More than 32 million Americans are currently receiving some form of unemployment benefits and Thursday it was reported that another 1.2 million filed first-time unemployment claims in the past week—marking the 20th straight week that such claims exceeded one million. So what’s Donald Trump’s jobs plan?
The same as his “plan” to address the COVID-19 health crisis: Lie, deny and hope things “miraculously” get better. That approach didn’t work with the virus and it’s not going to work with our economy.
Yet on Wednesday there was Trump in his safe space of Fox & Friends showcasing his COVID and economic “plans.” First, Trump again spewed lies about the health risks posed by COVID-19 as he irresponsibly told parents that their children are “almost immune” to the virus—a lie so dangerous both Twitter and Facebook removed it. Then Trump shared his plan to help the millions of American out of work: Think about how good the economy used to be. He offered zero proposals for how to create new jobs. Instead, he urged voters to remember we “had” the “best employment numbers” and we “had” the “greatest economy.”
First off, it’s a lie that we had the “greatest economy” before COVID. But more importantly, Trump’s approach to helping millions of unemployed Americans flatly denies the reality of where we are today. In early May, when Trump was rushing to “liberate” the states, he declared that if we simply re-open the economy, “jobs will all be back and they’ll be back very soon.” That was wrong then given that the virus was not contained, but today it’s a cruel lie.
The reality is that six months into this crisis, simply “re-opening” the economy will not bring back jobs for the more than 30 million of Americans abruptly put out of work. Why? Estimates are perhaps over 100,000 businesses have shuttered since March and, just as painful, the recent round of layoffs are largely permanent.
Here’s just a small sample of both. As Yelp reported in July, 55 percent of the businesses listed on its review site have closed permanently—72,842 small businesses gone. The hardest hit were restaurants, retailers and consumer service related employers.
Researchers at Harvard believe the number of small business closures is higher, estimating that nearly 110,00 permanently shut down between early March and early May. Keep in mind that small businesses account for 44 percent of our nation’s total economic activity.
Then there are the recent layoffs that cut across a swath of industries. In July, Tailored Brands, the parent company behind Men's Wearhouse and Jos. A. Bank, announced plans to shutter 500 stores and lay off 20 percent of workforce. On July 24, Texas-based Oilfield services company Schlumberger announced it was cutting 21,000 jobs. On July 15, J.C. Penny declared it was closing 152 stores and laying off 1,000 employees. Various other industries from media to airlines to tech to education recently added to the list of layoffs that appear to be permanent.
“Liberate” all you want. The cold hard truth is that millions can’t “be back” at their old jobs as Trump wants, because their places of work are gone.
It gets worse. Our current painful unemployment numbers—as the non-partisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) made clear in July—will not be “miraculously” going away any time soon. Rather, the CRS wrote that “current projections show persistently high unemployment for the next few years.” As a reminder, it took nearly six years from the start of the Great Recession of 2008 for the unemployment rate to drop from its high of 10 percent to pre-recession levels.
While the unemployment rate is down slightly now from its 14.7 percent high in April, The Wall Street Journal noted on Thursday the fact that the number of workers who are collecting unemployment through regular state programs has “plateaued” in the area of 17 million in recent weeks, which “suggests that new hires and recalls of workers are offsetting layoffs, but no longer significantly pushing down the number on jobless assistance.”
Bottom line: There needs to be a jobs program for the tens of millions out of work. But Trump refuses to address that reality—just as he refused to address the reality of the coronavirus.
In contrast, Joe Biden has rolled a multifaceted plan to create new jobs as part of his "Build Back Better" economic proposal. The presumptive Democratic nominee unveiled part one of his plan in early July, promising to create five million jobs through investment in domestic manufacturing and in "breakthrough technologies" such as electric vehicles and 5G. And a few weeks ago, Biden rolled out a second jobs creation proposal that he claims will create three million new jobs in the areas of caregiving and education.
It’s not possible to know with certainty how many jobs will actually be created by Biden’s proposals but here’s the thing: He gets the reality of where America is today. Millions can’t just “go back” to their old jobs that no longer exist. New jobs must be created and the federal government can play a meaningful role in doing just that.
Trump is a reality show star who denies reality. But this time, his denial of what our nation is enduring is unforgivably causing more Americans to die from COVID-19 and to suffer economically. Nothing about him suggests that he will ever change his course from this deadly and devastating approach.