Pam's Points: Trump economic hoaxes too high to count

Pam's Points: Trump economic hoaxes too high to count

June 10th, 2019 by Pam Sohn in Opinion Times

President Donald Trump listens during a news conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May at the Foreign Office, Tuesday, June 4, 2019, in central London. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Jobs? What jobs?

Our government keeps telling us that the economy is great, wonderful, booming.

You know, like best in the history of the world, to borrow one of President Trump's most overused encomiums.

That must mean Trump thinks the U.S. Labor Department report Friday saying the U.S. economy added just 75,000 jobs in May, a significant pullback from 224,000 jobs added in April, is likely another Deep State hoax, right?

No. Despite the highly touted, five-decade low unemployment rate of 3.6%, May's new jobs number is but an echo of some other less-than-cheery economic figures we've seen lately — even before Trump's mercurial talk of escalating the trade war began.

Just last week, we published a column by Robert Reich, who served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration and is now Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies.

Reich noted that fewer than half of Google workers are full-time employees. Most are temps and contractors receiving a fraction of the wages and benefits of full-time Googlers, with no job security. So much for the golden Silicon Valley.

And although half of New York's Uber drivers are supporting families with children, 40% depend on Medicaid and another 18% on food stamps.

It's much the same all across America, Reich says. "The fastest-growing category of new jobs is gig work — contract, part-time, temp, self-employed and freelance. And a growing number of people work for staffing firms that find them gig jobs. The standard economic measures — unemployment and income — look better than Americans feel."

Did we mention stagnant wages? Nearly 80% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck.

This contract gig work is cheap for companies. Not only does it let them have workers without providing insurance or good wages, it also helps them avoid labor protections like unemployment insurance, worker's compensation for injuries, employer-provided social security, overtime, family and medical leave, disability insurance, or the right to form unions and collectively bargain.

 

But the rich get richer

While we're talking about jobs and work and incomes, think about this:

In the 1970s, the wealthiest tenth of Americans owned about a third of the nation's total household wealth.

Not anymore. Now the wealthiest 10% owns 75% of total household wealth.

But President Trump and the GOP gave those richest folks an enormous tax break, and they're quick to call it socialism when Democrats talk about passing a wealth tax. Now where's the hoax?

A wealth tax like the one proposed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren would place a 2% tax on wealth in excess of $50 million. That is expected to generate $2.75 trillion in the ensuing decade — money that could be used for health care, education, infrastructure and other American needs.

 

Then there are tariffs

Meanwhile, American dollars for the rest of us buy less and less. Our costs already are going up thanks to our president's belief that tariff's are a "beautiful" way to bludgeon the leaders of countries with whom he disagrees — like Mexico.

Trump's fever dream to raise tariffs up to 25% as a way to force Mexico to take a tougher approach to the enforcement of its border will make consumers around the country pay more for cars, TVs, bluejeans, beer, fresh vegetables and other products.

A recent study calculated that the 25% tariffs on China would cost the average American household more than $800 a year, according to a blog post from the New York Federal Reserve. Another study estimates tariff costs will raise the price of new cars by about $2,400 per vehicle. Costco officials have said they already are raising prices on a range of merchandise, including bicycles, electronic and luggage. And Tennessee-based Dollar General officials have said, "We believe our shoppers will be facing higher prices as 2019 progresses."

According to Commerce Department data analyzed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Tennessee imported $8.4 billion in products from Mexico in 2018. Georgia imported $6.9 billion in products.

That means Trump's pique won't just affect our day-to-day shopping. It also will affect our state economies. Just ask our own automakers.

As a share of our gross domestic product, Tennessee's imports from Mexico tally 2.2%. In Georgia, imports from Mexico are 1.2% of Peach State's GDP.

That brings us back to May's low jobs growth.

The Washington Post on Friday reported that manufacturing and construction saw "anemic" job growth in May with fewer than 5,000 jobs added in each sector. The Post called it "one of the clearest signs that Trump's tariffs are having a negative impact on blue-collar sectors the president has been trying to boost."

And as for that record low unemployment number? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, that 3.6% figure "doesn't include people who have given up looking for work, so-called discouraged workers, or those who are working part time but would like to be full time," writes the Post. If those people are included, unemployment would be at 7.1%.

Oh, let us count the hoaxes.

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