A Grain of Saul is a weekly column that digs into some of the biggest issues we face as a nation and as an international community in search of reliable data, realistic solutions, and — most importantly — hope.
Dear Donald Trump,
"How stupid is our country?" you angrily asked a room full of Americans at the presidential debate on Sunday night.
The answer, Mr. Trump, is not very stupid. The United States is home to eight of the 10 best global universities, has been at the forefront of some of the world's greatest medical advancements, and promotes free thinking in a way that few countries can match. Maybe that's not the America you experienced growing up, but it's certainly the one I see.
Throughout the presidential debate, though, you made your understanding of America quite clear: we're losers. We're stupid. Our economy is failing. Crime is out of control. A presidential nominee laughed about a 12-year-old being raped. Locker room talk is joking about sexual assault. Taxes are too high. And you, Mr. Trump, are the only one with a winning temperament that is good enough to fix it.
Well, I've got some news for you, Donald. America isn't a bunch of losers. Our economy isn't failing, our streets are not burning to the ground, and you have to lie and lie and lie in order to say otherwise. Throughout the debate, you lied about so many scary things just so you could say something negative about America, just so you could gain support from Americans who are unhappy and scared. So below, I've corrected those lies for you in order to remind every American just how lucky they are to be in this great country.
"We have the slowest growth since 1929."
You made this comment regarding the U.S. economy. Last year, the economy grew at an annualized rate of 2.4 percent. In 2009, the economy actually shrank by nearly 3 percent. So no, this is not the slowest growth since 1929.
On top of that, less than a month ago, President Obama and the U.S. Census Bureau announced that real median household incomes rose 5.2 percent, the largest rise ever recorded. It included wage growth for Americans of every racial demographic and 3.5 million people were lifted out of poverty.
"You look at Charlotte. You look at Baltimore. You look at the violence that's taking place in the inner cities, Chicago, you take a look at Washington, D.C. We have an increase in murder within our cities, the biggest in 45 years."
While it's true we just had the biggest murder rate increase in 45 years (by percentage points), you completely ignore the fact that that's because the last few years have been some of the least violent in United States history. Isolating murders also paints a picture of worsening violent crime that is completely divorced from the reality.
In fact, since 1996, the only years with lower violent crime rates were 2013 and 2014, which were both historically low. As one law professor pointed out to NPR, no year during George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan or George H.W. Bush's presidencies were as safe as 2015. Even as recently as 2006, the violent crime rate was 16 percent higher than it was in 2015.
Similarly, the increased murder and violent crime rates are largely driven by a select few cities. Your scary words are working, though, I have to give you that: 61 percent of Americans believe crime has gotten worse over the last 10 years, even though the data tells us the complete opposite.
"It was locker room talk."
This is how you described the comments you made about women, which were released in a recent Washington Post video.
"I did try and fuck her. She was married," you told Access Hollywood anchor Billy Bush, recalling a woman you tried to sleep with.
You go on to describe how you moved on her "very heavily" before you and Bush notice actress Arianne Zucker outside your bus, waiting to escort you onto the set of a soap opera for a cameo. You, who married your wife Melania three months before, then say that you plan to eat a Tic Tac in case you and Zucker "start kissing."
"You know I'm automatically attracted to beautiful women — I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. Just kiss. I don't even wait … And when you're a star they let you do it," you said. "You can do anything."
"Whatever you want," says Bush.
"Grab them by the pussy," you said. "You can do anything."
These are the comments you said constitute "locker room talk." In other words, you're telling women in America that these are the conversations American men have in private. That suggestions of non-consensual sexual interactions are commonplace in locker rooms across America. But it isn't. And you, Donald, should have never said it was.
"Many of her friends took bigger deductions. Warren Buffett took a massive deduction."
This is how you defended claiming a nearly $1 billion write-off in losses and seemingly avoided paying federal taxes for the next 18 years. Well, it turns out you were wrong about Warren Buffett: he pays federal income taxes. In fact, according to Buffett, he's paid federal income taxes every year since 1944, paid $2.8 billion in charitable contributions last year, and $1.8 million in federal income taxes.
In other words, Donald, Warren Buffet just proved he's both richer and more generous than you. He proves that not all of the rich men and women in America are only interested in taking care of themselves, which is apparently what you want us to believe.
"But I don't want to have — with all the problems this country has and all of the problems that you see going on — hundreds of thousands of people coming in from Syria when we know nothing about them."
Throughout your campaign, Donald, you keep claiming that hundreds of thousands of dangerous people are pouring into our country. But that just isn't true.
First of all, America has only allowed 13,000 Syrian refugees into the country. That's 13,000 of the more than 470,000 that still need homes and the more than 5 million that have been displaced. You also ignore that comparatively, 13,000 is a really low number when put next to other countries — such as Germany — who are taking far more. You also completely ignore the fact that we know a lot about them, not "nothing."
Refugees go through more vetting than any other kind of immigrant. For some refugees, it takes up to two years in order to actually get to the United States, and they are investigated by the FBI, federal defense and homeland security agencies, and counter-terrorism databases.
During the entire debate, Donald, you kept telling lies like these to scare Americans.
You said we pay the highest taxes in the world, when — if you really "know more about taxes than anyone" like you claim — you would know that couldn't be farther from the truth. It's a lie so obvious it's amazing anyone believes it.
You said "many people saw the bombs" at the home of the San Bernardino shooters, and have continually accused Muslim neighbors of not reporting them. But nobody saw any bombs, just one neighbor who told one news station he noticed they received a lot of packages.
Perhaps most despicably, you claimed that your opponent defended a rapist and "laughed" at a 12-year-old victim for being raped. You totally ignored the fact that Clinton — at the time a lawyer who did everything she could to avoid taking the case — said with a laugh that she had lost all faith in a polygraph test when her client passed it.
You, Mr. Trump, have done everything you can to scare Americans. You have tried to convince us that our country is in ruins, when it isn't. You've tried to tell us that your opponent is the devil, when she isn't.
You've tried to convince us that the only person to fix this country is you, but you aren't.
You can follow Isaac Saul on Twitter @Ike_Saul
Cover photo: Flickr