DC leadership hides behind low unemployment rates that disguises the real economy…In the context of how the American economy has performed so far this century, for 2018 we are doing relatively well.  Unemployment rates are down while the stock market & GDP have gone up.  But in this context of addressing the major structural problems that have been eating away at wages & middle class lifestyles for decades, we’re barely even acknowledging the core challenges, let alone trying to do something about it.  The workers who are filling the preponderance of low-paying/dead-end jobs that are now available (typically in the service sector), with paychecks that every month struggle to pay the bills, should be deeply offended when their president boasts this could be the greatest economy ever.  
Trump’s hollow boasts
Trump judges his own presidency not based on actual accomplishments, but by how much he can convince his base to believe his boasts of success.  So he incessantly brags about low unemployment rates (which have been declining steadily long before Trump became president) & a one-time 4% GDP in Q2 (which also happened a few times during the Obama administration) plus a rising stock market (where half of Americans don’t have the wherewithal to invest).  For actual evidence his claims on the economy are little more than hot air, see inside trump-says-his-accomplishments-are-great-the-public-isnt-buying-it & also us/politics/trump-economy-fact-check.  The one thing we can definitively say about the Trump economy is the deficits are spiking, seen in business/economy/us-government-debt-interest & also peterreagan/10-year-illusion-repeat-2008
So to be fair, we are seeing aspects of the economy improving.  We’ve made a list of the following categories which are making upward progress…
*Wages: But not surpassing the rate of inflation
*GDP: Fueled by the sugar high of tax cuts making use of large deficit spending
*Unemployment Rates: Been trending lower for many years & nearing full employment, but most new jobs created aren’t very good jobs
*Business Optimism: Enjoying the tax cuts & benefiting from deregulation (although the two-edged sword of deregulation creates both pluses & minuses)
*Consumer Confidence: As the clock keeps moving further away from the lingering effects/memories of the Great Recession, job prospects keep improving as for several years unemployment rates have move steadily downward, so people do generally have more cash than at the early stages of our recovery
Declining middle class, income inequality & broadband for rural areas
Based on what Americans are personally experiencing & observing in the world all around them, they keenly sense the middle class is struggling just to keep their heads above water, which is why so many think that once prosperous American middle class is disappearing altogether: one-third-americans-believe-middle-class-will-disappear-entirely. Here’s an interesting perspective in this link income-inequality-poverty-in-america, which is making a case extreme inequality has greater societal consequences than poverty.  It’s vitally important all areas of America are wired as seen in rural-america-worries-it-will-miss-out-on-5g, which so many careers now & heading into the future will depend on, with a prime example seen in our blog from Tuesday: https://www.thevoracs.com/part-three-lets-be-very-proactive-in-finding-solutions-to-poverty-in-america/.
Bills too high
Aside from the basic problem of working-class wages generally being stuck in the mud for decades, a bigger issue could well be the unrelenting increase in the American cost of living.  Housing/rents, health care, college tuition, food, energy, transportation, child care & many other costs keep going up & up & up!  The confluence of stagnant wages & higher monthly bills are at the core of much of the frustration being felt out in the country, even contributing to our political dysfunction as emotions run high & each side is blaming the other.  So at some point our society desperately needs to come together & work on some big bold bipartisan ideas for getting the working middle class back on track.  In a nation with an economy creating massive wealth, it’s practically criminal roughly half the population are continuing to live paycheck-to-paycheck.  As for living expenses, whether it’s Florida or every other state, these excerpts inside personalfinance/this-is-the-no-1-source-of-financial-stress-in-florida point out this main source of stress for American families: 

Still, while residents must contend with some of the most expensive real-estate prices in the country, residents of the Sunshine State say their top source of financial stress isn’t housing. It’s the cost of living overall. That’s according to financial site GOBankingRates, which conducted a survey of more than 2,000 people from every state and Washington, D.C., “to pinpoint what’s causing the worst financial fears and stress among Americans.” Respondents could choose: “debt,” “education,” including things like college expenses, “everyday costs,” including groceries and utilities, “family,” including child care and divorce, “health care,” “housing,” or “taxes.” Floridians chose everyday costs. Almost a third of residents “are stressed about paying for everyday living costs,” says GOBankingRates. “The median household income in the state is $50,860, which is about $7,000 below the national average.” But Floridians aren’t alone in wrestling with everyday expenses. The No. 1 cause of financial stress in the country overall is also everyday living costs, according to the survey. 

