Trump has been fuzzy with data. That's a problem when society relies on trustworthy data from its government.

(iStock photo)

One of the signs of a functioning democracy is confidence in data from the government. The United States has several agencies that let us know “what’s going on,” to use a favorite phrase of President-elect Donald J. Trump. The Census Bureau remains the gold standard for information about topics like poverty, household income and the persistence of racial segregation. Other sources of data about our nation, and our universe, include the F.B.I.NASA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It is impossible to debate public policy without agreement on facts. Unfortunately, Mr. Trump had a habit on the campaign trail of passing on debunked numbers to support his own rhetoric—saying, for example, of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Don’t believe those phony numbers when you hear 4.9 and 5 percent unemployment…. I even heard recently 42 percent.” He continues to be unaware or dismissive of government data on crime and immigration, and he essentially accused state election departments of a massive conspiracy when he retold a story about millions of votes being cast fraudulently in the presidential election.


Mr. Trump’s cavalier attitude toward statistics is worrisome because many agencies on which we rely for accurate data are directly or indirectly supervised by presidential appointees. For instance, the president names the director of the Census Bureau, who must be confirmed by the Senate. It would be preferable to minimize political pressure on data-collection agencies. A good model is the Government Accountability Office, which monitors government spending and whose head is appointed to a 15-year term. For now, it is important that journalists, and Congress, do what they can to make sure that federal agencies continue to report valuable data without political spin or favoritism.

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Lisa Weber
1 year 3 months ago
Trump has been an outright liar. I do not understand why that seems to bother so few people.
J Cosgrove
1 year 2 months ago
I suggest the editors examine a few things The claims of Black Lives Matter and all the statistics relevant to it. A good place to start is with the writing of Heather MacDonald. The unemployment numbers. The editors must know that the official number is at best a distortion of the employment situation. Trump's claim that the official number is nonsense is correct but the 42% seems to be an exaggeration. However the actual number of people not working is fairly high. Just what is it? Fraudulent votes I don't know how many fraudulent votes were cast on the last election day but there are ways using sampling to get an estimate. Here is a recent article on it
Do Illegal Votes Decide Elections? There’s no way to know. But the evidence suggests that significant numbers of noncitizens cast ballots. (may be behind a pay wall.) From the article
A postelection survey conducted by Americas Majority Foundation found that 2.1% of noncitizens voted in the Nov. 8 election. In the battleground states of Michigan and Ohio, 2.5% and 2.1%, respectively, of noncitizens reported voting. In 2013, pollster McLaughlin & Associates conducted an extensive survey of Hispanics on immigration issues. Its voter-profile tabulation shows that 13% of noncitizens said they were registered to vote. That matches closely the Old Dominion/George Mason study, in which 15.6% of noncitizens said they were registered.
Maybe Donald Trump is on to something.
Chuck Kotlarz
1 year 2 months ago
“However the actual number of people not working is fairly high. Just what is it?” Perhaps 39%. In 2015, the percentage of the US population under 18 and those 65 and over totaled 39%.
J Cosgrove
1 year 2 months ago
Your statistics are not relevant since it is the 18-64 age group that economist are most interested in. However the labor force participation rate is based on 16+. Here is the moving average of the last 16 years Here are a couple good places to start that will explain a lot of the parameters: One of the main issues is the decline of men 25-54 in the work force. Here an article about that The unemployment rate certainly not anywhere near 42% but the 4.6% is bogus too. Also part time workers have to be included. My guess is that the real rate is around 10-12% and the wages of non supervisory workers is less than it was 40 years ago. That is most directly attributable to immigration for about the first 20 years and more recently to both immigration and automation. That is what led to changes in voting patterns in a lot of the country. Whether Trump can fix this is an interesting question. Certainly nothing the Democrats were doing or planning of doing would change this.
Chuck Kotlarz
1 year 2 months ago
My original reply is quite clear and stands on its own merit. You (and your links except the first) fail to note an essential point: “Age: 16 years and over”. Seventeen million “not in the workforce” people are over age seventy-five. Is it your intent to send an eighty-year-old in a wheelchair up to shingle your roof? Some no doubt have years of roofing experience. “FRED” shows the Civilian labor force participation rate for ages 25 – 54 years at 65% in 1950 increasing to 80% in 1984. The rate has stayed between 80 and 85% from 1984 to the present.
Tom Maher
1 year 2 months ago
Hopefully this editorial is not another futile post-election attempt to overturn the election of Donald Trump for 45th President of the United States. Or a futile attempt to delegitimize Donald Trump's Presidency. Such efforts only have meaning to people still in a pre-election bubble. It is very odd to bring up at this late stage after the election, highly contested election issues that were extensively debated during the eighteen month election cycle and which decisively contributed to Donald Trump to win the election. For example Donald Trump's challenging the unemployment rate of only 5% profoundly resonated with people who are unemployed and cause the "blue wall" of Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa and Pennsylvania to collapse and go for Trump. Who cares what the labor department definition of unemployment is? As Donald Trump wells knows what matters in a democracy is not beaucratic orthodoxy and what matters to the media but the actual economic conditions experienced by voters. Trump's campaign decisively dealt with all the many reasons why numerous voters were experiencing long term unemployment due to the policies of the federal government. The Editors need to recognize the most fundamental aspect of a democracy is that the people are in charge not the government, government policy or status quo establishments. The Editors miss what facts are important in a democracy during an election and who decides what's important.
Stanley Kopacz
1 year 2 months ago
The climatology community is presently copying all US-based climatological data to places outside our borders. This is to forestall a Trump administration's Orwellian attack on reality. A not unreasonable fear, since a prodigious liar like Mr. Trump may see that scientific evidence could be a threat, though it seems not to have been one so far. But fascists don't take chances.
J Cosgrove
1 year 2 months ago
For a misrepresentation of statistics by the Obama Administration (extent of Al Qaeda in world) and a fake new story as a result, here is a discussion of Al Qaeda in recent years. It is a podcast from the John Batchelor show last night on terrorism. Each Monday night Batchelor has on two experts on terrorism who have been on the show for several years. By the way the fake news story affected the 2012 election for president.
Douglas Fang
1 year 2 months ago
“History is written by the victors” This is a repeated statement from the series “Call of Duty – Modern Warfare” that I played a while back and I found it to be profoundly true. This statement is even more relevant in the context of this post-truth election environment today. Trump has shown to have a very high number of outright lies during the campaign. After his victory, I stop criticizing him as I agree with Obama and Clinton – “We all own him a chance”. I accepted he has won the election “constitutionally” even though he would have been lost in most other democratic countries as he is behind in the popular vote to Clinton by 2.8+ millions votes, the highest margin ever in the history. However, after the victory, he continued to issue outright lies such as: - The protestors are paid professionals. - He lost the popular votes due to voter fraud!!! - Obama did not warn Russia about meddling with our election. It seems that Trump’s supporters on this site continue to distort or deny the facts as they have been doing so even before the campaign. For example, a significant number of Trump’s supporters believes in the following things: - Stock market did not going up under Obama - Unemployment did go up under Obama - Isis is winning the war and is an existential threat to America - Cities are crime ridden with no law and order - Obama was not born in America - … In the end, I feel sorry for the wishful hope from Editors about the "Right to Data" as this is what I can see about Trump’s followers: For Trump’s followers, factual data is unimportant, what truly counts is the perception. PS: “Forgotten men and forgotten women will not be forgotten any more…” I found this utmost sarcastic as I am watching the most powerful market rally post-election in the history. The biggest beneficiaries of this rally are the Wall Street bankers, the ones who overwhelmingly supported Clinton going to the election. I doubt that any of the “forgotten men or women” gets a dime from this rally. Forgotten ones continue to be ignored as the rally goes on. A very good article about Trump’s bogus voter fraud claims.


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