When the reality of the 2020 presidential election finally sinks in…

By Kent R. Kroeger (October 21, 2020)

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A sinkhole in Wilson County, Tennessee, Or a metaphor for the 2020 presidential election (Photo by Brian Stansberry; used under the CCA 3.0 Unported license.)

Generally, I am a fan of journalist Bob Woodward, who was one of the few national journalists to see the Russiagate story for what it really was — a coordinated and thinly-veiled attack by the political establishment against a president they viewed as unfit for office and dangerous.

A false sense of moral righteousness can get otherwise honest people to say and do dishonest things. That same moral righteousness in the hands of dishonest people can sink a nation.

That not a single, conclusive piece of evidence ever emerged linking the Donald Trump campaign (or presidency) to the Russians in a conspiratorial act against our Republic is incontrovertible.

That this fact today when presented to most Democrats is met with mouth gaping indignation, is incontrovertible proof that in four short years its the Democrats who have replaced the Republicans as the political happy place for low-information voters.

However, I was sorely disappointed in Woodward’s latest book about the Donald Trump presidency, “Rage.” Woodward’s unspectacular attack on Trump said nothing — and exposed nothing — that hadn’t already been said a million times. How many different ways can it be said that Trump does not meet the behavioral and intellectual standards (real or imagined) of the U.S. presidency?

“When his performance as president is taken in its entirety, I can only reach one conclusion: Trump is the wrong man for the job,” concludes Woodward in “Rage.”

Like Russiagate, “Rage” feeds an already deep, emotional sinkhole that has gobbled up half of this country with the myth that Trump unjustly sits in our nation’s highest political office.

Truth be told, I am not completely immune to that feeling, particularly as I’ve watched Trump appoint to his administration some of the most shameless grifters in U.S. political history.

But as bad as the Trump administration’s rouge gallery might be, the prospects are hardly better under a likely Biden administration, which will surely look more like Obama administration 2.0 than a “presidency for all Americans,” as Biden so likes to say.

What will Obama’s third term look like?

Among the few times Biden says something interesting in his otherwise vapor-locked, substance-free stump speeches, he talks about starting a “Green energy revolution” and creating “Green jobs” at the start of his presidency.

And what will that mean?

According to the Biden campaign, Biden’s climate legislation “will make a federal investment of $1.7 trillion over the next ten years, leveraging additional private sector and state and local investments to total to more than $5 trillion.”

That sounds like real money. Even Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez should get excited about that, right?

Well, maybe not.

If the Obama administration’s policies to combat the 2008 global recession are a predictor, Biden’s “Green New Deal” to combat climate change will consist mostly of government-backed grants and low-interest bank loans benefiting mostly bankers, institutional investors, and corporate equity holders — in other words, America’s Top 1 percent.

When Joe Biden and the corporate-funded Democrats say “federal investment,” that is government-speak for adding to a national debt — now in the vicinity of $27 trillion — that magically ends up disproportionately in the savings accounts of America’s wealthiest citizens, all while both political parties feign to scold each other about burdening the American taxpayer with more government debt.

In the name of protecting America’s taxpayers, few (if any) Republicans will vote for Biden’s “Green New Deal,” not because they oppose renewable energy or raising the national debt, but because the federal checks won’t be deposited in the bank accounts of their preferred patrons (e.g., the fossil fuel, defense, and transportation industries).

Am I too cynical?

I wish.

Here are the facts about Obama’s presidency — the best indicator we have for what a Biden presidency provide us…(Warning: If you are a middle- or working-class American, the following facts won’t be pretty)

Figure 1 shows that wealth inequality (as measured by the share of national net worth held by the Top 1%) has grown steadily since 1989, with brief declines around recessions. In the second quarter of 1989 (during the George H.W. Bush administration), the Top 1 percent owned 23.5 percent of all U.S. wealth. In the first quarter of 2020, that percentage is now 31.2 percent.

Figure 1: Share of U.S. Wealth Controlled by Top 1% (since 1989)

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Source: Federal Reserve of St. Louis

One president, however, stands out as doing more for the Top 1 percent than any other: Barack Obama. It’s not even close.

Assuming the first two quarters of any administration belong to the prior administration, the differences across the last five administrations on wealth inequality are stark. Figure 2 summarizes the percentage-point change in wealth distribution for each administration between 1989 and 2020.

Figure 2: Change in % of U.S. Wealth Controlled by Top 1% (by Presidential Administration, Q2 1989 to Q1 2020, unadjusted for term length)

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Under the Obama administration, the Top 1 percent gained an additional 4.4 percent of the nation’s total wealth. The next closest administration for helping the super wealthy is George H.W. Bush’s four-year tenure at 1.8 percent — and had he been president for Obama’s eight years this number would project to 3.6 percent.

And how friendly has Trump’s administration been to the Top 1 percent?

If we include 2020’s first quarter — the first measurement period in which the coronavirus makes an impact on the U.S. economy — the Trump administration has not been nice to the wealthy. Under Trump, they’ve lost 0.8 percent of the nation’s total wealth, mostly due to dramatic declines in the equity markets.

But that comparison is not fair as Trump hasn’t served an eight-year term and the coronavirus pandemic masks the genuine gains the wealthiest Americans made prior to 2020.

If we judge Trump on the data prior to the coronavirus pandemic (i.e., Q3 2017 to Q4 2019), a more accurate picture emerges. Excluding 2020, America’s wealthiest one percent have seen a 0.7 percentage point increase in their share of U.S. wealth under Trump. Projecting that number over an eight-year term (sans the pandemic), the Trump administration would have been on pace to increase that share by 2.2 percentage points.

Hang your partisan politics at the door for the moment and realize that Barack Obama did disproportionately more for America’s wealthiest than any other president in recent history. Trump looks marginally better in comparison.

And this money grab by the wealthy is not a function of economic growth.

Under Bill Clinton, the U.S. economy grew by 33.6 percent — more than any other recent president, even after adjusting for term length — and, yet, the Top 1 percent gained only 1.4 percentage points more of the nation’s wealth.

In other words, Bill Clinton grew the U.S. economy for everyone, while Barack Obama disproportionately grew it for the Top 1 percent.

“(This election) is about winning the heart and, yes, the soul of America,” intoned Biden during his Democratic Party acceptance speech. “Winning it for the generous among us, not the selfish…For all the young people who have known only an America of rising inequity and shrinking opportunity (emphasis mine).”

Dishonesty doesn’t always require telling factual lies. Sometimes you just have say something totally lacking in credibility and hope the news media doesn’t call you out on it.

Yet, the facts are clear: Barack Obama’s America didn’t work equally for everyone and there is little reason to believe Joe Biden’s America will do any better.

  • K.R.K.

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