Trump inherited a robust economy. Then he butchered it | Editorial

Posted Sep 09, 2020

President Trump’s favorite fib, according to those tasked with counting them, is the one about how he had built the greatest economy of all time (pre-pandemic) after he had inherited a “disaster” from his predecessor.

He has repeated some variation of this more than 350 times since taking office, and we’re likely to hear it more often as we get closer to election day, because it is hard for Trump to run on any of his other notable successes, whatever they are.

But he and his acolytes routinely leave out the whole truth — which is that he inherited a robust economy, he didn’t rescue it.

They also invariably fail to note the new buzz phrase (“the best is yet to come”) is another canard, given that the president’s lack of a COVID strategy contributed to a historic economic crash, with more outbreaks and more executive inaction threatening to derail the creeping recovery currently in progress.

But let’s start with Trump’s revisionist history, viewed through the lens of his own Bureau of Labor Statistics:

The GDP, the greatest indicator of a country’s economic vitality, grew 2.4% during President Obama’s second term. It was roughly the same under Trump (2.5%) before the pandemic hit.

Job creation: There were 215,000 new jobs created per month under Obama. Under Trump, 182,000 jobs were created per month through the end of 2019.

Obama, who entered office during the Great Recession of 2008, dropped the unemployment rate from 8% to 4.7% in his second term. And it continued to fall under Trump through December, to 3.5 percent.

Other indicators — middle-class income, Black unemployment rate, the Dow, etc. — all were trending positively by the time Obama left office, some sharply.

Since then, of course, Trump’s narrative has been turned on its head.

He has not turned a disaster into success, he has turned economic expansion — the longest in U.S. history, thanks in part to his predecessor — into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, which has no end in sight.

Only half the 22 million jobs that vanished during the first three months of the pandemic have been recovered.

One-third of Americans missed rent or mortgage payments entering August, with 20% owing at least $1,000.

Economists warn that an eviction avalanche is forthcoming.

And with extra unemployment benefits expiring at the end of July, 54 million Americans are now food insecure, a one-third increase since last year.

Meanwhile, Trump is trying to strike down the Affordable Care Act, with no plan to replace it, which means 30 million Americans would lose their health insurance in the middle of a global pandemic; his latest budget included cuts to Medicare; and his payroll tax deferral would deplete Social Security by 2023.

Trump says little about the mounting hardship, and four months after the Democratic-led House passed another relief package, the Senate has recessed without taking action and the president declares the bill DOA.

It is hard to know whether the president truly believes that “the recovery has been very strong,” as he said last month. It was the same day that the Commerce Department reported the US economy contracted between April and June at the fastest pace in nearly three-quarters of a century, or as long as economists have been keeping track. It wiped out five years of economic growth.

Indeed, the current economic meltdown is entirely a Trump production, on two levels. His refusal to deal responsibly with the virus allowed it to run roughshod over the land, and his indifference to the suffering has created a national reluctance to reopen on his preferred timetable.

The economy is one victim. His re-election, if there is any justice, will be another.

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