Politi(cized)Fact has a piece that rates a Donald Trump claim about unemployment as “Pants on Fire.” Here’s Trump’s claim:
During the Sept. 28, 2015, media event, Trump described an unemployment rate in the range of 5 percent as “such a phony number.”
“The number isn’t reflective,” he said. “I’ve seen numbers of 24 percent — I actually saw a number of 42 percent unemployment. Forty-two percent.” He continued, “5.3 percent unemployment — that is the biggest joke there is in this country. … The unemployment rate is probably 20 percent, but I will tell you, you have some great economists that will tell you it’s a 30, 32. And the highest I’ve heard so far is 42 percent.”
Note: Trump did not say unemployment was 42%. He said he has seen a number that high.
Of course, 5.3% unemployment is a joke of a number. So has Donald Trump seen a number as high as 42%? Why, it turns out he has! An analysis by David Stockman puts the real unemployment rate at near that number, as Politi(cized)Fact explains:
We asked the Trump campaign for a source of the 42 percent figure, but they didn’t respond. The Fact Checker, however, traced it back to a column by David Stockman, who served as President Ronald Reagan’s budget director.
Stockman calculated that there are currently 210 million Americans between the ages of 16 and 68 — what he calls a “plausible measure of the potential workforce.” If you assume that each of those people is able to hold down a full-time job, he wrote, they would offer a total of 420 billion potential working hours. However, during 2014, Stockman noted, only 240 billion working hours were actually recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
If you run the numbers, “the real unemployment rate was 42.9 percent,” Stockman wrote.
Stockman admits that this analysis cannot account for groups such as “non-working wives, students, the disabled, early retirees and coupon clippers.” The number, then, is admittedly not perfect. Politi(cized)Fact’s conclusion: Because Trump did see a 42% (really more like 43%) number, but we don’t like it because it’s not perfect . . . PANTS ON FIRE, BABY!!!!!1!!1!
Politi(cized)Fact claims: “The highest alternative unemployment-rate measure we could come up with that had any credibility was 14.8 percent.” And how do they get there? I’ll tell you.
We started with the 94 million Americans age 16 and up who are not either (1) employed, (2) unemployed, (3) in the military or (4) institutionalized. We then subtracted the number of people who have good reasons not to be working or looking for work.
Let’s look at who they subtract out:
- Ages 16 to 19. Because being 19 years old is a good reason not to work.
- Those receiving disability checks. This ignores that NPR did an expose about the explosion of disability claims in recent years (my post about it was here). Has there been an actual increase in disability? No, just in disability claims — because now, if you have back pain, or sleep apnea, or diabetes, or claim depression, you can collect disability — which means millions have moved off the welfare rolls and into this more lucrative form of sponging from the government. Doesn’t mean they necessarily have a good reason not to work.
- Stay-at-home moms or dads. This might be legit or it might not, but certainly there are people who are unemployed and would prefer to be employed, but have children. Are they all “stay-at-home” moms or dads? This is not explained.
I could go on, but you get the idea: Politi(cized)Fact’s numbers are . . . not perfect.
By their standards, that makes their 14.8% number a lie.
So: Trump claims he saw a 42% number. He did. A number that high has been published by a well-known economist. His number is not perfect, but neither is Politi(cized)Fact’s substitute.
Trump’s claim was true and was nevertheless awarded a “Pants on Fire.”
Patterico’s new “Fact-Checking the Fact-Checkers” series hereby rates Politi(cized)Fact’s claim: “You Mother[expletive deleted]s Are Totally Dishonest.”