President Donald Trump never stops bellowing about how the economy is doing “really, really well.” The corporate press, which loves to show Trump rallies, happily cooperates by portraying Trump as the “good economy” president. The official unemployment rate currently is 3.7 percent, historically low, they say. But what’s the truth behind that figure? If joblessness is so low, why is life getting harder for working people?
Behind the propaganda, the reality is very different. More and more working people are unemployed, underemployed, and/or not making enough to meet the most basic of needs.
These are the facts.
Long history of fudging figures
Employment and unemployment numbers influence a president’s approval rating, so every administration fudges the unemployment numbers.
In the early 1960s, President John Kennedy was the first to use the term “discouraged workers,” to describe the jobless who weren’t looking for work at the moment because they tried very hard to find a job and couldn’t. Soon they were no longer counted in government statistics as “unemployed.”
Workers are now labeled “discouraged” if they haven’t looked for work in the past four weeks. There are officially about 500,000 of them today. They are not counted as unemployed.
In the 1980s, Ronald. Reagan was the first to count the military as among the employed in order to further lower the official unemployment rate.
This massaging of figures has only gotten worse. The U.S. Jobs Report, a key measure of how well the economy is doing, “has gotten increasingly less accurate in the past 20 years,” according to a recent report by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Today, there are almost as many ways to fudge the unemployment figures as there are unemployed.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has mind-boggling categories of unemployed, underemployed, marginally employed, seasonally adjusted unemployment, and so on. But the BLS states that “the current real unemployment rate is about double the official unemployment rate.”
According to the Household Survey conducted by the U.S. Labor Department, the number of people unemployed has dropped by more than 400,000 since December. Is this really something to crow about when the total number employed has also declined — by almost 200,000?
Part-timers who need full-time work
There are about 27 million part-time workers who are counted as employed. If you work even one hour a week you are officially counted as “employed.”
How many really need full-time work? Officially, 6-10 million.
How many workers are kept “part time” to deny them benefits? Starting in 2015, a provision of the Affordable Care Act was that every worker who worked 30 hours a week or more was entitled to medical benefits. The result? Many companies decreased the hours worked so they could avoid paying for benefits.
In addition to denying them needed benefits, this also pushed workers into poverty. According to a report by the U.S. Center for Poverty Research, “At least 30 weeks of full-time work per year is needed to generate earnings equal to the poverty line for a single individual. For a family of three, 50 or more weeks of full time work would be required to reach the poverty line.”
Today’s average wage buys less than 40 years ago
According to self-proclaimed “capitalist tool” Forbes Magazine: “Wages used to rise faster when unemployment was this low. … In the same period in which average hourly earnings rose 2.8%, the CPI rose 2.7%. That’s how much the cost of living went up, on average. … But unless you had no housing or transportation expenses in the last year, your cost of living rose at least [their emphasis — pw] 2.7% and possibly much more.”
According to the Pew Research Center: “ … today’s real average wage (that is, the wage after accounting for inflation) has about the same purchasing power it did 40 years ago. And what wage gains there have been have mostly flowed to the highest-paid tier of workers.”
The popular tabloids are happy to paper over the real facts about the condition of the working class, and fill the airwaves with feel-good propaganda that raises hope and expectations for good-paying jobs that never materialize. This is not a far cry from the infamous quote from President Herbert Hoover during the Great Depression of the 1930s, that “prosperity is just around the corner.” But the corporate propaganda machine is much stronger now, keeping expectation of good jobs alive.
Then why is this information coming out at all? Because business publications read by a select audience want to know about the actual state of the economy. One reason is that corporations need the truth is to profit off interest rate speculation. But they also keep a watchful eye on working-class consciousness.
How best to fight back?
The real employment facts don’t deter Trump’s boasting about the “roaring” economy, nor the media that gives him prime coverage for his demagogy.
What kind of a strategy can cut through this cesspool of falsehoods and create jobs at livable wages?
Certainly not what the Democrats are doing. When the Democrats bait Trump for Russiagate, soft-pedal jobs, and neglect Pentagon war-mongering, they are setting the table for Trump’s demagogy that the economy is “booming.” That puts the blame on the individual worker: If the economy is booming, why am I unemployed? Who is at fault? Immigrants? Liberals? Unions?
The first way to fight Trump is to tell the truth: Rampant corporate greed has made life much harder for working people.
Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans can tell the class truth because they are both bought and paid for by the billionaires. On the surface, the two parties fight like cats and dogs, but behind the puppetry curtain, the same corporate beast is pulling the strings.
Only a class appeal that understands the need of the multi-national working class for good-paying jobs, linked with the need to fight racism, sexism, homophobia and the $733 billion war budget, can cut through the lies of Trump and put him and his ilk into the dustbin of history.