Joe Biden Says Trump Is Focused on the Stock Market: “Not You. Not Your Families”

Joe Biden has accused Donald Trump of surrendering to the Coronavirus and being more concerned with stock prices than Americans’ lives. The presumptive Democratic nominee pledged to help working families.

The former Vice President gave a speech on his economic plans in Pennsylvania on Thursday but took the opportunity to criticize the President for his handling of the pandemic.

Trump has “waved the white flag“, Biden said. His surrender had caused a “terrible human cost and deep economic toll.”

“Time and again working families are paying the price for this administration’s incompetence,” he said.

“During this crisis, Donald Trump has been almost singularly focused on the stock market, the Dow and the Nasdaq. Not you. Not your families.”

“If I am fortunate enough to be elected president, I’ll be laser focused on middle class families, the working class families like where I came from in Scranton.”

Biden also took aim at major corporations. The Trump administration passed historic tax cuts that disproportionately benefited large companies. Biden wants to change that.

“It’s time that corporate American pays their fair share of taxes,” Biden said.

“The days of Amazon paying nothing in federal income tax are over.”

“Let’s make sure workers have power and a voice. It’s way past time to put an end to the era of shareholder capitalism – the idea that the only responsibility a corporation has is to its shareholders.”

“That’s simply not true and it’s an absolute farce. They have a responsibility to their workers, to their country. That isn’t a new or radical notion.”

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Opinion: Greed versus Need: Coronavirus Only Magnifies Ongoing Struggle over American Morality Tale

The inspirational mantras we hear multiple times a day remind us repeatedly that “we’re all in this together” and “we’ll get through this together.”

It’s such a powerful and commonplace expression these days, seemingly rolling off the tongues of every commentator, commercial spokesperson, and social media user, that one would almost think Hillary Clinton had, in fact, actually been elected back in 2016, when her defining campaigning slogan urged us to see ourselves as “stronger together.”  Everybody’s saying it. read more

Coronavirus Highlights Dangers of Trump’s Destruction of the U.S. Public Sphere

It’s easy to sell people on lower taxes and to encourage people to hate paying taxes.  Few politicians, even those who promise to provide health care, better public education, student debt relief, and so on, rarely explain in detail what Americans are getting in return for the investments their taxes fund or the bills they pay.

And it’s easy to get people to hate the government, to paint it as some insidious deep state working undercover for nefarious ends or to depict it as some bloated and ineffective democracy.  This portrait of the government is, in fact, what fuels tax-hating.

Americans are really bad at thinking carefully about—and American politicians are even worse at talking about—the benefits we all receive for the taxes we pay, from roads to schools to health care to energy to security and so forth.

The current coronavirus pandemic may very well provide an opportunity to spotlight the value and necessity of the nation’s public sphere, the hosts of often unnoticed government and state agencies that do in fact serve and protect us.

Conversely, this pandemic promises also to highlight Trump’s destruction of the nation’s public sphere and the dangerous consequences of this agenda of defunding and short-staffing public service agencies.

While the Associated Press has identified as inaccurate certain claims by Joe Biden and Michael Bloomberg that Trump has defunded the Center for Disease Control (CDC), thus hobbling efforts at prevention and response, the fact remains that Trump has substantially weakened the abilities of the CDC and other agencies in terms of their abilities to adequately to ensure public health.

Since assuming office, Trump and his administration have in fact been dismantling the very government programs and agencies charged with addressing global health crises.

In 2018, for example, because it was running out of money, the CDC had to eliminate 80% of its effort to prevent the outbreaks of global disease, narrowing the number of countries on which it focused its efforts from 49 to just 10.

Moreover, the Trump administration undertook a series of actions to dismantle government-spending programs aimed at combating the spread of global diseases. For example, the unit of global health security in the National Security Council was shut down, national health spending was reduced by $15 billion, the U.S. government’s Complex Crises Fund of $30 million was eliminated, and more.  Reporting for Foreign Policy, Laurie Garrett asserts that the U.S. has never been less prepared for a pandemic, pointing out, among other factual developments, that in 2018 Trump “fired the government’s entire pandemic response chain of command, including the White House management infrastructure.”

