The Economy is ________? Fake news about U.S. economic strength (with updates)

Over the past year or more, there’s been a consistent narrative that the U.S. economy is doing well and on the uptick. While most recognize that Trump’s descriptions of a “perfect economy” or “the best economy in history” are absurd, the liberal, mainstream media consistently talks about the “strong economy” in the U.S and cites it as a campaign asset for Trump.  But in its own pages, adjunct to its declarations of economic strength, are countless stories and examples of the opposite–that the U.S. economy is not doing that well, and more importantly that mega-millions of people are living in precarity, are vulnerable, are suffering.  poverty_america

To be clear, the establishment media has a real and personal interest in portraying the economy in positive ways–they fear more people becoming critical of capitalism (the numbers are growing significantly) and they don’t want the Bernie Sanders-type politicians being able to cite the reality of capitalism in America today.  They may loathe Trump, but still prefer him to an outright critic of the system.  Indeed, in February 2020, polling showed Trump had the highest approval marks on his handling of the economy of any president in the past 20 years.

The “strong economy” narrative generally pivots on two points–stock market levels and unemployment data.  The stock market is at record highs, over 29K, so if one is invested or has a 401 (k), then things are probably looking up.  But, as one of the charts below shows, that’s a small percentage of Americans.  As for unemployment, it is significantly low, but where that would usually lead to a significant increase in wages, it has not.  Wages are static.

For some time I’ve been meaning to write a piece on this topic–claims of economic strength amid countless stories of economic struggle–but that would require work, and as Homer Simpson said, trying is the first step toward failure.  So I’ve collected a sampling of articles I’ve saved in a folder I have labeled “U.S. Economy 2019” and I’m posting the links below as a resource to anyone who wants to know more on the issue.  I’ve tried to group the articles by topic, but it’s not the best-organized thing you’ll ever see.  Still, the news and the data is there. While there’s a fair number of articles and studies below, it’s a tiny share of what I’ve seen and what’s out there on the topic.  It’s not hard to rebut the idea that the economy is strong….

The overall theme of all this information is that Capitalism is deficient and not getting better.  The vast majority live in precarity at best.  Media narratives of a “strong economy” are the real fake news.

Note:  Many of the cites below are articles, but mostly based on fed data.  If possible (meaning, if easy) I’ve used establishment sources to show the various economic problems facing the U.S.  Among the sources to check are the Federal Reserve Board and its constituent banks, the International Monetary Fund, Wall Street bank reports, the Wall Street Journal, trade associations, and of course the Grey Lady and WaPo.  Plenty of lefty publications have great economic work, usually better actually, but I’ve avoided them below for the most part just because it’s easier to quote internal ruling-class stories about the economy.  I would strongly rec, however, Michael Roberts Blog.  It’s a must-read.  

New Articles Posted (2/16)

Great Affordibility Crisis in America*

Household debt exceeds $14 Trillion*

1/3 Americans risk maxing out credit cards

1/3 workers fear running out of money before payday

Credit card debt at record $930 billion

U.N. Report says global inequality threatens world political stability

IMF report–construction activity as sign of credit boom gone bad

J.P. Morgan worried about inflation and Bernie Sanders’ success

514,000 fewer jobs than orig. reported

“Serious delinquencies” in subprime auto loans

Trump says econ is “greatest ever” but  cuts fed pay raise due to “serious economic conditions” 

Treasury yields down on weak retail sales

Negative interest rates means workers have to work longer, save more, expect less

Wages would be even lower without state/local min. wage hikes

Foreclosure crisis in Detroit

1 in 4 renters spend half of income for housing

Single-payer could save $600 billion in admin costs

Employment-based health care not good for workers

Black unemployment rate twice that of white workers

2019 slowest year for job growth since 2011

Rural Kansas jailing people for medical debts

72% of rural hospital closures in states that rejected Medicaid expansion

Texas rural health care crisis

5 Big Tech firms dominate market

Pier 1 files for bankruptcy

Americans work 47 hrs/week, longer than comparable economies

Buttigieg focus on deficit harms working people

Strike numbers going significantly up

Blue-collar “boom” a myth for workers

Industrial production declines 7th month in a row


Trump “apoplectic” with Boris J. over Huawei

New Articles Posted (2/5)

Americans have positive view of Socialism 

American women view Socialism more favorably

No “blue collar boom”in econ

70% chance of recession in 2020

Farm bankruptcies up 24% on trade wars

Farm bankruptcies hit 8-year high

Farm subsidies go to biggest Ag corps 

Income inequality and poverty

Macy’s closing 100+ stores

Macy’s closing stores and cutting jobs

Layoffs at Goodyear

Ford profit plunges

Fed leaves interest rates unchanged

American spending lowest in 3 years

Biggest drop for capital good in 8 months

Jerome Powell shields Fed from Trump

IMF: Declining econ growth in LatAm and Carib

Yield curve on bonds inverting again?

