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Trump’s Treasury secretary pick claims the unemployment rate is ‘not real’

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Steve Mnuchin, Trump’s nominee for Treasury Secretary, claimed during his confirmation hearing on Thursday that the unemployment rate is “not real” and that “the average American worker has gone nowhere.”

In response to a line of questioning by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) about what he would do to protect voters from another recession, Mnuchin claimed that he has traveled with the president and understands why Trump was elected.

“The unemployment rate is not real,” he said. “The average American worker has gone nowhere, and president-elect is committed, as am I, as his economic adviser, to work for the American people and grow the American economy so that the average American worker does better.”

On the campaign trail, Trump also repeatedly claimed that the unemployment rate is a “phony number,” and that the real rate could actually be close to 42 percent.

But Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs banker and the co-founder of a major lending bank, should know better. Calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the unemployment rate is the percentage of the total labor force that is unemployed but actively seeking employment. The number is a critical indicator of how the economy is doing and is widely used by economists. The number is respected by both Democrats and Republicans as a valid indicator of job growth. The BLS has calculated the rate the same way since the 1940s, and its methods do not change from one administration to the next.

The rate has also fallen by more than one-third since President Obama took office, dropping last month to just 4.6 percent?—?the lowest level since August 2007.

Despite the (real) numbers, a recent poll found that 53 percent of Republicans believe that the unemployment rate has risen under Obama. More than a third of all Americans think its worse now than when Obama took office.

Some believe that there’s a better measure to track unemployment. That statistic, called the U-6, tracks everyone who is out of work, people not looking but who want work, and those unable to find full-time employment. That number is higher?—?currently it hovers over 9 percent. But Mnuchin made no mention of this statistic being a better indicator of job growth, and it’s not clear he would give any credence to any labor statistic as Treasury Secretary.

This blog originally appeared in ThinkProgress.org on January 19, 2017. Reprinted with permission.

Kira Lerner is a Political Reporter at ThinkProgress. Contact her: [email protected]


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End of Pfizer-Allergan Merger Could Save U.S. Taxpayers Billions

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Kenneth QuinnellThe withdrawal by New York-based pharma giant Pfizer of a proposed merger with Irish company Allergan could save U.S. taxpayers billions. If the merger had been completed under the Treasury Department’s old rules, Pfizer could have dodged paying $35 billion in taxes on $150 billion in overseas profits. In 2014, Treasury revised rules to make it harder for corporations to use the process called “inversion” to avoid paying taxes in the United States. The AFL-CIO recently joined more than 50 organizations that sent a letter to the Treasury calling for stiffer rules on inversion so that companies are required to pay their fair share.

Frank Clemente, executive director of Americans for Tax Fairness, praised the failure of the merger:

The prevention of Pfizer’s inversion is great news for all American taxpayers: individuals, small businesses and large domestic corporations. Pfizer’s inversion would have meant that the pharmaceutical giant could have dodged as much as $35 billion it already owes in U.S. taxes on its offshore profits.

Big corporations like Pfizer must be required to pay their fair share. The government cannot let them run away from their responsibilities to this nation. Treasury has taken an important step to improve the overall corporate tax system. These rules move in the right direction to level the playing field for domestic companies competing with multinationals.

From the letter to Treasury:

Pfizer’s potential tax dodge is a huge sum of money—more than the $30 billion increase in domestic discretionary spending for the next fiscal year that was negotiated in the budget agreement last year, and which House Republicans are now demanding be paid for by cutting Medicaid and other health and low-income programs.

These companies can avoid paying the U.S. taxes they owe on their existing offshore profits through a so-called “hopscotch” loan, whereby the former U.S. firms can loan their offshore profits to their new foreign parent companies. Treasury prohibited such tax avoidance in its 2014 Notice when the new foreign company is at least 60% owned by the original shareholders of the former U.S. firm. But both Pfizer and Johnson Controls structured their mergers so that their shareholders own 56% of the new foreign company.

This blog originally appeared in aflcio.org on April 6, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

Kenneth Quinnell is a long time blogger, campaign staffer, and political activist.  Prior to joining AFL-CIO in 2012, he worked as a labor reporter for the blog Crooks and Liars.  He was the past Communications Director for Darcy Burner and New Media Director for Kendrick Meek.  He has over ten years as a college instructor teaching political science and American history.


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