Trump Fixes and Silences Unemployment Numbers During Pandemic


A long line outside a Las Vegas unemployment office

Last Wednesday, The Trump Administration sent a plea out to State governors to not publish unemployment numbers. This information was found by The New York Times in a leaked email to the paper.

The plea was sent on the heels of a state by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin warning that unemployment could hit over 20%. With more and more states taking up the “shelter in place” strategy to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, many businesses have been required to close up shop. Even in states without “shelter in place” orders being given, the lack of economic activity due to social-distancing and self-quarantining caused a massive loss to the stock market that has continued this week. This previous loss has already caused massive layoffs with millions of Americans without an income or insurance.

It is not surprising the Administration would try to take these measures on unemployment numbers. The American State is concerned first and foremost with investment in the market, with keeping dollars circulating, and shares traded. But with large unemployment, the system is laid bare. Not only does the lack of circulation due to a near halt in economic activity but, prevents the most important sectors of the economy from producing.

While many may often see this as a result of light commodities, of retail store consumer goods not being able to be bought, the ramifications are much deeper. The primary circulation of the economy, not just The United States’ but the world economy is the production and processing of raw materials. This primary trade, which is the trade, the buying and selling of capital between capitalists themselves have come to massive slow down. With consumer goods low, manufacturing takes a hit as the everyday reality of overproduction becomes a hindrance to business. When circulation is up, overproduction is used to keep up investor confidence, with a lack of circulation the high finance trading cannot hide the build-up of now dead capital not-circulation on the market.

The Administration plans on giving official unemployment numbers next Thursday. The main reason for the Administration to want states to keep their unemployment numbers close to the vest is so that the official number can be massaged. Almost every Administration over the past 40 years has changed the definition of “unemployed”. When the Trump administration boasted of its low unemployment numbers, it could do so because the Department of Labor under Trump changed the definition of who qualified as “unemployed,” cutting the rate in half by merely changing the legal definition.

There is also another side of this, labor itself. The capitalist system relies on maintaining the myth that it is the capitalist that keeps the world moving, and not the productive power of labor. However at times when unemployment sores, when markets crash, and when the economic system enters its bust cycle the truth of labor being the mover of the world stands as the naked truth. A simple matter like a strike shows that all value is created from labor and not the trading (i.e. gambling) of stock market investors.

At a time when unemployment is climbing and millions cannot work, the most important jobs of maintaining day to day life become clear. It is not the bankers and day traders, the accountants, shareholders, and CEOs that are integral to the health of the economy. It is the workers who under normal conditions are  paid little and even mocked for their “lowly”‘ trades who are needed most. Those who work in supermarkets are now designated by the state as “priority workers,” with some states beginning to give them hazard pay. Farmworkers, truckers, warehouse workers, food workers, construction and maintenance workers have all been shown to be vital pieces of the functioning of capitalist society. If such workers now were to take the advice of the bullies amongst the right-wing who in the past have advised them to “quit and get a better paying job,” those same right-wing bullies would have no food to eat.

Hiding and obscuring unemployment numbers is just another facet of the capitalist attack on workers and the legitimacy of their suffering under austerity-ridden capitalist American government. One day, your work is valueless, the next you’re essential. One day you have a job with benefits, the next you’re working Uber, but at least you’re not unemployed. And even if you are reckoned to be unemployed, the government will delay in reporting it, as to not scare investors too much with your financial ruin. That is how much the American state values a worker.

Categories: U.S. News

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