While Biden is happy to brag the economic blessings of the “Obama-Biden administration”, many of its opponents have no choice but to redouble their efforts to wage a class war. For working-class Americans who are seeing rising wages, rising financial security, and plenty of jobs available to just about anyone who wants one, the message from these Democratic presidential hopefuls is simple: You’re wrong.
The first Democratic presidential debate began 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% of Americans say the economy is doing well.” Warren replied, “Who is this economy really working for? Works great for a thinner and thinner slice at the top.
Only progressive math could turn 71% into “a thinner and thinner slice at the top.” This remarkable percentage came from a March CNN Poll which hit an 18-year high in the percentage of Americans giving the economy positive ratings. The “slenderest slice” of the poll was the 27% of Americans who gave the economy negative ratings – the lowest number since February 2001.
The CNN poll reflects more than public opinion, it reflects reality. In June, according at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a historic peak than 157 million people were employed and less than 6 million people were unemployed (a recent low last seen nearly 18 years ago, when the labor force was 20 million fewer people). The result has been an unemployment rate of 4% or less for 16 straight months, a streak unmatched nearly 50 years ago.
The demand for workers is driving wages at rates last seen in 2009. According to the BLS, wages for all nonfarm employees rose 3.1% in June, compared to June a year ago. Salaries of production and non-management employees (workers, in other words) have increased 3.4%. Workers who worked 40 hours a week saw their income increase by an average of $1,500 over the past year.
These production and non-supervisory employees represent 80% of the workforce, which means that year-over-year wages for the higher-paid supervisory employees – the remaining 20% – have increased at a rate much slower by 1.9%.
If your concern is economic justice, this should all be great news. The only way to really reduce income inequality is for low-wage incomes to grow faster than high-wage incomes. This is exactly what is happening.
Don’t tell that to the Democratic presidential candidates, though. On July 7, Sen. Cory Booker (DN.J.) wrote on Twitter“This economy is not working for average Americans. It’s time we had a president who stands up for workers. The “economic justice” section of Sen. Kamala D. Harris’ (D-Calif.) campaign website said“Our economy isn’t working for working people” and her “first priority as president will be giving 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 its brand of democratic socialism. “It’s not just that the very rich are getting much richer,” Sanders said. “It’s that tens of millions of working class people in the richest country in the world are suffering incredible economic hardship, desperately trying to survive.”
Perhaps the most succinct summary of how candidates view the national economy is a line favored by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio: “There’s a lot of money in this country, it’s just in the wrong hands.”
It’s hard to overstate the disdain these presidential hopefuls have for the American economic system or their willingness to ignore its benefits. At the very least, it is a politically risky position. A recent Gallup poll found that while less than a third of Americans are proud of the US political system, 89% of Republicans and 64% of Democrats are proud of US economic achievements.
Trump’s policies of cutting taxes, reducing regulations and encouraging domestic energy production have boosted economic growth, which is reflected in the president’s rising approval rating. Democratic presidential candidates who keep asking American voters “Who are you going to believe, me or your lying wallet?” might not like the answer.
Ed Rogers: Will 2020 be about the economy or Trump’s behavior?
Dana Milbank: The Trump economy’s house of cards is collapsing
Greg Sargent: At a rally, Trump lied a lot about the economy. Here’s what worries him.
Robert J. Samuelson: Why Are Wage Gains So Low?
Helaine Olen: It’s high time to raise the minimum wage