In Defying the Odds, we talk about the social and economic divides that enabled Trump to enter the White House. Those divides, however, are now working against him. Despite reports of robust economic growth, Trump's approval rating is sagging and Republicans are in serious danger of losing the House. What is happening?
A decade later, things are eerily calm. The economy, by nearly any official measure, is robust. Wall Street is flirting with new highs. And the housing market, the epicenter of the crash, has recovered in many places. But like the diary stored in Ms. Swonk’s basement, the scars of the financial crisis and the ensuing Great Recession are still with us, just below the surface.
The most profound of these is that the uneven nature of the recovery compounded a long-term imbalance in the accumulation of wealth. As a consequence, what it means to be secure has changed. Wealth, real wealth, now comes from investment portfolios, not salaries. Fortunes are made through an initial public offering, a grant of stock options, a buyout or another form of what high-net-worth individuals call a liquidity event.
Data from the Federal Reserve show that over the last decade and a half, the proportion of family income from wages has dropped from nearly 70 percent to just under 61 percent. It’s an extraordinary shift, driven largely by the investment profits of the very wealthy. In short, the people who possess tradable assets, especially stocks, have enjoyed a recovery that Americans dependent on savings or income from their weekly paycheck have yet to see. Ten years after the financial crisis, getting ahead by going to work every day seems quaint, akin to using the phone book to find a number or renting a video at Blockbuster.
When the bubble burst, the bedrock investment for many families was wiped out by a combination of falling home values and too much debt. A decade after this debacle, the typical middle-class family’s net worth is still more than $40,000 below where it was in 2007, according to the Federal Reserve. The damage done to the middle-class psyche is impossible to price, of course, but no one doubts that it was vast.In December reported at Bloomberg:
President Donald Trump is trying out a new campaign slogan: “How’s your 401(k) doing?” The answer for more than half of Americans is that they don’t have one.Ditto the GOP tax cut. Quentin Fottrell at MarketWatch:
Trump has tested out the line this month at a fundraiser, a campaign rally and in a White House meeting, predicting that the rising U.S. stock market will help him win re-election. But only about 45 percent of private-sector workers participate in any employer-sponsored retirement plan, and the lower-income workers in Trump’s political base are the least likely to hold money in such an account, according to the Government Accountability Office.
Approximately 76.4 million or 44.4% of Americans won’t pay any federal income tax in 2018, up from 72.6 million people or 43.2% in 2016 before President Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, according to data released Thursday by the Tax Policy Center, a nonprofit joint venture by the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution, which are both Washington, D.C.-based think tanks. That’s below the 50% peak during the Great Recession. They still obviously pay sales tax, property taxes and other taxes.