By Rick Patelunas
Tom Rice’s recent op-ed calling for his and President Trump’s reelection ends by saying they will show what a “Land of Opportunity” looks like. Of course, Rice asks everyone to ignore the Republican debacle during the pandemic crisis when he says he wants to return to the good old days of six months ago.
The Economic Recovery
Rice claims that the Obama administration “smothered” the post Great Recession recovery. Up until the economy collapsed under Trump in March 2020, the US experienced the longest recovery on record. Under President Obama, the recovery lasted 91 months, and under Trump, 37 months. A little over 70 percent of the longest recovery occurred before Trump took office. Rice and Trump want credit for the first 128-month recovery, yet, take no responsibility for the last six months during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rice goes on to point to the 50-year low unemployment rate. Rice is correct that when the pandemic hit in early 2020, the unemployment rate was at its lowest level in decades. Following the depths of the Great Recession, jobs grew for 113 months. Similar to the longest recovery, jobs grew for 76 months under Obama and 37 months under Trump. Rice wants us to ignore the fact that nearly all that job growth since the Great Recession has been wiped out during Trump’s tenure in 2020.
The 7th Congressional District
Rice shifts to the 7th District to say that ordinary people are being helped, “even in the poorest areas in South Carolina — and counties like Marion, Dillon and Marlboro were seeing unemployment rates at historic lows and enjoying rising wages.” Six months ago, all of the counties in the 7th District had unemployment rates higher than the state and national averages. The latest available data from Quarter 3 of 2019 shows every one of the counties in the 7th District had average weekly wages less than the state and national averages. Compare the 7th District average weekly wage of $627 with the national weekly wage of $1,093.
The Last Six Months
Six months ago, citizens of the 7th District were struggling with high unemployment and low wages. And the last six months cannot be ignored. The pandemic is not the Democrat’s latest hoax that will disappear in a day like a miracle. It will not be cured with bleach and hydroxychloroquine. Currently, there are over 6 million positive Covid cases and nearly 186,000 deaths in the US.
Rice notes the declining unemployment rate over the last six months. The currently reported 16.3 million jobless workers in the US are a far cry from a great economy. That’s still over 10 million more unemployed than in February. These are not jobs being created. These are workers returning to their jobs as the economy reopens, and it remains to be seen if the reopening was premature.
Rice wants us to think that we’ll see a Land of Opportunity if he and Trump are reelected. Their records point to something entirely different. In 2016, Trump promised to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with better, less expensive, fantastic healthcare for everyone during his first 100 days. As recently as August, Trump said he planned to introduce a tremendous healthcare plan. Instead of a plan, the Trump administration is in front of the Supreme Court arguing to end the ACA.
On the campaign trail, Trump said he would do everything in his power not to touch Social Security. By January 2017, Trump’s selection of Mick Mulvaney as his budget director told a different story. While in Congress, Mulvaney referred to Social Security as a Ponzi scheme. When Trump’s 2021 budget rolled around, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security were on the cutting block.
On August 8th, Trump put the entire Social Security system in danger. He issued a Presidential Memorandum directing the IRS to stop withholding payroll taxes. The argument is to put more money into the hands of working people, but that’s not true. The withholding is delayed, meaning workers will need to pay the taxes in the future. Moreover, during the delay, money is not flowing to the Social Security fund. There’s no hiding the Republican intent to defund Social Security to claim it’s not viable.
Thousands of people in the 7th District live in poverty with low wages, face life and the pandemic with no health insurance, and budget with only Social Security income. Trump’s policies are frightening, and they are also Rice’s policies. Rice voted over 50 times to repeal the ACA without the slightest indication of a replacement. Like Trump, with still no replacement, Rice claims he’ll shape the future of healthcare.
Rice wants to diminish Social Security by raising the Social Security retirement age. Rice has ranged from indicating support for using Chained CPI to calculate the Social Security Cost of Living Adjustment to not taking any position. Raising the retirement age and changing to Chained CPI would cut future benefits.
Over 16 million jobless persons in the US is a far cry from claiming a great economy. Locally, for those with jobs, the reality is bleak. Out of the 358 largest counties in the US, Horry County ranks 355 in wages. Only three counties in the US have lower weekly wages than Horry County.
Trump had the advantage of inheriting a growing economy from Obama. Trump’s failed response to the pandemic cannot be ignored. Maybe that’s why more than two out of three people think the country is heading in the wrong direction.
Rice is correct, the choice is clear. The choice is not Rice, Trump or any of his Congressional enablers.