In Tuesday’s debate, President Trump mentioned his greatest gift to the American people—but if you blinked you might have missed it. “When the stock market goes up, that means jobs,” he said. Then he added, crucially: “It also means 401(k)s.” That point hits home among the millions of Americans with savings in a tax-advantaged investment vehicle, who watched their retirement funds rise in the prepandemic stock surge.
On stage, Joe Biden had nothing to say to this point. But in a Pennsylvania town hall this month, he pooh-poohed the stock market as a concern only of the distant rich. “All that Trump can see from Park Avenue is Wall Street. All he thinks about is the stock market, and telling them, ‘We’re going to do all right, everybody owns stock.’ How many of you all own stock in Scranton? In my neighborhood in Scranton, not a whole hell of a lot of people own stock.”
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Mr. Biden’s critique might have made sense when he began his political career. But today, more than 100 million Americans save in 401(k)s, up from 19 million in 1990, along with many others using individual retirement accounts, 403(b)s and 529 college savings plans. And this growing “investor class” is increasingly aware. They receive frequent reports and can check their statements online anytime to see how their savings have grown, fallen or rebounded. They watched the Trump presidency drive up the value of their life savings.
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“Wealth” is a slur to the left. Yet if you ask ordinary Americans not about their “wealth” but about their savings in a 401(k) or IRA, many can tell you its value to the penny. Skeptics argue that the market’s performance matters only to investors with the biggest stakes, but that argument gets things backward. Younger Americans, just beginning to save in an IRA or 401(k), have an even greater interest in pro-growth economic policies. They have more years to reap the benefits.
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