Fed and inflation

Unemployment low, “involuntary” work high

Michael Roberts: GDP growth far below Trump promise

EPI: China trade deficit costs 3.7 million jobs

Economy shrinks in many U.S. states

Rattner: Econ not that good

IMF calls for oil company transparency

Long-term decline in manufacturing jobs

manufacturing decline

New Articles Posted (1/27)

U.N. Report on global econ, poverty, inequality  

Oxfam: Work and global inequality crisis  

IMF sees risks to global econ, QE not answer 

Home Sales in Dec drop, 3d month in a row 

Is GDP a useful evaluation of the econ, Michael Roberts

Fed stuck in QE hell  

Trump threatens tariffs on EU autos

Threatened tariffs would increase car prices by thousands

China deal could barely survive a year    

Trade war pain may deepen

New trade pact to hurt manufacturing jobs 

Wages aren’t rising      

“Full” employment, low wages  

Global inequality  


Fed National Activity Index contracts


Fed infuses banks, again, with $90b short-term funds  

Trump says  Fed keeping Dow down

Era of negative rates fading

Women gain in work force, but job quality and wages don’t match    

Growth remained at 3.2% in 4th qtr

Mark Cuban: Market “frothy” but TINA 

Consumer comfort crashes most since 08

Finance exploits working Americans

$5.2 trillion in fossil fuel subsides in 2017  

IMF report on fossil fuel subsidies, larger than education and defense budget     

Condo developers threatened by bankers as loans come due

Housing is world’s biggest asset–global housing crisis

U.S. wealth disparity–top 0.1 (not .1) with as much as bottom 90%


Michael Roberts, top 1% has 45% global wealth 

Michael Roberts, global manufacturing recession  

Michael Roberts, corporate debt, fiscal stimulus and the next recession  

Michael Roberts, econ of modern imperialism  

Market soars but corporate profits decline 

Huge numbers in debt

IMF, “frontier market countries” borrowing binge


STL Fed: 2019 deficit @ $1 trillion + after Trump tax cuts


Economists rethinking inequality

“Phony war” over inequality stats  

1200 retail stores closed, more likely

7 million more uninsured since Jan. 2017

Deregulation doesn’t help economy 

Wealthy pay lower taxes than working class

Number of minimum wage workers doubled since 98   


Pension conflicts in Canada 

New Articles Posted (1/19)

U.N.:  40 million in poverty, U.S. most unequal advanced economy   

Housing crash in 2020?  

Rebuttal to David Brooks–There is a class war

Nick Kristof (really!) on poverty and class     

IMF says global econ runs risk of great depression  

China trade deal could make econ worse

Economists don’t expect econ benefit from China deal 

Toyota shifting production to Mexico

Amazon made $11 billion profit, paid no taxes

Corporations avoid taxes with Trump tax cuts


Twice as many corps paying no taxes under Trump tax laws  

Big banks got $32 billion more from tax cuts 

Banks double profits in past decade

Fortune 500 Companies paid zero taxes       

IBM paid no taxes, laid off workers   

Netflix, Chevron, IBM …. paid no taxes  

Credit Suisse Report, 2015: More poor in U.S. than China 

Worst production since 2015


Dow Jones average/industrial production


Worker pay lags far behind productivity

  (Christopher Ingraham/The Washington Post)  

People can’t afford cars, plants put on idle  

More than one-third health care costs for bureaucracy 

Corporate profits soar, wages don’t


Original Compilation 

Employment, Wages, Inequality

Low Unemployment but Low Wages

Lots of jobs, most suck  

44% make 18K or less  

For 53 Million Americans in Low-Wage Jobs, a Difficult Road Out

Social Security Wage Stats–Median income is $30K 

Almost half of American work in low-wage jobs  

Tiny wage increases amid job rise 

Taxes on workers up, on corporations diminishing  

payroll vs corporate taxes

Low wage work is pervasive  

“The Massive Triumph of the Rich” 

Wage “growth” amid low unemployment

Screenshot_2020-01-13 Year-over-year wage growth.png


Wages too low to allow people to escape poverty  

Bottom 90% worse off than 2007 

Median individual income is @  $33K 

Charts on wealth inequality, 2017  

Top 1% has 80+% of wealth

Gates, Bezos, Buffett own as much wealth as 165,000,000 Americans

3 own wealth

World Inequality Report

Bottom half of Americans have negative wealth   

Racial disparities in employment, wages  

St. Louis Fed: Decline of white working class  

Pay collapse for bottom 90 percent

64%, including most Repubs, favor wealth tax on the rich  

Dollar stores flexing muscle in U.S. economy    

Unemployment up in Midwest states  

Percentage of adults employed still below 1990s levels

Poor jobs creation in November 

Weak spots in job report  

Manufacturing jobs being lost

U.S. Steel cuts 1500 jobs  

U.S. business hiring at 7-year low  

Americans tell Fed that economy isn’t booming     

Atlanta Fed cuts GDP forecast due to big inventories  

GDP slowdown  (and, GDP not really good indicator) 

Real GDP growth consistently below forecasts


Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report 

IMF: 2019 review of global economy  

Michael Roberts’ forecast for 2020

Ex-Bank of England head warns of econ crisis    (here too)

Median net worth at 1996 levels


Charts on 2019 economy

The top 1% own 45% of all global personal wealth; 10% own 82%; the bottom 50% own less than 1% | Michael Roberts Blog

Oxfam: 1% with 82% wealth 

Distribution of Stock Ownership


Inequality within countries (orange column) peaked in the inter-war period and fell back a little in the post-war period, but widened again after 1980.


