Random thoughts on President Trump’s address to Congress:
A. The president said the murder rate in 2015 experienced the largest increase in nearly 50 years. If we are talking percentage increase that may well be so, because murder rates have been so low recently, any increase represents a large percentage increase. But the murder rate, lamentable as it is, is in far better shape than 20 years ago, and much better shape than in our past:
B. The President also identified two families of victims of crime. Both the families singled out for recognition were victims of illegal immigrants. What are we to think, then, when 100% of the examples presented are of illegal immigrants? Clearly, the only inference is that illegal immigrants must be on a rampage, responsible for most crime. The only problem is this is far from the truth. Our native population is far more likely than immigrants to turn to violent crime. A Cato report concludes that, “Both the Census-data driven studies and macro-level studies find that immigrants are less crime-prone than natives with some small potential exceptions.”
C. The President noted that 94 million people are out of the labor force—as if this were a bad thing. But tell that to retirees or people who for one reason or another prefer leisure to work. The relevant number he should have cited is the number who are discouraged and out of the labor force for this reason. The only reason 94 million would be relevant is if you are a communist, and believe that all labor belongs to the state, and that everyone is obliged to work regardless of age or circumstance.
D. Later, the President stated that “For as the Bible teaches us, there is no greater act of love than to lay down one's life for one's friends.” No, I think the greatest act of love is to lay down one’s life for one’s enemies.
Spreading false impressions about immigrants and foreigners is clearly something the New Testament Bible would not condone. The story of the Good Samaritan is instructive. The Samaritans were not simply outcasts, they were the enemies of the Jews. Yet in this story Jesus sees the Samaritan not through the Trumpian lens of “foreigner=evil” but through a Christian lens of treating each person as worthy of respect, and in this case, admiration.
Every President lies with statistics to sway opinion. The false facts emanating from this administration about every sort of issue seem unprecedented in my lifetime, but one could argue that Johnson's Vietnam war lies or Bush's Iraq war lies were of greater impact. But give Trump time--he's only been in office a month. We expect much greater things from him.