Rather than offer a report on the State of the Union, Donald Trump used his annual primetime slot in the House of Representatives to host a re-election rally. The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, summed up the sentiment of the House majority when she stood behind Trump and ripped the text of his speech in half. “I tore up a manifesto of mistruths,” she later said. But of all the lies he told, the president is proudest of the economy he claims is booming. Poor and low-income Americans know that the economy is, in fact, his greatest vulnerability.
Yes, the Dow is at a record high and official unemployment rates are lower than they have been in decades. But measuring the health of the economy by these stats is like measuring the 19th-century’s plantation economy by the price of cotton. However much the slaveholders profited, enslaved people and the poor white farmers whose wages were stifled by free labor did not see the benefits of the boom.
In America today, 140 million people are poor or low wealth. While three individuals own as much wealth as all of them put together, the real cost of living has soared as wages have stagnated. Since the 1970s, the number of people who are paying more than a third of their monthly income in rent has doubled, and there is not a single county in the nation where a person working full-time at minimum wage can afford to rent a two-bedroom apartment. Sixty per cent of African Americans are poor or low-income, as are 64% of Hispanics, but the largest single racial group among America’s poor and low-income – 66 million Americans – are white. [Continue reading…]