Thursday, June 21, 2018

What did Donald Trump do today?

He did a little positive visualization exercise in the middle of a Cabinet meeting.

When Trump assembles his cabinet officers, there is always a therapeutic element for him in the extravagant praise they have been told to offer for the cameras. Today, Trump joined in himself, offering this capsule summary of his administration's accomplishments so far:
Look, I’ve been given a very tough hand. Because I came up here, we had an economy that was going down. We had an Iran problem. We had a Middle East problem. Take a look at what was going on in the Middle East. It’s a lot better now. You’re a lot smoother right now than anything you heard over the last eight years.
Of course, Trump is entitled to his opinion about his own job performance, and by the usual standards of Trumpian self-aggrandizement, this is fairly weak stuff. But as the American Conservative noted, it's also hard to square with reality

For example, Trump claims to think that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that opened Iran's nuclear facilities to inspection was a "bad deal" because it might allow Iran to refine uranium in the future. As things stand, since Trump unilaterally withdrew from the framework, the United States is now in a position of levying sanctions against its own key military allies for legally doing business with Iran. Likewise, it's hard to guess what improvement Trump sees in Syria or the Israel/Palestine conflict on his watch.

But Trump's casual reference to the economy is especially telling. Presidents have relatively little direct control over the economy (by design), and what control they do have is slow-acting. Virtually every economic indicator, including jobs numbers--

The red bars on the right are the first year of the Trump administration

--and inflation--

Obama's average rate of inflation was 1.8%. The rate in 2017 was 2.1%. Both figures are low by historical standards.

--has continued along the trajectories of the seven-year-old recovery that Trump inherited. 

Trump's insistence that he deserves credit for the state of the economy comes as the Dow Jones Industrial Average sank further into negative returns (-1.1%) for the year on concerns over the potentially disastrous effects of Trump's attempts to start a trade war.

Who cares?

  • Past a certain point, positive self-esteem becomes pathological.