One could go on citing the ways the Trump administration has actively undermined and underfunded the abilities of our public agencies to secure the nation’s public health in a way Americans have come to rely on, whether it is always visible to us or not.

But we need to recognize Trump’s dangerous behavior in relation to public health in this instance as part of a larger agenda of eliminating the public sphere, the multitude of tax-payer funded public agencies that serve the myriad needs of the American people, from health care to education to national parks to infrastructure to energy.

Trump simply has chosen not to fully staff many crucial agencies and the primary leadership positions within. In February 2017, according to CNN, Trump still had not filled nearly 2,000 vacant appointed positions. And he has shown little inclination to actually staff the government since then.  Two years into his administration, the State Department 61 of 202 Senate-confirmable positions were vacant; in the Justice Department 15 out of 29; and in the Department of Defense 12 out of 56.  Across federal agencies, at that time, there were 260 vacancies out of the 713 leadership positions.

Government, for Trump, simply isn’t about public service, and he doesn’t seem to value any concept of the public good.

Perhaps most exemplary of this disavowal of the public good and the public sphere is the appointment of conservative lawyer William Perry Pendley last July as the head of the Bureau of Land Management, a federal agency that oversees a substantial portion of publicly-owned lands.  He, of course, believes the government should sell off all of this land.

This position meshes completely with Trump’s behavior of letting the public sphere simply wither, unstaffed and underfunded—with the desire perhaps of finally having them completely unfunded.

Trump wants everything public to be privatized.

Taught to hate paying taxes, Americans can be slow to realize the value of pooling our money together to fund collectively our educational system, our roads, research and development, health care, social security, and more.

But think if we left matters of public health up to private companies and interests. Companies like Johnson and Johnson and Purdue Pharma were brought to justice for in fact fueling the opioid crisis in America in the name of generating profit. These private interests showed little concern for the health of the American public as long as they could garner billions of dollars in profits.

The coronavirus pandemic is beginning to draw into relief the value of the public sphere, our public agencies, and the need to fund and staff them.

As has been pointed out, the economic damage an out-of-control coronavirus can inflict on the nation far surpasses the costs of preventing and preparing for it up front.

So, as we watch Trump continue to slash taxes, let’s reflect on the real cost of not funding the public services upon which we rely.

 

 

 

 

 

Opinion: Pence Admits to Trump’s Failing and Fraudulent Economic Policies

In his State of the Union address earlier this month, President Trump celebrated the putative success of the economy he claims to have built, doing so in historic terms:  “I am thrilled to report to you tonight that our economy is the best it has ever been,” he boasted.

And yet, at the same time, budget deficits and the national debt continue to surge, revealing that Trump’s policies are not designed to fuel an economy for the long haul but rather that currently the U.S. economy is running on a sugar high, showing the potential to crash at any moment.

While the stock market is performing at record levels, the national debt has also surged to record levels, surpassing $23 trillion for the first time in history and promising only to bloat more.  Over the first four months of 2020 fiscal year, the deficit is outpacing last’s year deficit expansion by 25% in the same time frame. Over the past 12 months, the deficit has expanded $1.1 trillion.

Bess Levin, writing for Vanity Fair, gives perspective to the horror of Trump’s sugar-high economy when she writes, “Incredibly, this is all happening against the backdrop of the longest economic expansion on record and the lowest jobless rate in 50 years, conditions that typically cause the budget deficit to shrink.”

Trump promised, of course, that the enormously generous tax cuts he bestowed on corporate America and the wealthiest Americans would spur a growth that would cover the cost of tax cuts and more, spreading prosperity to all Americans. (Of course, let’s not forget he campaigned on the promise he would, in fact, eliminate the debt entirely, which at the time stood at approximately $19 trillion.)

Yet while the GDP grew 2.9% in 2018, growth slowed to 2.3% in 2019 as the debt and deficit swelled to historic proportions.

Days after Trump’s State of the Union peacocking, Vice President Mike Pence defended Trump’s deficit expansion in an interview with CNBC.

Here are a few of his responses which not only recycle the stale—because failed—narratives of trickle-down economics and of tax cuts paying for themselves, but also grossly distort history, falsely claimly Trump inherited an economy in decay, as opposed to one of the most steadily expanding economies in history the Obama administration engineered. Pence prevaricated as follows:

“The president came into office and he said, ‘First and foremost, we have to restore growth.’”

