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The Trump economy isn't good for everyone

By Robert B. Reich, Tribune Content Agency on

The award for this year's Biggest Backhanded Compliment to Donald Trump from a Trump Toadie goes to acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who recently predicted a Trump victory in 2020 because "people will vote for somebody they don't like if they think it's good for them."

Mulvaney knows most Americans don't like Trump. But Mulvaney thinks they'll forgive his unsavory traits because unemployment has hit a 50-year low, wages are rising, and economic growth exceeds 3 percent. A CNN poll released in early May shows that 56 percent of Americans approve Trump's handling of the economy.

This is making some Democrats nervous. No president since World War II has failed to be re-elected when the economy was good, and every president up for re-election in a lousy economy has been booted out of office.

"What Democrats have to be most worried about is the economy," says Democratic pollster Celinda Lake.

But there's a whopping difference between Americans thinking the economy is good in general and thinking it's good for them personally. The personal economy drives votes, and most Americans think their personal economy is lousy.

In a survey by The Washington Post and ABC News published May 7, more than 80 percent of Democrats and 66 percent of independents said "the economic system in this country" mainly works "to benefit those in power" rather than all Americans. Nearly a third of Republicans agreed.

 

The official economic statistics don't reflect personal economics -- what people tell each other over the kitchen table when they're trying to pay the bills.

Although more Americans are employed, most jobs still pay squat. Adjusted for inflation, recent wage gains are smaller than wage gains in 2015. Workers have lost so much bargaining power that not even the lowest unemployment rate in half a century is doing much to boost wages.

Employers continue to sack workers willy-nilly. To take but one example: Two years ago, AT&T executives promised that the pending corporate tax cut would allow them to create more jobs. They laid off 23,000 instead.

Consider that almost 80 percent of American workers are living paycheck to paycheck and you get a feel for the havoc so many families are living in.

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