“They may have been phony in the past but they are real now.”
— Sean Spicer, March 10
“This is going to be a new era for American jobs and job creation,” President Donald Trump proclaimed Wednesday in a speech at a World War II bombing factory, now an automotive testing center, in Ypsilanti, near Detroit. “May God bless the American worker, the motor city and the United States of America.”
Secular progressives are religious in their observance of diversity. Christian progressives obsess about income inequality. And something more: God mandates, they would say, greater fuel economy in automobiles. The Environmental Protection Agency, in a myriad of directives, is merely a vessel of divinity. The agnostics, along with self-proclaimed atheist Ron Reagan (the embarrassing son of R.R.), would applaud anything the EPA does, even if the religious mystics of the left approve.
Under President Obama, the EPA divined a fleet-wide average, eight years from now, of 36 miles per gallon, and that includes trucks. Obama effectively grandfathered this requirement in January, just before Trump assumed office. President Trump says he will repudiate intolerable job killers like this mandate. But the reality is the EPA now will have up to a year to reconsider its MPG edict. Yet Trump signals optimism to the auto industry, just as his economic zeitgeist has propelled the Trump stock market rally, a self-fulfilling optimism that the president celebrates. But the stock market tends to be forward looking, thus imposing on President Trump et. al. the challenge of satiating the runaway glee.
Reality should be an ally of the new president. Observe that Barack Obama and then Hillary Clinton claimed that the Obama administration “saved” the auto industry from bankruptcy with its bailout. Truth be told, Obama used taxpayer dollars to assure UAW retirees of their considerable pensions, one of the reasons for the distress of the auto industry, which also had become an HMO. Meanwhile, bondholders and debtors did not fare as well as the retired unionists. Trump carried Michigan, but voters there and across the nation do not understand: If the auto industry “had been allowed” to go “bankrupt,” it would not have disappeared, but auto companies would have been restructured, with new proprietors to run them more efficiently.
Last Friday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer responded to questions about a good employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. During the campaign, candidate Trump had criticized BLS data as suspect. Spicer said that the president no longer considers the federal unemployment rate to be a “phony” number. “I talked to the president prior to this,” Spicer said. “He said to quote him very clearly: ‘They may have been phony in the past, but it is very real now.’”
But candidate Trump was right. “Because when people look and look and look and then they give up looking for a job,” Trump observed last year, “they’re taken off the rolls so the number isn’t reflective.” Indeed, the statistics exclude people who gave up looking for work. Thus they did, they do, understate reality. In an apples-to-apples comparison, the Trump numbers show gains, but why deny reality, which is a constant? And why not revisit the economic non-recovery of Obama popularized by his demagogic cheerleaders? Reconstruct the Obama numbers showing a second set, showing a higher unemployed percentage, considering those who withdrew from the labor force. And henceforth, issue two sets of numbers. Finally, why not append those who retreated in the last eight years to a lower pay job and even to part-time work. And henceforth, append those numbers.
And back to the reality of the auto industry.
“We want you to make great cars,” Trump told the crowd in Michigan. “And if it takes an extra thimble full of fuel…” The actuality is this: To reach incremental benchmarks, enormous sums of taxpayer dollars are spent, many are unemployed, for only the tiniest of marginal gains in air and water quality.
“Mileage standards save consumers money at the gas pump,” National Resources Defense Council President Ruth Suh eulogized, and “make Americans less dependent on oil, reduce carbon pollution and advance innovation.” What will save money at the pump is lower prices created by more drilling that the so-called environmentalists oppose. And what will “reduce carbon pollution” is what American industry invents and adapts. And what will “advance innovation” is that the market price of gasoline becomes relatively costly, then alternatives will appear. These incentives are not to be confused with taxpayer-funded subsidies to the politically connected in the solar industry.
President Trump, reality is on your side. Go for it.