By Mark Naison (July 26, 2018)
Those who think that the low official unemployment rate signals a return to prosperity for working class and middle class Americans or that it guarantees Donald Trump’s re-election in 2020 are not seeing what I am seeing on the ground.
In the working class neighborhood of Eastern Long Island where we have a home ( we are the only dual residence family on our block) almost every house has 4-6 cars parked in front of it, meaning that families are doubling or tripling up or taking in boarders. This has been going on for more than ten years, but you actually see MORE cars parked in front of houses than you did five years ago, even though the unemployment rate is lower. And this is not just a sign of the Latinization if the neighborhood. White, Black and multiracial families also have multiple cars in their driveways.
What is going on? Some of this is the result of inflation-in the past year, food and gas prices have gone up, and medical expenses have skyrocketed. But the major reason is wage stagnation and the disappearance of stable, high paying jobs. Everyone, young middle aged and old, has to piece together multiple jobs in a “gig economy” to assure themselves of the basic necessities of life and have little left over to afford homes and apartments on their own.
The profound sense of economic unease this inspires contributes to the tense and volatile political atmosphere in the nation. It also explains why some working class and middle class people who voted for Barack Obama turned around and voted for Donald Trump.
The majority of people in the country are struggling economically and are worried about where we are heading
That is our reality in 2018, no matter what statistics tell us
To quote Bob Dylan:
“It’s tough out there. High water everywhere”