Hold the victory lap Trump, the "strong economy" you're crowing about is dropping around your ankles

Donald Trump's "strong economy" is a fake economy, one based on disjointed factoids and zero analysis

Published March 31, 2019 8:00AM (EDT)

Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a rally at the Van Andel Arena on March 28, 2019 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. (Getty/Scott Olson)
Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a rally at the Van Andel Arena on March 28, 2019 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. (Getty/Scott Olson)

A month and a half ago I warned in this space that the corporate news media’s obsession with nailing Trump for a conspiracy with Russia was setting themselves and the rest of the country up for his re-election. ​

I presaged the “no-collusion” end zone dance that Trump performed this past week once the Mueller Report was completed. There he was at that Michigan rally standing even taller with his orange Mussolini-like smirk of self-regard.  “The collusion delusion is over,” he proclaimed.

In this kind of winner-take-all blood sport what does not knock you out makes you stronger, and so it is with Trump.

Pre-Mueller report completion, even as car loan delinquencies hit an all-time high and millions of Americans were on the lookout for the repo man, the news media was fixated on staking out Robert Mueller, counting on him to restore the integrity of the nation.

They were so heavily invested in getting Trump because they had not seen him coming in the first place. Their multi-million dollar polling and pre-election programing had missed the pulse of the nation. His victory had to have been the result of a massive criminal conspiracy​,​ not the consequence of their elitist blind spot for the collapse of the middle class and the abject failure of capitalism.

Reporters need to be skeptical of military and law enforcement sources both active and retired. That was not the case in the way the corporate news media covered the war in Iraq that was predicated on the phantom weapons of mass destruction. By employing former generals as commentators, cable news glamorized war and re-enforced the America as avenger storyline.

That’s kind of what happened with the Trump-Russia probe where you had an endless procession of former prosecutors and law enforcement officers as cable TV field guides who all had to buy in to the central narrative if they wanted to get booked again.

As someone who ​remembers​ the FBI’s subversion of our Republic, with their illegal ​targeting​ of Dr.Martin Luther King and so many other activists with their covert COINTELPRO, it felt ahistorical to count on them now to save us from the Don from Queens.

After all, we were not likely to even have had a President Trump, if not for the pre-election peacock strutting  of ​then​ FBI Director James Comey. He assumed Clinton would win and was more concerned with how posterity would regard him than with how he  did his job. He actually has a lot in common with J. Edgar Hoover with whom he shared the belief that the FBI Director has special unitary powers.

In the post Mueller Report crash, much of the news media has been lamenting the apparent inability of our legal system to hold someone like Trump, white, wealthy and powerful accountable.

For a really long time now we have had a rigid caste system when it comes to who is held accountable for what by our legal system. It has always had a real blind spot for the Trumps that populate the corridors of power.  Consider the Obama/Holder ‘hands-off’ approach to prosecuting the rape of Main Street America by their donor classs, the Wall Street pirates of the Cari​b​bean.

The disconnect between the law and justice in America has been long standing. The reign of Trump and his bulletproof corruption is a logical consequence of a racist legal system that’s incarcerated close to two-million poor people mostly of color and facilitated an unprecedented concentration of wealth and corporate power, all to the detriment of labor.

Close your eyes and pick any recent U.S. Supreme Court decision and the odds are that it will be upholding or advancing the interests of corporations and business over working people.  

That’s not the system run amok. That is the system firing on all cylinders. ​If the system couldn't hold Trump accountable when he was doing his ​regular con job on the army of marks that signed up for his "university" how is it going to do so now that he's president?

The voters are going to have to do this job.

For the corporate news media ​their taking him out ​is t​he only way they ​can expiate their original sin — being blind to that part of America that had nothing to lose by voting for Trump in the first place and could vote for him again.

The corporate news media missed that in states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin — that voted twice for Obama — there had been no recovery from the Great Recession and that years after it was declared over the economy was still in decline.

These were the states where Michael Moore opined poor and middle class voters came to see a vote for Trump as the Molotov cocktail they had to toss so they could be seen by a self-absorbed media machine.

Now, more than half way through Trump’s first term things continue to deteriorate in these places and Trump continues to try and misdirect their anger at undocumented immigrants.

This fall the Federal Reserve Bank in Minneapolis reported that in the upper-Midwest​,​ which includes Wisconsin​,​ farm bankruptcies, are now on the rise at double the rate of failures over the same period between 2013 and 2014.  

The accelerating wealth concentration, which Trump’s $1.5 trillion tax cut only made worse, continues.  The latest numbers on opioid linked deaths and suicide indicate a ​worsening​ crisis that’s linked to a wide and deep national decline evidenced by the reality our average life expectancy has declined for three years in a row for the first time since WW I. At the same time the national birthrate has hit a 30-year low.

In Minnesota, State Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm was quoted in the press identifying a “lack of social connectedness and opportunity” as a key factor in the increases for suicides and opioid linked deaths in that state.

“Our overall health is determined by many factors, and one of the most important is the health of our communities,” Malcolm said in a statement. “Things like job opportunities, good education and social connection each play a role in the health of individuals, families and communities. That means strengthening our community is an important step toward addressing these health challenges.”

Heading into 2020 reporting on the circumstances of the tens of millions of American households struggling week-to-week to cover the basics​ must be front and center of coverage.​

This was the first week on the job for Rev. Michael Anthony Howard, as the Minister of Faith in Action for the Living Water Association with the United Church of Christ in Ohio.

“I have lived and worked as a minister, missionary, and organizer all around the world,” he said. “I grew up in Kentucky, so I am deeply familiar with rural poverty. Having worked as an organizer in Elizabeth, New Jersey and living for nearly a decade in urban and suburban New Jersey, I have seen the various faces of poverty there as well . . . . So I have seen the several faces of poverty and homelessness all round the North East.”

He continued, “What I am seeing during this first week in Ohio is altogether different than anything I have seen before. Large areas, formerly suburban, look like disaster areas or ghost towns. Yesterday, I drove around Chapel Hills Mall, rumored for years to soon become another example of America's growing collection of dead malls. Even in the large and somewhat fairly well-off suburbs of Akron, like Fairlawn, you will always find homeless folks standing near the traffic lights with ‘need help’ signs, even in the rain.”

Howard has immersed himself in the disturbing data in the State of Ohio report, put out recently by a non-profit advocacy group.  In several key areas Ohio ranks in the bottom fifth of the states​,​  including overdose deaths, unemployment, foreclosures, infant mortality and hunger.

“Now, Ohio is 40th in the nation in hunger,” he said. In real numbers that means 13.7 percent of the state’s population or 1.7 million have food security challenges. “This is important to address because of the larger social issues that cause hunger — like poverty or lack of access to nutrition — hunger itself causes other issues like increasing health care costs, trouble learning, and decreased productivity​."​

These statistics are certainly as important as the number of pages in the Mueller report.

By Bob Hennelly

Bob Hennelly has written and reported for the Village Voice, Pacifica Radio, WNYC, CBS MoneyWatch and other outlets. His book, "Stuck Nation: Can the United States Change Course on Our History of Choosing Profits Over People?" was published in 2021 by Democracy@Work. He is now a reporter for the Chief-Leader, covering public unions and the civil service in New York City. Follow him on Twitter: @stucknation

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