economy wall street journal donald trump congress
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Shouldn’t we expect more from The Wall Street Journal, the uber-influential daily newspaper that historically has been seen to represent the first and last word on American fiscal and political conservativism?

economy wall street journal donald trump congress
Caricature of President Donald Trump. (DonkeyHotey, Flikr, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Yes, we should, but even a quick Google analysis of the U.S. economy shows the august periodical is not only falling short but misrepresenting factual reality.

Consider the Journal’s Jan. 16 editorial by its Editorial Board, titled “American Carnage Revisited: Democrats offer a dark vision despite rising optimism about the economy.” (Journal articles are only available by subscription.)

Even the editorial’s opening paragraph was misleading.

“When President Trump declared a state of ‘American Carnage’ in his 2017 Inaugural Address, Democrats denounced its dark vision and pessimism,” the Journal editorial begins. “Three years later Democrats appear to be converts, or at least that’s how it sounded in [the Jan. 14] presidential debate.”


Democrats in 2017 were railing against a new president who garnered a minority of votes — nearly three million fewer than Hillary Clinton in the election held the previous November — yet in his inaugural address said he would be “transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the American People.”

But we all know now that the “American People” to which he referred does not comprise all Americans but only his “deplorables” — Clinton’s much-maligned term for fact-challenged Trump supporters. And Democrats were also put off by his conceit that regular Americans’ economic woes originated in the “swamp” of Congress rather than from where they actually emerged: in the self-serving boardrooms of corporate America and Wall Street.

“For too long, a small group in our nation’s Capital has reaped the reward of government while the people have born the cost,” Trump insisted in his inaugural address. “Washington flourished — but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered — but the jobs left, and the factories closed.”

Except that wasn’t Democrats’ doing. It was largely congressional Republicans catering to the mega-rich bigwigs and giant corporations, who fund their election campaigns, by orchestrating lawmaking to enhance globalization, which caused factories and jobs to move offshore and remaining domestic wages to fall, and ending up pouring more and more profits into the pockets of already rich Americans and away from those whose pockets were already largely empty.

In his inaugural, the new president had the temerity to promise, “This American carnage stops right here and stops now.”

As if.

It’s laughable that The Wall Street Journal’s supposedly erudite and well-informed Editorial Board is accusing current Democratic presidential candidates of hypocrisy for decrying today’s staggering economic inequality in the U.S., because they complained when Trump supposedly railed against it in 2017.

Seriously? Do the Journal’s presumably well-informed pundits really think Trump was talking about the same thing?

If they do, they’re self-deluded. And because they’re very well-informed, it looks worse, like a kind of bald-faced disingenuity. Of course, even though sycophantic “deplorables” probably won’t notice the lie, many of the rest of us majority who didn’t vote for Trump will.

In fact, Trump was simply gaslighting in his inaugural, directly speaking only to his gullible supporters, echoing Ronald Reagan, that government can’t fix their problems because government is the problem.

Actually, in Trump’s GOP nomination acceptance speech before the 2017 vote he proclaimed to the world that, “Only I can fix it.”

Later, though, he packed his cabinet with conservative fat cats; slashed regulations on business (which protect consumers); played footsy with Wall Street; engineered a gigantic tax cut that mainly benefitted corporations and the wealthy (while adding a trillion dollars to the national debt); earned millions from his own corporate properties as his customers curried favor by utilizing them; yanked food-stamp benefits from needy Americans; and didn’t show any interest at all in increasing the federal minimum wage.

In the meantime, he continues to hide his tax returns.

When Democratic candidates spoke at the January debate, they spotlighted the real economic carnage in America — monstrous inequalities of wealth and economic opportunity, which have in recent decades decimated not only the poor but also the middle class.

Americans “are sick of living in a country” that is “working great for the corporate executives, it’s just not working for everyone else,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren said.

Sen. Bernie Sanders added, “Half of our people are living paycheck to paycheck. Eighty-seven million people have no health care or are uninsured or underinsured. …We got 500,000 people sleeping out on the streets tonight.”

And Tom Steyer chimed in,“[Corporations] are having their way with the American people, and people are suffering.”

They are suggesting that government isn’t the problem (although it could do much better), but rather that corporate power and the pernicious influence of wealth in the republic are a far greater problem.

“It all sounds terribly grim,” the Journal editorial sniffed, explaining that “the U.S. economy has been expanding for a decade, the unemployment rate is 3.5%, and incomes are now rising faster for low-income workers than for their bosses. That includes a 5.9% annual increase for the bottom tenth of workers during the Trump Presidency, more than double the rate in President Obama’s second term.” (boldface mine)

Forget that the Obama administration inherited the “Great Recession” from Republicans and pulled the nation out of economic quicksand, setting the stage for the current administration’s great good fortune on Wall Street.

Also, employment rates are largely irrelevant in the current context. Most of the jobs gained are temp and minimum wage — oh, yay! — and try raising a family on them. And a 5.9% wage increase for the “bottom tenth” of workers, as you might imagine, is not much better than 5.9% of nothing. These Journal talking points are “straw men,” distractions from the real issue, which is massive and growing inequality.

Journal scribes surely know this.

A report last summer by the Brookings Institute (BI), a nonpartisan think tank, noted that the wealthiest one percent of Americans households “holds more wealth” than the entire middle class. In 2018 the one-percenters owned $25 trillion in household wealth, compared with $18 trillion of the middle class, a 29 percent advantage.

BI also reported that the top-fifth wealthiest Americans owned 77 percent of total household wealth in 2016 — “more than triple what the middle class held.”

Of course, you can forget about the relative plight in this reality of the poor and near-poor, who are certainly poorer and near-poorer today.

If all Americans are doing so well since Trump “drained the swamp” in Washington of economic parasites, why is it, as BI reports, that “6 in 10 Americans do not have enough saved to cover three months of expenses”?

The Journal suggests that Democratic presidential candidates are dishonestly “pitching carnage” on the stump by trying to persuade Americans that “they shouldn’t believe the economy they see with their own eyes.”

I suggest Democratic candidates are seeing the economy clearly. It’s the Journal that’s looking at it through rose-colored glasses. It’s possible for the economy to be booming overall while the middle and lower classes are getting shafted at the same time. As it is and they are.


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Rick Snedeker is a retired American journalist/editor who now writes in various media and pens nonfiction books. He has received nine past top South Dakota state awards for newspaper column, editorial,...

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