Is This Fake News?

This was posted at MarketWatch.com earlier today and I just have to post it here:

Donald Trump

Let’s look at the record that will determine Trump’s fate in November — and his place in history

A few months ago, President Donald Trump was bragging about the low unemployment rate. And then COVID-19 hit.

Numbers are inanimate objects that can either be the bane or boon of a president. Think 52 and 444, for example. This was the number of American hostages in Iran and the number of days they were held, for example—numbers that helped do in Jimmy Carter in 1980.

Or 537: George W. Bush’s winning vote margin in Florida in the still-argued about election of 2000. Or 24.8%—the size of the stock market’s collapse in October 1929, which ushered in the Great Depression on Herbert Hoover’s watch.

We know what numbers President Donald Trump will be associated with because we’re living them. As recently as February, there were some very good numbers, like 3.5%, the terrific unemployment rate, for example.

But that was then. Numbers, all sorts of numbers, that are associated with Trump today are uniformly poor. A partial list:

  • 11.1%: the current unemployment rate for Americans aged 16 and over. It is significantly higher for specific groups: Blacks (15.4%), Hispanics (14.5%) and Asians (13.8%).
  • $3 trillion: the size of the U.S. budget deficit in the 12 months through June—putting the federal government on pace for the most red ink as a percentage of the economy since World War II. And get this: The final tally by the time the fiscal year ends Sept. 30 could be $3.7 trillion, the Congressional Budget Office projects—or even bigger if Congress and the White House agree on more emergency spending to keep households and businesses afloat as the pandemic rolls on.
  • $26.5 trillion: the size of the national debt through Friday. That’s up 33% on Trump’s watch despite his claim that he would eliminate the entire debt—the whole thing—in eight years.
  • 11.7%: the so-called “Misery Index,” which combines the current unemployment rate (11.1%) and the annual increase in the consumer price index (0.6%). Some perspective: This is far lower than it was in 1980, when Jimmy Carter’s re-election bid was crushed—but nearly a point higher than 1992, when George H.W. Bush lost.
  • 20%: the percentage of Americans who are satisfied with “the way things are going in the United States at this time.” The Gallup survey indicates this is down from 36% when Trump took office.
  • 10. That’s where the United States stands in a ranking of the world’s most competitive economies, according to an annual ranking from the Institute for Management Development, a business school based in Lausanne, Switzerland. When Trump’s presidency began America was #1. The IMD ranking blames the uncertainty and disruption caused by the president’s trade wars.
  • 15%: the increase in the number of Americans receiving food stamps (actually debit cards) in March, the last month for which we have federal data. This number has unquestionably grown far worse since on the heels of soaring unemployment. In fact, states that report such data faster than the feds show increases of more than 36% in Florida between February and May and nearly 19% in Texas, according to preliminary data aggregated by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
  • 5.4 million: the number of Americans who have lost health insuranceduring the pandemic—more in just a few months than during the entire Great Recession. Meantime—and without offering any alternative—the White House is arguing in the Supreme Court to kill off the Affordable Care Act.
  • 29%: the percentage of citizens in 32 countries who have confidence in Trump to “do the right thing regarding world affairs.” That’s according to a Pew Research Center survey, which gave even higher marks, if you can believe it, to Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
  • 20,055: the number of lies of misleading claims made by President Trump in 1,267 days (through July 9), according to the Washington Post’s the Fact Checker’s database, which analyzes, categorizes and tracks every suspect statement he has uttered. That’s nearly 16 per day over the course of his presidency—not that this has stopped the president from comparing himself to Abraham (“Honest Abe”) Lincoln.
  • 135,605: the number of Americans who have died in just five months from the coronavirus. Some perspective: that’s 2 1/3 times more than the number of Americans who died during the entire nine-year Vietnam War—and despite Trump’s Jan. 22 claim that “we have it totally under control.” This, of course, is the most tragic and painful of those 20,055 lies.

This is the part where Trump supporters claim that all of the above data is just proof of what they usually call another “liberal hit job” against the president.

Numbers are agnostic. They’re just numbers. And they’re accurate. You can accept them or not, but, as John Adams, our second president, famously said: “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

Good night, Mrs. Jackson, wherever you are.