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The True State of Our Union under the Trump Administration

Demos experts weigh in on the myths and mistruths inherent in the 2020 State of the Union

This week President Trump gave a myth-filled State of the Union. Below, we weigh in on what is fact vs. fiction under this administration when it comes to consumer protections, student debt, the health of our democracy, the climate crisis and more.

 


 

Instead of supporting families, fair lending and consumer protections weakened

Here’s one thing Trump isn’t telling us: Despite a growing economy, American families are taking on rising levels of consumer debt, struggling to keep up with rising costs for health care, housing, higher education and childcare. Consumer debt is particularly burdensome for Black families—as a result of historic and ongoing discrimination, Black households have dramatically less wealth than white households and pay higher interest rates, on average. Yet not only is Trump failing to address families’ fundamental needs for health care and housing, his administration is making borrowing more perilous: weakening fair lending rules, opening the door to predatory loans in states that have reined them in, and denying access to the courts for people that get ripped off by banks and credit card companies.

Amy Traub, Associate Director, Policy & Research, Demos

Instead: Why we need to establish a public credit registry

 


 

Economic growth only for the wealthy

Donald Trump touts a growing stock market, but only half of Americans have any exposure to the stock market, and over 84% of all stock is held by the top 10%. He touts economic growth,

but is silent on the record levels of student debt, record costs of college and childcare, and a federal minimum wage that hasn’t increased since 2009. His misguided tax cut only served to expand a wealth gap in which Black and brown families have $1 for every $10 in white wealth.

Mark Huelsman, Associate Director, Policy & Research, Demos 

Instead: Why our policymakers need to understand the racial wealth gap

 


 

Voting rights suppressed

Trump bragged about building democracy abroad, but he was notably silent on the many ways we still do not have a true democracy here at home. Democracy at the founding of the United States was of, by, and for wealthy, white men. Centuries of struggle and sacrifice led by Black and brown Americans has brought us closer to a true democracy, but still today communities of color have a harder time getting and staying registered to vote and face more barriers to the ballot box. Our democracy is strongest when all people are able to participate, but this administration is doing everything it can to suppress voting rights and subvert the multi-racial, inclusive democracy we know is possible.

Laura Williamson, Senior Policy Analyst, Demos

Instead: Why America Needs a Right-to-Vote Amendment
(A sneak peek of our forthcoming report!)

 


 

Nothing done about student debt 

Donald Trump didn’t say a word about the $1.6 trillion in student loan debt crippling a generation of Americans. His administration has done nothing to reduce the skyrocketing price of higher education, done nothing to invest in public 2- and 4-year colleges, and done nothing to reduce the burden of debt that reaches deep into communities of color. In fact, by slashing and repealing rules that shielded students from low-value for-profit colleges and kept those programs from receiving taxpayer dollars, Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos have only exposed students to predatory programs and increased the risk of financial ruin for families just looking to follow their dreams.

Mark Huelsman, Associate Director, Policy & Research, Demos

Instead: Why we need bold, equitable student loan cancellation and reform
 


 

An extremist anti-environmental agenda

Without mentioning climate change, Donald Trump seemed to try to soften the edges of his extremist anti-environmental agenda by playing up U.S. enrollment in the One Trillion Trees initiative, a global conservation and reforestation effort. But it is difficult to imagine a presidency that has been more damaging to the global cause of climate action since his Administration has been waging the most sustained attack on environmental protection in U.S. history. Building grassroots power, anchored in the needs and priorities of the Black, brown, and low-income communities most impacted by climate change should is a defining issue if we hope to legitimately stop and reverse the environmental assaults of this White House.    

Lew Daly, Senior Policy Analyst & Senior Advisor for Policy Development, Demos

Instead: Why we need a just and equitable Green New Deal