Jobs, Wages, & Unemployment

Issues ››› Jobs, Wages, & Unemployment
  • New Research On Seattle's Minimum Wage Hike Shows “The Sky Has Not Fallen”

    University Of Washington Researchers Found Seattle Job Market “Exceptionally Strong” While City Raised The Minimum Wage

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Researchers at the University of Washington found the Seattle, WA, economy continued on a path of strong growth after the city began to raise the minimum wage -- counter to dire predictions from right-wing media.

    Seattle Weekly reported that Seattle’s economy has not been met with “devastation” since the city raised the minimum wage to $11 per hour on July 25, according to researchers at the University of Washington, who found that the Seattle economy saw a “boom in job growth” over the last 18 months. Seattle began phasing in its minimum wage increase in April 2015, raising wages to $11 per hour. The Washington cities of Seattle and SeaTac are in the process of phasing in the highest municipal minimum wages in the country -- $15 per hour. Researchers found that from mid-2014 to the end of 2015, “the Seattle labor market was exceptionally strong” and the city’s “job growth rate tripled the national average.” Seattle Weekly reported that the researchers’ findings debunk conservative predictions that the increase “would ‘devastate’ small businesses” and harm low-wage workers:

    The sky has not fallen. That’s the takeaway from a new report on the effects of Seattle’s newly heightened minimum wage.

    “Wages have risen, businesses have withstood the increase, work opportunities have declined modestly, [and] average earnings have changed by no more than a few dollars a week,” said the UW minimum wage research team, led by Jacob Vigdor, in a presentation to city council this morning. This outcome stands in stark contrast against the rhetoric used when the new minimum wage was being debated in 2013 and ‘14, when opponents claimed it would “devastate” small businesses.

    In fact, no such devastation has occurred. This has been clear for a while—Seattle’s minimum wage increase began April last year—and the new report from the UW research team further confirms it. “The City’s low-wage workers did relatively well after the minimum wage increased, but largely because of the strong regional economy,” the report says. “Seattle’s low wage workers would have experienced almost equally positive trends if the minimum wage had not increased.”

    The report shows that the minimum wage increase was not the source of the economic boom but also that the Seattle economy has not seen a major impact from the minimum wage increase. The researchers “caution that these results show only the short-run impact of Seattle’s increase to a wage of $11/hour” and that it will take many years for the full effect of raising the minimum wage to be seen.

    Conservative media smears against Seattle's minimum wage increase started soon after the city approved an ordinance raising the minimum wage to $15 over the course of a three- to seven-year period. In July 2015, Fox News' Dan Springer falsely claimed that Seattle was facing "unintended consequences" from the wage increase, with some low-income workers attempting to game the system so as to remain eligible for welfare benefits. In August, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) used cherry-picked data to claim Seattle's minimum wage increase "has started having a negative effect on restaurant jobs." Fox Business host Stuart Varney echoed AEI's claim a month later on his show, weeks after the specific job loss claim had been debunked. Other right-wing outlets, including The Daily Caller and Investor's Business Daily, have combed through municipal jobs data in Seattle to exaggerate alleged side effects of the minimum wage.

    Right-wing media are staunchly opposed to increasing the minimum wage and dedicated to promoting the myth that wage increases result in job losses, despite a wealth of evidence showing that minimum wage increases have a negligible effect on employment.

  • Wash. Post Debunks Trump’s Conspiracy Theory About The "Artificial" Employment Rate

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Washington Post’s Matt O’Brien countered Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's "conspiracy theory" that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has "massaged" the unemployment statistics, explaining that there is "zero evidence [the BLS] has changed the numbers" and that “anyone who suggests otherwise is either uninformed, or trying to uninform others.”

    Right-wing media boasts a long history of pushing the claim that the BLS artificially manipulates employment statistics in a partisan effort to portray the Obama administration as having a positive impact on the economy. Most recently, these efforts have been spearheaded by Trump, who, with the help of his family, has attempted to downplay economic progress and hype the debunked claim that 42 percent of Americans are unemployed.

