Why Are Americans Angry?

A good reason to look at why Americans are angry is family incomes over the past twenty years.  The Obama recovery has paled to past recoveries, in particular the Reagan recovery, which lead to a twenty-year growth that lead to an increase in income and family wealth. 

From 1981 to 2000, family income rose by 10,000 dollars and when Reagan left office January, 1989, family income shot up 5700 dollars while the 1980’s and 1990’s saw 40,000,000 jobs created; many of them high paying.   Contrast that to this century where the average worker has lost $4000 dollars and even during the Obama recovery that supposedly began in summer of 2009, family income went down 1000 dollars from the time Obama took office. In the 1980’s if you were a Middle Class family, white, blacks, and Asians, you saw your income go up.  In the 1980’s, blacks income went up from 28,250 dollars to slightly over 33,000 dollars when Reagan left office in January 1989 and they continued their progress to nearly 40,000 dollars by 1999, but by 2014, black families averaged only 35,000 dollars. 

Hispanics saw their family income climb from 38,000 dollars to 40,500 dollars in the 1980’s and by the time the new century started, Hispanics saw their family income rise to 43,000 dollars.  By 2014, Hispanics were barely over 42,000 dollars, while Hispanics had a smaller decrease in this century than black families, they have seen reversal of income.   (Editor's note: data in 1980’s include the recession of 1980-82, the steepest recession since the Great Depression as unemployment hit nearly 11% and unemployment was even higher than during the great Recession of 2007-09)

Robert Shapiro, in a study on income distribution for the Brookings Institute, noted, “Throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s households of virtually every type experienced long, large steady income gains, whether they were headed by men, or women, by blacks, whites or Hispanics or by people with high school diplomas and college degrees.” Shapiro’s research showed this broad based income increase stopped around the turn of the 21st century and incomes of most families stagnated or declined, the biggest exception were slow increases managed by those families headed by college degrees or families headed by those in their late 20’s at the start of the new century but compared to similar families in the 1980’s and 1990’s, these increases paled by comparison.

In the 1980’s and 1990’s, the poverty rate went down from its peak in 1983 of 15.2 percent as America was recovering from the recession of 1980-82 and as the new century began, the poverty rate was 11.3% but by 2014, the poverty rate was 14.8%.   During the Obama recovery, the number of Americans needing food stamps increased as poverty rate went up.  In the Reagan recovery, percentage of American living in poverty went down.    The Obama recovery has managed to reverse the ideal of recovery as more Americans see lost income and need government assistance compared to the past recovery. Recoveries are supposed to alleviate the need for government assistances, not increase them.

For many Middle Class, their anger is directed at the political class and for Republicans, the anger was directed not at the establishment but even at formers like Scott Walker, Rick Perry and even Ted Cruz, who took on the political left or the establishment in their own Party. Trump’s rise came as voters’ distrust of politicians reached an all-time high in particular among Republicans.  Interesting while both Democrats and Republicans are not happy with government, Democrat voters still want politicians with experience whereas Republicans want political outsiders and Trump rode the populist wave but the ground has been long set for Trump.

National Review's David French observed, “I know I’m guilty of using the term, but it’s time to retire the word 'establishment' to define the Republican Party’s traditional political and donor class. In reality, the party (and the broader conservative movement) now contains multiple competing intellectual and cultural movements, each with its own leaders, donors, and media outlets…The great tragedy of Trump’s Republican establishment is that — unlike mainstream media outlets that are built from the ground up to chase ratings — these “conservative” institutions and individuals were allegedly built around principles. Yes, they wanted eyeballs and page-views, but until this presidential race, many of them took great pride in their ability to attract an audience through the force of their ideas and the strength of their convictions. Indeed, these individuals and institutions used to pride themselves on policing the conservative movement, on calling out the “RINOs” and moderates in our midst. That all seems hollow now. The pot of audience gold shines just as brightly for Breitbart as it does for NBC or CBS.” 

Ratings and pushing the outrage of the week while attacking the “establishment” became the official policy of much of the conservative media.  These attacks on the “establishment” later spread to include even those who just yesterday fought side by side with the Tea Party and this allowed Donald Trump to con enough Republicans to view the bane of the establishment, Ted Cruz as the establishment.  The man funded the establishment of both the Republicans and Democrats became the outsider and many true outsiders were deemed the insiders.  The Republicans are now married to Donald Trump for better or worse.  The con worked. 


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