Hillary Clinton made millions talking to bankers (yeah, cheap shot at Clintons) 

NY Fed says that an increase in sales of riskier corporate debt poses a “financial stability concern”, noting that an economic downturn could force investors to dump assets en masse.

Tax cuts help wealthiest

Working people pay more taxes than billionaires


Stock buybacks after tax cuts led to market rise

Stock buybacks over $600b after tax cuts    

Tax cuts benefit the already-wealthy 

Americans want higher taxes on wealthy


IMF: Global Informal Economy on decline

Factory closings and job losses  

Borden declares bankruptcy 

818 dairies close in Wisconsin 

Milk Industry Suffering  

Pier One closing 450 stores and cutting jobs

Lordstown GM shuts down

Midwest manufacturing hit

Global manufacturing downturn

Farm Bankruptcies Highest since 2011

Farm Bankruptcies surge 24$ due to tariff war

Farm income down, equipment prices soar

2019 was one of decade’s worst years for job cuts

December 2019 Disastrous for Auto Sales

Housing market crisis  

Housing sales down in November 

U.S. Production Shrinks


Consumer comfort lowest since Crash of 08  

Retirement and Pensions  

Retirement Crisis in U.S.

Retirement Crisis  

How long $1 million retirement funds will last (and VERY few have $1m) 

Retirement savings not recovered from Great Crash  

Retirement savings inadequate and diminishing

Retirement savings below $200K for most senior Americans  

Average Retirement Savings


Tariffs, Trade, China  

NY Fed: American Consumers, not China, Paying Tariff Costs  

Americans pay $46b of tariff costs  

Tariff impact on Ford  

Fed study finds Trump tariffs backfired  

Chinese confident of Tariff War Victory  

Americans are paying 100% of tariff costs

Tariffs damage washing machine market 

Trade deficit at 10-year high 

Alarming slowdown in global trade  

IMF on Trump-China trade conflict  

Trade wars and the dollar 

Midwest farms and banks taking hit from tariffs

Farm tariffs hit Trump supporters

Farmers lose Chinese markets to tariff war

Farmers say Trump took away markets  

Huge subsidies to agriculture in tariff war

Ag subsidies double auto bailout

Trade war crushing small businesses  

China hardliners have upper hand on tariffs  

Chinese funding fuel projects globally 

China buying Brasilian soybeans  

China cuts dollar, boosts Yuan

Manufacturing and Productivity

US manufacturing activity drops to weakest level since financial crisis as tariffs bite  

U.S. industrial output falls by most in 17 months in October  

Manufacturing contraction in Sept 2019 

Factory activity lowest since 09


Economy struggling with productivity  

Motor Industry decline and global economic downturn  

Global auto industry in 2019–closings and layoffs

U.S. Manufacturers harder-hit than China’s in Tariff War

Durable goods much lower at end of 2019 

China is leading a 15-nation pact that would create the world’s biggest trade deal. The US isn’t in

Countries increasing trade with China  

Fed overnight loans to bail out banks, debt, taxes 

Huge Fed Overnight Loans to banks  

Fed infusing banks with overnight loans  

Global debt to GDP level soars  

Market soars, corporate prices don’t 

Business taxes down, workers pay more  

Pew Charitable Trust 2015 survey on debt  

Debt denies freedom  

How much debt Americans have ….  

9 case studies in debt 

Student debt at $1.6 trillion, not being paid down

Student debt soaring  

Student debt up 107% this decade

Army recruiting students with debt

Almost half of Americans can’t afford food and housing  (here too)

Consumer credit north of $4 trillion  (here also)

Huge delinquencies on car notes

People getting crushed by car loans

Payday lenders and the poor   

J.P. Morgan–economy dipped in October

The Environment, Health Crises, the Environment

Undocumented immigrants pay billions in taxes  

Boeing CEO gets $62 million after killing 400, laying off 2800 

Big increase in “deaths of despair” 

Workplace suicide rate rising  

Minimum wage increase could reduce suicides  

Chart on Deaths of Despair

Screenshot_2020-01-13 Deaths of despair since 1999 - Infogram.png

Opioid deaths rise when plants close

U.S. health care system costs 4X more than Canada’s  

Americans die due to inadequate health care system 

U.S. health care costs dwarf other countries

Billionaires are leading cause of climate crisis

Argentina imposes capital controls  

Mexico created fewest jobs since crisis of 09 

Fed set up to provide capital to private banks (Nomi Prins) 

Military-Industrial Complex  

U.S. has massive military budget

Bipartisan agreement on military spending  

The Pentagon money pit    

20 companies profiting off military-industrial complex 

U.S. has spent $6 trillion on wars since 9/11 (here too)

About buzzanco

Historian, Agitator, Sicilian
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