Over the weekend we noted that the Trump administration was considering changing the U.S. trade deficit calculation to exclude re-exports from the US trade balance, a shift that would make America's trade gap appear even greater than it has been in recent years, potentially making future trade skirmishes and wars with America's export-heavy trade partners far more likely (see "White House May Change Calculation Of US Trade Deficit, Boosting Trade War Odds").
Of course, Trump has made a habit of questioning certain economic propaganda, including the "phony" unemployment figures. Repeatedly on the campaign trail, Trump questioned the logic of focusing on an unemployment figure that excludes those people who have been unemployed for so long that they've simply given up looking for work, a favorite statistic of President Obama. Per Bloomberg:
“Don’t believe these phony numbers,” Trump told supporters of the jobless rate in early 2016. “The number is probably 28, 29, as high as 35 [percent]. In fact, I even heard recently 42 percent.”
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin even reinforced the skepticism of the unemployment figures during his Senate confirmation hearing, stating outright that the “unemployment rate is not real."
Now, apparently all the questioning has Washington D.C.'s fragile economists on edge and ready to abandon their cushy government positions over the "demoralizing" attack on their statistics.
“My biggest concern right now is about the unemployment statistics, just because the White House has been attacking them, and I know how demoralizing that can be to employees when your statistics are being attacked and when you don’t have anyone at the agency level who can speak up for you and defend you,” Moulton said in a telephone interview last month.
“I could view a situation, if that were to persist, where you could get employees leaving, finding other jobs and that sort of thing just because they find it demoralizing,” he added.
Repeated questioning of an agency’s credibility could hamper an already tough recruitment process, especially of younger workers who’ll be especially needed as more baby boomers in the federal government leave the workforce.
University of Oregon professor Mark Thoma is even worried that the Trump administration will turn to "fake data" or "alternative facts" should the economy turn south over the next four years.
“The worst thing he could do -- and I see this as a real danger -- would be to politicize the agencies that produce government economic data, to put people in place that will skew the numbers in his favor,” Thoma said in a Jan. 24 commentary for CBS MoneyWatch. “If that happens, the data will be useless, and we’ll essentially be flying blind when it comes to the true state of the economy.”
Of course, no other President would ever selectively pick economic data to make themselves look better. Just consider Obama's amazing "economic recovery" that he bragged about constantly, the "greatest recovery since the great depression," the data doesn't lie...