On Tuesday morning's MSNBC Live, journalist and author Louise Mensch put forth what I suspect will be the left's core economic argument if the economy improves under Donald Trump.
That argument: The economy is "fantastic" already, and Trump will have had nothing to do with whatever economic improvements over what is already "fantastic" we might see.
Mensch, incredibly — oops, I forgot, it's MSNBC, so anything, no matter how loony, is possible — got appreciative nods of agreement from the other two participants:
Transcript (bolds are mine throughout this post):
STEPHANIE RUHLE: “All right. Louise, let’s look at the markets. The markets have continued to thrive, much on President Trump’s promises. Tax reform will bring back jobs, he’s going to bring jobs to cities, to rural communities.
If he does that, if he brings jobs back and people have money in their pockets — and when you have money you often have a sense of pride and a positive outlook — could this move the needle for him?
Because yes, he’s said ridiculous things. It’s why so few influencers are willing to speak on his behalf. But put aside what he says, what if he does things?
LOUISE MENSCH: Well, so far he’s done precisely nothing, and the one thing —
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RUHLE: It’s only been four weeks.
MENSCH: Indeed. But the one thing I love about the American economy is that it ticks on right along, whoever is the president.
Look, I’m a conservative and I cannot deny the economy did fantastically well under President Obama, and it just continues to do fantastically well under President Trump. What if the American people are just getting on with the job, whoever is in the White House? There’s an economic theory for you.
There should have been uproarious laughter at the idea that what has been in fact the worst post-recession recovery since World War II was "fantastic." This truth is so obvious and irrefutable that the "worst post-recession recovery" link above is to a CNN website.
One could provide a blizzard of charts show Mensch how "precisely" wrong she is about the economy during the Obama era. Really, we only need two, and Nicholas N. Eberstadt at Commentary provided them on February 15, as he explained how people inside what he calls "the bubble" can be so clueless (links are in original; italics are his):
... the 2016 election was a sort of shock therapy for Americans living within what Charles Murray famously termed “the bubble” (the protective barrier of prosperity and self-selected associations that increasingly shield our best and brightest from contact with the rest of their society). The very fact of Trump’s election served as a truth broadcast about a reality that could no longer be denied: Things out there in America are a whole lot different from what you thought.
... Consider the condition of the American economy. In some circles people still widely believe, as one recent New York Times business-section article cluelessly insisted before the inauguration, that “Mr. Trump will inherit an economy that is fundamentally solid.” But this is patent nonsense. By now it should be painfully obvious that the U.S. economy has been in the grip of deep dysfunction since the dawn of the new century. And in retrospect, it should also be apparent that America’s strange new economic maladies were almost perfectly designed to set the stage for a populist storm.
... We are witnessing an ominous and growing divergence between three trends that should ordinarily move in tandem: wealth, output, and employment. Depending upon which of these three indicators you choose, America looks to be heading up, down, or more or less nowhere.
From the standpoint of wealth creation, the 21st century is off to a roaring start. ...
... A rather less cheering picture, though, emerges if we look instead at real trends for the macro-economy. Here, performance since the start of the century might charitably be described as mediocre, and prospects today are no better than guarded.
... the American economy looks to have suffered something close to a lost decade.
... Then there is the employment situation. If 21st-century America’s GDP trends have been disappointing, labor-force trends have been utterly dismal. Work rates have fallen off a cliff since the year 2000 and are at their lowest levels in decades. ... Between early 2000 and late 2016, America’s overall work rate for Americans age 20 and older underwent a drastic decline. It plunged by almost 5 percentage points (from 64.6 to 59.7). Unless you are a labor economist, you may not appreciate just how severe a falloff in employment such numbers attest to. Postwar America never experienced anything comparable.
... the U.S. job market has as yet, in early 2017, scarcely begun to claw its way back up to the work rates of 2007—much less back to the work rates from early 2000.
In terms of Mensch, one of two things could explain her statement:
- She genuinely believes that the economy under Obama was fantastic, in which case she is generalizing to the entire economy the favorable things which have happened inside her portion of "the bubble." In that case she has somehow managed to avoid looking at the hard data which shows how truly tough the historically weak economy of the past 7-1/2 years has been on the rest of the country.
- She doesn't believe a word of what she's saying, but feels duty-bound to deny the Trump administration any credit for anything. Building up the "fantastic" economy of the previous administration is one way to do that.
Two things point to the likelihood that we should pick option.
The first is her claim that Trump has "done precisely nothing. Take your pick: Jobs saved at Carrier; jobs saved at Ford; several unsolicited significant job-related announcements by other companies citing an improved environment for doing business due to Trump's election; taxpayer money saved on aircraft bought from Boeing; repeal of Obama's last-minute job-killing regulations affecting the coal industry; and certainly others.
Any one of these lifts Trump's accomplishments above "precisely nothing," in contrast to Obama's administration, where "accomplishment" was and will, when the history is written, be measured by how much his policies held back the economy and made so many people's lives miserable, as seen above in the horrible results depicted in the charts above.
Mensch's only point worthing crediting was that most of the American people toughed out the Obama years, kept working hard, and kept pursuing their dreams. In many other countries we could name on this earth, eight years of Obama-like policies would have broken people's spirits.
The second reason I believe Mensch knows better about the economy and refuses to admit it is her expressed belief — not included in the above video excerpt because it's so offensive and such an obvious steaming pile of horse manure — is that Trump and his people continue to send "dog whistles" to racist voters that he's really with them.
It's laughable to claim that Obama's economy was "fantastic." It's beyond that to obsess over Trump's alleged "racism," when the people close to him consistently tell a completely different story. The one which follows was recorded in May of last year:
But considering that the left's alternative is to give Donald Trump any credit whatsoever if the listless, lackluster economy he inherits from Barack Obama improves, it's a safe prediction that we will see a high volume of additional such insults of both types in the months and years ahead.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.