Now that President Donald Trump has figured out how to conquer Covid-19 – at least that’s what he goes on to tell us in his speech about “rounding off the last turn” – he wants you to know how he made the economy big again. When you see the word “gas lighting” up, just show you a picture of the president.
But there was Trump ahead of the release of Thursday’s GDP report on our country’s economic output in July to September, boasting on social media: “FASTEST GDP GROWTH IN HISTORY.” And came Thursday morning, after the report was released, announcing that the U.S. economy had seen a record 33 percent growth over the terrible quarter before, the Trump campaign tweeted: “President Trump is making our economy big again!” Trump quickly chimed in via Twitter: “GDP number just announced. Biggest and best in our country’s history.”
Trump’s new claims about the economy do not differ from his statements about the coronavirus: self-serving exaggerations, if not outright lies, designed solely to help Trump politically.
Our economy is far from “big”. It’s not even close to where it was before the pandemic. Millions of Americans are still out of work, weekly unemployment claims are nearly four times ahead of the Covid-19 rate, Yelp reports that about 160,000 businesses listed on the site closed from August, Americans still file unemployment benefits at historically high levels, and Trump has no real plan to create new jobs. You cannot go back to your old job when your old job no longer exists. And a recent wave of new layoffs seems to be permanent, from Disney to U.S. and U.S. airlines. A few days ago, Boeing announced that it was laying off 7,000 workers due to less demand caused by the pandemic.
It is true that GDP – the gross domestic product that measures our economy’s total output of goods and services – jumped in the third quarter, but that is a very incomplete part of history. First, the increase in GDP must be compared with the GDP figures from April to June, which had the largest decline in our country’s gross domestic production since modern registration began. “The obvious warning is that when you drop 30 percent and win 30 percent, you’re still below where you started,” said economic analyst Jon Burckett-St. Laurent told NBC News.
Our financial health is intertwined with that of our fellow citizens, and none of them are likely to improve significantly over the next few months.
But more importantly, the GDP figures released on Thursday are looking back, not forward. They tell us about the economy from then on. See where we are now. With Covid-19 case numbers rising to an average of 75,000 new cases a day – up from 36,000 a day in early September – we can expect to see more financial pain as winter inevitably makes things worse. Our financial health is intertwined with that of our fellow citizens, and none of them are likely to improve significantly in the next few months.
Beyond this, Trump’s economy predictably lacks empathy. Per Trump’s own Labor Department still claims 22.7 million Americans some form of unemployment benefits. The same day the GDP figures were released, we learned that 751,000 Americans applied for the first weekly state unemployment claim. (The previous record for the highest weekly unemployment claims for the first time was 695,000, back in 1982). Prior to the March lockout, first weekly requirements were on average closer to 200,000.
On Thursday, we also learned that 360,000 Americans filed initial benefits claims under the federal pandemic unemployment program – an increase of about 15,000 from the week before. But overall, that means more than 1.1 million new claims were filed for state or federal unemployment in the last seven days.
In addition, we are seeing an increase in the number of people who have been unemployed for over 26 weeks, which means they are now exhausting their statelessness benefits. This can lead to more procrastination and food insecurity.
If Trump really wanted to help Americans in need, he would stop blowing up and instead come up with a detailed plan to create new jobs. But that’s not really Trump’s style. In contrast, former Vice President Joe Biden has proposed a multifaceted “Build Back Better” plan to create millions of new jobs. Unlike Trump, Biden gets the government to play a real role in helping unemployed Americans.
No one should be surprised that Trump’s economic plan is like his Covid-19 plan: all tweets, no stuff. Tragically, in both cases, it is the most vulnerable Americans who are paying the price for Trump’s failures. And in either case, it’s clear that Trump only cares about what’s good for Donald J. Trump.