Let’s Objectively Examine the U.S. Economy News….Many of the stats look great & it is humming along well for many Americans. The U.S. economy news they keep telling us about sounds so wonderful. Trump would have us believe it’s never been better. But pulling back the curtain, we find plenty of dysfunction & decay. In calculating real wages, the average American worker has not seen a pay increase this entire century. Despite the American economy offering up such positive data-points & overall producing massive wealth, the amount of wealth produced is finite, with the reality of the new wealth created going almost exclusively to the very top. Something has got to give when we’re being so increasingly divided into the haves & have-nots. I’m not advocating for a redistributionist policy, but I do think a major restructuring to the system itself is in order so labor is rewarded appropriately.
History may one day validate Trump’s reign as the leader who upset the old order of things, paving the way for a future reasoned president to operate with a clean slate after the elite establishment has been appropriately displaced. But perhaps that’s being overly optimistic. We’ve got some mighty big challenges to tackle with some powerful entrenched interests preferring the system stay just as it is. And those interests keep painting this rosy picture.
The wealth gap between generations keeps widening, and their children’s future is beginning to look ugly. Just two years ago, the median American born in the 1980s—the cradle of millennials—had family wealth that was 34 percent below what earlier generations held at the same age, the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis reported last month. And all the data show it’s probably going to get worse. As affluent baby boomers thank years of soaring markets for their paid-off mortgages and plump portfolios, millennials and the next cohort, Generation Z, are weighed down by student debt and stagnant wages. They can only contribute the bare minimum to their retirement plans and struggle to find affordable homes within commuting distance of their jobs. Of course, it’s perfectly normal for people just starting out to have less in the bank. However, the St. Louis Fed warned that, even when taking that into account, young Americans are slipping dangerously behind. For a time, Generation X was also losing out, thanks to the 2008 financial crisis. But its members managed to make up most of the shortfall in the years since, tapping into the longest economic expansion in decades. For some reason that period of tremendous growth barely helped millennials. The St. Louis Fed called this anomaly “a missed opportunity because asset appreciation is unlikely to be as rapid in the near future.” That’s pretty bad news for twenty and thirtysomethings who may have been hoping to catch up. But it gets worse.
By 2034, Social Security won’t be able to pay out full benefits, the program’s trustees estimated this month. Any solution that would rectify its finances will probably require more taxes and more benefit cuts—all coming out of the pockets of younger workers. Boomers, who are exiting the workforce in droves, will already be comfortably seated when the music stops, or out of the picture. “We turned the economy into a miserable hellscape and you’re just going to have to deal with it.” Fixing Social Security is hardly the only issue where younger Americans have different priorities than their elders. U.S. President Donald Trump was elected on the votes of older Americans favoring tax cuts and less government, while young voters flocked to Senator Bernie Sanders, who supports rebuilding social programs and establishing national healthcare. Alicia Munnell, the director of Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research, recently lamented that government
inaction on Social Security means “that most baby boomers have escaped completely from contributing to a solution.” This month, she offered some depressing advice to younger Americans about what they can do to make up the difference: Work longer. The reaction to her earnest advice was rage. “Wait, this is the good news?” read one indignant post on Twitter, echoing many others. Slate’s Jamelle Bouie called it “a great example of ‘we turned the economy into a miserable hellscape and you’re just going to have to deal with it.’”
Ouch. But Munnell assured young people that they don’t need to cancel their retirements entirely. “In fact, my research shows that the vast majority of millennials will be fine if they work to age 70,” she wrote for Politico. (Small solace given that life expectancy for Americans recently took a turn for the worse.) Still, Munnell has a point. Across a generational time-frame, people are still living much longer than their parents. As my colleague Peter Coy recently pointed out, a man who is “chronologically” 65 is actually more like a 55-year-old from the perspective of 1957. With the extra years, a longer career doesn’t necessarily mean a shorter retirement. Retirement-age Americans are already working in record numbers. Whether by choice or necessity, because of boredom or fear, a full third of those between 65 and 69 were in the workforce in May, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, along with 19 percent of those aged 70 to 74—together almost double the number 30 years ago. Nevertheless, the retirement advice of “just work longer” can sound pretty tone deaf to younger ears, especially when the old American promises—of advancement, financial security and home ownership for everyone who works hard—have faded into myth.
