You can hardly blame President Donald Trump and other Republicans for crowing about the economy. The stock market regularly hits record highs lately. Gross domestic product is soaring. Unemployment is effectively as low as it can go. These facts are undebatable.
But Republican rhetoric on this topic is stunningly misleading. No, Trump and tax-cutting Republicans didn't turn things around, as they claim. President Barack Obama inherited an economy in free fall and, eight years later, handed Trump a recovery in progress. Today's positive trends were already well in place before Trump arrived. That, too, is undebatable.
Yet happy days aren't here for everyone. As the rich are getting richer via those higher stock prices, the buying power of wage-earning Americans has remained flat. All Americans this election season should hold Republicans accountable when they promote false narratives about the economy.
America's humming economy was already humming when Republicans passed their massive, deficit-funded tax cuts last year. That's why, even if you accept the premise of supply-side economics, the move made so little sense. The economy needed no stimulus. What emergency was so dire it required us to go further into debt for those cuts?
One part of the economy that, then as now, wasn't humming was wages. They have long been rising at rates so modest they're barely keeping up with inflation, which means real wage growth has been virtually flat.
Boosting those stagnant wages was a big Republican selling point for the tax cuts, which were top-loaded so that most of the immediate benefits went to corporations and the wealthy. No problem, the GOP assured us; when corporations are flush with cash from their lower taxes, they will use that money to pay their workers more, so everyone will benefit.
It hasn't worked out that way. Some companies spread around temporary bonuses to their workers, but much of the tax cut — which, remember, all Americans and our descendants are paying for via rising deficits — was used by corporations to buy back their own stocks. Stockholders, not workers, are the beneficiaries. Since the tax-cut windfall rolled in, U.S. companies have used hundreds of billions of dollars of it for buybacks. In some cases, they've laid off workers while doing it.
When Republican candidates try to hoodwink us with claims that their tax cuts created this humming economy and have helped everyone in it, voters everywhere should arm themselves with the facts and vote appropriately.
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