“Deficits and debt are right in line, but it is first about getting this economy moving again and we really do believe the trajectory of this economy.”

“Once we get this economy rolling, we’re going to work real hard, not just to get President Donald Trump four more years in the White House, but we’re going to make sure we have a Republican Senate and a Republican House to keep America growing and to deal with those long-term fiscal challenges.”

The big lie here, of course, is Pence’s insistence that Obama did not have the economy rolling, that Trump needed to get it moving again.

Politifact reported, for example, having looked at the economic measures Trump invokes, that “the trend lines continued almost seamlessly from the second half of Obama’s presidency into the first three years of Trump’s tenure. Trump’s claim that he turned around a failing economy is wrong.”

Obama ran deficits and increased the debt doing the arduous work of pulling the nation’s economy out of a deep recession. Trump has been over-stimulating an economy that was already healthy, throwing money at the wealthiest while failing to invest in real growth for America, deceiving Americans it will trickle down.

Of course, the World Bank rejected the efficacy of trickle-down economics back in 2015, debunking it as a myth. The International Monetary Fund actually lambasted it as a joke.

Pence’s insistence on recycling this failed myth is basically an admission of Trump’s fraudulent mismanagement of the U.S. economy to the detriment of American lives.

Pence asserted that Trump sees “the real long-term solution to the fiscal challenges in Washington, D.C., is making sure the budget of every American is growing.”

And yet poverty and homelessness are in fact what is growing in America, while Trump seeks to make healthcare less accessible and affordable for the American majority.

And let’s not forget how growing deficits impact Americans’ economic well-being.

The ballooning deficit resulting from the Trump tax-cuts, for example, cultivated a fertile context for Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell to loudly renew their insistence that cuts to Medicare and Social Security are necessary to address the out-of-control deficit their own policies immediately exacerbated. Far from benefiting Americans, these tax cuts, which were supposedly to trickle down, just keep cutting Americans and increasing economic precarity, not prosperity.

Trump himself recently confirmed read more

Opinion: American Lives Depend on Telling True Story of Trump’s Life-Destroying Economy

What is the story of the U.S. economy?

Not unlike the proverbial elephant subject to scrutiny by a band of blind men, the nation’s economy is subject to multiple narrative descriptions depending on which component of the beast, whether our economy or an elephant, the blind man massages.

Some media pundits have argued that the historically low unemployment rates combined with record stock market performances attest to a strong economy that would propel Trump to victory in 2020 if only he were disciplined enough to stay on point about the economy, stupid.

Others claim focusing on these numbers is akin to grasping the trunk and the tail of the elephant, missing the bigger and much more accurate picture of an economy that has not just failed but actively assaulted the vast majority of Americans.  MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle, for example, has been unrelenting in fleshing out this more comprehensive narrative, insisting, among other points, that the stock market and the overall economy are not the same thing.

It may very well be the more compelling storyteller, or the storyteller who gets access to the most air time, who tilts the 2020 election.

Robert Shiller’s recent splashy book Narrative Economics underscores this point in a general way, arguing that the popular and viral narratives purveyed about the economy don’t so much describe the economy but drive the economic events themselves, regardless of the truth value of the story itself.

As the Yale University professor and Nobel-prize winning economist told CNBC, “It may not be so logical. It may be more, as I said, of animal spirits. This is an emotion that you feel at a certain time that you sense you see in other people. So when you see other people feeling confident about the market, you feel more confident yourself.”

He attributes recent market strength, for example, to Trump’s storytelling prowess: “He’s a motivational speaker. We’ve never had a motivational speaker president before. He knows how to create animal spirits.”

What cannot be emphasized enough, however, is the importance of a crafting an economic narrative that aligns as closely as possible with our economic reality, generating the most effective understanding of the dynamics and performance of the economy–for good decision-making by voters and good policy-making by legislators.

How we tell this story is vital to lives of the American majority, which is why Shiller’s applause for Trump’s motivational stirring of animal spirits is absolutely misplaced and damaging to American lives.

As we get a hold of the entire elephant of the Trump economy, we find an economy on a sugar high, thriving on taxpayer debt, enriching even further the already wealthy, and heading for a crash.

