Deleted comments about American poverty from Trump’s economics advisors

The Trump administration has some interesting ideas about poverty in America.
The Trump administration has some interesting ideas about poverty in America.
Image: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson
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The Trump administration had harsh words for a UN agency report released in May that found 40 million Americans lived in poverty, and 5.3 million of them “in Third World conditions of absolute poverty.”

The report criticized the US for high rates of youth poverty, obesity, and incarceration, and poor levels of voter registration relative to other OECD countries. Trump’s administration labeled it, “inaccurate, inflammatory, and irresponsible” and rebutted it with alternative data.

But internal State Department emails and a draft of the rebuttal obtained by Foreign Policy and nonprofit crisis reporting website Coda Story show the Trump administration ignored critiques from its own economists in rebutting the UN agency report.

The comments reveal tensions between the story the White House wished to present, and the one advisers knew to actually be true. Here are some of the comments written on the rebuttal draft from officials on the White House Council of Economic Advisers, according to Foreign Policy and Coda Story:

  • Next to a line in the draft claiming the US was “entering a new era of economic growth and prosperity”: “Already 8-9 years long… which started under Obama and we inherited and then expanded. But it will end prob in 1-2 years. So I’d not get into this.”
  • In the margin near an assertion that people in a housing crisis “have fair and equal access and are connected to available housing and related assistance based on their strengths and needs”: “Massive waiting lists for vouchers—not sure this is our strong suit.”
  • Regarding a note that Puerto Rico was allocated $18 billion in aid after being decimated by hurricanes in 2017: “Pretty sure that’s peanuts compared to what the mainland got so you may want to rethink this.”

It wouldn’t be the only time the Trump administration has clashed with government economists. Staffers at the US Bureau of Labor Statistics responded with shock and outrage in June when the president tweeted about monthly job numbers an hour before they were released, according to internal emails obtained by Quartz.

“I’m guessing there won’t be any repercussions for him,” one staffer wrote. Added an economist: “Consequences are for the little people, not bigshots with little hands.”