Monday, January 21, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He took credit (again) for an economic indicator he didn't have much to do with.

As evidence that he is "winning" the trade war he started with China last year, Trump cited new GDP numbers from China. Their growth rate slowed in 2018 to 6.6%. (By comparison, the U.S. rate was 3.4%, and the world average was 3.7%.)

Trump said that the slowing of China's economy was "due to U.S. trade tensions and new policies." That's not completely ridiculous—China, like the United States, is feeling the effect of increased taxes on its imports, because there are never any "winners" in trade wars. But China's economy has been steadily contracting for many years now, as it completes its transition to a modern industrialized nation. 

Source: International Monetary Fund

As a general rule, only very underdeveloped economies can grow at rates much higher than 6%. China's slowing growth is a reflection of the fact that its economy is now too big to grow exponentially.

Trump has a long history of taking credit for decades-long economic trends he inherited, and in some cases may even believe that he deserves it. 

Also today, Ivanka Trump's private company, which she continues to profit from while she holds a job in her father's administration, received five more lucrative trademarks from the Chinese government.

Why should I care about this?

  • It's wrong to take credit for things you didn't do.
  • Basic economic literacy is a requirement for the job of president.
  • Presidents aren't supposed to allow even the appearance that their families might be profiting from their actions, much less allow it to happen in reality.