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Lyft driver Al Aloudi speaks to demonstrators during a March 25, 2019 San Francisco protest against the company's pay cuts and its announcement that it is going public on Friday. (Photo: Gabrielle Lurie/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)

The Real "Big Lie" Has Nothing to Do With Donald Trump

American working people have slogged through three crushing recessions, a worsening inequality that resulted in lower standard of living, and a grotesque pandemic that has exposed glaring inadequacies of our economic model.

Bruce T. Boccardy

Fabrications Normalized

To be sure there is an impressive list of “Big Lie” contagions with few apparent cures to slow them down.

It is clear that our economic model is struggling to maintain basic living standards for most working people.

“Big Lies" are particularly dispersed by social media platforms where fiction masquerades as fact and thoughtful analysis is absent.

Working people of all races and creeds are the recipients of “Big Lies” that work against their economic interests and benefit those of the dominant economic group. In the United States there is a faction of oligarchs funding a not-so-hidden political agenda favoring autocracy over democracy. This strategy is their best option to cement their economic power over working people. Despite the cacophony from the clash of cultural issues, it is really not about anything else to the oligarchs.

"Big Lies" influence working people when they choose political candidates or support economic policies. Historically, that “choice" was largely manufactured by the corporate media. Then rapid technological development created a bilge of reactionary and toxic platforms dominating the digital news cycle.

Real Big Lie

Former President Donald Trump has the distinction of spreading a curious “Big Lie” that the 2020 election was rigged by nefarious actors who conspired to deny him a victory.

It serves little useful purpose to recite the superabundant amount of legal evidence that has thoroughly debunked his claim. Those who prefer a rational approach to the electoral process speculate on how a damaged individual as Donald Trump was able to cast a disgraceful and sociopathic pale over our country that was redolent in rhetorical ideals of “democracy.”

Much literature will continue to be churned out on the subject. It may well be concluded that a form of “belief perseverance” phenomena is at work in our nation; this may assuage the anxiety of progressives who are addled about strategy and tactics when engaging working people who mysteriously support policies in opposition to their economic interests.

However, Mr. Trump’s “Big Lie” pales when presented against a more chronic and repetitive “Big Lie.”

That particular fabrication asserts that the economy is recovering and as the pandemic recedes a return to normal prosperity will benefit all working people.

Recovery Now

A chorus of predictable sources claims that the economy now enjoys a sustained recovery. The Center for American Progress asserted in Jan. 2022:

President Joe Biden took office one year ago amid one of the worst economies in generations, but the U.S. economy has since made progress toward recovery, and workers are benefiting.

Max Burns lamented in The Hill in December 2021 that the Biden recovery is not receiving the plaudits it deserves:

Biden is delivering the fastest economic recovery in history. Why hasn't anyone noticed?

Kiplinger, a leading source of financial news and business forecasting predicted this March that:

Jobs Coming Back Strongly as Pandemc Eases Jobs

There are cogent reasons why the Biden recovery might not be an occasion for sustained applause.

Real Big Lie

The real "Big Lie" to manipulate and con working people from the middle working class and working class is not convincing when the numbers of our economic model are examined.

For starters, the economy had a net loss of around 10 million jobs in 2020. It gained 6.5 million jobs in 2021. That's a loss of 3.5 million jobs.

Biden’s “recovery” is merely a reflection of the economic malaise of the last few years with significant losses during the pandemic. It is part of the “recovery” of the business cycle which is a historical component of our economic model.

These “recoveries” usually result in less income and fewer good jobs for working people because the structure of our economic model remains intact.

Standard Unemployment Numbers

The recent “recovery” has little to do with policy changes implemented by the Biden administration. A review of the total numbers in context is instructive.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported this month by the Current Population Survey that the February unemployment rate U-3 was 3.85 percent. That is an impressive number if you also believe in unicorns.

The U-3 measure is purposely truncated to give a more varnished view of how the economy is operating for the administration is in power.

This BLS measure consists of:

1. Persons not having a job during the survey

2. Persons who searched for a job in the last four weeks

3. Persons currently available for work

The BLS created another more accurate unemployment measure that is rarely mentioned in the mainstream media; it is the U-6 measure that consists of:

1. Persons in the U-3 measure

2. Marginally attached persons consisting a subset of three groups

3. Persons working part-time for economic reasons

The most controversial number is one of the subsets in the “marginally attached” group. It consists of those persons not in the labor force who want and are available for work, and who have looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. However, they were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the four weeks preceding the survey.

