Celebrating the Trump Economy

Trump supporting friends argue that the impeachment investigation is a rush to judgment without due process.  It ignores the greater crimes of the Bidens, not to mention Hillary, which they do not fail to mention.  It’s followed by tepid dislike of his character flaws, which, they claim, are no worse than those of other politicians and business leaders.  They can be overlooked in view of how he has strengthened the country’s defenses, and restored its respect after years of being mocked by other world leaders thanks to the weaknesses of Bush and Obama.  Their parade is not dampened when dumped on by tomes of facts.  They have their own facts, generated by dozens of propaganda machines, they throw down with the accusation that, in their narrow mindedness, the radical left (anyone not in agreement with them) refuses to consider them.  

There comes a point when even they become aware, however vaguely, that they’ve constructed a cardboard shack offering neither shelter nor safety.  It’s when they pull out one last argument: the economy.  The economy that had been struggling to gain traction has thrived under Trump.  Just look at the low unemployment rate and surging stock market.  What more could one want?

So I’ve been looking.  I think we can all celebrate the low unemployment rate, and the resilience of an economy that has been in slow, steady expansion since 2008.  The Great Recession of 2007-08 was frightening, but bipartisan legislation, the administration’s steady hand, and the hard work of a fully independent Federal Reserve, set the country on a path of recovery lasting until now.  It would help if wage growth at the lower end would pick up, but the overall economy is doing well.  Yay.

Has Trump contributed anything to our fundamentally healthy economy?  Yes he has, but not the easy to get 4% GDP growth rate, new steel mills that never materialized, heavy industry jobs he promised, booming export market, return of off shore production, coal mining, nor any of another dozen things he promised.  So what has he contributed?

We can start with a tax cut for the wealthy and large corporations that cost the federal government nearly $30 billion in tax revenues.  Small government types love the idea of starving the government of revenue, but it didn’t cut spending, just added to the deficit.  Tax revenues are almost back to where they were at the end of the previous administration, which is not bad news, but neither is it good news.   
Partly because of the tax cut, and partly because of “easy to win” trade wars, federal debt has continued to climb into danger territory well above the 100% of GDP range accepted by most economists.  Previous large debt increases paid for wars or recovery from recession, not good things to be sure, but at least not tax cuts for the wealthy and blundering trade wars.

The deficit, which had been shrinking under the previous administration, is now roaring toward the trillion dollar mark, which is an unfathomably high number, but not unmanageable over the short run.  Sadly, the current administration has not shown much interest in managing it. 

Industrial production, which had been on an upward swing, is now staggering to maintain its current level.  The best one can say about U.S. exports is that they were trending up until the tariff jousting; now they’re trending down.  A necessary price, Trump says, that will pay dividends in the future.  In the meantime, he’s single handedly demolished international trust in the United States as a dependable trading partner or military ally.  Whatever future Trump envisions is not on anyone else’s radar screen.  

So, yes, Trump has contributed quite a bit to our strong economy, little of it good, most of it in the form of economic junk food.  

Oh, lest we forget the surging stock market, if one evens out its wild gyrations, it nearly flat.

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