During a Fox News phone interview on Friday, Donald Trump was confronted with the news that the nation's unemployment rate has risen from 4.4 percent to 14.7 percent, with 20.5 million jobs lost. He responded by saying that the nation is getting "back to work" and claiming credit for creating the "greatest economy in the history of the world" prior to the pandemic.
During a Fox & Friends call-in, Trump was asked about what the Fox host called "terrible" numbers. He responded that they were "no surprise" and that "even the Democrats aren't blaming me for that."
Skimming past the unemployment figures, Trump said: "What I can do is I'll bring it back. Look, I created with a lot of great people and with the country — 'cause our country is warriors and now maybe more than ever, 'cause they're going back to work, and they're warriors — we created the greatest economy in the history of the world. Best we've ever had, best employment numbers, best stock markets, best number of jobs, in every way, the best economy in the history of the world."
Trump claimed the economy would soon completely recover. "I created, as president, we had the strongest economy in the history of the world, the strongest economy we've ever had, and we had to close it, which is artificial. We artificially closed it. Those jobs will all be back, and they'll be back very soon, and next year we're going to have a phenomenal year," he promised. "People are ready to go. We gotta get it open."
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, April's unemployment rate was the worst since the Great Depression. Last month, 20.5 million people lost their jobs. That figure does not reflect the entire number of Americans who have lost their jobs since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down much of the nation's economy.
Marketplace reported that, according to Erica Groshen, chief economist with the Bureau of Labor Statistics under President Barack Obama, the figures released for April only include those without paid work who are actively looking for a job.
It doesn't include, for example, "[p]eople who say that for now, 'I'm not working, and I'm not looking for work until I feel I can be safe out there,'" Groshen said.
Trump's claim that he created the "greatest economy" is easily refuted.
In February, prior to the economic shutdown in the United States, the BBC ran a fact-check of Trump's economic claims and summed up its finding: "It's true the economy has been doing well - but there have been periods when it was even stronger." Among its findings were the fact that quarterly GDP growth under Trump has never reached the 5.5 percent peak it reached during the Obama administration. Before the pandemic hit, even Trump's own Council of Economic Advisers was predicting less than 2.5 percent growth for 2020 — well below his promised "4, 5, and maybe even 6 percent ultimately" numbers.
Wrote Politifact, "Trump inherited an economy that was already getting back on its feet. Overall, we found a continuation of the favorable trend lines Trump inherited from Obama."
Elsewhere during the call on on Fox, Trump once again used racist terms to praise his own response to the virus, falsely bragging that he blocked "Chinese people" from entering the country and mocking House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for visiting San Francisco's Chinatown in February in support of her Asian American constituents.
As for Trump's claim that no one is blaming him for the economic disaster that has befallen the United States, that is not based in fact either.
Said Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), vice chair of the United States Joint Economic Committee, in statement released on Friday: "In two months, almost a decade's worth of job growth has been wiped out, the unemployment rate has more than quadrupled, and more than 75,000 Americans have died because President Trump did not take seriously multiple early warnings about the global threat of the coronavirus and failed to lead a competent fight against it.
"This is President Trump's economic legacy — cracks in the economy as a result of his trade wars and tax cuts have now split wide open as a result of his ignorance and incompetence," Beyer said.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.
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