Jack Welch, the late former CEO of General Electric wrote in Forbes magazine in Oct. 2012 that the BLS changed the way it counted “discouraged” persons. If a person was unemployed for more than “52 weeks,” even if still looking for work, he or she would be removed from the U-6 measure.

The U-6 measure bumps up the unemployment rate to a more accurate number, but is still incomplete; it does not include those long-term discouraged persons. They are the aforementioned persons who gave up searching for work after 12 months of searching.

Inexplicably, the BLS eradicated those persons from their reports in 1994 during the Clinton administration. It is reasonable to speculate that removing this group from the rolls would dramatically reduce the unemployment rate.

Economist John Williams, founder of Shadow Government Statistics, asserted in a recent correspondence that the Clinton administration knew very well in 1993 that their passing of the neoliberal NAFTA agreement would result in severe job losses for Americans. They facilitated a redefining of the U-6 measure to deceive the public and hide significant job losses that would occur and did.

Real Unemployment Numbers

Shadow Government Statistics (SGS) is an alternative organization that tracks government data. While some of their numbers may be controversial, their unemployment numbers are convincing. SGS reports are based on government data and independent surveys.

The seasonally adjusted SGS Alternate Unemployment Rate methodology includes those long-term discouraged workers, who in 1994 were eliminated from the BLS measure of U-6.

SGS adds that group to the BLS estimate of the U-6 unemployment. The difference is striking.

An example of the disparities in the numbers illustrates the “Big Lie.” The BLS reported that the U-3 unemployment rate for 2020 was 6.7 percent. The BLS U-6 rate was 13.7 percent. The SGS unemployment rate was 35.5 percent.

Another organization also calculated an employment rate different from the BLS.

The Ludwig Institute for Shared Economic Prosperity (LISEP) calculates the functional unemployment rate. They track the percentage of the labor force that does not have a full-time job (35 hours a week). They are:

1. Persons who want a job

2. Persons who have no job

3. Persons who do not earn living wage ($20,000 before taxes)

LISEP calculated the unemployment rate in 2020 at 27.7 percent.

This “Big Lie” continues to conceal the inherent employment deficiencies in our economic model.

Underemployment Rate

Underemployment occurs when a person does not work full-time or takes a job that does not reflect their training and financial needs. The job does not utilize all their skills and education, or provides less than full-time work.

The BLS asserts that it does report on the underemployed demographic in the country in its standard measurements.

However, the BLS measure does not include people who have had to settle for employment below their skill or experience level, such as the electrical engineer who is now at a cash register.

Moreover, there is currently no government data that track this form of underemployment.

There are organizations who do track these numbers. For example, Statista, a global business platform, reported this February that 41 percent of college graduates were underemployed.

Engaging the Real Big Lie

The measure of a moral economic model is how it provides opportunities for its workforce. It is clear that our economic model is struggling to maintain basic living standards for most working people. To that end, the “Big Lie” is circulated to manipulate their political views offering no realistic policy for preventing a silent slide into an economic crater.

An effective beginning is learning the structure of our economic model, who it works for and how to ameliorate it for the rest of us.

Congress must end the oligarchs’ monied stranglehold on politicians. For example, three landmark cases, Buckley v. Valeo in January 1976 and First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti in April 1978 opened the door for Citizens United v. FEC in January 2010. These cases, in effect, sold our political democracy and economic model to the highest bidders.

Congress must also limit the oligarchs’ owning of the corporate media who lie to us every day about the reasons for high unemployment, high underemployment, and low wages and salaries.

American working people have slogged through three crushing recessions, a worsening inequality that resulted in lower standard of living, and a grotesque pandemic that has exposed glaring inadequacies of our economic model. We can and must do better.


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

Bruce T. Boccardy

Bruce T. Boccardy serves as an Economics & Labor Advisor for Small Planet Institute, was president of the Massachusetts Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 888, represented labor on the Massachusetts Joint Labor-Management Committee (JLMC), serving firefighters and police and consulted to the National Association of Government Employees (NAGE).

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