The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Trump’s “Blue Collar Boom” Is Really a Great Depression

Feb 17, 2020

“I am thrilled to report to you tonight that our economy is the best it has ever been,” boasted Donald Trump in his State of the Union address on February 4.

Certainly, that’s true for the capitalist class, the major owners of the biggest companies and banks, who have gained ever greater riches, through record high profits and a soaring stock market. Many of them are likely to reward Trump and the Republicans for their service with plenty of money for their re-election campaigns.

But Trump also used his speech to appeal to working people, bragging that under his leadership the economy had miraculously suddenly produced a “blue collar boom.”

What a bunch of lies!

For workers, there has been no boom, just a depression. Under Trump, big parts of the working class have been trying to survive on depressed earnings and disappearing work. Today, tens of millions of workers are earning less on average, adjusted for inflation, than their counterparts back in the 1970s. Benefits, such as medical coverage and retirement pensions, are in even worse shape. And there is an enormous reservoir of millions of working people who should be working but are not even considered a part of the workforce. Instead they are living hand-to-mouth off of little jobs on the fringes of the society or feeding off their own neighborhoods and other people, like parasites.

Of course, this collapse in living standards didn’t just start under Trump. For almost half a century, under Republican and Democratic presidents alike, the capitalist class has been driving down living standards of the working class in order to increase capitalist profits and wealth. They have been cutting jobs, increasing workloads, turning regular full-time jobs into low-pay temporary and part-time jobs. And they have been farming out ever more work to low-wage subcontractors.

Meanwhile, the politicians of both parties have helped the capitalists at every turn, especially by cutting vital programs that serve the broad population, like education and health care. They turn that money over to the capitalists through ever greater tax breaks, fat government contracts, and outright subsidies, thus pushing workers’ living standards even lower.

This full-scale capitalist offensive against the working class has taken tremendous casualties. Over the last few years, years that Trump counts as a supposed “blue collar boom,” life expectancy actually fell in this country, a drop that has not been seen since 1918, that is, during World War I and the Great Influenza Epidemic. It’s a drop unseen in any other wealthy nation in modern times. Behind this fall in life expectancy has been a surge in deaths of working people in their prime years through “deaths of despair” from suicide, drug overdose, and alcoholism. These “deaths of despair” now claim more than 150,000 American lives each year.

Of course, this ongoing catastrophe didn’t start under Trump, but it has been growing as workers’ living standards have been destroyed over several decades.

Of course, some Democrats, from Bernie Sanders to Mike Bloomberg, pretend that they will turn things around for workers by enacting programs in health care, education and the environment that will benefit workers, and that they will tax the rich to pay for them.

But these are just more promises, promises we’ve heard from Democrats for decades. No worker should have any illusion that the government will suddenly stop being an important tool in the hands of the capitalist class just because a few politicians claim to be different.

No, the working class can only count on its own forces and fights to protect its own interests by taking on the capitalist class and its lackeys in the government.

Today, that may sound almost impossible because working people have not carried out widespread fights for many, many decades. But because of its huge numbers and the fact that workers produce everything and make society run, the workers are critical to the running of society. And that gives them the power to not just take on the capitalist class, but to beat it.

The power is there. Workers have to unite and begin to organize for that fight.