Clarence Fanto | The Bottom Line: As the age of Trump dawns, Warren comes out swinging

LENOX — "Nobody expected 2017 to start this way," declared Sen. Elizabeth Warren in her Friday announcement that she intends to run for re-election next year. "This isn't the fight we were expecting to fight."

The Massachusetts Democrat certainly crystallized the feelings of roughly half the country as she stated in an e-mail to supporters: "The people of Massachusetts didn't send me to Washington to roll over and play dead while Donald Trump and his team of billionaires, bigots and Wall Street bankers crush the working people of our commonwealth and this country. This is no time to quit."

Warren has moved beyond the seemingly endless theorizing as Clinton voters seek to explain how our president-in-waiting won an Electoral College victory by tilting the popular vote in rural counties of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania in his favor. The result was a slender victory of 77,774 out of more than 136 million votes cast.

If you're still looking to explain the rise of Trump, the most persuasive answers can be found in recent studies demonstrating how, for decades, half of the country has seen wages decline, millions of factory jobs disappear, and one out of seven Americans in the prime of their lives sidelined from the labor force.

About 117 million adults on the lower half of the economic ladder "have been completely shut off from economic growth since the 1970s," according to noted economists Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman. "Even after taxes and transfers, there has been close to zero growth for working-age adults in the bottom 50 percent."

Their study takes into account not only paychecks but also fringe benefits for those who are employed, and government safety nets such as food stamps.

In 1980, Americans in the bottom half of the economy took home 20 percent of the nation's total income, before taxes, while the top 1 percent had 10 percent. In 2014, the top 1 percent's slice was 20 percent, while the bottom 50 percent had only 12.5 percent of national income.

One more set of numbers, even more dramatic: Back in 1980, income for the top 1 percent was $428,000 in current dollars, adjusted for inflation, while the bottom 50 percent earned $16,000. Certainly a wide gap.

But in 2014, income inequality looked like this: $1,305,000 for the fortunate 1-percenters, driven primarily by investments. The bottom 50 percent: $16,200.

Enter the Trump administration, as Vice President-elect Mike Pence teams up with the shrewd House Majority Leader Paul Ryan, guided by the Twitterer-in-chief.

Their promise to reduce income inequality, as demanded by Trump's voters, will be fulfilled by shredding the safety net, reducing Medicaid benefits for the poor, gutting the Affordable Care Act without a replacement in hand, and passing tax "reform" with huge tax cuts for the most well-off Americans, a lavish windfall. Don't be surprised if the Republicans try to tamper with Medicare and Social Security benefits.

Granted, the forces that have produced stagnant income for half of the country are complex, and the effects of technology and automation in the workplace loom large. Education and retraining programs have fallen short.

There's plenty of hand-wringing and teeth-gnashing about the impending implosion of our democracy. It's understandable, and it's hard to blame Clinton backers for bitterness over their "loss" given her 2,864,974-vote lead over Trump. Her 2.1 percentage point victory margin represents the largest disconnect between the popular vote and the Electoral College outcome since 1876.

But it's time to move on, bearing in mind JFK's undeniable finding that "life is unfair."

He was speaking on the eve of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam war: "There is always inequity in life. Some men are killed in a war and some men are wounded, and some men never leave the country, and some men are stationed in the Antarctic and some are stationed in San Francisco. It's very hard in military or in personal life to assure complete equality. Life is unfair."

Bearing that in mind, the loyal opposition must mount a united front to try to avert the new administration's most destructive policies bound to inflict the greatest damage on the angry Americans who put Mr. Trump into the White House.

In that spirit, Sen. Warren set the right tone with her rallying cry: "In the weeks and months ahead, we will stand up to the Trump Administration's racism, sexism, bigotry and hate. We will fight back against attacks on Latinos, African-Americans, Muslims, immigrants, women, and LGBT Americans. Our diversity is what makes our country strong — and on this, there will be NO compromise."

Her priority issues remain raising the minimum wage, working toward debt-free college and defending Wall Street reform.

"I will fight today, tomorrow, next week, this year, next year and as long as I'm standing to build a future — not just for some of our kids, but for all of our kids," Warren declared.

Raise a toast to her fighting spirit.

Contact correspondent Clarence Fanto at The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Berkshire Eagle.


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