As we limn this elephant, let’s start with the national debt and deficit. Trump inherited a strong economy, and it is typically during healthy economic times that the government pays down the national debt. But both the deficit and debt have grown under Trump’s administration, largely because of his tax cuts that served largely the wealthy.

Reports indicated that in October the federal government’s budget deficit ballooned 34% from a year earlier to $134.5 billion, projecting that the annual deficit will top $1 trillion for the first time in eight years.

The national debt, meanwhile, has surged beyond $22 trillion.

Hmmm. If the economy is booming, shouldn’t the federal government’s coffers be filling up and not depleting?

We can certainly understand how in a time of recession the government would need to provide economic stimulus and thus run a deficit, but when the economy is supposedly experiencing record performance?

When Trump slashed corporate tax rates from 35 to 21 percent, we were told, as usual, that these tax cuts would pay for themselves, create an economy that enriches us all.

Basically, Trump is using the credit of the American worker to enrich corporate America and the wealthiest of Americans. It’s as if, for most Americans, someone maxed out their credit cards and yet they got none of the benefit of the goods and services purchased.

These tax cuts benefited the wealthy and did not trickle down, despite Trump’s promises that companies would invest in workers and not cut jobs. Companies like AT&T, Wells Fargo, and General Motors lobbied for them, promising to re-invest their tax savings in their workers and companies to the benefit off the nation as a whole. And yet all of these companies have engaged in massive layoffs or plant closings. AT&T has eliminated over 23,000 jobs since the tax cuts went into effect, despite receiving a $21 billion windfall from the tax cuts with the prospect of cashing in an additional $3 billion annually in tax savings. In November 2018, GM announced it would be closing five plants, eliminating 14,000 jobs in communities across Ohio, Maryland, Michigan, and Ontario, Canada, while buying back $10 billion in stock and earning a net profit of $8 billion on which the company paid no federal tax. Other automakers have also slashed thousands of jobs, saving billions of dollars.Wells Fargo did raise the minimum wage of its employees, though the tax savings for the company were 47 times larger than the cost of that pay raise to the company; and the company announced its plans in September 2018 to eliminate 26,000 jobs, at the same time that it has raised health insurance costs for its employees.

Meanwhile,

homelessness in the U.S. read more

As Wealth Tax Debate Heats Up, What Does it Mean to Invest in America?

Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax proposal has certainly sparked debates not just about basic questions of fairness, of morality, but also about the economic effectiveness and very meaning of taxation.

The debate raises the question of what it means to invest in America.

Beto O’Rourke, in the last debate, jumped on the Warren-bashing bandwagon, accusing Warren’s policies of being “more focused on being punitive or pitting one part of the country against the other instead of lifting people up.”

Elaborating O’Rourke’s critique in terms of the impact of the proposed tax on the economy, Lawrence Summers, Treasury secretary under President Bill Clinton, and law professor Natasha Sarin argued in a paper they wrote that a wealth tax would “undermine business confidence, reduce investment, degrade economic efficiency and punish success in ways unlikely to be good for the country or even to be appealing to most Americans.”

While we tend to hear in the media from billionaires like Bill Gates and Leon Cooperman and not the 99/9% of households that would not pay more taxes under Warren’s proposal, polls directly contradict Summer’s and Sarin’s claim, showing overwhelming public support for a wealth tax.

But let’s assess Summer’s and Sarin’s claims that the tax would “undermine business confidence, reduce investment, and degrade economic efficiency.”

In short, let’s explore the question of what it means to invest in America and whether a wealth tax would really constitute a reduction of investment in America.

First, let’s just reflect intuitively on whether a tax on just .1 percent of American households seems likely to “undermine business confidence” and “reduce investment.”  Consumer spending makes up roughly 2/3 of the U.S. economy, so it stands to reason that policies geared toward fostering a consistently robust consumer and encouraging consumer confidence in the 99.9% of households just might be a more effective approach to stimulating economic activity and ensuring the long-term economic health. Just saying.

For example, a recent study from the Illinois Economic Policy Institute highlights the many ways raising the minimum wage would significantly improve Illinois’ economy. The study contends, “By raising the minimum wage, Illinois can boost worker incomes, reduce income inequality, increase consumer spending, grow the economy, generate tax revenues, and decrease taxpayer costs for government assistance programs.”

