In his speech today focusing on the economy, Donald Trump opens right off the bat with the following statistic:
“Right now, 92 million Americans are on the sidelines, outside the workforce, and not part of our economy. It’s a silent nation of jobless Americans.”
Clearly, the statistic is intended to portray a bleak picture of the American economy, with more than 90 million of us supposedly left on the sidelines, unable to participate. It’s offered as a counter to the generally good news about the economy, including a low unemployment rate, rising median incomes, falling poverty rate and other measures.
But is the number valid? If we take that statistic as a gauge of Trump’s overall honesty and integrity in discussing the state of the American workforce, what will we find?
We find this:
- Of that 92 million, some 45 million are retired Americans over 65 years of age.
- More than 5 million are retired Americans between age 62 and 65.
- More than 4 million are blind, physically or mentally disabled.
- More than 20 million are attending college.
- More than 8 million are 16 or older, but still in high school.
Do the math, and Trump’s “92 million Americans … outside the workforce, and not part of our economy” is actually somewhere around 16 million, accounting for double-counting in some of the categories.¹ And if you have to count 80-year-old retirees and 16-year-old high school kids as part of your “silent nation of jobless Americans,” those left out in the cold and unable to participate, then you expose your entire argument as fraudulent.
That’s how honest Trump is in these discussions. That’s how he plays his audience for fools and dupes.
The rest of the speech was smoke and mirrors as well. Among other things, it resurrects yet again the traditional Republican panacea for all problems economic, meaning of course tax cuts for the rich; once again, it does so without regard to its multi-trillion-dollar impact on the national debt, on top of current projections.
And while Trump has claimed that his plan will benefit taxpayers all across the economic spectrum, every third-party analysis yet conducted on his plan refutes that claim. It produces enormous savings for the rich and very little for everybody else, while also setting the financial stage for significant future cuts in Medicare, Social Security, etc. (See here for my earlier look at the details.)
Remember, this is the man who has made it standard practice to screw and cheat small business owners who do work for him. He has reneged on countless charitable pledges, preening in public as a generous person but consistently, repeatedly and almost without exception never actually coughing up the dough unless he is shamed into it. His entire life and bearing is that a man who worships self and wealth, and the notion of him as the salvation of America’s working class is every bit as valid as his “92 million” talking point.
¹According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, its U-6 rate — “total unemployed, plus all marginally attached workers, plus total employed part time for economic reasons” — has fallen to 9.7 percent, down from 17 percent in early 2010 at the height of the recession.
That rate translates into 16 million Americans who want a job but can’t find one, who want a full-time job but can only find part-time work, or who want a job but are too discouraged to keep looking. You can argue that’s too high — ideally it would be zero — but it’s a far, far cry from 92 million.