Opinion: Donald Trump Deserves Zero Credit For The Strong Economy

Donald Trump remains a very unpopular president, but the new conventional wisdom in the pundit class – and, of course, in MAGA Land – is that the strong economy could give him a boost heading into the 2018 midterms and 2020 presidential campaign.

In a White House video published last week to Trump’s Twitter feed, the president declared: “We have accomplished an economic turnaround of HISTORIC proportions!”

Wait, what?

First of all, the very definition of “turnaround,” according to the Oxford Dictionary, is “an abrupt or unexpected change, especially one that results in a more favorable situation.”

Here’s a reality check for the president and his loyal minority of supporters who are suddenly touting the same economic indicators they trashed when former President Obama was in the White House: The economy was in pretty good shape before Trump and his clown show arrived in D.C.

In fact, the only change that’s been abrupt is the president’s tone and his supporters’ suddenly-rosy view of an economy they spent years trashing, even as President Obama saw month after month of consecutive job growth.

Trump keeps acting like “his” economy is unprecedented. It’s not.

As MSNBC’s Steve Benen wrote last week, “If Trump sees himself as some kind of miracle worker on the economy, he must see Obama as some kind of once-in-a-lifetime wizard.”

As Benen pointed out, more jobs were created in the 17 months before Trump took office (3.54 million) than in the 17 months following his swearing in (3.22 million). Both numbers are solid, yes, but Obama’s is higher.

Over the year and a half that Trump has been in office, average monthly job gains have been lower than Obama’s final year and a half.

“I will be the greatest jobs producer that God ever created,” Trump said during the campaign. As president, while employment gains have continued, he has fallen short of that promise.

The same applies to the new Trump boast about “amazing” 4.1 percent GDP growth in the second quarter of 2018. Yes, that’s a good number and all Americans should cheer economic growth, but it’s not unprecedented.

As Jason Easley wrote, “Obama had GDP growth higher than the one Trump is celebrating on four separate occasions.”

Do facts matter anymore?

I’m not trying to talk down a strong economy, but facts still matter even if the president and his supporters don’t think they do.

Right now, Trump is pretending the economic strength he inherited is something he alone built. It’s not. The turnaround began well before he signed a single piece of legislation or executive order. It happened even before he took the infamous ride down his tacky escalator to announce his candidacy for president.

Not only that, but Trump’s actions since taking office cutting taxes for the wealthy, spurring an international trade war and cutting regulations are the very same ingredients that led to the economic collapse that President Obama spent years cleaning up.

In other words, while Trump takes credit for an economy salvaged and rebuilt by his predecessor, he is implementing policies that will undo all of it.

When the U.S. economy goes south as a consequence, Trump is free to slap his name all over it. At that point, at least he’ll have earned it.