Trump failed American workers even without the trade war

Retaliatory tariffs imposed by China and the United States took effect on billions of dollars worth of goods today. The latest edition to the trade war saga between the two countries expectedly had a negative impact on stocks, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average down more than 200 points when the markets opened. 

Much of the media’s economic coverage has been complementary toward Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump marks 'very sad milestone' of 100K coronavirus deaths DOJ: George Floyd death investigation a 'top priority' Lifting our voices — and votes MORE, with journalists regurgitating his boastful claims about low unemployment numbers and a soaring  stock market. The only exception to the positive coverage has been the trade war. That’s when journalists begin to warn that if Trump doesn’t end the hostile back and forth with China, it’ll destroy the “strong” economy he built. 

But journalists should ask average American workers if the smoke and mirrors Trump keeps bragging about translate to a strong economy. Sure, Trump's nearly $2 trillion in tax cuts for the wealthy allowed corporate executives to buy shares of their own stocks, which artificially inflated the market. But that does nothing to improve the quality of life for the average American. 


The fact of the matter is that workers are facing financial hardships that have gone unnoticed or underreported. While the unemployment rate appears low, the underemployment rate is devastatingly high.  

More Americans are employed in jobs that do not meet their financial needs or align with their skills. A study by the Economic Policy Institute indicates that more than 11 percent of Americans work part time but want full-time work or have looked for work in the last year but have given up actively seeking it.” 

Workers are also underemployed when it comes to their wages, which haven’t kept up with inflation. The second quarter 2019 Payscale Index found that real wages actually fell 0.8 percent in the last quarter. In fact, much of the consumer activity the Trump administration brags about is financed through credit cards and personal loans. 

Consumers are grappling with a record $14 trillion in debt, and the number keeps growing with rising childcare, housing and college costs. Americans have $1 trillion more in consumer debt today compared to the height of the last recession. With stagnant wages and growing costs, it’s no wonder the Federal Reserve recently reported that there has been a troubling uptick in credit card and auto loan delinquencies. 

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York found an uptick in mortgage delinquencies as well. Around 10.5 percent of mortgages in early delinquency (30-60 days late) transitioned to 90 days delinquent in their latest report. When it comes to student loan debt, 10.8 percent of borrowers were either 90 days late or already in default by the second quarter of this year, up from 9.9 percent the previous year.


This is the state of the economy for the average American worker during a so-called economic expansion. I would hate to see what workers are going to deal with when the economy inevitably slows down.

Unfortunately, that day feels too close for comfort. Trump’s Acting chief of staff, Mick MulvaneyMick Mulvaney12 things to know today about coronavirus Mulvaney: 'We've overreacted a little bit' to coronavirus The Memo: Trump agenda rolls on amid pandemic MORE, has already warned a group of 50 wealthy GOP donors that the U.S. may fall into a "moderate and short" recession. 

Publicly, Trump argues any declaration of a potential recession is unfounded. But anyone paying close attention to the facts while ignoring news reports parroting Trump’s talking points knows the opposite is true.

Ana Kasparian is the executive producer and host of The Young Turks and No Filter. Kasparian also teaches journalism at California State University Northridge.