Roosevelt Institute Responds to President Trump’s First State of the Union Address

Leading Progressive Think Tank Reflects on Trump’s Year in Office, What the Country Needs Moving Forward

New York, NY — Following President Trump’s first State of the Union address, the Roosevelt Institute provided the following responses:

“President Trump attempted to paint a rosy picture last night, but most Americans still understand that the current economy is rigged against them and in favor of the rich and powerful,” said Nell Abernathy, Vice President of Research and Policy at the Roosevelt Institute. “Even with relatively low unemployment, jobs remain precarious and out of reach for many. Where we have seen gains, they are largely due to earlier progressive policy changes rather than anything this administration or congressional Republicans have done. And key indicators, including GDP, investment, and wage growth, remain anemic and below the pre-recession trend. Unfortunately for the American people, the policy priorities of this administration and Congress will only make these flaws in our economy even worse.”

“Trump came to office as an economic populist by railing against Wall Street, but over the past year, he has presided over the most Wall Street-friendly administration in history,” said Saqib Bhatti, Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. “Not only did he surround himself with Goldman Sachs alumni, but he also rolled back consumer protections, waived billions in penalties that banks had agreed to pay for their past wrongdoings, and pushed through a tax plan that prioritizes tax cuts for the wealthiest few over essential services for hundreds of millions. Furthermore, instead of providing debt relief and sufficient and timely humanitarian aid to Puerto Rico after it was hit by two major hurricanes, Trump blamed the Puerto Rican people for the disasters and threw paper towels at them. That is a disgrace.”

“Last night, Donald Trump took unwarranted credit for declines in the black unemployment rate—a rate that is still twice that of white Americans—while heralding a tax plan that will exacerbate our nation’s glaring racial wealth gap,” said Andrea Flynn, Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. “He argued for paid family leave while boasting of his efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and erode programs that are critical to the health and well-being of millions of women and their families. And he wielded strategic racism like a carving knife, attempting to cleave divisions between communities whose fates are far more linked than they are divided.”

“Donald Trump intentionally misled the American public last night by celebrating worker bonuses,” said Susan Holmberg, Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. “These bonuses are meant to distract from the fact that, for the past 40 years, public companies have largely prioritized shareholders over workers, at the expense of the long-term vitality of their businesses and the economy at large. Public companies never needed the tax bill to increase worker pay, and these bonuses are a consolation prize for what workers are losing out on: real wage growth and a strong safety net.”

“President Trump has benefitted from such low expectations that he’s been able to sell not messing up the economy as a major victory,” said Mike Konczal, Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. “He inherited a modest recovery, and the economy has continued to do about the same, if not a little worse, as it did at the end of the Obama administration. President Trump had a historic opportunity to try and change difficult, long-term trends for working Americans. Instead, he showered owners of wealth with unneeded tax cuts, cut important safety regulations, moved the debate to the far right on immigration, and tried to take away everyone’s access to health care. Rather than pushing forward something new, here he’s simply reinforced the worst of what our society has to offer.”

“Despite his protestations to the contrary, President Trump’s new tax law is a massive and self-defeating giveaway to the super-rich and wealthy corporations at a time of record income inequality, soaring corporate profits, and a middle and working class struggling to get by,” said Michael Linden, Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. “There is no good justification, economic or moral, for giving out hundreds of billions in new tax cuts to those who are already reaping the most benefits from our broken system. This tax law is destined to go down as an historic policy blunder, paving the way for ever greater concentrations of economic and political power in fewer and fewer hands.”

“Trump and the Republicans would like to take credit for a strong economy, but we are still far from a full recovery, and the Republican program of tax cuts for the rich, rolling back public services, and vicious crackdowns on immigrant Americans is not getting us any closer,” said J.W. Mason, Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. “The best hope for economic gains for working people is for the Fed to shift back toward trying to raise spending, rather than rein it in. Over the past year or two, we’ve seen that a strong labor market can bring people deemed unemployable back into the labor force and raise labor’s share of national income. Unfortunately, too many at the Fed continue to see low unemployment and rising wages as problems to be solved.”

“From the podium last night, Trump claimed ‘there has never been a better time to start living the American Dream,’” said Mark Paul, Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. “Trump boasted that his policies provided ‘tremendous relief for the middle class.’ These are lies which are not supported by the data. But a stronger America, an America that works for all, is possible. Relief for most Americans doesn’t come from infamous trickle-down tax cuts, which line the coffers of Trump’s cronies. Relief comes from providing employment opportunities at non-poverty wages, investing in a robust array of public services, and supporting first-rate human and physical infrastructure. For now, the American Dream is little more than a fantasy for most Americans.”

“Donald Trump has been milking his criticism of trade policy since the election, but what’s his record one year in?” asked Todd Tucker, Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. “He touts the U.S.’ pull-out from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), but this lacked the requisite support in Congress even before the election. The recently announced tariffs on solar panels and washing machines were not Trump policies, but rather the outcome of independent agency recommendations requested by the affected companies themselves (and Trump gave less relief than even the agency’s Obama and Bush appointees recommended). His empty threats to levy steel and aluminum tariffs have actually increased imports, while North American and global trade talks remain as stagnant as ever. Making America Great Again seems to involve little making of things in America, let alone making coherent policy.”

The Fellows of the Roosevelt Institute are available to the media to discuss economic policy and the challenges facing the US economy.

About the Roosevelt Institute

Until the rules work for every American, they’re not working. The Roosevelt Institute asks: what does a better society look like? Armed with a bold vision for the future, we push the economic and social debate forward. We believe that those at the top hold too much power and wealth, and that our economy will be stronger when that changes. Ultimately, we want our work to move the country toward a new economic and political system: one built by many for the good of all.

It takes all us to rewrite the rules. From emerging leaders to Nobel laureate economists, we’ve built a network of thousands. At Roosevelt, we make influencers more thoughtful and thinkers more influential. We also celebrate –and are inspired by– those whose work embodies the values of both Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and carries their vision forward today.