    The Post explained that, while Trump hasn’t revealed the source of his unemployment statistic, “the simplest explanation is that he's just ballparking how many adults don't work” -- a figure that, right now, is 40.4 percent. But that number is problematic because it “counts college students and stay-at-home parents and retirees as being equally ‘unemployed’ as people who are actively looking for work but can't find any.” From the July 26 article (emphasis original):

    For a year now, the alleged billionaire has insisted that the "real" unemployment rate is something like 42 percent instead of the 4.9 percent it actually is. He hasn't said how he's gotten this — maybe it's from the same "extremely credible source" who told him President Obama's birth certificate was fake? — but the simplest explanation is that he's just ballparking how many adults don't work. That's 40.4 percent right now. The problem with using that number, though, is that it counts college students and stay-at-home parents and retirees as being equally "unemployed" as people who are actively looking for work but can't find any. So it doesn't tell us too much, at least not on its own, unless you think it's a problem that we have more 70-year-olds than we used to.

    Or unless conspiracy theories are one of your favorite accessories, as seems to be the case with the father, and now the son, Donald Trump Jr. On Sunday, he told CNN's Jake Tapper that the official unemployment numbers are "artificial" ones that are "massaged to make the existing economy look good" and "this administration look good." How do they supposedly do this? By, he claimed, defining "the way we actually measure unemployment" to be that "after x number of months, if someone can't find a job, congratulations, they're miraculously off [the jobless rolls]." The only problem with this theory is it's false. The BLS hasn't changed the way it measures unemployment during the Obama years, and there is zero evidence it has changed the numbers themselves. Not only that, but Donald Trump Jr. doesn't even seem to know how unemployment is defined in the first place. As the BLS explains, everyone who doesn't have a job but is trying to find one counts as "unemployed." It doesn't matter how long you've been looking as long as you are in fact still looking.

    But that's not to say the unemployment rate tells us everything we need to know about the labor market. It doesn't. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen will tell you that herself. There are still a lot of people who want full-time but can only find part-time jobs. Still a lot of people who want to work but weren't able to find anything for so long that they've given up looking for now. And still a lot of people who would want to work again if wages were high enough to make worth their while. But none of this is a secret. The BLS publishes this all, too. So-called broad unemployment includes all these people who technically aren't unemployed but aren't fully employed either. That's 9.6 percent today.

  • WSJ Vs.WSJ: The Pence Economy

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    The Wall Street Journal's editorial board praised Donald Trump's running mate, Gov. Mike Pence (R-IN), for economic growth in Indiana during his time in office -- ignoring the paper's own reporting that the state's growth "resembles overall U.S. performance under Obama."

    The Journal’s editorial board heaped praise on Pence’s handling of the Indiana economy on July 20, pointing to the governor’s conservative policies as something “the rest of the country could emulate” -- dismissing President Obama’s economic record as part of the reason for the state’s success and ignoring the paper’s own reporting that the state’s growth “resembles” national trends. The Journal touted the point that under Pence, Indiana’s unemployment rate dropped from 8.4 percent to 5 percent, also noting that he cut income taxes from 3.4 percent to 3.3 percent and has amassed a budget surplus (emphasis added):

    President Obama visited Elkhart, Indiana, on June 1 to tout the state’s economic recovery, taking credit for its success and claiming that it represents the 2016 election’s basic policy choice. He’s right, but the economic lessons speak better of GOP Governor and vice presidential nominee Mike Pence and his predecessor Mitch Daniels than they do Mr. Obama’s policies.

    [...]

    All states have seen declines in the jobless rate, and Indiana’s has fallen to 5% in May from 8.4% in 2013 when Mr. Pence became Governor. The Indiana difference is that the rate has fallen even as the labor force has increased by nearly 187,000. Many states have seen their jobless rates fall in part because so many people have left the labor force, driving down the national labor participation rate to lows not seen since the 1970s. The Illinois workforce has grown by only about 71,000 in the same period, though it is roughly twice as large. Indiana is adding jobs fast enough that people are rejoining the workforce.

