Readers Write: Trump fritters away our economic momentum

Readers Write: Trump fritters away our economic momentum
Chart: Customs Duties Paid by Taxpayers, 2009 to April 2019

It’s hardly a revelation that partisan politics makes people blind to reality, but perhaps nowhere is this more true than with the economy.

It should be beginning to dawn on even the most ardent Trump supporters that the economy is performing no better than it was before the election, and that is despite some draconian, if not destructive, policy decisions.

As an example, job creation is down by 15 percent since Mr. Trump took the oath. In the last 31 months of Obama’s presidency, on average, 221,000 jobs a month were created. In Trump’s first 31 months, that number is down to 189,000.

Wild promises of 5 to 6 percent GDP are as much a fantasy today as they were when these predictions were made, and even so, with mid to large cities responsible for 70 percent of our GDP, stronger numbers wouldn’t help the mythic “heartland” anyway.

That’s one reason why GDP isn’t a good way to measure performance: it doesn’t take distribution into account. Nevertheless, there isn’t much to boast about.

Another trope popularized by right wing media outlets during the Obama era was about the “92 million people out of the workforce,” a statistic quoted to delegitimize the economic progress being made at that time.

Unfortunately, over half of those people are retired, and another third are attending school. Thanks to the aging of the population, there are now even more people out of the workforce today, at 96 million people. Yet, there seems to be radio silence from the former critics on this data point.

People railed at Obama for “doubling the debt” to $20 trillion, even though it was nothing he did.

Revenues had tanked so badly during the financial crisis, it would take the repeal of the Bush tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003 to even begin shrinking it.

Once again, the same people who were shrieking at the debt level the loudest then, now seem unperturbed by it rocketing up at even a faster clip, due to an even more reckless tax policy than George Jr. got through.

While we’re on that subject, the tax cuts haven’t delivered the economic miracles we were promised, and there’s a good reason for that: tax cuts don’t drive economic performance, but the old Reagan myth won’t die.

At $1.5 trillion, the cut is double the size of the stimulus that was enacted in the face of the worst economic crisis since 1929, but it hasn’t propelled the economy to greater levels of prosperity.

Unless of course, you were one of the very few who benefited the most from the cuts. Those are the same people who never needed a tax cut in the first place. So the excess was funneled into buying already inflated assets instead of giving it to people who would use the money to actually consume. That was a self-inflicted wound.

Speaking of self inflicted, thanks to tariffs, along with a belligerent and unpredictable trade policy, three sectors of the economy are now technically in recession: manufacturing, farming and shipping.

The tariffs, which are nothing more than taxes, are being used to bail out farmers who lost their export markets, which would be too socialist an act even for Bernie Sanders. The $28 billion redistributed exceeds the cost of the auto bailout. At least with that one, jobs were preserved, and the taxpayer got their money back. These funds will never be seen again, and it’s all money down the drain.

Yet, the obvious won’t be apparent to the tribe.

Of course, we’re all afflicted with some measure of bias, but I hope this lays to rest that the idea of a “businessman” running the country, and a failed one at that, is better than someone with a measured knowledge of statecraft, economics, trade, and policy. Governing is as different from business as science is to religion, and it’s time people respected both spheres of knowledge as two completely opposed disciplines.

Donald Davret


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