Look more to underemployment over unemployment rates
Those touting the low unemployment rates are really looking at the wrong number: unemployment-numbers-hide-the-effects-of-underemployment.  If we want the real truth on the economy, here it is!: what-matters-in-the-midterms-the-economy-stupid.  The narrative we’re being fed by the prez, GOP leaders & the echo about the economy being so strong is misleading.  Real incomes are still flat or even slightly declining, while median incomes are up largely due to the gains going to the top half.  That is explained in these excerpts from does-the-united-states-have-a-strong-economy:  

Long-time Republican Party political strategists are having fits. If only we could get average Americans to focus in on the economy instead of The Donald, they’re telling all comers, the GOP would do just fine in the upcoming November midterm elections. Those Republican strategists should be careful what they wish for. Getting average Americans to focus in on the economy ought to be the last thing in the world they want voters to do. That economy is doing average Americans no favors. And now we have some powerful new evidence to that effect, from data-rich reports just released by the Census Bureau and one of America’s top independent analysts of household well-being, the Pew Research Center. Both sets of researchers tell the same story: Average Americans have no reason to be celebrating our contemporary economy. “Most families,” as Economic Policy Institute senior economist Elise Gould puts it, “have just barely made up the ground lost over the past decade.” News stories on the new Census report have so far been giving the Bureau’s latest income numbers a generally positive spin. Media outlets are headlining an increase in America’s real median income, from $60,309 in 2016 to $61,372 last year. But that increase in median income obscures a more complicated — and much less encouraging — reality.


To most Americans, the best marker of a healthy economy will always be a decent-paying, full-time job. An economy, in effect, only deserves celebrating when people with full-time jobs are taking home rising paychecks. In America today, they aren’t. Median annual earnings for both men and women working full-time actually dropped 1.1 percent last year, in real dollars. Since 2007, male full-time workers have seen their paychecks drop 2.5 percent in value. Stepping back a bit more in time, we can see how shrinking full-time wages are impacting economic life as most Americans experience it. Since the year 2000, the household income of the typical non-elderly American household has dropped 2.7 percent. For average Americans, in other words, this hasn’t been a great century. Indeed, for average Americans, this hasn’t been a particularly great past 50 years. Americans in the “statistical” middle class — the 20 percent of Americans in the exact middle of our income distribution — have seen their real household incomes increase by less than an average 1 percent per year since 1967, the latest Census numbers show.


Middle-class households are continuing “to fall further behind upper-income households financially, mirroring the long-running rise in income inequality in the U.S. overall.” In 2016, Kochhar adds, wealth gaps between upper-income families and both lower- and middle-income families stood “at the highest levels recorded.” The bottom line: The economy that America’s rich run is doing quite well for America’s rich. And that statistic on rising median income that news stories on the new Census report are headlining? Census Bureau researchers are asking us to take the latest median income number with a grain of salt. Yes, notes Jonathan Rothbaum, the chief of the Census Bureau’s Income Statistics Branch, the new Census Income and Poverty in the United States: 2017 report does show the 2017 U.S. median income to be the highest on record. But that “record” status rests on a change that Census researchers made in their income survey questions four years ago. If we adjust for the changed questions, suggests Rothbaum, the 2017 median income actually amounts to less than the incomes typical Americans pocketed in either 2007 or 1999.

Buying off our democracy

With average Americans & the working class lacking a strong voice & not getting proper representation in DC, who do you suppose has a disproportionate say & are really pulling the strings on swaying political decisions?  The answers are seen inside america-oligarchy-dominated-billionaires-big-money-series & also a-better-way-to-see-who-is-buying-your-senator & also leadership-pacs-are-campaign-finance-scandal.  In crony capitalism they scratch each other’s backs, so these excerpts from wasnt-trumps-gop-supposed-to-represent-the-little-guy-oops show how large donors are showing their gratitude for those generous tax cuts:

President Trump recast the Republican Party as a vehicle for the forgotten man. But these putative populists passed a $1.5 trillion tax cut that, according to a poll this month for the Republican National Committee, is now seen, by a 2-to-1 margin, as a benefit to “larger corporations and rich Americans” over the middle class. And now these same friends of the little guy are running a campaign for the House bankrolled almost entirely by corporate interests and those who can afford to write four-figure checks to politicians. Records show House Republican incumbents in seats targeted by Democrats are getting almost all their campaign funds from large contributors (often those who donate $2,700 or $5,400) and political action committees. Only a tiny fraction comes from those who give $200 or less. 

