What’s really going on out in America’s heartland? It’s a question we are constantly looking to answer. If you believe what’s being tweeted by Donald Trump, times have never been better. Because of him, we have a booming economy, more jobs, and a record stock market which means we all must be winning, right? Yes, the rich are becoming richer, much richer, but for the bottom 90%, the picture is not so rosy. If you look at the 35 richest nations in the world, none has wider income inequality than the United States.
A couple of years ago, Pew researchers found the number of Americans identifying themselves as middle class dropped significantly. “Today, about as many Americans identify themselves as lower or lower-middle class (40%) as say they are in the middle class (44%).” But here’s a number that better helps put all this into context. 900. Next year Dollar General will open 900 new stores across the country. At a time when most brick and mortar stores are gasping for air, Dollar stores are raking it in.
Dollar General, according to CNN has “smaller stores (that) sell cheap day-to-day essentials, especially in rural areas where it doesn’t make sense for Walmart or other large retailers to open up shop.” The company is going after a market of shoppers who make $40,000 a year or less. And the CEO of the chain, which now has 14,000 stores across the country, said something recently that is telling. Todd Vasos told the Wall Street Journal, “The economy is continuing to create more of our core customer. We are putting stores today [in areas] that perhaps five years ago were just on the cusp of probably not being our demographic,” he said, “and it has now turned to being our demographic.” Vox has an excellent summary here.
So a large percentage of Americans aren’t “winning.” They’re surviving. And many voted for Donald Trump in the hopes of getting tax relief, or better health care. It’s not happening.