Max Burns, The Independent
On paper, 1968 was a great time to be an American. Young soldiers returning from Vietnam that June saw an economy which had just created 250,000 jobs. Middle class families saw an 8 per cent increase in their household income. GDP growth for the full year hit almost 5 per cent, an incredible number for a modern economy.
1968 was also the year a white supremacist murdered Martin Luther King. It was the year 125 cities across the United States burned in race riots. It was the year that shredded the social fabric of the United States in ways we have yet to fully recover from. And it was the year Senator Robert F Kennedy asked students at the University of Kansas what it really meant to foster a strong economy.
“The gross national product... measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.”
Even as President Trump celebrates a strong April jobs report, African Americans in Flint, Michigan face their fifth year without drinkable water. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, our core infrastructure — the roads, bridges and waterways that form the lifeblood of our economic vitality — is falling apart.
This is the same America where corporate profits are scraping record highs, and General Motors closing an Ohio manufacturing plant walks hand-in-hand with increases in executive-tier bonuses. The American economy is booming — for some. Don’t expect it to trickle down.
Despite the flashy employment numbers and White House spin, only a sliver of Americans stand to gain from nearly a decade of post-Great Recession economic recovery. Here are just a few of the numbers President Trump won’t be tweeting about tonight. Unemployment among African Americans remains at a near-recession level 6.7 per cent, almost twice the unemployment rate of white Americans. Worsening the racial divide, African American families have on average only 10 cents for every dollar of white family net worth.
But what about people who already have jobs, you ask? Let’s start with hourly workers — their wages remained flat in April, even as the basic cost of living expenses increased. That’s not so bad, you say? At the same time, employers also reduced the number of hours given to part-time and hourly employees, cutting their take-home pay even further.
Those flat wages and declining hours aren’t new — wages have been stagnant since President Trump took office. Voters in Michigan and Pennsylvania are already feeling the pinch and, despite the economy working out well for Silicon Valley tech founders and the Wall Street banks that fund them, most Americans saw no benefit from this “stellar” economic readout.
One of President Trump’s key 2016 campaign promises boldly promised to “bring back coal” to states like West Virginia. But today’s jobs report shows no evidence the Trump administration takes that pledge seriously: the mining sector lost jobs again in April, as it has nearly every month since President Trump took office.
President Trump’s economy offers a look at two different Americas. For the Mar-a-Lago Brunch Buffet crowd that fills President Trump’s world, profits are up and the markets are strong. The skies are darker for young workers facing a 13 per cent unemployment rate and a collapse in retail hiring. Or that Trump-supporting family in West Virginia whose water is poisoned by drilling chemicals. Senator Kennedy was right: instead of celebrating a superficially positive jobs report, we must ask ourselves who the government has decided not to celebrate. An economy disproportionately benefiting wealthy, white business owners is not an economy working for the vast majority of the American people.
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