What about the booming economy of 2018? Won’t that help smooth the path for young savers? Perhaps, but Goldman Sachs Group Inc. economists recently said the current pace of the U.S. economy is “probably as good as it gets.” That can only make young Americans more furious about the “missed opportunity” mentioned by the St. Louis Fed. Paychecks aren’t reflecting the improving economy. Hourly wages were unchanged in May from a year earlier. And according to a Fed survey, four in 10 Americans said it would be tough to come up with $400 for an emergency expense. The same 2017 survey found 27 percent skipping medical treatments because they can’t afford them. Another poll this month reaffirmed the inability of many Americans to save any money at all. So work longer? First you have to live longer, and that’s not guaranteed. Wide swaths of the country are getting sicker and dying younger than just a few years ago, with a widening health gap between educated, affluent Americans and everyone else. Alcohol abuse and obesity, upticks in suicide and an epidemic of drug overdoses have all played a role in an ominous milestone: Year-over-year declines in American life expectancy while the rest of the world lives ever-longer. Perhaps it’s a statistical blip. If not, the U.S. faces an almost dystopian future—one of hyper class-stratification in which the few are rich and living longer while the many postpone retirement, struggle to get by and ultimately die younger.
Middle Class Stagnation
This was not the American Dream we came to expect growing up: bills-to-pay/i-couldnt-afford-
Most voters want the government to respond aggressively to the stagnation of middle-class living standards. Americans, to be clear, are deeply divided on all sorts of issues — abortion, guns, immigration and race. And on some of those issues, public opinion is significantly more conservative than liberals often like to admit. But economic policy is different. A majority of Americans lean decidedly left on taxes, health care, the minimum wage and education funding. “Just as the Great Depression discredited the ideas of the pre-New Deal conservatives who fought for total laissez-faire outcomes in both the political branches and the courts, so the Great Recession once again laid bare the failure of our government to protect its citizens from unchecked market excess,” Sullivan writes. “There has been a delayed reaction this time around, but people have begun to see more clearly not only the flaws of our public and private institutions that contributed to the financial crisis, but also the decades of rising inequality and income stagnation that came before — and the uneven recovery that followed. Our politics are in the process of adjusting to this new reality.”
Sullivan’s argument is significant because he isn’t on the left half of the Democratic Party. In an article about Sullivan’s role in Hillary Clinton’s campaign, Vox once wrote, “He won’t drag Clinton to the left.” But as Sullivan notes in the essay, the economic facts have changed in recent years, with middle-class living standards stagnating even when the economy is growing. When reality changes, politics should change too. He discusses an array of potential solutions including child care; wage insurance; larger tax subsidies for low-income workers; a tax on wealth; more aggressive antitrust policy; and investments in struggling regions. The essay isn’t short. But if you’re interested in economic policy, I recommend setting aside the time to read it. “Democrats do not have to choose between shoring up the ‘vital center’ in American politics and supporting a more vigorous national response to our economic challenges,” Sullivan writes. “Both are possible. Indeed, both are necessary to defeating the long-term threat of Trumpism.”
Taxes & Tariffs Causing Harm
For an article explaining the GOP/Trump tax scam, click on How-to-explain-to-Right-Wing-
Harley-Davidson, up against spiraling costs from tariffs, will begin to shift the production of motorcycles headed for Europe from the U.S. to factories overseas. The European Union on Friday began rolling out tariffs on American imports like bourbon, peanut butter and orange juice. The EU tariffs on $3.4 billion worth of U.S. products are retaliation for duties the Trump administration is imposing on European steel and aluminum. President Donald Trump has used Harley-Davidson as an example of a U.S. business that is being harmed by trade barriers. Yet Harley has warned consistently against tariffs, saying they would negatively impact sales. Harley-Davidson Inc. sold almost 40,000 motorcycles in the Europe Union last year, generating revenue second only to the United States, according to the Milwaukee company. The maker of the iconic American motorcycle said in a regulatory filing Monday that EU tariffs on its motorcycles exported from the U.S. jumped between 6 percent and 31 percent, which translates into an additional, incremental cost of about $2,200 per average motorcycle exported from the U.S. to the EU.
Presenting Only The Good Side
As to the perception fed to us from the typical U.S. economy news reports, things are moving along swimmingly. We have our cherry-picking president laying it on thick & is always believed by the base, as seen in this posting patched together from the-real-estate-
So, Trump doesn’t really talk about the market anymore. The comment this month was a rare exception; before that, the last tweeted mention of the success of the markets came in February, when Trump tried to blame a bad day on Wall Street on good economic news. The June tweet came after a two-week run when the Dow surged from having gained 32 percent since Election Day to 38 percent. Since then, it’s fallen back to having gained 34 percent since Election Day. This is exactly how Trump’s rhetoric works: He embraces an isolated bit of news (accurate or not) that makes the point he wants to make. If that news keeps getting better, he updates and reiterates the point. If the news gets worse for his rhetorical point, he moves on to a new bit of news or simply sticks with the old bit of news as though nothing has changed.
