The American Economy is in Critical Condition. Thank Trump | Opinion

The well-intentioned Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which should have quickly delivered relief to small businesses struggling to stay afloat amid COVID-19, has been a disaster from the get-go. Under Trump and his administrators much of the emergency aid inappropriately ended up in the hands of major corporations, and the reduced monies that did go to small businesses came with such vague and ever-shifting rules that those businesses were often left stranded.

For almost four years such has been the duplicity baked into Trump's economic doctrine: portray your policies as helping David, but then employ them to further pump up Goliath.

Trump's tax cuts never trickled down to the middle class, the manufacturing renaissance he promised never materialized, the goals scored by Wall Street brought no benefits to Main Street, and the announced employment numbers never comported with the real unemployment figures and other labor market indicators.

Trump's trickery and deceit with respect to the state of the economy have been on full display for the last six weeks, as the president has attempted to weaponize for political gain the latest two jobs reports, which he and his advisors know are misleading and fail to show the true dire straits confronting America's workers.

Newsweek subscription offers >

The president knows full well that there are not 17.8 million unemployed workers. Counting all unemployed workers in real terms, there are in fact 35.4 million workers who want full-time jobs, and the real unemployment rate exceeds 21 percent, which is a sustained level not seen since the Great Depression.

The fact that the president has told these blatant lies during the ongoing coronavirus crisis and during some of the most important weeks in American civil rights history shows that there are no limits to the president's willful deception.

But this is exactly what President Trump has been doing for three and a half years. Despite the glaring inequities of an economy whose spoils are heavily weighted toward the Mar-a-Lago elites, President Trump would reliably take to the podium at one of his rallies and blather on about an alternate reality of his own circuitous construction.

But then the pandemic struck, and the president suddenly found himself without the ability to stage the rallies so essential to his fiction making. So, what did he did do?

Newsweek subscription offers >

Boxed in by social distancing guidelines, he immediately transformed the White House briefing room into a propaganda factory, first rewriting the timeline of his response to the coronavirus, and then whitewashing the devastating impacts washing over millions of American families and workers.

And when the devastation was too great to ignore, Trump waved his wand and spiked the release of economic projections which exposed the fact that his economy had become an even greater house of cards. And with another wave he blamed Democratic governors for the economic fallout, chastising them as "jerks."

At every turn over the past three and a half years, President Trump has deployed his signature blend of deflection, deception and distraction to cover up the mounting desperation being felt by so many.

Now, though, after protestors of all backgrounds took to the streets in more than 140 cities urgently demanding both justice for the gruesome murder of George Floyd and transformational change that addresses the nation's persistent economic inequalities, the jig is up, especially when it comes to one of the president's greatest lies of all: that he's been a godsend to the black community.

There is no amount of "alternative facts" that can obscure the desperation that has erupted into view. It is plain to see that the American economy is in critical condition.

When the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us—whenever that is—we need once again a middle-class economy that grows from the bottom up, and that starts by better supporting unions. The staggering decline in union membership over the past 50 years is one of the many reasons why wages have stagnated, and why the richest one percent of Americans could soon own more wealth than the entire middle class.

We must pour investment into education. Teachers should not have to pay for school supplies out of their own pocket, and black and Latino students should not be driven to abandon science and technology fields simply because they lack the resources needed to progress.

Rather than gutting critical social service programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Social Security, lawmakers must in fact expand these programs and commit to keeping them solvent.

We especially need to put Americans to work through infrastructure stimulus supported by a new National Infrastructure Bank funded mostly through the nation's large public pension plans and capitalized up to $1.5 trillion, which is the amount outside the funding capabilities of the states and municipalities.

Additionally, all infrastructure projects and projects funded or guaranteed by the federal government should, consistent with our international trade agreements, require purchases to be made in America rather than overseas. No single measure would do more to immediately resuscitate U.S. employment, particularly in manufacturing.

Finally, the U.S. especially and its allies need to return to balanced multilateralism where promises are kept and where trade agreements and security arrangements are abided by.

We've arrived at a fork in the road, as an economy and a country. Down one path is an economy built for the rich that will continue to wreak havoc on social order and cohesion, as the rest of Americans are shut out of opportunities. Down the other path is an economy built on a foundation of equal opportunity and economic justice.

One path will leave us in the dust globally. The other will push us closer to the American ideal — the pull towards fairness that has always made the United States exceptional.

Leo Hindery, Jr. is co-chair of the Task Force on Jobs Creation and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Formerly the CEO of AT&T Broadband and its predecessor, Tele-Communications, Inc., he is currently an investor in media properties.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.

The American Economy is in Critical Condition. Thank Trump | Opinion | Opinion