Finally some signs of wage growth at the lower income levels

More help wanted signs & some places raising minimum wage have helped, but we can argue these are still poverty wages.  In this post here that begins the message inside one-reliable-way-raise-wages-is-you-know-raise-wages, it explains at least there are those signs of wage growth on the very bottom rung of the income ladder:

While middle-class wages haven’t grown much in inflation-adjusted terms over the past few years, that’s not the case for many lower-wage workers. Recent analysis by economist Elise Gould shows, for example, that while median pay was unchanged in 2017, low pay — the 10th-percentile wage, meaning 90 percent of workers earn more — rose at a strong clip of 3.7 percent. Follow-up work by Gould shows roughly similar results through the first half of this year. There are (at least) two explanations for this pattern. First, when the economy sniffles, disadvantaged workers catch pneumonia. That is, lower-paid workers get disproportionately hurt by labor market slack and vice versa. High earners are far less sensitive to the ups and downs of the business cycle. Low unemployment provides low-wage earners the bargaining clout they lack in slack economies.


The second explanation is even simpler: minimum wage increases. I realize it’s a very big “duh” to point out that raising the pay of low-wage workers ends up … um … raising their pay, but this simple fact gets obscured in the debate over raising minimum wages. If you follow this policy, you know that I’m of course talking about state- and city-level increases. The federal minimum wage has been stuck at a ridiculously low $7.25 for almost a decade. But since the 1990s, subnational entities have stepped up and raised the minimum wage. Some of the places are the usual suspects, such as California, New York, Massachusetts and the District. Some other places, such as Arizona and South Dakota, might surprise you (the pay floors in both states hit $10.50 and $8.85, respectively, this year). But at this point, the federal minimum wage is basically the Southern minimum wage.   

Tax Cuts

Here in part 3 of TheVORACS over several months now, we’ve posted many many many articles on the real effects of the Trump/GOP tax cuts.  What we’ve seen so far is not so much rising wages, but instead a dramatic increase in corporate stock buybacks & projected trillion-dollar deficits from the government revenue shortfalls.  We’re also seeing upward pressures on inflation & interest rates as overall an element of volatility has been introduced into the economy, while the verdict is still out on the trade wars.  So with the tax cuts falling far short of the expectations & promises, the public has been disappointed in those results & polling reflects that: elite-narrative-that-the-economy-is-doing-well-isnt-trickling.  With all the dozens & dozens of articles about the tax cuts this year we’ve revealed in this blog, here’s another one inside republicans-lost-messaging-battle-on-tax-reform with excerpts seen here:      

The Supreme Court vacancy, once presumed to be a political winner for midterm season by Republicans, is currently blowing up in their faces. But there is another massive scheme Republicans executed in the hope it would bolster their prospects in November which has also turned out to be a failure: the GOP tax scam. According to Bloomberg, an internal poll commissioned by the Republican National Committee found some sobering numbers for the tax cut bill, which was signed by President Donald Trump last December: By a 2-to-1 margin — 61 percent to 30 percent — respondents said the law benefits “large corporations and rich Americans” over “middle class families,” according to the survey, which was completed on Sept. 2 by the GOP firm Public Opinion Strategies and obtained by Bloomberg News. The result was fueled by self-identified independent voters who said by a 36-point margin that large corporations and rich Americans benefit more from the tax law — a result that was even more lopsided among Democrats. Republican voters said by a 38-point margin that the middle class benefits more.


