NEW YORK — The overwhelming majority of Americans believe the economy is rigged.
Seventy-one percent think the U.S. economic system is “rigged in favor of certain groups,” according to a new poll by Marketplace and Edison Research.
The poll asked a simple question: Which of the following comes closer to your opinion on the economic system in the U.S. People could select between three options:
1. The economic system is rigged in favor of certain groups 2. The economy system is fair to all Americans 3. Don’t know
Most selected rigged economy. It didn’t matter if the person was white, black or Hispanic or whether they identified as Republican, Democrat or Independent. The majority feel the American Dream comes with huge asterisk that reads “only for the favored few.”
No wonder the “rigged economy” has become one of the biggest talking points on the 2016 campaign trail. Bernie Sanders may have started it, but Donald Trump now uses that exact term and Hillary Clinton talks often about how she’ll help those “left behind.”
Why Americans feel this way
Americans have good reason to think this way. The typical middle class family is earning about the same amount of money — just under $54,000 — as they did in 1996, once you adjust for inflation.
That means a lot of people aren’t getting paid more. On top of that, the Great Recession knocked out many people’s safety net savings as they lost jobs or homes or both. Even people who have jobs tell CNNMoney that they feel one step away from financial ruin. They fear a life of “dead-end crap jobs with crap wages.”
Inequality, however you measure it, has been on the rise. The middle class is shrinking — partly because the upper middle class is thriving.
This week, actor Jesse Williams speech at the BET awards highlighting all this went viral. It began: “A system built to divide, impoverish and destroy us cannot stand if we do.” He called on his fellow Black celebrities — many of whom are part of the favored few — to do their part to fix inequality too.
Williams’ words are notable since 83% of African-Americans believe the economy is rigged, according to the Marketplace poll. It’s the highest group to think that, although the majority of Americans across all racial groups feel that way.
What Trump and Clinton propose
Trump and Clinton are fighting to prove they are the candidate with the best solutions to help the working class.
Clinton has accused Trump of being exactly the kind of person who’s rigging the system for Wall Street elites. He’s only in it to enrich himself, she argues.
Trump fires back at Clinton that she’s been in Washington for much of the past 20 years as the middle class has shrunk and gotten such a raw deal.
Trump says America must start by bringing back jobs from China, Mexico and elsewhere. It’s a tough task that many experts say could backfire, not to mention make goods more expensive for working families.
Clinton pushes more safety nets like raising the minimum wage to at least $12, enacting paid family leave and universal day care.