President Trump painted a bleak picture of the nation during his address to Congress and the American people on Tuesday night. He kicked off his long list of economic grievances with an extremely misleading unemployment statistic.
Tonight, as I outline the next steps we must take as a country, we must honestly acknowledge the circumstances we inherited. Ninety-four million Americans are out of the labor force.
Citing a statistic of ninety-four million Americans being out of the labor force seems to contradict his immediately preceding appeal for honesty. According to USA Today (and backed up by Business Insider, PolitiFact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and other sources):
Trump failed to mention that the vast majority of those who aren’t working or looking for work are retired, disabled, attending school or home caring for family members.
Of the 94.3 million who were counted as out of the labor force last year, 88.5 million said they didn’t want a job, according to annual figures from the Current Population Survey. Barely half a million — 553,000 — said they wanted a job but weren’t looking because they were discouraged about finding one.
Trump went on to quote another misleading statistic:
More than one and five people, in their prime working years, are not working. We have the worst financial recovery in 65 years.
Again, according to USA Today citing figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
Perhaps so, if you count stay-at-home parents, the disabled and those in school. But the fact is, as Trump took office in January, the unemployment rate among those 25 to 54 years old stood at only 4.1%.
So in that age group only 1 in 25 who wanted work had looked and couldn’t find it.
Trump’s frequent and often exaggerated cynical rhetoric stands in stark contrast to his predecessor’s. Rather than promulgating messages of optimism and hope, Trump has captured the collective imagination of many Americans by sowing fear through constant dwelling on the specter of Islamic terrorism, drugs, inner city violence, and dire economic peril. However, the statistics and events the Trump administration cites to promote its dark characterization of the nation are often misleading (as in the statements analyzed here), and sometimes entirely fabricated.
The people don’t want war, but they can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. This is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and for exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country.
Trump defended his radical stance on immigration by denouncing opposing lawmakers:
To any in Congress who do not believe we should enforce our laws, I would ask you this one question: what would you say to the American family that loses their jobs, their income, or their loved one because America refused to uphold its laws and defend its boarders?