The good news you haven’t been hearing

I don’t blame you if you were distracted by the Mueller investigation the past couple years. It seemed to be the most frequent news story that whole time. Now that the report has been issued, perhaps other important bipartisan accomplishments can garner the news coverage they deserve.

President Trump signed into law the First Step Act, a vital reform to the criminal justice system designed to reduce recidivism. Its many provisions include restricting the use of restraints on pregnant women, de-escalation training for corrections officers, and compassionate release for terminally ill inmates. In addition to bipartisan congressional support, this move was applauded by Van Jones of the Obama administration.

President Trump was also successful in persuading the Chinese government to add fentanyl-related substances to their list of controlled drugs. All those working in this industry believe this will result in a greatly reduced supply of opioids to the United States.

Finally, the economy continues to perform in a way that the poorest are being disproportionately benefited. During the Obama administration, the wealthier half of congressional districts had faster economic growth rates than the poorer half. When Trump became president, that dynamic flipped, almost overnight.

As a professor, one of my fields of expertise is cause-and-effect. I’ve always thought it was very misleading to count a president’s performance beginning with inauguration because time lags cause most changes not to be experienced for one to two years. While President Obama famously said in a debate, “these manufacturing jobs are not coming back,” President-elect Trump immediately began jawboning companies and later put policies into effect that have resulted in manufacturing job gains greater than at any time since 1995.

Who is this helping? Disproportionately, minorities and the poor. Hispanics have reached their highest level of home ownership ever. Hispanic poverty rates have reached lows never before recorded in U.S history. African-Americans have experienced their lowest level of unemployment ever recorded. Wage growth has been strong, and it has been stronger for the poorer half of the population than the richer. Across all demographic groups, the number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits dropped to a 49-and-a-half-year low recently.

What can we do to keep these wonderful successes continuing for Robeson County and other places? We are about to enter uncharted territory. If we continue to have growth for the next couple of months, we will enter the longest growth expansion in America in more than 150 years. Economists don’t have historical models for keeping this growth going. With the announcement that first quarter growth was 3.2 percent came the observation that “consumers are powering this economy.” One way we can keep the growth going is not to be overly pessimistic. For example, even recent polls have shown that most Americans don’t believe they received a tax cut during the Trump Administration. If they believe that, they won’t “feel” the increase in take-home pay received by virtually 100 percent of Americans earning below $100,000 a year. Even more surprisingly, most people believe that the wealthy benefited more from these tax cuts. Under the new tax law, the millionaire’s share of the tax burden rose 0.5 percent. As always, be prudent with your economic decisions and don’t be fooled by media reports.

Eric Dent, a former professor at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, now teaches at Florida Gulf Coast University.


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