    [...]

    Mr. Pence has continued the progress, cutting taxes every year of his tenure even as the state has continued to pile up budget surpluses. He cut the individual tax rate to 3.3% in 2015 from 3.4% and it will fall to 3.23% in 2017, the lowest in the Midwest, according to the Tax Foundation. One reason the tax rate can stay so low and flat is because it applies to a relatively broad base of income with fewer loopholes than more steeply progressive tax codes.

    The Journal’s editorial board claimed the job growth seen in Indiana is “different” because “the [unemployment] rate has fallen even as the labor force has increased,” an idea dismissed by Politico on July 19, which wrote “the drop in Indiana’s unemployment almost perfectly mirrors the national trend. And the labor force has grown in all but nine states.” A report by the Associated Press (AP) also found that the state’s unemployment rate “largely paralleled the national mark.” The parallel unemployment trends can even be seen in the Journal’s own graph from a July 16 article that undercuts Pence's ownership claim of Indiana's recovery:

    The Journal’s rhetoric resembles praise Trump had for Pence’s handling of the Indiana economy -- which so closely mirrors the U.S. economy that MSNBC’s Steve Benen argued if Pence did a “great job producing economic results, by Trump’s own reasoning, it’s hard not to consider Obama an amazing success.”

    The Journal’s editorial board touted Pence’s income tax cut, but upon closer inspection by the AP, that tax cut works out to be a mere $85 for someone making $50,000 a year. The AP also called into question the budget surpluses the Journal praised, reporting that Pence’s surpluses drew criticism after an infrastructure crisis in which opponents blamed “a handful of roadway deaths on Pence’s desire to build a budget surplus at the expense of properly funding infrastructure.” (The willingness of Republican governors to raid infrastructure funding to fill budget gaps created by trickle-down tax cuts has been well-documented.)

    Pence has also been accused of politicizing Indiana’s health budget. On June 6, 2015, the Chicago Tribune reported on one of the Indiana towns facing an opioid crisis and how Pence’s “war on Planned Parenthood” inadvertently created an “exploding HIV outbreak” in his state. When Indiana Republicans cut funding for Planned Parenthood, they cost some parts of the state their only HIV testing centers, leading to an outbreak of the virus among intravenous drug users and their sexual partners and forcing the state to eventually provide emergency funding for needle exchange programs.

    Other Republican-led states have seen their economies falter after implementation of conservative policies; Kansas and Louisiana have been devastated by Gov. Sam Brownback's and former Gov. Bobby Jindal’s trickle-down economics -- Brownback’s Koch-backed tax cut program has been particularly destructive. Like Pence, Ohio Gov. John Kasich claimed his conservative policies led to an economic “miracle” for his state, but it is easy to demonstrate how Ohio’s economic recovery pre-dated his term of office and is also largely following the national trend.

  • Politico Finds Problem With Trump’s “Make America Work” Convention Theme: “It's Already Working”

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Politico Magazine reported that while the Republican National Convention is pushing the narrative that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump will “make America work again,” the U.S. economy has actually done well since 2009, with millions of jobs created and a reduction by half of the unemployment rate.

    Make America Work Again” was the theme on July 19, the second night of the Republican National Convention, but Politico pointed out that “one of Trump’s many challenges will be convincing non-Republicans that America isn’t working even though nearly 15 million more Americans are.” Politico interviewed Republican convention delegates about their thoughts on the economy and found “they all seem to agree the Obama economy is a ghastly mess. Except for the economy wherever they happen to live.”

