American families are in financial freefall. Trump is making it worse.
Even as the coronavirus crisis continues to impact communities across our country, killing thousands of Americans on a daily basis, Donald Trump and his allies have begun agitating to “reopen the country” in the hopes of sparking an economic recovery.
While much work remains to address the ongoing health crisis — and any sustained economic bounceback is hugely dependent on getting the virus under control, which Trump has repeatedly failed to do — it’s important for Democrats to be prepared to frame the conversation about what a successful economic recovery looks like on our terms.
That starts by understanding and speaking to the significant financial difficulties that millions of American families were already facing before the crisis took hold — and how the pandemic has compounded those challenges and pushed many workers even closer to (and in some cases, over) the cliff. Donald Trump ignored Americans’ financial struggles and bragged about the economy before the crisis and he’ll do it again after the crisis. Democrats cannot let him frame the debate.
Many Americans were already financially strapped before the pandemic
While Trump likes to boast about the strength of the pre-pandemic economy, the truth is that many hard-working Americans were just barely hanging on even before calamity struck.
Due to stagnant wages and skyrocketing costs, millions of working families were already living paycheck to paycheck. More than half of Americans said they did not have an emergency fund that could cover at least three months of expenses, while roughly 4 in 10 reported not having enough money available to cover a single $400 unexpected expense.
As a result, many turned to credit card debt to make ends meet. When the coronavirus outbreak began to sweep the nation, a YouGov survey showed that 43% of Americans had credit card debt, while a NerdWallet analysis revealed that those households owed more than $7,000 on average. And the debt trap was only deepened further for those also carrying auto loan and student loan debt, where the average family carried roughly $28,000 and $47,000 in obligations, respectively.
That’s a pretty bleak picture for everyday Americans — and one that’s only gotten worse with the virus’ spread.
American workers have been rocked by coronavirus and are scrambling to survive
The economic collapse that has followed Trump’s mishandling of the virus has been well documented. As millions of new unemployment applications roll in week after week, more than 33 million Americans are now out of work — equating to roughly 20% of the country’s workforce.
In a recent Marist poll, 50% of respondents reported that they or someone in their household had either lost hours or lost their job completely as a result of the pandemic, with those losses concentrated disproportionately among people of color (60%) and lower-income workers (55%) — communities that were dealing with elevated levels of financial uncertainty even before this downturn.
Unsurprisingly, many who were already living on the financial brink have now been pushed over the edge, going even deeper into debt in an effort to keep their families afloat. According to a new survey from LendEDU, nearly 40% of credit card holders have taken on more credit card debt than desired to cover expenses during the pandemic, while 53% reported being worried about their ability to make their monthly payment.
Additionally, the same survey reveals that more than half of Americans are being forced to tap their savings account or an emergency fund, and a staggering 63% of respondents were concerned about running out of money in their accounts due to coronavirus.
In short, as tough as things may have been before the coronavirus came to our shores, the bottom has dropped out and millions of American families are now in financial freefall.
Trump is bailing out big business and abandoning hard-working Americans
But even as millions of American families grapple with these significant financial struggles, Trump is focused on helping large corporations and the wealthy — while leaving everyone else to fend for themselves.
Trump ensured that his emergency stimulus package was rigged in favor of big business, containing one of the largest corporate bailouts in American history. Then he promptly moved to undercut the watchdogs meant to hold him accountable for how that taxpayer money is spent — opening the door for rampant cronyism to benefit his CEO buddies.
But even that wasn’t enough, as his administration also allowed public companies to gobble up more than $1 billion in relief aid meant for small businesses — sucking the fund dry while countless small businesses struggled to get the money they need to stay afloat and pay their employees.
And now, as the economic pain continues to mount for workers across the country, Trump is reportedly slamming the brakes on providing any additional help to everyday Americans, while pushing for protections for companies who want to force their employees back to work before it’s safe.
As this crisis continues to unfold, millions of workers question whether their jobs are ever coming back — and even if they do, wonder how they’ll find the money to pay down their growing debt and replenish their decimated savings. Meanwhile, Trump is doing what he’s always done: putting the interests of big corporations and the wealthy ahead of what is best for hard-working Americans. And Democrats will make sure voters hold him accountable for his actions — now and in November.