If you're baffled by Trump's rise take a look at the grim realities of American working lifeby David Blanchflower / March 15, 2017 / Leave a comment
Working for less—and now less work too: Pay packets shrank, then they got harder to come by
A big squeeze on American wages has been occurring for a generation: earnings first went into freefall back in the 1970s. Real pay (measured in 1982-84 dollars) sank from a peak of a weekly $345 in February 1973 to $264 in January 1996. Things have bounced back a bit since, but only half way. The chart is for all “production and non-supervisory employees,” which captures roughly 80 per cent of all private-sector staff—so not just the working class but also the great American middle class as was. Until the 1990s, an underlying rise in the number of women earning compensated for the loss. But since the millennium—and especially since the financial crisis—the overall employment rate has dropped.
States of gloom: Trump earned most votes where voters earned least
Perhaps a political platform that blended heavy nostalgia with angry finger-pointing was always going to do better in places that are feeling left behind than those which were looking to the future with confidence. And so it proved. The chart plots weekly wages in each state (this time in 2016 dollars) against Trump’s vote share last November. What it reveals is that, despite his own riches and his pro-wealthy tax cuts, he performed better in those parts of the US where workers are earning least.
Fat chance: Trump is just one more disease of despair
Epidemeologists discern a link between economic and psycholgical depression. The “diseases of despair” in today’s America—obesity, heavy drinking and drug addiction—are most entrenched in towns which snuff out hope. Drill down into 3,000 individual US counties, and you can see that Trump’s particular appeal is distributed in much the same way. Here we chart each county’s male obesity rate against the “Trump jump,” that is the extra share of the local vote that Trump earned over-and-above that of 2012 Republican challenger Mitt Romney: the trend line shows a definite positive link. Similar trends are evident when the Trump jump is plotted against female obesity and substance misuse. Epidemiogically speaking, then, Trump is one more disease of despair.