Republicans initially sold the tax cut bill, which deeply slashed corporate taxes, created a special exemption for “pass-through” entities, ended the individual health insurance mandate, and cut individual income tax rates while also ending exemptions used by the poor, as a boon to working families. But in reality, the top 1 percent of Americans saw 83 percent of the tax cuts. And between the corporate rate cut and a one-time tax on overseas profits that was supposed to persuade corporations to invest profits at home, companies are engaging in an explosion of stock buybacks and CEO bonuses — in fact, buybacks are outpacing normal business spending for the first time in 10 years, as corporate executives are cashing in. Far from creating jobs or raising worker pay as Republicans promised, some companies, like Kimberly-Clark, have even used their tax cuts to pay the cost of laying off employees. To top it all off, the law is riddled with drafting errors and mistakes due to the haste with which it was passed, and experts say that tens of millions of taxpayers are expected to owe the IRS extra money next year due to accidental underwithholding.


This would be a tough policy to defend even with disciplined, competent messaging, but Republicans have managed to turn the public against them even further with their accidental honesty. During passage of the bill, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said it was reasonable the tax cut would mostly benefit the rich because the poor just spend all their money on “booze or women or movies,” and Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., made it clear the voters’ opinion of the bill was irrelevant because his rich campaign donors were telling him “Get it done or don’t ever call me again.” After it was passed, House Speaker Paul Ryan boasted that the bill was a success because a secretary in Pennsylvania gained an extra $1.50 a week in take-home pay. And some other Republicans just openly celebrated that the bill put more money in their own pockets, with Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., buying a multimillion-dollar luxury yacht on the same day he voted to pass the bill.


Initially, Republicans tried to use Democrats’ votes against the tax bill in attack ads. But these ads were very quickly pulled as it was clear voters didn’t want to hear it, and soon Democrats were winning elections by attacking Republicans for voting for it. Ultimately, the GOP tax scam has been such a disaster that it threatens to derail the entire economic strategy Republicans have been pursuing for decades. The bill was such a brazen giveaway to the wealthy that it broke the American voting public’s automatic love of tax cuts. In losing the messaging battle, Republicans finally got voters to pay attention to the emptiness of their fiscal agenda — and they could end up paying a steep price.

The safety net & sports

Myself & most Americans share the sentiment we want a vibrant free-market economy where people have the initiative to work hard, striving towards happy & productive lives.  I also share the general belief among conservatives that too many people are taking advantage of our large safety nets (as some on the far-right say, call them freeloaders if you will), where they live off the government dole at taxpayers’ expense.  Yes, the government does spend too much & hands out way too many benefits, but to have the moral grounds to curtail all that, we must first set up an economic structure where full-time employment can pay a livable wage.  That’s just not happening now with millions of jobs, so many of the recipients now getting government aide do work full-time jobs or have multiple jobs.  

Politics should not be like sports, where we’re all in rooting for the home team & always look to defeat the other team.  But sadly, that’s what the DC game has become.  We’ll never get ahead & we won’t win if we can’t seek common ground.  And we should seek big ideas way out of the comfort zones & beyond the traditional paradigms of both parties.  While Dems are wrong in wanting to increase benefits, the GOP is also wrong in that their policies reward those already doing extremely well, so they’re missing the mark on addressing the core problems faced by the working class.  That point is brought out by examining the agenda (or non-agenda) the GOP is now running on, seen in excerpts from opinion/the-party-of-no-ideas:  

One thing we do know, however, is that Republicans have decisively lost the battle of ideas. All of their major policy moves, on health care, taxes and tariffs, are playing badly with voters. In fact, Republican policies are so unpopular that the party’s candidates are barely trying to sell them. Instead, they’re pretending to stand for things they actually don’t — like protecting health coverage for Americans with pre-existing conditions — or trying to distract voters with culture war and appeals to white racial identity. The G.O.P. has become the party of no ideas.


Start with health care. Not that long ago attacks on Obamacare were a winning tactic for the G.O.P., but last year’s attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act seems to have concentrated the public’s mind, making many people aware of how much they might lose if it went away. Public support for the act is near all-time highs, with many now saying that the law didn’t go far enough — and Democrats have a large lead as the party that’s better on health care as an issue.