To hear Trump tell it, though, the economy is a smashing success, perhaps one unparalleled in U.S. history and clearly a function of his leadership. During 2017, Trump’s case for his success was predicated heavily on his nomination of Neil M. Gorsuch to serve on the Supreme Court and on the success of the stock market. More recently, it’s been about jobs numbers — despite his track record of disparaging those numbers under Obama — and the tax bill passed in December. (Since which point, by the way, the Dow is down slightly. The S&P is up about 2.7 percent.) Whatever the best case is at the moment is the case that Trump presents.
A willingness to cherry-pick bits of data and a disregard for consistency have served Trump well. It’s almost hopelessly optimistic in a sense, always looking to highlight the good news and play down the bad. But it’s not about optimism, of course; it’s about continually arguing for his own success and skill. That’s how it works. Trump is a salesman who is selling his presidency like a piece of property: No bathroom? Focus on the curb appeal. Stock market no longer the winner it used to be? Bury it deeper in the brochure until the sale is closed. But always sell, sell, sell. One thing that’s different about selling a political candidate from selling a piece of property, though, is that a real estate transaction will eventually come to an end. Trump’s got to keep up his sales pitch until 2020.
The GOP faces huge headwinds for the midterms, not the least of which is Trump. Mueller’s findings over the Russian scandal is a huge wildcard. Other big factors looming for November are tariffs/trade wars could stall the economy (dealmaker-in-chief-cuts-deal-
According to the Commonwealth Fund, which regularly ranks the health systems of a handful of developed countries, the best countries for health care are the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Australia. The lowest performer? The United States, even though it spends the most. “And this is consistent across 20 years,” said the Commonwealth Fund’s president, David Blumenthal, on Friday at the Aspen Ideas Festival, which is co-hosted by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic. Blumenthal laid out three reasons why the United States lags behind its peers so consistently. It all comes down to:
1. A lack of insurance coverage. A common talking point on the right is that health care and health insurance are not equivalent—that getting more people insured will not necessarily improve health outcomes. But according to Blumenthal: “The literature on insurance demonstrates that having insurance lowers mortality. It is equivalent to a public-health intervention.” More than 27 million people in the United States were uninsured in 2016—nearly a tenth of the population—often because they can’t afford coverage, live in a state that didn’t expand Medicaid, or are undocumented. Those aren’t problems that people in places like the United Kingdom have to worry about.
2. Administrative inefficiency. “We waste a lot of money on administration,” Blumenthal said. According to the Commonwealth Fund’s most recent report, in the United States, “doctors and patients [report] wasting time on billing and insurance claims. Other countries that rely on private health insurers, like the Netherlands, minimize some of these problems by standardizing basic benefit packages, which can both reduce administrative burden for providers and ensure that patients face predictable copayments.” In other words, while insurance coverage in general is great, it’s not ideal that different insurance plans cover different treatments and procedures, forcing doctors to spend precious hours coordinating with insurance companies to provide care.
3. Underperforming primary care. “We have a very disorganized, fragmented, inefficient and under-resourced primary care system,” Blumenthal added. As I wrote at the time, in 2014 the Commonwealth Fund found that “many primary-care physicians struggle to receive relevant clinical information from specialists and hospitals, complicating efforts to provide seamless, coordinated care.” On top of a lack of investment in primary care, “we don’t invest in social services, which are important determinants of health” Blumenthal said. Things like home visiting, better housing, and subsidized healthy food could extend the work of doctors and do a lot to improve chronic disease outcomes.
Together, these reasons help explain why U.S. life expectancy has, for the first time since the 1960s, recently gone down for two years in a row.
With surprising poll numbers showing such a large percentage of Americans responding immigration is a good thing, we would think Congress should be able to carve out a bipartisan deal. It would take Dems & rational GOP reps hammering out the details, shutting out the radicals in the Freedom Caucus who constantly gum up the works: immigrant-children-need-real-
Most Americans oppose the separation of immigrant families at the border, and a larger share of people than at any point since 2001 say immigration is good for the nation. “Americans’ strong belief that immigration is a good thing for the country and that immigration levels shouldn’t be decreased present the president and Congress with some tough decisions as the midterm elections loom,” Gallup said in a news release Thursday. Recent polls show Record support for immigration. Despite the contentious political climate, 75 percent of Americans think immigration, in general, is good for the nation, according to Gallup, which surveyed more than 1,500 adults during the first two weeks of June. Among Democrats and those who lean toward the party, 85 percent viewed immigration positively, compared with 65 percent of Republicans and those who lean Republican. When asked their thoughts about “legal immigration” specifically, even more Americans, about 84 percent, said it was good for the country.
