Prof. Wolff responds to President Trump's State of the Union delivered on February 5, 2019.
This is Richard Wolff with a response to president Trump's State of the Union message February 5th, 2019. I'm going to focus on the economics of it because they were in their way stunning. Let's begin with the simplest assertion: we are doing "great" economically, we are "in the best shape in the whole world," words to that effect.
Let's be clear about some things: over the last 20 years the United States has had a hard time achieving economic growth. The last year or two are slightly better, parts of them than the previous ones, and there's no mystery for that: it's because the government gave an enormous boost to the economy. Let me say that again: not private enterprise, not private capitalist corporations, the government gave an enormous boost. What was the form of the boost? The 2017 tax cut in December of that year, which gave corporations a vast amount of hundreds of billions of dollars in taxes they don't have to pay anymore, freeing up that money for them to do whatever they want with; and they mostly used it to increase salaries of executives, to buy back shares of stock in the stock market. All of which was very good for the top one percent, but not for the rest of the American people. All of that is hidden under the rug by Mr. Trump. But even the performance, getting our growth rate up to 3% for a part of that time, even though it's averaging out to two and a half to three percent, that that's the best in the world, that's just a lie!
Let me give you an example: simply the People's Republic of China. They're having a bad year, they're only growing...ready? 6.5%. Which is lower than what they've been able to do for most of the last 15 or 20 years. The Chinese economy has become the second most important in the world because they systematically grow, you got it, faster than the United States. The real wages of Chinese workers, the average amount of money they get adjusted for inflation, has quadrupled in the last 12, 15 years. What happened to the average wage in America, adjusted for inflation? It hardly budged. It went up single digits, not 3-4 times. The experience of the economies in these two countries could not be more different. Excluding that from the conversation - prancing around as if the economy here is the envy of the world - that's not just nonsense. That's straight out lying; and it is meant to position himself as the special person.
The second economic reality I would want to talk about, is the fact that he spent more time in this State of the Union message demonizing immigrants than on any other topic. Stories of immigrants being bad, stories of invasions coming, wild exaggerations that have no basis in fact. Let me give you the simplest economics with which to understand that: the United States is an economy of three hundred and twenty five million people; the number of undocumented immigrants in the United States is estimated between 10 and 12 million. Okay you don't need rocket science to understand that nothing that you can do to those poor 10 to 12 million of the lowest paid people in our economy is gonna change the economic conditions for 325 million Americans. Focusing on immigrants is pure scapegoating; it's focusing people on something that doesn't matter because you don't want them to focus on what does matter.
And here's the third and most important point about this president's bizarre speech: not one word was uttered about inequality. It is the starkest feature of American economic life in the last 40 years. It has gotten worse literally every year, and with the tax cut of 2017, Mr. Trump added his extra to making the inequality even greater than it had been before. Corporations would give an enormous amount of money; back they used it to speculate in the stock market; buy back the shares of their own companies, boosting the amount of money that executives and shareholders get; widening the inequality.
And then the final twist: he spent a few minutes prancing at the stage saying we will not have socialism, socialism has been recurring or coming back. Mr. Trump, the biggest single cause of Americans interest in socialism is because the economy, the capitalist economy you represent, hasn't worked real well for the majority of people. The inequality you inherited, and made worse, has increased the interest in socialism. You don't like socialism! You're the biggest booster of it in this country. You're the one! You're blind as to what is going on. Your fakery in order to promote yourself politically, is in a way the most dangerous misunderstanding and misleadership that this society cannot now afford, given what is happening to it.
And that's my comment on the State of the Union and of Mr. Trump's fantastic misunderstanding of it. Thank you very much for your attention to this commentary on the State of the Union message.