In a nutshell, raising the minimum wage to $15 would both save taxpayers money by decreasing the need for public assistance for the working poor (saving $87 million alone in food stamp outlays, according to the study), increase the revenue the state brings in from income and sales tax (generating, the study says, $380 million in new state tax revenue), and overall generate $19 billion in economic activity. read more

Democrats Must Resist Recession Narrative and Critique Narrative of Trump’s Economic Success

This week’s stock market antics and the occurrence of an inverted yield curve have provided compelling evidence portending another economic recession.

These economic indicators, in addition to spurring stock sell-offs and turbulent market volatility, also sparked a firestorm of debate and commentary regarding how a potential recession would impact Trump’s 2020 re-election bid.

The word on the street, from such sources as The Washington Post and ABC News, is that Trump himself and his administration are fretting over the prospect of a recession and the threat it poses to his re-election, banking on a strong economy as their key platform.

And the media pundits, of course, are out in full force, prematurely anticipating a recession and signaling the doom of Trump’s 2020 bid.

The narrative born from this past week’s hubbub is not just that a recession will hurt Trump but also, implicitly, that if a recession is avoided, Trump will be in a position to base his re-election bid on the performance of the economy and his handling of it, as if this economy has in fact been a success in terms of making the majority of Americans’ lives better.

As I’ve written about repeatedly in the pages of PoliticusUsa (here and here and here, for example), Trump’s policies have inflicted severe damage on the economy and, by extension, the lives of many Americans.

That the media continues to buy into the narrative of a successful Trump economy thus far, even if it is threatened by recession, paints an erroneous picture that is politically dangerous for Democrats and which they must resist.

Instead of criticizing the Trump economy for the potential failures looming on the horizon, which may in fact never come to pass, Democrats would be better served to highlight and explain how this current economy, touted by Trump as a seeming success, has in fact failed masses of Americans.

Here are just a few talking points:

*Take his tax cuts, which we know benefited the wealthy and did not trickle down, despite Trump’s promises that companies would invest in workers and not cut jobs. Companies like AT&T, Wells Fargo, and General Motors lobbied for them, promising to re-invest their tax savings in their workers and companies to the benefit off the nation as a whole. And yet all of these companies have engaged in massive layoffs or plant closings. AT&T has eliminated over 23,000 jobs since the tax cuts went into effect, despite receiving a $21 billion windfall from the tax cuts with the prospect of cashing in an additional $3 billion annually in tax savings. In November 2018, GM announced it would be closing five plants, eliminating 14,000 jobs in communities across Ohio, Maryland, Michigan, and Ontario, Canada, while buying back $10 billion in stock and earning a net profit of $8 billion on which the company paid no federal tax. Wells Fargo did raise the minimum wage of its employees, though the tax savings for the company were 47 times larger than the cost of that pay raise to the company; and the company announced its plans in September 2018 to eliminate 26,000 jobs, at the same time that it has raised health insurance costs for its employees.

*And what about healthcare, a huge economic issue for Americans? Has Trump created policies to secure affordable healthcare for Americans?

Since Trump took office, according to the Congressional Budget Office, over one million Americans have lost health insurance. Additionally, a recent study from the American Cancer Society reveals that 56% of American adults, about 137 million, have experienced serious financial struggle, even if insured, because of high deductibles and otherwise skyrocketing healthcare costs.

The Commonwealth Fund reports that 44 million people are under-insured, which means they often forego necessary care because of costs.

What is the Trump administration to address this major economic hurdle to health and well-being for millions of Americans?

Well, last May 1 while Congress held hearings exploring the possibilities of Medicare For All, the Department of Justice, under the direction of embattled Attorney General William Barr, was busy in court suing to abolish the Affordable Care Act in its totality. If Barr and Trump prevail in this suit, millions of Americans will lose the health insurance they currently have, including 52 million who have pre-existing conditions. Trump and Republicans have presented no alternative healthcare plan, despite promises.

*And what about those tariffs that are supposed to benefit the American economy and bring prosperity?

