Our Opinion: Economic news defies alarmist campaign rhetoric
America has problems to address, as it always has. Campaign rhetoric would indicate that the end times are upon us, but pesky facts would suggest otherwise.
A dramatic example was provided Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau, which reported that the median household income for Americans jumped nearly 5 percent in 2015 from a year earlier. According to the bureau's data, that is the biggest yearly bounce in the 50 years these records have been kept, and translates to a hike of nearly $3,000 for a median household. The poverty rate fell from 14.7 percent to 13.5 percent, which means that 3.5 million people have moved above the poverty line.
The "Blame Obama" crowd which is eager to fault the president for anything and everything has been predictably silent about this encouraging news. Significantly, this was the first increase in median household income since 2007, the year before the emergence of the recession the president inherited. The economic recovery hasn't reached everyone, but it has been steady under the watch of the president, who has received no assistance from an obstructionist Republican Congress. In 2015, that recovery made a significant leap.
The Census Bureau report comes late in a presidential election campaign in which Donald Trump, the standard-bearer of the Republican Party, has been laboring to terrify Americans into voting against their own interests. His cynical portrayal of an economically devastated nation is not backed by the facts, but Mr. Trump established more than a year ago that he wasn't going to be troubled by the facts if there was fear to be sowed.
The economy is not that only area in which Mr. Trump discards reality in favor of his nightmare vision of the nation. He rants about violence-riddled communities without acknowledging that the crime rate has been in decline. (Gun deaths remain a needless tragedy, but on this issue Mr. Trump is securely in the pocket of the NRA.)
Mr. Trump's bluster about illegal immigrants flooding over the southwestern border would have been accurate during the George W. Bush administration, but under President Obama, illegal immigration has slowed and deportations have increased. The Census Bureau report also showed a 1.3 percent drop in the number of Americans without health insurance over the past year, testifying to the success of the Affordable Care Act. Inconvenient truths for the Republican nominee.
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton should acknowledge this recovery and the level-headed policies that contributed to it. She may be reluctant given that many Americans are still struggling to make ends meet or to keep or find jobs. Staving off a primary challenge from Senator Bernie Sanders, whose portrayal of the U.S. economy wasn't dramatically different from Mr. Trump's, caused her to embrace some alarmist rhetoric herself.
Now, however, Mrs. Clinton must embrace the president's economic policies while asking voters if they want to put an improved but still fragile economy in the hands of Mr. Trump. (We have endorsed Mrs. Clinton for president.) Mr. Trump, a scheming businessman and reality television show host, has no experience in government and has talked idly of starting a trade war with rival nations like China. The U.S. economy can't thrive in isolation, and Mr. Trump's combination of ignorance and belligerence could, if he is elected, quickly negate the painstaking economic progress the nation has made in recent years — or worse.
There is still much to be done when it comes to assuring more Americans of well-paying jobs and getting more people out of poverty, and in contrast to her Republican rival, Mrs. Clinton has provided detailed proposals for doing so. Mr. Trump has never been an ally of the American worker and the middle class and his empty populist rhetoric won't change that reality. Voters should think hard before gambling away the nation's economic recovery.
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