GDP grows as new report shows nearly half of Americans can't afford basic needs

While certain economic indicators show a boom, others reveal that millions of Americans are suffering hardships

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published August 29, 2018 11:39AM (EDT)

 (Getty/Photo Montage by Salon)
(Getty/Photo Montage by Salon)

President Donald Trump may be bragging on Twitter about the supposedly booming American economy, but new data reveals that nearly half of all Americans struggle to make ends meet, even as more impersonal indicators tell a story of economic health.

As Reuters reported on Wednesday, the Commerce Department has announced that the gross domestic product increased at a 4.2 percent annualized rate for the April-June quarter. This is not only a slight increase from the 4.1 percent expansion that was reported in July, but it was the fastest rate of growth since the third fiscal quarter of 2014.

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As Reuters explained:

Compared to the second quarter of 2017, the economy grew 2.9 percent instead of the previously reported 2.8 percent. Output expanded 3.2 percent in the first half of 2018, rather than 3.1 percent, putting the economy on track to hit the Trump administration's target of 3 percent annual growth.

Yet as the Urban Institute noted, Americans are still struggling, despite the fact that the economy is near full employment, according to CBS News. Their study found that 39.4 percent of adults between 18 and 64 years old experienced at least one type of material hardship in 2017, meaning that they struggled to pay for food, health care, housing and/or utilities. While the researchers at the Urban Institute had expected to find disproportionate economic hardships among poor Americans, they were surprised that so many middle-class Americans have also struggled with meeting basic needs.

As CBS News explained:

Against the backdrop of President Donald Trump's boasting about low unemployment and strong economic growth, the research adds nuance to the problems facing American families. Middle-class households tend to struggle with paying their health care bills rather than utilities, for instance. Health care costs have outpaced wages and inflation, pushing more Americans into high-deductible plans, which can backfire when serious health problems arise.

It is also worth noting that, although Trump boasted about his trade policies with China helping ordinary Americans, the administration had to approve $6 billion of bailouts for farmers to avoid them being economically harmed by Chinese retaliation to his tariffs.

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By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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