Viewpoints

Let’s Just Watch What They Do

3/26/21
By: Carol Voyles

Messages of hope are always welcomed during such turbulent times, and Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) delivered these reassuring words to his Fox News viewers: “We believe in our responsibility to secure the future of America. I’m on the side of the average worker. We need our party to focus upon principles that undergird the success of the American economy and the American worker.” 

Yes, let’s do it. It’s time. And his words suggest that that outcomes matter and that that government has a role to play. That's encouraging; but having been misinformed so regularly, we could appreciate actions more than words. 

Past performance is generally regarded as an indicator of future performance, and we have a reliable source of this information. The archives of our federal government may not be as entertaining as tweets, but they provide undisputed data and real outcomes. 

But let’s be prepared. We may have closed our eyes and ears to vote for Donald Trump in 2020. His behaviors may have caused concern, but we may have voted for him because we had our “greatest economy ever.” We could be shocked to learn that our economy actually slowed a bit. It continued to move in a positive direction, but had grown more during Obama’s last three years than during Trump’s first three.

Then we were advised that this “flu” would just disappear, and with just 4 percent of the world’s population we suffered 20 percent of its Covid deaths. 22 million jobs were lost; our economy suffered its worst dip since WWII, and Joe Biden became our president.

But in the event that we are not pleased with the results of our 2020 election, we could appreciate knowing that we’ve not only created more jobs and enjoyed higher wages and higher household incomes during Democratic administrations; since 1947 our economy has expanded 3.6 percent annually under Democrats, on average, versus 2.6 percent under Republicans. Based upon decades of performance, we might be hopeful.

Our percentage of young adults aged 18–29 living at home with their parents seems to reinforce this data. Having experienced more Democratic governance during the decades following our Great Depression, our percentage of young adults living at home fell from 48 percent to 32 percent by 1960. But having experienced significantly more Republican leadership since 1980, 52 percent of our young adults are back at home today. And with our level of income inequality, fewer of them are marrying and starting families.

But what about our stock market? It’s great. Donald Trump has tweeted about it over 100 times, but that doesn’t necessarily tell us much. According to Forbes, stock market performance has not favored either party absolutely, but since 1947 our S&P 500 has posted an average annualized return of 9.0 percent under Democratic presidents and 7.4 percent under Republicans. 

Trump could claim bragging rights for our tech-heavy Nasdaq; and were it not for Covid-19, his market returns might have topped Clinton's and Obama’s. But that can’t be too surprising when many of our corporations are paying little or no federal income tax; our billionaires are $1 trillion wealthier, and our top 10 percenters are playing 90 percent of this market. But 8 million more of us fell into poverty as price to earnings ratios pushed past 30.

Our history suggests that we will move in a positive direction; and Moody’s is suggesting that Biden’s overall legislative plan will result in greater overall economic and job growth than a second Trump administration would have. A majority of economists are siding with these findings. We’ll see.

What else might concern us? Debt is rarely spoken of while Republicans are in office, and that’s understandable. Since 1980 Republican administrations have created more than twice as much debt as a share of our economy as Democratic administrations. Democrats cut budget deficits, but our debt remained upon an upward trajectory and became 34 percent larger under Trump.

We have our highest debt to GDP ratio since WWII - and a Covid relief plan with a $1.9 trillion price tag. But unlike Trump’s comparably priced tax cut benefitting the wealthiest among us most, this plan is targeted to help the average American worker. And since 70 percent of our economy consists of consumerism, this should move our economy in a positive direction.

At this point we also might wonder if the relatively poor performance of Republican administrations should be attributed to bad breaks or bad timing, but there’s clearly something to that old saw that Democrats are always cleaning up after Republicans. Republicans handed Democrats our Great Depression, our Savings and Loan Crisis, and our Great Recession.

At this point it may not surprise us that President Biden’s approval rating is higher than Trump’s. Our president is not only addressing our pandemic in a responsible manner, he recognizes that harboring the highest level of income inequality among industrialized nations and the world’s fourth highest percentage of children living in poverty isn’t a recipe for peace and prosperity.

And if truth be told, we might even see that our 45th president distinguished himself primarily by misinforming us (over 20,000 well-documented times) and saddling us with critical levels of division and violence. He continues to insist that he won the 2020 election “in a landslide;” and most Republicans, without a shred of evidence, remain in lock step. But as Thomas Paine warned in 1792, “A body of men holding themselves accountable to nobody ought not to be trusted by anybody.”

Today we have a leader who not only respects our constitutional mandate to “promote the general welfare,” he is aware, first and foremost, that the principles that undergird the success of the American economy and the American worker must include accountability. Consensus in matters of fundamental importance would be a giant step forward at this point in our history, and Senator Scott’s assistance would be welcomed. We will see, won’t we?

Carol Voyles of Easton is a member of the Talbot County Democratic Forum (demforum.com)

 

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