Skip to main content

Why are the billionaires always laughing?

Because they know the corporate media will never call bullshit on their bullshit.

Why are the billionaires laughing?

It’s easy to laugh when the corporate press treats you as a glorious success instead of the epitome of a broken social order. Billionaires laugh because they know the corporate media prefers to fawn over them rather than hold them to account.

Today, we ask you to support our nonprofit, independent journalism because we are not impressed by billionaires flying into space, their corporations despoiling our health and planet, or their vast fortunes safely concealed in tax havens across the globe. We are not laughing.

We are hard at work producing journalism for the common good. With our Fall Campaign underway, please support this mission today. We cannot do it without you.

Support Our Work -- Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Every donation—large or small—helps us bring you the news that matters.

Describing the revised forecasts as "budget voodoo," Forbes contributor Stan Collender writes: "To say the least, this first set of economic assumptions and the resulting phony deficit will be fake news—lies, in other words—from Trump." (Photo: Shutterstock)

Describing the revised forecasts as "budget voodoo," Forbes contributor Stan Collender writes: "To say the least, this first set of economic assumptions and the resulting phony deficit will be fake news—lies, in other words—from Trump." (Photo: Shutterstock)

Trump Administration Toying With Alternative Economic Facts

Trade deficit tweaks and overly-optimistic growth forecasts dubbed economic 'voodoo'

Lauren McCauley

The Trump administration's hallmark "alternative facts" may infiltrate U.S. economic data.

The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that the White House "is considering changing the way it calculates U.S. trade deficits, a shift that would make the country's trade gap appear larger than it had in past years."

People familiar with the matter told the Journal that employees of the U.S. Trade Representative's office were asked to tweak trade data by excluding re-exports, or goods that are first imported to the U.S. and then exported unchanged to a country such as Canada or Mexico.

The change effectively increases the perceived trade deficit—for example, the $63.1 billion trade deficit with Mexico in 2016 would become a $115.4 billion deficit—which observers warned could be used for political means.

Pointing to President Donald Trump's repeated promises to bring back jobs and increase domestic manufacturing, MSNBC noted Tuesday: "At least in theory, trade data calculations that make the gap appear bigger could make it easier for the president to push his vision on stricter trade deals. A larger trade deficit could give the administration leverage to renegotiate deals such as NAFTA, which Trump has vowed to rework."

Similarly, Ben White and Mary Lee wrote at Politico's "Morning Money" column on Tuesday that "the idea makes no economic sense and would simply inflate the trade deficit, allowing the administration to scream louder about unfair trade deals."

"Seems like alternative data to me. That is, data with no meaning."
—Mark Zandi, Moody's Analytics

Mark Zandi with Moody's Analytics further explained how "as currently measured, products that are imported into the country and then exported without change have no impact on the trade deficit. It's a wash. As it should be."

"With the proposed measurement change," Zandi continued, "these products would be counted in imports, but not exports, increasing the trade deficit, and presumably reducing GDP. But the trade deficit didn't widen nor did GDP decline. Seems like alternative data to me. That is, data with no meaning."

Despite the senselessness of the numbers, one source reportedly told the Journal that the "alternative data" will be presented to members of Congress.

On a similar front, a separate Journal report on Friday noted that "[t]he Trump administration has drafted preliminary economic growth forecasts in its federal budget planning that rely on assumptions that are far rosier than projections made by independent agencies and most private forecasters."

Describing the revised forecasts as "budget voodoo," Forbes contributor Stan Collender writes: "To say the least, this first set of economic assumptions and the resulting phony deficit will be fake news—lies, in other words—from Trump."

Collender continued:

We've known since the campaign that the Trump promises of tax cuts, increases in military spending and a new $1 trillion infrastructure program would result in a big increase the federal deficit and national debt unless they were matched with similarly large tax hikes and spending cuts. But with Congress almost certain to reject tax increases unless they're used to pay for corporate rate reductions, Social Security and Medicare cuts possible but not likely, interest rates and federal interest payments rising in the coming years and not enough other domestic spending left to be a complete offset, economic occult from Trump was a virtual certainty.

Outlining other examples of economic "gimmicks" likely to be used by the White House and the Republican-dominated Congress, Collender warns that "the possibility of other Trump budget sorcery has to be taken very seriously."

Or as former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich put it, the data manipulations are simply "[p]art of Trump's war on truth."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

New York Taxi Workers Stage Hunger Strike to Demand Medallion Debt Relief

"They are an essential industry here in New York City," said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, "and we need to make sure we're doing right by them."

Julia Conley ·


'It's Not Coming Out': Bernie Sanders Stands Firm on Medicare Expansion

"It's what the American people want and, after waiting over 50 years, what they are going to get."

Julia Conley ·


'When We Organize, We Win': Ocasio-Cortez Joins India Walton at Rally in Buffalo

The two progressives joined striking hospital workers on the picket line at Mercy Hospital after the early voting rally.

Julia Conley ·


Fatal Film Set Shooting Followed Outcry by Union Crew Members Over Safety Protocols

"When union members walk off a set about safety concerns, maybe 'hiring scabs' isn’t the solution you think it is."

Julia Conley ·


New Whistleblower Sparks Calls to 'Crack Down on Facebook and All Big Tech Companies'

Hours after another ex-employee filed a formal complaint, reporting broke on internal documents that show the tech giant's failure to address concerns about content related to the 2020 U.S. election.

Jessica Corbett ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo