Jim Crawford: Facts are foreign to Trump

Published 2:42 pm Friday, March 3, 2017

“The past is a foreign country,” wrote British author L.P. Hartley in his 1953 novel The Go-Between.

Little could Hartley know just how much of a foreign country the American past would be during the Trump presidency.

Fundamentally, the Donald Trump administration has divorced not just the policies of the past, but the facts of the past in his advocacy of policies aimed to ignore the real state of the nation.

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This week Trump delivered a speech to a joint session of congress outlining his plans for the future. The speech was well received, in large part because the president elevated his rhetoric beyond the more childish personal comments that had so far been the hallmark of his young presidency. Given his reach for basic civility, his speech was praised from all quarters.

But underlying his great accomplishment of not denigrating all before his eyes, Trump’s policy ideas were not just berift of American values, they were free of any underlying basis to embrace his programs if facts still matter.

Consider first Trump on the economy. The President claims the previous administration left him a “mess.” A fair claim? Well, 40 days into his presidency, Trump has not proposed any economic growth program or signed any jobs legislation, so what the Obama administration left behind was, according to the Department of Labor, the lowest unemployment claims since 1970; 4.6 percent unemployment, which is near full employment; U.S. equity markets the highest in our history; and U-6 unemployment (workers withdrawn from the workforce) at 9.3 percent, the lowest since 2008.

A “mess?” Hardly.

Then there is the illegal immigration crisis, another factually challenged claim of the new president. The president insists on building a $20 billion dollar wall (one of many estimates) on our southern border to solve the “out-of-control” illegal immigration problem. But net northern migration over the most recent five years is less than zero…more people are heading south than north. Illegal immigration is at a 40-year low, and, in 2013, 420,789 illegals were apprehended at the border, the lowest number since 1974. There are currently 40 million Immigrants living in the U.S., three-fourths of them are legal immigrants. The percent of the population comprised of immigrants was higher 90 years ago than it is today.

But, because “build the wall,” when used at Trump rallies, drew the biggest cheers, it is now policy. Policy by applause may not be a new concept, but it is the theater of the absurd in this example.

Then, the president explained his plan to increase spending on our military by 10 percent. Apparently, after winding down from two major wars, we need to increase, not decrease, defense spending. Following this logic, had we had a generation of peace, the budget, currently 37 percent of the world’s military spending, would have to grow even larger.

Since 9/11, U.S. military spending, adjusted for inflation, has increased 50 percent. The U.S. spends more than the next seven largest military budgets combined, but it is not enough for this administration. Just two examples highlight our exuberance: The U.S. currently has 13,444 aircraft in service, Russia has 3,547 aircraft in service; the U.S. currently has 19 aircraft carriers, Russia and China each have one aircraft carrier in service.

So this president demands more spending on our military.

Finally, there is the new attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who met with state governors this week and proclaimed, “We are in danger of rising crime.” In fact, our murder rate is the lowest in decades, violent crime rates have fallen 51 percent since 1991, and according to the Brenner Center for Justice in 2013 our violent crime rate was the lowest since 1970.

Yes, the past is a foreign country, as are the facts in the Trump administration. Will we spend our economic wealth solving problems we do not really have? That depends on you.

Jim Crawford is a retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.