ve stopped looking for jobs altogether. For those who are employed, many still work jobs that leave their lives a struggle just to get by. Getting ahead is out of the question when the real buying power of the median wage hasn’t moved since Jimmy Carter was president. That’s 40 years ago.
To be sure, it’s important to have growing GDP and a strong labor market. But a truly strong economy would be one generating broadly shared prosperity, so that all Americans see their fortunes rising and their lives improving—and if you can’t afford $400 in the event of an emergency, you don’t even have a fortune.
A windfall for America’s corporate class
Under President Trump and the Republican Congress, the corporate class has reaped ever more of the rewards of America’s growth, while the rest of the country has gotten screwed, again.
Consider the GOP’s $1.5 trillion tax cut—the sole legislative “victory” of this administration. The law was plainly written to deliver the vast majority of its benefits to the wealthy, and corporations immediately seized on the windfall. They have spent hundreds of billions on stock buybacks—which is just another way to give more money to corporate executives, who are already making a killing compared to the average family. Meanwhile, workers haven’t seen benefits trickling down, as Republicans claimed they would. Corporations put 37 times as much of their tax windfall into those stock buybacks as on employee compensation. In fact, only 4.3 percent of workers at Fortune 500 companies got a bonus or a raise in the same span—gains that have been largely wiped out by inflation levels which actually lowered real hourly wages.
If the GOP keeps their majority, the hits against working Americans will keep coming. Republicans have made it clear they want to slash Social Security and Medicare—benefits workers have already paid into—in order to plug the hole their tax cut tore into the budget.
Trump’s tariffs put Americans at risk
Or take Trump’s deeply misguided trade policies.
Despite his claim that “trade wars are good and easy to win,” Trump’s tariffs are putting Americans at risk. Companies are scaling back hiring plans by 13 percent, according to Business Roundtable. Some 11 million workers could find their jobs in jeopardy if escalation leads to further retaliation. And China’s agriculture tariffs are putting such a squeeze on farmers that the administration is planning a $12 billion bailout in the hopes of avoiding a backlash.
You spend your money on what you care about. The GOP didn’t have a problem adding $17 billion to the Pentagon’s budget for 2019. But they don’t see fit to invest in real relief for the average American family. Healthcare premiums have gone up for older and sicker Americans thanks in part to the GOP’s repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate. Young Americans are struggling with more and more student debt, since this administration has stifled debt relief and rolled back Obama-era protections from predatory lending. And everyone is now at greater risk of illness as Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency weakens Obama-era regulations on methane and other air pollutants, much to the delight of oil and gas companies.
Look beyond the headlines, and it’s clear—Trump and the Republican Congress aren’t working for average Americans, who have been falling behind for 40 years while the wealthy have been getting richer. Working Americans deserve their fair share. They deserve new representation in Washington—leaders who will fight to open a path for broad-based wage growth and higher incomes.
And that means the Republican Party deserves to lose their majority control of Congress. If this is what they call a boom, then we don’t want to see what a bust looks like.