Over two days and two trade victories, President Donald Trump tried to turn the spotlight from impeachment to the economy.
Exaggerating the strong economy (and speaking in the third person) Trump this week sought to brand this the best economy in the history of the world.
In the Oval Office Thursday, he complained that the Senate’s passage of his re-worked North American Free Trade Agreement between Mexico, Canada and the United States, was not the top news story.
“Today we just had passed the USMCA. It’s going to take the place of NAFTA, which was a terrible deal. The USMCA will probably be second to this witch hunt hoax,” he said, with a map of the 2016 election results on the desk in front of him. “Think of it. The president of the US who has led the greatest growth, the greatest economically viable of any country anywhere in the world is the United States as big as it is. We’re doing better than any other country by far. Our unemployment rates are the best in over 50 years. African American, Asian, African American, Hispanic American unemployment best in the history of our country. I have to go through a hoax.”
A day earlier, before Wednesday’s signing of a Phase One trade deal with China, as impeachment gripped Capitol Hill, the president commanded the stage for nearly 40 minutes thanking the negotiators, business leaders and lawmakers in the room. (And TV host Lou Dobbs.)
He took credit for stock market records and, sounding more like a TV producer than a president, he applauded White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow for using his TV savvy to calm investors on a down day for the market.
“He was standing in the middle of the Rose Garden. He had a beautiful scarf waving in the wind. He was everything perfect, right out of Greenwich, Connecticut. He started talking, and by the time he finished, I said, you just made a trillion, because the market just went up 250 points,” he said.
With or without administration cheerleading, the stock market is at record highs. And jobless rates are at historic lows.
The economy is really good. But it’s no GOAT, or greatest of all time.
Economic growth is hovering around two percent — hardly the rocket-fueled growth Trump promised from tax cuts and deregulation. In fact, economic growth has been stronger many times before, including some quarters of the Obama recovery, in the Clinton years and certainly post World War II. And jobs growth in the first 34 months of the Trump economy lags the last 34 months of the Obama economy.
But the president owns this message, exaggerations and all.
Senator Michael Bennet, A Democrat from Colorado, outlined a counter-narrative to Wolf Blitzer.
“Barack Obama’s administration created more jobs than Donald Trump’s administration on average per month. If Donald Trump were creating jobs at the same rate Barack Obama were creating jobs, we’d have a million more jobs here in this country right now. And our farm bankruptcies have been up over 24%. Farm income is down 16%. The president has had to basically pay off farmers with $28 billion he borrowed from the Chinese to keep them afloat DURING THIS TRADE DEAL. Things are the not great for everybody in this economy.”
Still, the strong economy is central to the president’s re-election strategy. Two big questions. Can the president stay on that message? And can Democrats find an economy message of their own that resonates.