    The publication noted that, rather than giving credit to President Obama, convention delegates and Trump credited Republican mayors and governors for local “economic progress.” That includes Trump’s running mate, Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, whom the nominee praised for job gains in that state even though “Indiana’s unemployment almost perfectly mirrors the national trend.” From Politico Magazine (emphasis added):

    Just as most Americans say they hate Congress but routinely vote for their local congressmen, most Republicans seem to detect a national economic malaise while — with some exceptions in places like coal country and the oil patch — touting the economic progress in their local communities. They square that circle in a variety of ways — crediting their Republican mayors and governors, accusing Obama of manipulating data, or citing legitimate weaknesses in the recovery from the Great Recession. But with unemployment down from 10 percent to less than 5 percent since late 2009, one of Trump’s many challenges will be convincing non-Republicans that America isn’t working even though nearly 15 million more Americans are.

    Trump illustrated this problem last week when he introduced his running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence. He said the “primary reason” for his choice was that Indiana’s unemployment had dropped by 3.4 percentage points in four years under Pence, and that its labor force had grown, which he said was “very unusual” for a U.S. state.

    “It’s always bad, down, down, down,” Trump said. “Down 40 percent, 50 percent, 60 percent in some cases.” In fact, the drop in Indiana’s unemployment almost perfectly mirrors the national trend. And the labor force has grown in all but nine states with the worst drop only 3 percentage points in oil-dependent North Dakota. In February 2009, Obama highlighted the free-falling economy he inherited by visiting Elkhart, Indiana, where unemployment was nearly 20 percent; he recently returned to Elkhart to highlight America’s recovery, and unemployment was 4 percent.

    Talking points bashing President Obama and the American economy have been central to the Republican convention. On the first night, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) claimed America is “an economic disaster” because middle-class incomes are down since 1999. Yet Sessions was rebuffed by CNN’s Christine Romans, who noted that middle-class income “began declining actually under George W. Bush” and “more recently, it has started to climb again.” Sessions’ misleading talking point seemed to be taken directly from Fox News, which regularly blames Obama for income stagnation witnessed during the Bush administration and promoted the exact same fallacy just last month.

    The Republican National Convention has come under intense scrutiny from the media for its antics and lack of coherence or coordination. The second night of the convention -- with the theme “Make America Work Again” -- drew ridicule from journalists for not actually talking about the economy, and media denounced the night’s “mock trial” against Hillary Clinton, which featured delegates shouting “lock her up,” as a “mob” and a “festival of hating Hillary.” The first night of the convention saw even more intense pushback, with media calling the evening “disastrous” for its lack of message and saying the plagiarized speech by Trump’s wife, Melania, turned the “night into a catastrophe.” 

  • Journalists Ridicule Lack Of Economic Policy During Trump’s “Make America Work Again” Convention Night

    Day Two Of The Republican National Convention Focused On Emails, Benghazi, And Clinton-Bashing

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    The second day of the Republican National Convention (RNC) was billed as an opportunity to highlight Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s proposals to boost job creation and economic growth. Journalists blasted the RNC and Trump campaign after the speakers ignored the economy and instead attacked Hillary Clinton over issues like the Benghazi attacks and her use of a private email server.

  • CNN Lets Paul Ryan Push Discredited "Welfare Cliff" Myth During Town Hall Event

    Ryan Hypes Right-Wing Media Fiction About “Benefit Cliffs” As “The Core” Of His Anti-Poverty Agenda

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    CNN allowed Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) to use a town hall event to promote his widely criticized “Better Way” poverty reform agenda unchallenged, including the discredited “welfare cliff” myth long promoted by right-wing media.

    A member of the audience -- a Catholic priest and registered Republican -- asked Ryan what plans he had “to meet the basic human needs of the poor in this country, even if they’re here illegally,” during a July 12 town hall hosted by CNN’s Jake Tapper. The questioner juxtaposed the moral imperative to serve individuals “as human beings” without asking them “for their documentation” with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s “inhumane” stance on immigration.

