Detractor-in-Chief overstates economic progressJulianne Malveaux, Ph.D. / January 30, 2020
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Donald John Trump has been impeached, and to let him tell it, that isn’t bothering him, and we’d believe him if he hadn’t posted more than 130 tweets in just one day. But his persistent overuse of the word “hoax,” both to refer to impeachment and to anything else he doesn’t like (see: climate change), proves otherwise.
45 delivered remarks during a keynote speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland but then declined to participate in the scheduled question and answer session afterwards. During his speech, Trump behaved in character, providing his audience with “the big brag.” As usual, he had some trouble with the truth, complaining about the economy he inherited.
“America’s economy was in a rather dismal state,” he said. These comments clearly ignore the work that President Barack Obama did to pull us out of the Great Recession. Of course, to let 45 tell it, President Obama did nothing right. But as the unemployment rate fell during Obama’s tenure, 45 dismissed the progress, arguing that the statistics were wrong. Now that the unemployment rate is at a 50-year low, he is happy to quote the Bureau of Labor Statistics same data to tout the improvement he has supposedly made in the economy.
Atypically, 45 seemed to stick to his script during his speech, avoiding the adlibs and ad hominem attacks he often makes headlines for. Since he was booed after his post-speech Q&A at Davos in 2018, I suppose he was not eager to repeat the experience. Still, he was unable to stick to basic facts, exaggerating his successes and minimizing his failures.
Take the growth rate, for example. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, when President Obama left office in the last quarter of 2016, the U.S. had a growth rate of 3.5 percent. During the third quarter of 2019 (the latest data available), growth was not much higher at 3.8 percent.
Growth rates, however, fluctuate. While during some quarters 45 has presided over an economy growing at nearly six percent, he had also seen growth rates as low as 3.8 percent, and economists project the growth rate is slowing. In contrast, President Obama experienced growth rates, after the great recession ended, ranging from as low as three percent to higher than five percent. He also did so without the stimulus of a tax cut that favored the wealthy.
The Trump growth rates are both a result of ill- advised, deficit-expanding tax cuts, and an inherited record-breaking Obama-era expansion.
45 said he would expand manufacturing jobs. Really? In 2019 fewer than 46,000 manufacturing jobs were created, compared to 264,000 the previous year. The decrease in manufacturing jobs is likely due to his recently imposed tariffs.
So why was 45 boasting in Switzerland? Mostly because his impeachment trial started at the same time as the World Economic Forum. Too bad that strategy didn’t work. The news was focused on impeachment, all the time, while the World Economic Forum is getting far less attention. His upbeat and exaggerated claim of economic success was designed to deflect both from impeachment, and from his party’s shenanigans.
When 45 talks about the U.S. economy, he never talks about poverty or people at the bottom, largely because he does not much care about them. His administration frequently shows this disdain for the poor by implementing new rules targeting the disadvantaged. Thanks to a policy change on SNAP eligibility, 700,000 people will no longer be able to receive food stamps. Is this a necessary byproduct of economic growth? Further, the Department of Agriculture has taken us all the way to the Reagan days when ketchup was declared a vegetable. Now, many of the changes that First Lady Michelle Obama advocated for have been rolled back under this administration. Schools will be able to cut the amount of fruits and vegetables that students are served, increase allowable sodium content in foods and get away with offering burgers and pizza as full meals. This is a leap backward, especially when you consider that most of the children who consume school lunches are low and moderate income.
While world poverty is a challenge, 45 is hardly likely to even mention our domestic poverty to an audience full of world leaders. Thus, he was complimented for his “optimism” which is a far off idea and outright joke to many Americans who are hurting under this administration.
Deflection, deflection, deflection. 45 may have run away from impeachment in Davos, but he can’t hide from it. And while the Senate is likely to acquit 45 on the charges against him, the majority of the House of Representatives voted for impeachment. It is part of his legacy.
Julianne Malveaux is an author, economist and a former president of Bennett College. Her latest project Malveaux! On UDCTV is available on youtube.com. Visit: www.juliannemalveaux.com.