There’s almost nothing that Donald Trump likes to brag about more than the unemployment rate. The rate for black workers, the rate for women, the overall unemployment — Trump fancies himself the savior of America’s economy because he has presided over a drop to the lowest point in decades.
We would LOVE to give credit where credit is due. Unfortunately for the President, it’s not due to him, or to his policies. Barack Obama was President when the track America is on now in terms of reaching full employment began, and the speed at which it’s happening, if anything, has slowed since Trump took over.
But Trump and the GOP like to think that the tax bill they passed almost exactly a year ago has been a major driver of the economy. That’s just plain false, and what’s more, it a dangerous narrative. The fact is, tax breaks that primarily benefit the very wealthy have been tried any number of times by the Republican Party, and they’ve failed to anything but enrich the people they benefited.
Republicans first sold the tax cut as one that would affect everyone right on their paychecks. When America saw through that sleight of hand, they rebranded it as something that would cause employers to give more money back to their workers — in essence, they said, the same thing as a tax break for people in the lower- and middle-class. And in fact, businesses immediately touted the bonuses they were giving out left and right, claiming they were passing those tax savings on to their workers.
Now the numbers are in.
As it turns out, fewer than five percent of American workers got a raise or one of those bonuses everyone raved about. And ironically, many of those were already in the works, and companies simply moved up their timetables to take advantage of the good press for having done it “as part of” the tax cuts they were suddenly getting.
But that’s not nearly the worst of it. The Economic Policy Institute ran the numbers over the last 12 months for those that did get a bonus, and found that all that extra money resulted in an average increase in hourly pay of a whopping two cents an hour. You know where a lot of that money DID go? About a trillion was used to buy back stocks, which made a lot of companies look a lot better to their shareholders.
With the low unemployment, though, and the high corporate profits, and the economy growing, that means regular non-bonus wages are going way up, right? That’s how it’s supposed to work.
That’s not how it’s worked.
Wages have gone up — but after adjusting for the higher inflation rate and rising costs of goods, real wages are up less than one percent.
So yeah, things are “better” for workers since the tax cuts. Not “record corporate profits” or “a trillion dollars in stock buybacks” better, but a little. Try not to hurt your hands clapping for the two cents more an hour you made over the last year if you were one of the five and a half million workers (out of 126 million) to get a bonus.
Featured image via screen capture