MSNBC Laments Strong Economy as ‘Challenge’ for 2020 Dems

Just minutes after the April jobs report was released Friday morning, showing the unemployment rate dropping to its lowest point since 1969, MSNBC fretted that the booming economy would be a serious political “challenge” for Democrats in 2020. Anchor Chris Jansing went to work trying to take credit away from the Trump administration and downplaying the numbers.

“And breaking news, the April jobs report just released and wow, employers adding 263,000 jobs dropping the unemployment rate to the lowest in almost 50 years,” an initially impressed Jansing proclaimed at the top of the 9:00 a.m. ET hour. She then warned viewers: “Those numbers presenting a 2020 challenge for the Democrats as the President’s acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney reminded everybody this week once again, ‘It’s the economy, stupid.’”

 

 

Politico’s chief economic correspondent Ben White joined the program to analyze the report. While he acknowledged that “the economy is in pretty good shape,” he quickly tried to throw a wet blanket on the good news:

But let’s remember, on the unemployment rate going down to 3.6%, that happened largely because of a decline in the size of the labor force. So when we do these jobs numbers, we talk about good declines in unemployment and not-so-good declines in unemployment, this comes in the not-so-good category.

He then agreed with Jansing that the nation’s prosperity under Trump “presents a political challenge” to Democrats, whom he argued “are gonna have to make the argument for why they can make it better.”

Jansing was eager to come up with a communications strategy for Democrats:

Yeah, let’s talk about the argument they can make. Obviously they can say this is not something Donald Trump created. We’ve been seeing this as a steady, strong economy since, what, 2009? And if you’re one of these people who have had a job for a long time, wages are flat. They can definitely point to the income disparity, the money that’s being made is going to the upper 1% or less.

White chimed in: “Of course. And they will make that argument that this is not a very shared economy.” Moments later, he advised Democrats “to make some of an economic argument that, ‘Hey, Trump didn’t really do all this and his tax cuts mainly blew up the debt and deficit and we haven’t gotten the big business investment boom that they promised.’” Though he admitted “they can’t talk down the economy too much, because it’s not bad.”

Jansing fretted: “I think what makes a lot of Democrats I talk to really nervous is that exactly what Mick Mulvaney said, which is that people will vote for somebody they don’t like if they feel like the economy is strong, if they’re doing well.” White tried to reassure her: “...the economy is not so booming and awesome, and great that it overrides all of the negatives about Trump.”

Whenever there’s glowing economic news during a Democratic administration, the media are quick to celebrate. However, when a Republican is in the White House, journalists’ first thoughts go to how Democrats can put a negative spin on the good news.

Just last Friday, when another report revealed that the economy was surging with a GDP of 3.2%, the network evening newscasts couldn’t be bothered. NBC Nightly News gave the story 10 seconds, while the ABC and CBS broadcasts skipped it entirely.

Here is a full transcript of the May 3 segment:

9:01 AM ET

CHRIS JANSING: And breaking news, the April jobs report just released and wow, employers adding 263,000 jobs dropping the unemployment rate to the lowest in almost 50 years. Those numbers presenting a 2020 challenge for the Democrats as the President’s acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney reminded everybody this week once again, “It’s the economy, stupid.” Ben White is Politico’s chief economic correspondent. We’re going to get to the politics of this, but these numbers beat estimates, put into context for us, where is the economy right now?

BEN WHITE [POLITICO]: The economy is in pretty good shape. 263 is a very good number, better than analysts expected, which was 190,000. But let’s remember, on the unemployment rate going down to 3.6%, that happened largely because of a decline in the size of the labor force. So when we do these jobs numbers, we talk about good declines in unemployment and not-so-good declines in unemployment, this comes in the not-so-good category. But still, overall, strong report, we are at around 200,000, or a little more than 200,000 average per month on jobs. Wages doing pretty well, 3.2% year on year. So you’re right, it presents a political challenge. The economy is good, it’s not fantastic, but Democrats are gonna have to make the argument for why they can make it better.

JANSING: Yeah, let’s talk about the argument they can make. Obviously they can say this is not something Donald Trump created.

WHITE: Sure.

JANSING: We’ve been seeing this as a steady, strong economy since, what, 2009?  

WHITE: Yes.

JANSING: And if you’re one of these people who have had a job for a long time, wages are flat.

WHITE: Yeah.

JANSING: They can definitely point to the income disparity, the money that’s being made is going to the upper 1% or less.

WHITE: Of course. And they will make that argument that this is not a very shared economy. That those at the top have done extraordinarily well, those in the middle have not done well since the great recession ended. They’ve done okay, they’re wages are basically keeping up with inflation, but they’re not booming.

But I do think that Democrats need to do a couple of things. They need to make some of an economic argument that, “Hey, Trump didn’t really do all this and his tax cuts mainly blew up the debt and deficit and we haven’t gotten the big business investment boom that they promised.” But they can’t talk down the economy too much, because it’s not bad.

JANSING: Yeah.

WHITE: But they broadly need to make a values argument. And that’s why you see Biden making this argument that Trump does not represent who we are, the country that we are. That’s their strongest case, is the values argument against Trump, not necessarily the economic argument.

JANSING: Yeah, because I think what makes a lot of Democrats I talk to really nervous is that exactly what Mick Mulvaney said, which is that people will vote for somebody they don’t like if they feel like the economy is strong, if they’re doing well.

WHITE: Yeah, they won’t 100%, though. I talked to Mark Penn out at Milken, where Mulvaney was speaking, and he said, look, Trump has a 57-58% approval rating on the economy, but only 27% of the country actually like him. And so, you know, the economy is not so booming and awesome, and great that it overrides all of the negatives about Trump. So it’s not simply that people will say, “This economy is pretty good, I’m going to stick with Trump.” There are plenty who will be like, “This economy’s going to stay pretty good, it’s been about the same, I’d like to make a change from this president.”

JANSING: Ben White, always good to have you here.

WHITE: Good to be here.

JANSING: Thank you so much.

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