Friday, October 13, 2017

What did Donald Trump do today?

He told some fibs with charts and numbers.

Trump frequently seems to take actions solely because they can undo things President Obama did, or allow Trump to take credit for doing them. This was the case with the top-line news events of the day, the abandonment of the CSR payments that make health insurance affordable for lower and middle-class families (which fulfills Trump's prophecy that insurance prices will rise) or his intention to decertify Iran's compliance with the six-party nuclear agreement (which allows him to claim it was a "bad deal.")

But Trump's occasionally desperate attempts to outshine Obama or take credit for his accomplishments manifests itself in subtler ways, too--among them, his selective publicity around economic indicators. Today, he tweeted this chart showing an uptick in consumer confidence:

A more accurate look at the trend, going back to the start of the 2007-2008 recession, looks like this:

In fact, because President Obama took office at the bottom of that recession, most economic charts for this period show that same basic trend. This is the five-year trend in the S&P 500 stock market:

And this is the claim Trump recently retweeted regarding the last eleven months (including three during Obama's term).

Telling falsehoods with true numbers is not entirely unique to the Trump presidency, but the frequency of it--which includes lies of omission in what data is concealed, or different metrics depending on whether Trump is president--is in a class by itself.

So what?

  • It's bad if presidents try to mislead the American public.