Trump’s tariffs are devastating American farmers. The trade wars Trump has instigated has not only led to the

lowest incomes American farmers read more

Why Democrats Must Make Trump Economy Key Issue in 2020

Recently Republican Congressman Sean Duffy from Wisconsin, in an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, framed the looming prospect of Donald Trump’s impeachment as ridiculous.

His reason? The economy is supposedly booming. He told Hayes, “They have higher wages, lower unemployment. We’re killing it in Wisconsin. You want to impeach that guy?”

Hayes, of course, challenged Duffy by pointing out that the performance of the economy and whether or not Trump committed impeachable offenses are independent matters, that a booming economy does not excuse the commission of high crimes and misdemeanors.

As independent as these issues might be, however, Democrats need to be careful not to buy into the myth that Trump has created a high-functioning economy. It simply isn’t true. The economy is, in fact, hurting rather than helping most Americans, despite indicators that measure economic performance, as I’ve argued elsewhere in the pages of PoliticusUsa, in ways that really bear no relation to how the majority of Americans are actually faring in the Trump economy.

Democrats tend to pivot to issues of morality and criminality, just as Republicans divert attention to Trump’s putative economic successes. Democrats exercise this pivot at their own risk and ignore a key opportunity for political analysis and education of the American public by letting this erroneous narrative of Trump’s economy go unchecked.

Take Duffy’s claim that “We’re killing it in Wisconsin.”

What the Republicans and Trump are killing in Wisconsin is the American farmer.

Trump’s tariffs are devastating American farmers. The trade wars Trump has instigated has not only led to the lowest incomes American farmers have experienced in years but also caused a record number of bankruptcies for Midwest dairy farms. Over the past two years 1,200 dairy farms have stopped producing milk and another 212 have simply disappeared. These effects have been especially felt in Wisconsin.

Democrats would benefit from highlighting—and understanding themselves—how out of touch Trump and the Republicans are when it comes to the economy and how ordinary Americans are suffering extraordinarily.

And how about the fact that Trump just took $16 billion of taxpayers’ money to bailout farmers from the crisis he created. I’m confident many Americans could think of a better way to spend that $16 billion, if Trump’s mismanagement of the economy had not destroyed the global market relations for farmers.

And yet, a great deal of common wisdom being forwarded on all sides is that the supposedly strong economic numbers bode well for Trump’s re-election; and that if he were to focus in a more disciplined way on the successful economy and not distract Americans with his petulant and petty tweets, his chances for re-election would be heightened.

After Trump’s recent rally in Florida in which he played to his base by recycling the hate speech of his 2016 campaign, railing against illegal immigrants, calling for the imprisonment of Hillary Clinton, and so on, Ronald Brownstein observed in The Atlantic, “Trump attempted to pump up his base by acting in exactly the manner that pushes away so many voters who are content with the economy but disenchanted with his behavior.”

Brownstein himself recycled the hackneyed story of “It’s the economy, stupid,” writing, “Given the low unemployment, strong stock market, and steady growth in total economic output the country is experiencing, some election-forecasting models, specifically those that emphasize the economy’s performance, predict an easy reelection in 2020 for Trump.”

And yet an astounding percentage of those working in the wealthiest nation on earth live on the edge. One third of all workers make less than $12 per hour and 42% make less than $15 per hour. A third of the population has no savings, and another third has less than a $1,000 in savings, leaving little to no wiggle room for any unexpected expense, such as medical expense or routine car repair. Fourteen percent of Americans live in poverty, as reported by Forbes, a publication far from being a liberal rag.

We must not see Trump’s lack of moral compass as distinct from his economic policies.

He has been waging an immoral assault on America’s middle and working classes.

Take his

tax cuts read more

Trump’s education cuts show it’s not the economy, stupid; it’s just mean stupidity

Trump racist chinese

Remember President Donald Trump’s State of the Union addresses last February and in particular in January 2018 amid a wave of teachers’ strikes? Can you recall the talking points he elaborated on the need to support public education?

No?

Well, that’s because since taking office he’s uttered barely a word about our at-risk public education system or the sharply waning fiscal support for public higher education which has led to skyrocketing tuitions as well as exacerbated a student debt crisis that is deleterious to the economy overall.

The sounds of Trump’s silence on public education are audible to the point of being deafening. Indeed, when in 2018 teachers from

West Virginia read more