Monday, February 3, 2020

Fact vs. Fiction and Let the Fat Man Sing

Now that the Super Bowl is over, time to get back to the real competition. No, I’m not talking about the Democratic Party primary season which officially gets under way Monday in Iowa. The competition to which I am referring is our ability to parse, fact check actually, Donald Trump’s many pronouncements without getting too discouraged or overwhelmed. 

As they attempt to project a most personally positive story, all politicians skate on the edge of reality whenever they speak or tweet. But more so than any prior year, truth is on the ballot this election. Regrettably, too many of our fellow citizens either do not have the intelligence to discern fiction from fact, or more regrettably, they don’t care. 

I don’t get paid to fact check Trump, but the reporters at AP do, so here’s their commentary on what the fabricator-in-chief had to say over the last week. While reviewing Trump’s words versus AP’s reality check, keep in mind that voters in the Rust Belt states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio will have significant say on who wins in November: 

Car Talk: “TRUMP: ‘We’re going to get a lot more car companies moving in. We have a lot more companies moving in. ... Jobs are coming back, and they’re coming back fast, and they’re coming right here to Michigan. They are coming rapidly. You see what’s going on.’ — remarks in Michigan on Thursday.

“THE FACTS: Automobile manufacturing jobs have not come back fast to Michigan under Trump. They have declined slightly since he took office, according to the Labor Department. 

“Between Trump’s inauguration in January 2017 and the end of last year, auto manufacturing jobs in Michigan declined by 100, to 42,200. Auto-parts jobs grew by 1,300, or just under 1%, to 133,200. No boom has been experienced.

“As for his prediction that many more such jobs are coming, that’s difficult to tell. 

“The three big automakers have altogether announced plans to add over 10,000 jobs in Michigan in coming years. But they’ve also cut or plan to cut thousands of other jobs in the state. 

Dollars and Sense: “TRUMP: ‘The USMCA is the largest, fairest, most balanced and modern trade agreement ever achieved.’ — signing ceremony Wednesday for the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement.

“THE FACTS: It’s not the largest trade deal ever made. It covers the same three countries as before. In contrast, the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations concluded in 1994 created the World Trade Organization and was signed by 123 countries. The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston found the following year that the WTO’s initial membership accounted for more than 90 percent of global economic output.

“TRUMP: The USMCA ‘will make our blue-collar boom—which is beyond anybody’s expectation—even bigger, stronger, and more extraordinary.’ — signing ceremony Wednesday.

“THE FACTS: There isn’t a boom for blue-collar workers, and few economists expect the trade pact to add much.

“Such workers haven’t done substantially better than everyone else, and some of their gains under Trump have faded in the past year as his trade war hurt manufacturing. The mining and logging industry, for example, which includes oil and gas workers, lost 21,000 jobs last year. Manufacturers have added just 9,000 jobs in the past six months, while the economy as a whole gained more than 1.1 million jobs during that period.

“The U.S. economy is still heavily oriented toward services. While factory jobs have grown, other jobs have grown faster, so manufacturing has slightly shrunk as a proportion of the work force since Trump took office.

“The independent U.S. International Trade Commission estimated last year that the trade pact would create 49,700 jobs in manufacturing and mining over six years, a fraction of 1% of the existing 13.5 million U.S. jobs in factories and mines.”

“TRUMP: ‘More Americans are working today than have ever worked in the history of our country. We’re up to almost 160 million people working. We’ve never even come close to a number like that.’ — signing ceremony Wednesday.

“THE FACTS: Yes, but that’s driven by population growth. A more relevant measure is the proportion of Americans with jobs, and that is still below record highs.

“According to Labor Department data, 61% of people in the United States 16 years and older were working in December. That’s below the all-time high of 64.7% in April 2000.”

The Fat Man Hasn’t Sung Yet: While it is a foregone conclusion that the extorter-in-chief will get a formalized impeachment free pass from the Republican Senate on Wednesday, Democrats should at least try to have Trump censured. Such a vote probably would require just a simple majority to pass, not the two-thirds needed for a guilty finding under impeachment proceedings. 

A censure vote would serve two purposes. It would make each Republican go on record as to their acceptance or not of Trump’s actions in trying to strong-arm Ukraine into investigating Joe Biden and his son Hunter. If passed censure would further bruise Trump’s fragile ego, no doubt prompting some very unpresidential responses that would further erode his standing in the eyes of independents and fence-sitting Republicans.  

Democrats should not fold up their investigation powers, as well. Instead, they should borrow from the Republican playbook—just as the GOP House mounted investigation after investigation (six in all) into Hillary Clinton’s actions after the storming of the Benghazi compound, the Democratically controlled House of Representatives should open up new hearings with a star witness—Lev Parnas. Let him spill out all the dirt he has assembled on Trump and Rudy Giuliani’s sordid plan to get Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. 

Unlike John Bolton, Trump’s former national security advisor, Parnas never was a federal employee and therefore cannot be muzzled by claims of executive privilege. 

The House might also deem it proper to hold hearings on the state of election security and what the Trump administration has done to ensure no meddling by foreign powers.   

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