    Ryan’s initial response was littered with right-wing media talking points about President Obama’s supposed unwillingness to “secure the border” in order to fix the country’s “broken immigration system.” Ryan’s response then shifted to a supposed solution to poverty, which was also focused on myths frequently trumpeted by right-wing media, including how welfare “benefit cliffs” trap recipients in poverty. Ryan incorrectly claimed that the government’s “current approach” to poverty actually “perpetuates” it, and suggested that a “single mom with two kids” earning roughly $24,000 per year (barely above the federal poverty threshold) would rather live in poverty than get a raise “because of all the benefits she [would lose]” (emphasis added):

    PAUL RYAN: Let me get to the poverty point you mentioned. Please take a look at our agenda. This is one of the most important reforms that I think we’re offering. Which is a better way to solve poverty -- “A Better Way To Fight Poverty.” Go to better.gop -- better.gop is where we’ve released our agenda. I spent the last four years going around this country visiting with poor communities, learning about the poor, and the suffering, and better ideas for fighting poverty. We’ve put in a very aggressive plan to go at the root causes of poverty, to try and break the cycle of poverty, and I would argue our current approach at the government of fighting poverty treats symptoms of poverty, which perpetuates poverty.

    Our welfare system replaces work. It doesn't incentivize work. And as a result, we are trapping people in poverty. It's not working. So we think that there's a better way of reigniting what I call upward mobility, the American idea, and getting people out of poverty. Please take a look at these ideas. We have lots of them. I’d love to get into it if you give me time. But this is one of the things that we are talking about. Engaging with our fellow citizens, especially those who have slipped through the cracks, especially those that have no hope, that we have better ideas for helping them get back on their feet and converting our welfare system not into a poverty trap, but a place to get people from welfare to work.

    JAKE TAPPER (HOST): Give me one idea. One poverty idea.

    RYAN: Benefit cliffs. Right now, you stack all these welfare programs on top of each other and it basically pays people not to work. So you know who the highest tax rate payer (sic)? It’s not Anderson Cooper or Jake Tapper; it is the single mom with two kids making maybe -- earning $24,000, who will lose 80 cents on the dollar by taking a job or getting a raise because of all the benefits she loses. So, what happens is, we disincentivize work. We need to taper those benefits cliffs, customize welfare benefits to a person’s particular needs, and encourage work. So, you’ve got so much time to get these benefits, you have to have work requirements or job training requirements. Customize benefits to help a person with their problem. Whether it's addiction, whether it's education, or transportation.

    Catholic Charities, by the way, is the model that I'm talking about. This is basically the Catholic Charities model. Customize support to a person and always make work pay. Make sure that you take the principles that we’ve used for welfare reform in the '90s, which are no longer really working or in place these days, to get people from welfare to work. And that's the core of what we are proposing.

    The term "welfare cliff" was popularized by Pennsylvania's Republican-appointed Secretary of Public Welfare in a July 2012 report, which claimed a "single mom" could nearly double her net income by taking full advantage of nine distinct anti-poverty programs. But the concept of a trade-off between welfare and work dates back to a flawed Cato Institute study from 1995. One thing these studies have in common is the base calculation of benefits available to a hypothetical "single mom" with children. Most American workers aren't single mothers, most recipients of government benefits don't enroll in every single available program, and the value of federal benefit programs like welfare is less now than it was in years past -- facts that are not acknowledged in right-wing media discussions of anti-poverty programs.

    Right-wing media outlets have repeatedly promoted the fantasy that low-income Americans would rather live in poverty than risk losing supposedly generous government benefits, and Paul Ryan is known for loyally parroting right-wing talking points about poverty. In fact, Ryan’s entire “Better Way” anti-poverty agenda for 2016 is built on right-wing media myths, including the so-called “benefit cliff” talking point. Journalists and experts slammed Ryan’s poverty plan, calling it a “seriously flawed” approach “based on faulty assumptions,” and concluding it is seemingly “designed to make it much harder for people in need” to access poverty alleviation programs. The same was true of his much-heralded 2014 anti-poverty plan. Ryan is right that there is a better way to fight poverty, but research by actual economists points to a reform agenda more like the factually based plan put forward by the Center for American Progress than the rehashing of right-wing myths endorsed by Ryan.

