Phil Gramm and Mike SolonOpinion contributorsPublished 10:09am ET Oct. 30 2020
On election night 2014, Sen. Mitch McConnell was reelected to the Senate and subsequently became Senate majority leader. On that special night, he shared with his supporters his belief in the central promise of America, which he had learned from his parents, “that every generation will leave the next one a little better off than the one before… This is the compact that every generation of Americans has made with one that followed it… we’ve always made good on it.”
But he added, “As I’ve traveled throughout Kentucky over that past year, I’ve sensed new doubts. Suddenly folks aren’t so sure that that compact will survive…” Kentuckians were worried in 2014 and for good reason. What Obama and Biden called a recovery starting in 2009, Kentuckians called pain. By 2014, census data showed the Obama-Biden “recovery” had pushed 40,247 more Kentuckians into poverty and slashed the average Kentucky household income by $5,077. The American dream and the Kentucky dream were both fading.
So what difference did it make to Kentucky and America that McConnell became majority leader of the U.S. Senate? A lot! By bringing the Obama legislative agenda to an end in 2015 and pushing through the Trump tax cut in late 2017, McConnell brought strong economic growth back to America and Kentucky.
The U.S. Census Bureau now tells us what the stronger growth McConnell helped deliver as Senate majority leader has meant to the families across the Bluegrass state since 2014. From 2014 to 2019, average Kentucky household income shot up by a record $12,876, a whopping 30%. Never have Kentuckians had such a surge in real income since the census started to collect state income data. Almost 114,000 Kentuckians escaped poverty. Job growth has leapt by 106,000, growing over three times faster than when a Democrat Senate was implementing the Obama-Biden policy. Kentucky’s unemployment rate in 2019 dropped to its lowest level in two decades.
This surge in jobs, incomes and prosperity has restored hope for Kentuckians. With bigger paychecks, Kentuckians invested in their future and their families. The most recently available census data shows Kentucky has added an extra 43,000 college graduates and post graduates to its economy since McConnell helped bring economic growth back to Kentucky and America. That’s twice as many new college graduates making Kentucky their home as we currently have students enrolled at the University of Louisville.
Thanks to McConnell’s leadership, census data nationwide shows prosperity replacing poverty across America. “The 2019 poverty rate of 10.5 percent is the lowest rate observed since estimates were initially published in 1959… the Black poverty rate was the lowest since 1959… The 2019 Hispanic poverty rate of 15.7 percent reflects the lowest poverty rate for this population since estimates were first produced in 1972…. For Asians, the 2019 poverty rate of 7.3 percent is the lowest observed since estimates were first produced for this population in 2002…. The 2019 poverty rate of 14.4 percent reflects the lowest child poverty rate observed since 1973” (emphasis appropriately added).
And no, McConnell didn’t forget the rest of America’s wagon pullers. Census reports “real median household income in 2019 was the highest since 1967,” and the typical American household had their 2019 income rise in just one year alone by more than it rose in all eight years of the Obama-Biden administration. Not since Henry Clay has a Senate leader done so much for his state and the whole nation.
A bad bug, not bad economic policy shutdown progress. The question we are trying to answer in this election is how do we bring that progress back? Does anybody believe prosperity could be restored to the pre-pandemic level by adopting the Biden-Sanders-Warren-McGrath agenda, which is far more socialist than the failed progressivism of the Obama-Biden era? Can anybody realistically deny such an agenda will be implemented if Biden is elected president, McConnell is defeated and the Democrats take control of the Senate? Thankfully, the people of Kentucky will have a big say in choosing America’s future and the choice has never been clearer.
Sen. Phil Gramm served for 18 years in the Senate with Sen. Mitch McConnell, and Mike Solon was a senior policy staffer for Gramm and McConnell.