2019 is drawing to a close and the end of the year is usually a time when people look back at what happened over the past twelve months. One way to take stock is to look at statistics, so let’s do that for a moment.
The numbers Donald Trump and his surrogates like to tout in public are mostly related to the economy, often dealing with a decline in unemployment numbers and a rising stock market. Something that Team Trump does not like to talk about so much is the exploding federal budget deficit which grew by 26% or $984 billion. A whopping $16 billion of that was paid out to American farmers to gloss over the fact that Trump’s claim about China paying the tariffs he imposed in the context of the ongoing trade war is simply a boldfaced lie.
According to MarketWatch, a recent Federal Reserve study found that Trump’s tariffs have led to job losses (mostly in manufacturing) and higher produce prices. Furthermore, the Trump administration’s tax cuts, which have helped to make the federal budget deficit explode, did not result in more investment and higher wages. Rather, they went into additional dividends and stock buybacks which boost a company’s stock price and market value. In other words, Donald Trump has failed to put bread on the tables of those who need it most while providing more cake for those whose tables were already overflowing.
Likewise, statistics about job growth may look good on the surface, but they do not tell the whole story when they fail to include information about wages paid to those who work in the newly-created jobs. The number of Americans who work multiple jobs and still need to rely on government subsidies such as SNAP is constantly on the rise. In this context, I came across a number that tells a devastating story. The number is 25 and the story is about ordinary Americans coming together online to discuss the question of whether or not it is possible to survive on $25 a week or less.
The $25 amount came up based on the fact that the monthly SNAP allotment for one person without countable income currently is around $190. As more and more people joined the conversation to share their own experiences with living on a tight budget, it became clear that it is possible to survive on $25 or less if people work at it about as hard and as diligently as one would work at a fairly demanding job, but not without consequences. “My teeth crack, my bones hurt,” one woman wrote, revealing the mind-boggling fact that ordinary people in one of the world’s richest countries are no strangers to the problem of malnutrition as a result of living in deep poverty.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump and the GOP are diligently working behind the scenes to cut even more and bigger holes into the already fragile safety net provided by federal aid programs. This sounds like a lot of bad news, and, frankly, it is. The good news is that 2020 will be an election year which gives American voters the opportunity to make their voices heard and demand a government of the people, by the people and for the people.