Juan Williams: The reality of the Trump economy

Do you recall this golden promise from Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpHarris bashes Kavanaugh's 'sham' nomination process, calls for his impeachment after sexual misconduct allegation Celebrating 'Hispanic Heritage Month' in the Age of Trump Let's not play Charlie Brown to Iran's Lucy MORE during the 2016 campaign?

“We’re going to make America wealthy again,” he promised. “You have to be wealthy in order to be great.”

Well, Trump voters, how is that working out for you?

ADVERTISEMENT

After almost two-and-a-half years with Trump in the White House — including two years with Republican control of both houses of Congress — the middle class is getting squeezed to a pulp.

The rich got their Trump tax cut. GDP looks good. And the stock market is doing great for people with money to invest. But it is only the rich who get the big rewards in Trump’s economy.

What about the middle class?

Wages remain stagnant. Trump’s trade wars are hurting farmers. Coal mines keep closing. Teachers in several states have been on strike.

Housing prices are up; prescription drug prices and healthcare costs are up; gas prices are up and student debt is soaring.

This is the reality for the middle class.

Meanwhile, never forget that 83 percent of the benefits of Trump’s tax cut will in the long run go to the nation’s wealthiest 1 percent, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

That adds up to a big fail on Trump’s promise to boost the middle class.

But get ready for Trump to sell the same stale promise of economic revival for the middle class in his 2020 campaign.

And why not? Trump’s handling of the economy and unemployment are his strongest selling points.

Fifty-one percent of Americans approve of how the billionaire is steering the economy, according to the Real Clear Politics (RCP) average of polls.

Keep in mind that Trump’s overall approval rating is stuck underwater at 43 percent, while 53 percent disapprove, according to RCP. But Americans give Trump a good grade on the economy.

That is why Trump uses the economy as his magic answer to every question.

“The stock market hit an all-time record high today and they’re actually talking impeachment?” he said in a tweet last week. “Will I ever be given credit for anything[?]”

Do people who watch the markets agree with Trump?

Not Rick Newman of Yahoo Finance. He wrote in his column last week:

“If Trump deserves credit for a roaring stock market then Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaLet's not play Charlie Brown to Iran's Lucy Mattis dodges toughest question At debate, Warren and Buttigieg tap idealism of Obama, FDR MORE, Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonWords matter, except to Democrats, when it involves impeaching Trump Appeals court allows Trump emoluments case to move forward Trump commemorates 9/11 with warning to Taliban MORE and Ronald Reagan do as well. In fact, all of them presided over more total highs in the S&P 500 than Trump so far.”

And there is more bad news for Trump in a Fox News poll released earlier this month.

It showed “a majority, 53 percent, believes GOP policies benefit the rich and powerful rather than everyday Americans (32 percent), while voters are more likely to see the Democratic Party as being for everyday Americans (40 percent) than the rich (34 percent).”

That’s why Jamie Dimon, the chairman and CEO of J.P. Morgan Chase, wrote in his April letter to shareholders that the American Dream is alive but “fraying for many.”

He explained that 40 percent “of American workers earn less than $15 an hour, and about 5 percent of full-time American workers earn the minimum wage or less, which is certainly not a living wage.”

Consider one more economic fact.

Last May, the Federal Reserve Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households found that 40 percent of American adults would not be able to afford a $400 unexpected expense without borrowing or selling something.

Trump’s failure to deal with the economic squeeze on the middle class gives Democrats a wide opening.

Income inequality is a hot political topic “now that we have the Trump tax cuts that are driving inequality even more,” Neera Tanden, head of the Center for American Progress, recently told The Washington Post.

The Democrat running for president with the best ideas for helping the middle class is Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenGun control: Campaigning vs. legislating Booker defends middle-ground health care approach: 'We're going to fight to get there' Democrats spar over electoral appeal of 'Medicare for All' MORE [D-Mass.].

ADVERTISEMENT

Last week, she unveiled an ambitious proposal to forgive $640 billion in student loan debt. Student loan debt is a key factor preventing millions of Americans — especially millennials — from making their way into the middle class.  

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 44 million American borrowers collectively owe $1.5 trillion in student loan debt. Republicans immediately denounced Warren’s plan as unrealistic even though they have no plan of their own.

Warren is on the right track in reminding voters that Trump defaulted on his promise to help the middle class. But Democrats can expect Trump to point to low unemployment and label them “socialists.”

And economic policy, while important, can be boring — especially when it is competing head-to-head with Trump’s twitter feed.

So far, Trump’s distracting Twitter feed — with its attacks on the media and Democrats — is keeping his base voters comatose to the economic ills of the middle class.

What happens, though, if Trump’s base voters wake up to the real state of the American economy?

It will be the end of Trump.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.