Support for reining in immigration is at its lowest level in more than half a century: Just 29 percent of Americans believe it should be decreased, the smallest share recorded by Gallup since at least 1965. Several recent polls found that most Americans disagreed with President Trump taking a hard-line approach to immigration enforcement by separating families at the border. “When does public opinion become a demand that politicians just can’t ignore?” Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, said in a statement this week, announcing the results of a recent survey of more than 900 voters conducted last week and weekend. “Two-thirds of American voters oppose the family separation policy at our borders.” Two similar polls of adults — one conducted by Ipsos and another conducted by YouGov with The Economist — found comparable results, albeit with smaller majorities opposing the policy. In all three polls, those surveyed were about twice as likely to oppose separating families as to support it. But there was a large partisan divide: Republicans were more likely to support family separation than oppose it, while Democrats overwhelmingly disliked it. Independents strongly opposed the policy, just not to the same degree as Democrats.
So he keeps creating crises. His genius is focusing attention. He’s not an especially effective administrator of the federal government—it’s more shambolic than ever—and he’s not good at enacting laws, as demonstrated by his tiny list of legislative achievements. He can create a spectacle and draw eyeballs to it, though. Sometimes these crises work out well for him. His assault on NFL players over the national anthem seems to have riled up his supporters, and he successfully bullied NFL owners into a defensive position. In other cases, however, he overreaches. His statement that there were “very fine people on both sides” of the white-supremacist march in Charlottesville didn’t go over well. Neither, as it turned out, did separating infants from their parents. Part of the reason is that even as Trump focuses attention, he’s not especially good at changing hearts and minds. This is why his approval rating remains low—though surprisingly stable, given the constant parade of crises.
Since the early days of the Trump administration, journalists, including me, have wondered what might happen when Trump faced a crisis that was not of his own creation. If he can bobble a self-created catastrophe, what would happen when he had to grapple with an unforeseen one? I’m starting to think I might have been wrong, though, in asking that question. Perhaps what’s really happening is that Trump is able to control what becomes a “real” crisis, too. As Kombiz Lavasany pointed out when this idea came up again this week, Hurricane Maria’s impact on Puerto Rico was a genuine crisis. It’s possible as many as 4,600 Americans died because of the hurricane, and while storms are natural, the disasters that ensue are often the result of human decisions. The island remains devastated; water and electricity have been slow to return. Despite all this, Trump seems to have escaped the kind of opprobrium that George W. Bush received after Katrina. Some of the reasons for that are particular to Puerto Rico: The island is far away from the mainland U.S., it’s populated by minorities, and there seems to be some confusion about the fact that Puerto Ricans are American citizens.
Yet Trump’s de facto escape on Puerto Rico is also the result of decisions he made. When the storm hit, the president took widespread criticism for his detachment from the crisis, even as compared to his arms-length handling of hurricane landfalls in the Gulf Coast and Florida. When he finally did go to Puerto Rico, his visit was an embarrassment. But Trump was playing a long game. By ignoring the storm for so long, he managed to shrink its perceived importance. When he finally did go, his appearance was painful—especially images of the president tossing paper-towel rolls to supplicating recipients like a baseline jumper—but that served to distract the focus from the squalor in Puerto Rico to Trump’s own gaucherie. That’s a success, after a fashion. By creating his own mini-crises, the president effectively marginalized a real one.
The family-separation crisis is not over. Thousands of children remain separated from their parents, with no clear plan for reunifying them, and the executive order that Trump signed seems vulnerable to judicial intervention. Even so, and despite the volatility of the Trump White House, it might even be possible to spot the next crisis coming over the horizon. Trump has started a multi-front trade war, which escalated this week when the president announced plans for a second round of $200 billion in punitive tariffs against China, which promised to respond in kind. Farmers, some of whom were Trump’s strongest supporters, are starting to get upset about the damage the trade war could inflict on them. For the White House, the game plan seems simple, if not easy to execute: Create a trade war, solve it (either by cowing China or by somehow compensating farmers), and then declare victory and take credit. If it turns out that winning trade wars is not as easy as he has said, however, the president can always just concoct a new crisis.