    View the full exchange on poverty and immigration from CNN’s House Speaker Paul Ryan Town Hall:

  • New York Times Op-Ed Ignores High Cost Of Low Wages In Calling To Expand Tax Credit

    Manhattan Institute Scholar Peddles Right-Wing Media Myths In Call To Increase Taxpayer Subsidies Of Poverty Wages

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    A New York Times op-ed by a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute pushed the debunked claim that raising the minimum wage would hurt business and American workers and promoted the expansion of tax credits for workers struggling with poverty. The op-ed failed to mention the high public cost of pushing more of the burden on taxpayers while letting businesses off the hook from paying workers a living wage.

    Manhattan Institute senior fellow Peter Salins claimed that raising the minimum wage constitutes “playing a kind of economic Russian roulette” in a July 6 op-ed in The New York Times, suggesting that instead of raising wages, policymakers should ask taxpayers to foot the bill for increased subsidies for poverty wages. Salins’ proposal, which is a common refrain among conservatives, would shield employers from paying a living wage to their full-time workers by expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Salins claimed that advocates for raising the minimum wage “fail to acknowledge” that low-wage workers have access to the EITC.

    Echoing a myth frequently promoted by right-wing media, Salins alleged that workers would be “priced out of the labor market by an unrealistically high minimum wage” and that the victories advocates for raising the minimum wage have already won may cause “grievous harm.” A $15 per hour minimum wage, in Salins’ estimation, could “reduce the total number of jobs nationally by three million to five million.” From The New York Times:

    In this campaign season, politicians across the country (including the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate and perhaps even the Republican one) have called for raising the minimum wage. Not just marginally, as in the past, but all the way to $15 an hour, more than double the current national level of $7.25. Even elected officials and candidates in states with higher minimum wages like New York have jumped on the $15 an hour bandwagon. Their justification: “You can’t support a family on the current minimum wage.”

    What the advocates fail to acknowledge is that minimum-wage workers with families to support are already eligible to receive a financial boost under a national program called the earned-income tax credit. This program, instituted in 1975 and expanded since then, paid benefits to 27.5 million low-income workers in 2014. (That same year, only three million workers fell at or below the federal minimum wage, so the credit also helped millions of other low-wage workers.) Technically, such payments are classified as “refundable tax credits,” paid to qualifying workers when they file their annual income tax returns.

    [...]

    That is the beauty of the tax credit; it helps low-skilled workers in proportion to their household need, taking pressure off the minimum wage as the only guarantor of a “living wage.” The credit thus performs a crucial function in a national labor market where one size most definitely does not fit all, a labor market that is enormously varied by region, by employers’ needs, by workers’ skills and by the potential for jobs to be replaced by technology. By allowing wages to reflect local economic and industry conditions, the earned-income tax credit makes it possible for all unskilled workers to have jobs — including those not eligible for the credit, like teenagers, single young adults or semiretired older people, who would otherwise be priced out of the labor market by an unrealistically high minimum wage.

    Salins advocated for policies similar to those recently endorsed by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) and identified Ryan in the op-ed as a supporter of expanding the EITC (Ryan’s proposals also ignore the possibility of raising wages or strengthening worker rights). Salins suggested that a hypothetical working mom in a minimum-wage job with multiple dependent children already stands to benefit from the EITC, even though those income supports combined with her low wages would still leave her entire family in poverty. Salins did not mention that progressive groups such as the Center For American Progress (CAP) support raising the minimum wage and expanding the EITC along with other tax credits targeted at low-income families. The EITC has been shown to assist families in poverty, but it alone does not solve the problem of poverty, which is why CAP supports a multipronged approach to assisting low-income families: expanding EITC, raising the minimum wage, increasing educational opportunities, and strengthening worker protections.

    While the EITC program can correctly be called “the most progressive” part of the tax code, expanding the credit would not be free -- and the federal government already spends $68 billion per year on the program. Whereas expanding the EITC would cost taxpayers money, simply raising the minimum wage would actually save money and shift the responsibility of paying a living wage onto businesses. According to a June 2016 report jointly produced by Oxfam America and the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), raising the federal minimum wage to $12 per hour would reduce federal spending on anti-poverty programs like the EITC by $17 billion.