Then there are taxes. The last time Republicans rammed through big tax cuts, under George W. Bush, they were fairly popular. And the party’s leaders seem to have imagined that the same would be true now. “If we can’t sell this to the American people, we ought to go into another line of work,” declared Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, last December. Have they sent out their job applications? Because the American people aren’t buying. A few weeks ago an internal G.O.P. survey found that “we’ve lost the messaging battle” on the legislation, with voters overwhelmingly believing that the tax cuts went to corporations and the rich, and many worried that increased deficits will endanger Social Security and Medicare.


Finally, there’s the Donald Trump twist — the one area where he is somewhat at odds with G.O.P. orthodoxy: His economic nationalism, embodied in a rapidly expanding set of import tariffs. After the 2016 election, many commentators argued that Trump’s Electoral College win reflected a backlash against globalization. And that suggested that his protectionist turn might prove popular. But it hasn’t. Specifically, trade war is causing Republicans considerable grief in farm country. Meanwhile, tariffs appear to be unpopular in industrial states, too. In fact, it’s hard to find any large group that likes Trump’s trade policy.


Why are Republican policy ideas falling so flat? At one level, the answer is obvious: G.O.P. policies are unpopular because they hurt far more Americans than they help. Why should anyone expect cutting taxes on the rich while taking health care away from the sick to be popular? The question is why such policies were ever popular. The answer, I think, is that in the past, voters didn’t see the connections. When Bush pushed through his tax cut, we had a budget surplus, so it wasn’t clear to voters that less revenue might mean cuts to programs they count on. When you push through big tax cuts in the face of a budget deficit — and when your own party has spent years warning about imminent fiscal doom and demanding spending cuts — the implications are more obvious.


In the case of health care, it was a lot easier to peddle scare stories about Obamacare before it went into effect, insuring tens of millions, than it is to defend taking away coverage people already have. And Trump’s tariffs suffer politically because some Americans are already being hurt, while the supposed beneficiaries have good reason to doubt whether they will be helped. In fact, even as Trump boasts that his steel tariffs have revived the industry, two major steelworker unions have voted to go on strike — because while corporate profits have surged, workers’ wages haven’t. In short, the American public seems to have wised up; voters seem to have recognized the G.O.P.’s reverse Robin Hood agenda of taking from ordinary families and giving to the rich for what it is.


More Lousy Ideas

Of course, the one big idea Trump campaigned on has been proven more of a rallying battle cry to his duped Trumpeters than any sort of viable plan: a-journey-along-the-entire-1933-mile-us-mexico-border-shows-the-monumental-task-of-securing-it.  And we’d be the ones to pay for it, not Mexico!  And for more signs the GOP is out of ideas, see this opening to the-gops-two-top-priorities-seem-to-be-duds-so-what-does-the-party-even-stand-for:

If you’d asked me a few years ago to name the Republican Party’s top policy priorities, I would have said: 1) Obamacare repeal and 2) tax cuts. Today, the GOP seems to believe that both are duds with voters. Worse than duds: huge liabilities, ripe for Democratic exploitation.

Bad Girls

Judge Kavanaugh’s combative attitude at his hearing came after a pep talk from Trump.  As with everything Trump says, he’s also trained his people that his self-interests ALWAYS come before telling the truth.  So Trump instructed the judge to treat the women who’ve accused him of sexual assault in the same way Trump handled his own accusers (women-accused-trump-sexual-misconduct-list), that is to deny the accusations (the-downside-of-deny-deny-deny) & blame the women (trumps-most-insulting-and-revealing-lie-about-brett-kavanaugh).  So no matter the despicable actions that could have taken place, the Trumpian strategy is to turn it around & blame the accusers: brett-kavanaughs-grotesque-carnival-will-republicans-put-this-petulant-child-on-the-supreme-cour.  

With Trump’s consistent mentality, it’s not the men who are bad even if they committed heinous acts, since it’s always the women who are the bad girls.  As we listen to this song, it’s really the women who will help save us from this wretched cult, because they will remember this outrage!: republican-party-face-wrath-women.  Especially if Kavanaugh gets confirmed without a full & proper FBI check, the MeToo movement could dominate the midterms!  We can soon vote out in large numbers the party that has attached themselves at the hip with this corrupt & morally vacuous president: 

(Click on image for full video)