At some point, Democratic politicians like Kamala Harris and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will learn about the existence of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Until then, the rest of us can sit back and laugh at reality-free proclamations such as the one caught by the RNC’s rapid-response director below. In her zeal to counter the reality of an economy with strong growth in wages and jobs, Harris tells this group of voters that claims of a “great” economy are lies. Hey, Harris has been “talking to folks,” and so has her finger on the economic pulse of the nation!
Too bad she doesn’t have her finger on the mouse while visiting the BLS website (via Twitchy):
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) wrongly thinks that the unemployment rate is low because people work multiple jobs.
— Steve Guest (@SteveGuest) March 9, 2019
How do we unpack this much economic ignorance that Harris managed to pack into 37 seconds? Let’s start with her second point first, which echoed (although, contra Guest’s claim above, doesn’t exactly match) a brainless argument offered by Ocasio-Cortez last summer during her campaign:
HARRIS: Then they’ll say, [unintelligible] measurement. ‘Well, look at the unemployment numbers.’ Well, okay, I’m going to tell you, I’ve been traveling. I’ve been talking with folks. Yeah, folks are working — they’re working two or three jobs to pay the bills.
Note the subtle difference between the two claims. Ocasio-Cortez claimed the unemployment rate was low because people were working two or more jobs, while Harris is merely claiming that more people are working multiple jobs to make ends meet. Harris isn’t describing the measure itself, but a supposed lack of comprehensiveness in it.
Both claims, however, are equally false. The BLS has measured multiple-job holders as a percentage of the employed for at least 25 years, and our current level of 4.9% is just shy of the low mark over that period (4.7% on multiple occasions, most recently last October.) The numbers actually ran higher during the Clinton administration’s supposedly pure boom economy, with the percentage rising to 6.3% in 1995 and 1996.
Here’s the data if you can’t get to it on Table A-9 yourself, seasonally adjusted:
The percentage of the population working multiple jobs in Donald Trump’s economy is lower than during the presidencies of Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton. If that’s how Harris measures success, well, congratulations America!
Of course, first you have to measure rather than “traveling … talking to folks.”
What about Harris’ first point? That’s more nuanced, but Harris definitely leaves out one key point:
HARRIS: And I find it very interesting that supposed leaders walk around talking about, ‘Oh, the economy is great, the economy is great.’ And you ask them, ‘Well, how so? How are you measuring that?’ And they’ll say, ‘Look at the stock market.’ Well, that’s fine if you own stocks!
True. And … most Americans do, even if they don’t purchase them directly. Do you have a retirement account through your employer? Do you have a pension managed by someone other than yourself? It’s almost certain that you own stocks, then. One of the significant changes of the Reagan era was the expansion of stock ownership to the masses through deferred-tax savings plans — IRAs, then 401Ks. It may be too glib to see Wall Street prosper and assume that Main Street is sharing equally in that prosperity — which we all saw in the great crash and the bailouts that followed in 2008 — but stock ownership itself is almost ubiquitous in the US now.
As I noted earlier, Harris manages to pack a lot of economic ignorance into 37 seconds. Just imagine what she would do with four years.
Update: Rewrote the sentence after the data table for better precision.