If you believe Alabama’s two highest-profile Republicans — President Trump, who commands most voters of this state, and Gov. Kay Ivey, who occupies its biggest chair — then you agree that the nation’s roaring economy and enviable unemployment rates prove a majority of Americans are floating in prosperity.
In Washington and Montgomery, that is the GOP’s message.
People are working, which they are. The economy is improving, which it is in certain sectors (but those caveats, though).
What Trump and Ivey never mention is that unemployment rates alone are a first grade-level method of measuring the health of the U.S. economy. Worse still, they never mention that America’s low rates of unemployment include huge gains in low-income, minimum-wage jobs and that stagnating wages have become a staple of the U.S. economy since the Great Recession.
All jobs aren’t equal. And the result is what Rajan Menon, a professor of international relations at City College of New York and a senior research fellow at Columbia University, calls the “United States of Inequality” — a nation with a Pentagon budget of $647 billion and nearly 9 million citizens who work and still live below the poverty line.
America’s supposed roaring economy is beset with ever-widening gaps between the rich and the poor, and Republican administrations in state capitals and D.C. are either purposefully ignoring the facts or contributing to the pain those gaps cause.
The United States has the second-largest poverty gap among wealthy countries, Menon wrote this summer in The Nation.
What’s more, the United States ranks poorly in global listings of child poverty (35th out of 41 of the wealthiest nations), infant mortality (ranked last among the wealthiest nations) and distribution of wealth among the wealthiest nations (only Turkey, Chile and Mexico rank lower).
Menon writes, “For tens of millions of Americans, the source of deep workaday insecurity isn’t the standard roster of foreign enemies, but an ever-more entrenched system of inequality, still growing, that stacks the political deck against the least well-off Americans. They lack the bucks to hire big-time lobbyists. They can’t write lavish checks to candidates running for public office or fund PACs. They have no way of manipulating the myriad influence-generating networks that the elite uses to shape taxation and spending policies. They are up against a system in which money truly does talk — and that’s the voice they don’t have.”
Ivey, meanwhile, is feckless and clueless, apparently. Tuesday morning, her re-election campaign sent an email to voters touting Alabama’s positive numbers. “Alabama is working again, and I need conservative fighters like you to keep up this economic momentum and job growth.”
She then asked voters to send her $18 — more than double the hourly earnings of Alabama’s minimum-wage workers.
Alabama exemplifies what is happening in America, a nation led by a thin-skinned billionaire descended from a golden Manhattan tower who counts on Americans not paying attention to the economic facts on the ground. For millions of Americans, those facts are as poor as their weekly paychecks.