Last December, in the final weeks of President Barack Obama’s second term, his administration released an official report highlighting the country’s economic gains during the Democrat’s eight years in office.
Nearly 15 million more jobs since late 2010. An unemployment rate less than half of its 10 percent peak. Wage growth of up to 5 percent. An economy more than 11 percent larger than its peak before the financial crisis. The statistics went on.
But Sen. Elizabeth Warren says those topline figures don’t tell the entire story.
In an interview published Monday in The Guardian, Warren said those “shiny” numbers do not reflect an economy that continues to leave people behind.
“I think President Obama, like many others in both parties, talks about a set of big national statistics that look shiny and great but increasingly have giant blind spots,” said the Massachusetts senator. “That GDP, unemployment, no longer reflect the lived experiences of most Americans. And the lived experiences of most Americans is that they are being left behind in this economy.”
“Worse than being left behind, they’re getting kicked in the teeth,” she added.
Indeed, despite recent gains, longterm economic trends — in the midst of continued globalization and technological change — illustrate a decreasingly bright outlook for middle-class America. Since the mid-20th century, wealth gains have increasingly become concentrated within the top percentile of income earners, just as upward economic mobility has declined.
For Warren, who is already being mentioned among other potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, the comments to The Guardian are in line with her continued populist critique of Obama’s optimistic worldview, as well as the influence of money on democracy.
The Bay State senator even issued a direct rebuke of the former president in her recently released book, This Fight is Our Fight.
“No, President Obama, the system is as rigged as we think. In fact, it’s worse than most Americans realize,” she wrote, responding to comments Obama made during a 2016 commencement address.
In a Vox podcast interview last week, Warren — who has fought with the Obama administration over trade and Treasury appointments in 2015, and recently said she was “troubled” by the former president’s $400,000 speaking fee — elaborated on what she meant, condemning the broader Washington political system.
Money slithers through Washington like a snake, and it’s quiet, but the influence is everywhere. There are the obvious ways that we know about, the campaign contributions and armies of lobbyists. But it’s so much more. It’s bought-and-paid-for experts who testify before Congress and are quoted in the press. It’s think tanks that are funded by shadowy money and always have a particular point of view that just seems to help the rich and the powerful get richer and more powerful.
Money pervades. It’s whose phone calls do you take. It’s who you see in the evenings. It’s who are your old friends. It’s every part of it, so that the rich and the powerful are incredibly well-represented, not just at the top in the White House but all the way through government in this town.