Not A Lot Of Math Required

Unless you are a political junkie (and often even if you are) it is difficult to tell if you are being lied to by politicians. The biggest (hey, he has to be the biggest at something) liar on today’s American politician scene is Donald Trump. Remember his is the administration of alternate facts. He keeps coming at us fast and furious with so many outrageous and/or untrue statements that it is utterly impossible for someone like me to call them all out. That is part of his method of operation; no scandal sticks too long because it is soon replaced by another. One claim has been making the rounds lately that by gut reaction I felt was untrue. The slightest research and math proved to my head that my gut was correct. Let’s explore.   

Trump claims to have saved 77,000 coal jobs by signing legislation that negated the Obama administration’s Stream Protection Rule. Like most anti-pollution rules it is somewhat complicated but basically it prohibited the discharge of pollutants from coal mining operations into adjacent or nearby waterways. Of course if you take the hard right view the Republican Party has embraced in recent years it was just another unnecessary, job killing, business stifling rule.

Today I want to set aside all the environmental and regulatory arguments and strictly focus on the number of jobs saved in the short run. I think my readers know where I stand on the root issues and if you have a functioning brain that has any “database” of recent history you know how bad this is for the long run future of America.

There are rival studies as to the effect this rule had on coal industry jobs. I have briefly looked at them and to be fair the methodology in all of them is flawed in my opinion. Looking at them was a total waste of time when trying to ascertain the accuracy of Trump’s 77,000 jobs claim. The process of determining the truthfulness of that number was actually much simpler.

Coal industry jobs have been declining for years. The right wing will tell you the villain is excessive government regulation. Legitimate economists will tell you it is the loss of customers to natural gas. Again, to be fair some of that customer drain was exacerbated by government regulations (which I believe were in the best interest of those of us who breathe the air and drink the water).

Here are the job numbers in the coal industry over the last few years:

2011    143,437

2012    137,650

2013    123,259

2014    116,010

2015    102.804

2016    81,406 (estimate)

I am willing to take into consideration that the 2016 number is an estimate and shows a larger drop than in most preceding years. There is a very good chance it will be revised and revised upward. For the sake of argument I’ll do my analysis considering the number to be 88,000. Just a guess, but I want to give Trump the benefit of the doubt.

Using 77,000 jobs saved on a base of 88,000 total jobs you would have to believe that by signing this one rule reversal Trump saved 87.5% of the industry’s jobs. Consider that this rule was relatively new and wasn’t high profile like a regulation that would gut an industry would be. You may choose to believe that Trump’s actions saved almost an entire industry’s jobs but I certainly do not!

Oh, by the way, the source on those jobs is the Labor Department; another executive branch agency that works for Trump. My suggestion to the President is that the next time he feels the urge to make some outlandish statement he has one of those useless people like Bannon or Miller make a phone call first and then find someone who is not arithmetically challenged to help you evaluate the data. Friendly advice on the second part: don’t call Paul Ryan.

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