A lesson on capitalism for President Trump

Average wages, adjusted for inflation, haven’t budged since the mid-1970s. Over half of all American households don’t have the savings to cover a $500 expense, like an unexpected bill for medical treatment or a car repair. Workers of all ages have not been provided the skills to compete in this 21st century economy.

None of Trump’s economic policies address these issues; indeed, they may be making them worse. Trump’s tariffs have hurt farmers and consumers. He’s hollowed out the Affordable Care Act and canceled programs aimed at making college more affordable. He has continued to push tax cuts for the very wealthy, and special tax breaks for certain industries and even individual companies. He has failed to regulate monopolies. Trump is helping to widen the already immense gulf between rich and poor, and drive social mobility to its lowest point in generations.

There are important philosophical differences among the Democratic candidates for president about how they would address these economic issues. Yet the President would rather label Democrats as capitalist or socialist — a false choice — than have a real conversation about how to get America working for all people. He knows if he can divide Democrats and distract us from a real conversation — he can win re-election.

Last night, Trump claimed I’m “ashamed of capitalism.” The reality is, I’m ashamed of him.

I believe in the market as a driver of growth and innovation. As a small businessman, I started a company from scratch and ultimately created over 1,000 jobs in brewpubs and other businesses across the Midwest. As a Governor, I cut red tape and bureaucracy that bogged down the openings and expansions of small business. I worked closely with the private sector to help pull Colorado out of the recession. During my eight years, we went from 40th in job creation to the number one economy in the nation. Colorado now also has one of the fastest growing rural economies in the nation.

So I may be a capitalist, but I’m sure not a Trump capitalist. We didn’t achieve economic success in Colorado by letting corporations and the wealthy run wild. We expanded training and apprenticeship programs, created high-quality pre-K for four-year-olds in Denver, invested in light rail, and much more — things that markets alone don’t accomplish on their own.

America only “works” if people have equal opportunities to compete. It is well established that where you are born determines if you start on first, second or third base. Racial discrimination and wealth disparities create advantages that have been intractable over generations. Trump capitalism disinvests in average people, reduces competition and slows growth even as it widens advantages for large companies, very wealthy individuals, and the politically connected.

The solution to bad economic policy is not government takeover. But we need to make American capitalism work a whole lot better for the workers and consumers who make up the bulk of our nation or the demands for bad policies — whether socialism, protectionism, or crony capitalism — will only continue to grow.

In all of this, what we need are not more empty labels, but more good policies that make America work once again.