    Low-wage industries create burdens on taxpayers; the notoriously low-wage fast food industry alone costs taxpayers nearly $7 billion annually. Salins’ claim that the American economy would lose millions of jobs from a $15 per hour wage is also suspect because he based his numbers off a model that did not predict jobs losses, but rather the potential for a slightly lower rate of job growth. Right-wing media have a long history of pushing the same unsubstantiated arguments that Salins parroted in the Times -- claiming raising the minimum wage will kill jobs, hurt low-wage workers, and harm the economy -- all of which economists have repeatedly debunked.

  • Even This Conservative Columnist Thinks Trump's Plan On Trade Is “A Scam”

    Steve Chapman: “It's A Scam, Skillfully Pitched To Fool The Gullible”

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Conservative Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman joined a chorus of media and policy experts from across the political spectrum in criticizing Donald Trump’s promise to bring back American manufacturing jobs by curbing free trade.

    Chapman slammed Trump on June 29 in the Chicago Tribune for the policies Trump outlined in a speech on trade one day earlier. Trump advocated against globalization and the lowering of trade barriers brought about by free trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and World Trade Organization (WTO). Trump referred to his trade policy ideas as a path toward “Declaring America’s Economic Independence,” which he claimed would lead to increased economic activity that would “Make America Wealthy Again.”

    Chapman chided Trump’s simplistic look at global commerce, saying, “It's a scam, skillfully pitched to fool the gullible,” and echoed criticism of Trump from economist and Economic Policy Institute (EPI) president Lawrence Mishel. While Mishel criticized Trump for whitewashing the Republican Party’s free trade legacy and ignoring progressive initiatives that would benefit American workers, Chapman pointed out that manufacturing output in the United States is actually “54 percent higher today” than it was when NAFTA went into effect in 1994 and “27 percent higher” than it was before China joined the WTO in 2001. Progressive organizations like EPI have highlighted the negative consequences that free trade arrangements have had on the American labor market -- specifically with regard to NAFTA and China -- but as Chapman notes, part of the decline in manufacturing employment is the result of greater efficiencies in production stemming from automation and technological advances; “companies have learned to produce more goods with fewer people.” From the Chicago Tribune (emphasis added):

    The vision Trump conjures is one of alluring simplicity. He promises to achieve "economic independence" by abandoning globalization, instead using American workers to produce American goods. This change, he said, would "create massive numbers of jobs" and "make America wealthy again."

    It's a scam, skillfully pitched to fool the gullible. His framework is a house of cards built on sand in a wind tunnel. Its most noticeable feature is a total divorce from basic economic realities.

    [...]

    In the first place, the expansion of manufacturing jobs is not synonymous with prosperity. As countries grow richer, manufacturing's share of employment declines. South Korea, singled out by Trump for killing American jobs, has seen it shrink by nearly half since 1991. Japan and Germany have followed a similar path.

    But U.S. manufacturing output is 54 percent higher today than in 1994 and 27 percent higher than in 2001. Those years are pertinent because 1994 was the year NAFTA took effect and 2001 is the year China gained entry to the World Trade Organization — events Trump portrays as catastrophic for American industry.

    Manufacturing jobs have vanished not because we don't manufacture anything but because companies have learned to produce more goods with fewer people. Higher productivity is what eliminated most of the jobs Trump mourns. He's no more capable of restoring them than he is of bringing back the dodo.

    [...]

    Blaming Mexico and China for the fate of our steel industry is like blaming email for the decline of telegrams. The biggest reduction in steel jobs came before the globalization of the past two decades. The number fell from 450,000 to 210,000 in the 1980s.

    The total today is about 150,000. Even if Trump could manage the impossible feat of doubling the number of steelmaking jobs, it would be a blip in the overall economy — which adds more jobs than that every month.