A couple thousand kids are still separated & many parents have already been deported, so how are they ever going to be reunited?: separated-immigrant-children-
In justifying the policy of child separation last week, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen said, “The kids are being used as pawns by the smugglers and the traffickers. Those are traffickers, those are smugglers and that is MS-13.” The theory is that Central American gang leaders are showing up at the border falsely claiming to be the parents of children, and are also instructing unaccompanied minors to go to the U.S. and claim territory. Actually, there have been fewer than 200 cases of false family claims this year — a fraction of 1 percent of the total number of families apprehended at the border — and there is no indication that any of those cases involved MS-13. Of the hundreds of thousands of unaccompanied minors that have come to the U.S. since 2012, Border Patrol says only 56 were suspected of MS-13 ties. The gang is trying to find new members, but there’s no need to step on the toes of the Mexican gangs that control human smuggling to do it. Long Island teenagers tell me that when they show up to school, gang members sit down next to them at lunch and ask them to join. Many— worn down by loneliness, boredom and the threat of violence if they try to refuse — accept the invitation.
And read this perspective from Mark Sanford who just lost a GOP primary to a Trump loyalist (a lady who ironically was just involved in a serious car wreck). These excerpts are from ct-perspec-sanford-not-
I wasn’t Trump enough in the age of Trump – and so indeed I lost. As one of 435 members of the House, this shouldn’t matter to someone living in Fairfax, Virginia or Cleveland but, based on what I saw on election night, I think it will. We should all be alarmed when dissenting voices are quashed. President Donald Trump is not the first executive to want compliance from a legislative body, but he has taken it to a new level. This is more than a problem; it’s a challenge to one of the most basic of American tenets – that we can agree to disagree. Our Founding Fathers baked dissent into the cake of our political system. It’s one of their most vital gifts. The constitutionally designed tug-of-war between branches of government was not for efficiency; it was to prevent too much power ending up in one place.
Finally, I am struck by how little we now care for truth. The president’s attacks on me were certainly not true, and my opponent took license with the truth in ways I have never seen in an opponent, but does this pattern deserve alarm? I believe so. Trust is foundational to a reason-based republic. It’s why I feel the need to speak up for my values, as I did before the election – though there proved to be an electoral consequence. I respect the fact I could be seen as an odd person to offer a sermon on the notion of truth – given the fact that I was living a lie in 2009. But this is precisely the point. It was discovered, and there were tremendous personal and professional consequences for me in the wake of that discovery. That’s the way it’s supposed to work. We have become so desensitized to the president’s tortured relationship with the truth that we don’t challenge the inaccurate things he and others say. There should be a consequence to making things up. But inexplicably, as a society, we have somehow fallen into a collective amnesia in thinking that it doesn’t matter when the highest officeholder in the land doesn’t tell the truth.
At this point, we should hope for a modern-day Murrow moment waiting-for-a-murrow-
Longtime conservative columnist George Will is making a case against voting for Republicans in November’s 2018 midterm elections, arguing that House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and other GOP members of Congress “have become the president’s poodles.” In a column published Fridayin The Washington Post, Will lamented “Republican misrule,” and criticized lawmakers for “hav[ing] no higher ambition than to placate the president.” “The Republican-controlled Congress, which waited for Trump to undo by unilateral decree the border folly they could have prevented by actually legislating, is an advertisement for the unimportance of Republican control,” Will wrote.
Will’s column follows a public outcry over President Donald Trump’s zero tolerance enforcement policy at the U.S.-Mexico border, which has led to the separation of undocumented migrant children from their parents. While Trump signed an executive order Wednesday ceasing the separations, his administration will instead detain families together indefinitely — a policy that also drew swift criticism and conflicts with a 2015 court order. Republicans, meanwhile, have failed to come up with immigration legislation that will pass both chambers of Congress, and they lost the president’s support in the process. Will also took on Trump aide Stephen Miller, one of the president’s top advisers on immigration, as well as the president’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. “Just as a magnet attracts iron filings, Trump attracts, and is attracted to, louts,” he wrote.
Trump constantly harps about the “witch hunt.” As part 1 explains, I agree there’s a witch hunt going on, but Trump has it all backwards. The witch hunt is from him unleashing his attack dogs in Congress & subservient media echo to go after the DOJ, FBI & Mueller investigation, attempting to stop the facts from being exposed to the world or believed by his base: