Rep. McKinley’s Numbers Questioned

Editor, News-Register:

U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., submitted a piece that was run in the Sunday News-Register last weekend, praising the first year of the Trump presidency as an enormous success. The congressman could not be more wrong.

The congressman says that West Virginia has had one of the largest drops in the unemployment rate under Trump in the country. This is false. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 12-month net change in unemployment in West Virginia was 0.5 percent as of November 2017 (the last month data is currently available) from 5.8 percent to 5.3 percent. This is nowhere near the top of the list of net changes.

The congressman also mentioned gross domestic product growth under Trump being 3.3 percent and compared it to the previous eight years at 2 percent. This is a comparison of third quarter 2017 to annual GDP growth and is therefore apples and oranges. GDP growth hit a quarterly high of 3 percent or more eight times under President Obama. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expect annualized GDP growth for 2017 to be 2.1 percent. Annual GDP growth for all eight years of the Obama presidency averaged out to 2.9 percent.

The congressman mentioned the consumer confidence index hitting a 17-year high. This occurred in November, but if you look at the confidence index dating back to 2009, it has been steadily on the rise throughout the last almost nine years. Obama presided over that rise for eight years and the fact that it has continued is not surprising.

President Obama presided over 75 straight months of private sector jobs growth, averaging 109,000 jobs per month. Unemployment had peaked in October 2009 at 10 percent and dropped by December 2016 to 4.7 percent. Again, 2017 continues an 8-year trend.

From Trump’s inauguration to earlier this month, the Dow had risen 26 percent to 25,075.1. Impressive. But under the equivalent time period for Obama, the Dow rose 33 percent from 7,949.1 to 10,572. More impressive. In fact, the closing Dow Jones Industrial Average over Obama’s entire tenure rose 149 percent, greater than any president dating back to and including Reagan.

West Virginia has seen growth this year rise from being anemic, but to quote The Hill:

“The main driver of West Virginia’s growth, rising global prices, is entirely out of Trump’s control. No president is powerful enough to impact the cost of a ton of metallurgical coal or a cubic foot of natural gas on the international market.”

Another commodity slump from our reliance on natural gas and coal would send the state back into the depths of recession. Fossil fuels are boom and bust. More than one in six West Virginians lives below the federal poverty line, an amount higher than in all but seven states. We need economic diversification that Congressman McKinley and the rest of our state’s congressional delegation, as well as the Trump administration, are opposed to.

The recent Republican tax cuts touted by Rep. McKinley as growth-inducing and miraculous are anything but for West Virginians and for the nation as a whole. Walmart, after receiving billions in tax cuts, is closing dozens of Sam’s stores and laying off thousands of employees. CEOs and executives all over the country have been quoted as saying that they will continue to raise dividends and buy back stock, but have no intention of growing, hiring more, or raising wages. Couple this with the enormous social safety net cuts Republicans are already discussing to address the $1.5 trillion their tax cuts add to deficits by 2027 and West Virginians are only going to suffer further from this corporate giveaway and massive increase of wealth and income inequality.

Finally, Obama era regulations did not kill coal and were not a war on coal or fossil fuels. The lower prices of natural gas from shale development and the dramatic reductions in the costs of renewables, international competition, Powder River Basin coal being much cheaper to mine and transport than Appalachian coal, and a decline in the coal industry dating back decades were the culprits of West Virginia coal’s decline. Attempts like the Clean Power Plan to reduce coal’s massive pollution and its enormous contributions to the destabilization of our climate system were and are crucial. A strong majority of West Virginians showed up in Charleston recently, myself included, to let the EPA know we favor the Clean Power Plan.

Congressman McKinley is trying to maintain favor as part of his 2018 reelection effort in a state that went 2/3 Trump in 2016. His political calculations are not honest and what we need in West Virginia District 1 of the U.S. House is honesty, not political gamesmanship.

Eric Engle