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May 23, 2018

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If Democrats want to win back voters, they must focus on jobs

On the long list of disturbing claims that came out of Donald Trump’s mouth during the 2016 election, his comment about being the only person who could solve the nation’s economic problems and reinvigorate the job market was at or near the top.

Democrats led the nation out of the 2008 financial meltdown, which occurred under the last Republican president. But so far, the Democrats haven’t advanced a new jobs-creation plan to counter Trump’s imperious claims. It’s imperative that they do so immediately by offering a program that is responsible, compassionate and effective.

It has become clear since the early goings of the 2016 election that Americans are desperate for a new approach on jobs and the economy. Sift through the deafening static about the border wall, infrastructure, trade policy, etc., and jobs were at the root of it.

The issue made a difference in the election, as voters in the Rust Belt and rural areas that have been lagging since losing industrial jobs decided that Trump’s promises to restore the workforce outweighed concerns about his character and mental makeup.

Those voters were once core Democratic Party supporters, but Democrats this past year focused instead on numbers suggesting the post-recession recovery was speeding along.

In some respects, that was true. Unemployment decreased dramatically under President Barack Obama, while the Dow shot up and corporate profits soared.

But as Democrats know today, they should have been paying less attention to those numbers and relating more to the pain of voters from economically stagnant, working-class areas.

Those voters wanted a shake-up in the nation’s approach to job growth. Granted, the economy is in better shape today than it was when Barack Obama became president, but millions of Americans haven’t felt the recovery. As noted in a Gallup analysis released in December, GDP growth is languishing behind its pre-recession levels while the percentage of Americans’ income spent on health care, housing and education is up double digits since 1980.

“The Great Recession may be over, but America is dangerously running on empty,” Gallup Chairman and CEO Jim Clifton wrote in his foreword to the analysis. “Think of our country as a company, America Inc., which has more than 100 million full-time employees, with about $18 trillion in sales and $20 trillion of debt. The most serious problem facing it is no growth. In addition, America Inc. has three soaring expenses threatening to bankrupt the company and its shareholder-citizens: health care, housing and education.”

Trump recognized the cry for help from the Rust Belt and Midwest.

But his robber baron approach to revitalizing jobs is dangerous — particularly his plan to take a chainsaw to regulations. Sure, that’s likely to spur short-term business development, but it’s also going to inflict untold damage on the environment and be unsustainable in the long term. Meanwhile, Trump’s blustering about scuttling trade agreements and imposing tariffs carries the risk of creating a trade war that will vastly increase the price of goods sold in the U.S. while reducing the foreign market for our goods.

Don’t forget, loosening financial regulations helped create the meltdown of 2008. And by targeting regulations and rounding up a collection of usual suspects for administrative posts, Trump is priming us for a similar outcome.

There’s a better way to move forward, and top Democrats should go into overdrive to develop it.

Not only is it critical for the economy, particularly for the Trump voters who held their noses on his misogyny, racism, vulgarity and cluelessness in the hopes he would create jobs, but Democrats would re-establish some credibility and demolish any perception that Trump and the Republicans are the party of action on economic issues.

Democrats are pushing back against Trump and his gang, and rightly so. But that’s not enough. To provide a viable alternative to Trump’s empty promises, Democrats must return to their historic roots and champion the working person while fighting for jobs.

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