Monday, February 17, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He got triggered by a pretty obvious fact about the economy.

Eleven years ago today, then-President Obama signed the American Reconstruction and Recovery Act—a fact that Obama noted in a tweet.

Trump responded angrily within hours. In the mini-tweetstorm that followed, he threw a lot of claims around that are arguably true but not really relevant—certain taxes being lower, the fed rate being higher—and at quite a few are basically lies where the truth makes him look bad. 

For example, it's a lie that Trump's administration has seen the "best jobs numbers." In reality, the American economy added the smallest number of new jobs last year than in any year since the recovery from the 2007-2008 recession began under President Obama. Job growth has slowed overall since Trump took office, in spite of his 2017 tax cuts flooding corporations and wealthy Americans with money, which mostly got used for stock buybacks.

Ironically, Trump could have had half a point in calling Obama's claim a "con job." Most economists believe presidents have very little direct control over the economy—unless, of course, they do something to dramatically negatively affect things, like starting a trade war. But to call Obama out for boasting about something he had relatively little control over would mean Trump couldn't boast about taking over for Obama's economy.

In virtually every measurable respect, where Trump hasn't directly damaged the economy—such as with a flood of farm bankruptcies and a recession in the manufacturing sector—Trump is simply being carried along by the same currents that Obama was. 

Unemployment rate, 2007-present
Dow Jones Industrial Average, 2008-present

There's nothing wrong with that, although for purely psychological reasons it may be impossible for Trump to acknowledge or even understand. 

Why should I care about this?

  • It's wrong to take credit for things you didn't do.
  • The American economy is way too important for a president to be confused or in denial about.