But the Economy…!

Trump thunbs up

I recently had a long(ish) discussion with an evangelical Trump supporter.  This person was not a fan of Trump’s brash style or his tweets, but he was planning on voting for him again in 2020 as long as the economy remained strong.

I have never been one to believe that a president alone is responsible for a good or a bad economy.  Would we have had this kind of economic growth if another president was in the oval office?  Perhaps.  Would the economy be even better if we were not in the midst of a Trump-induced trade war?  I have no idea.  But I asked my conversation partner the following questions:

  • Is a strong economy more important than the rule of law?
  • Is a strong economy more important than having a president who obstructs justice?
  • Is a strong economy more important than having a president who regularly lies to the American people?
  • Is a strong economy more important than a president who shows no racial sensitivity and claims a moral equivalence between white supremacists and those trying to oppose white supremacists?  (Good people on both sides)
  • Is a strong economy more important than a president who separates immigrant and refugee families at the Mexican-border?
  • Is a strong economy more important than a president who shows no interest in addressing climate change?
  • Is a strong economy more important than having a president who disparages women?
  • Is a strong economy more important than having a president who believes Vladimir Putin when he says he did not interfere with the 2016 election despite the fact that all his intelligent agencies tell him that Russia was involved in the lecture?

I could keep going.   Sadly, this conversation partner’s answer to almost all of these questions was “yes.”  Economic determinism is alive and well in Trump land.

34 thoughts on “But the Economy…!

  1. Sean,

    There is a political and journalistic bias to report on sensational global warming studies and furthermore to fund only further studies which hypothesize more global warming. But let’s put that aside for now. There is nothing wrong with reasonable efforts at conservation and scientific attention to cleaner fuels. Maybe some bright folks can make a mint on innovations. More power to them! Furthermore, the biggest problems are coming from China and India. Maybe the environmental types can organize a boycott of goods from those countries rather than continually haranguing U.S. voters.

    My big concern is the willingness of certain U.S. political voices to cede control of national climate policy to internationalist bureaucratic operators sitting in Paris, London, Rome, Geneva, Brussels, or wherever. Ultimately, the nefarious goal is an EU type of climate control board run by faceless bureaucrats who are not accountable to the public. Thankfully, Trump did not sign the Paris Climate Accord.
    James

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    • James, it’s clear that you have no interest in learning the facts about climate change, as it’s obvious you didn’t look at any of the sources I suggested and will not under any circumstances. Dismissing climate change as “journalistic bias” and “sensationalist,” and chalking the whole thing up to an evil plot by “faceless bureaucrats,” is simply lazy thinking on your part, and a deliberate choice to maintain ignorance about the single most important issue–economic, political and moral–of our times. It’s also totally detached from reality, but I guess that’s the point; you have no interest in living in the real world. I admit I don’t understand deliberate ignorance. I probably should not have commented in the first place, because arguing with deniers makes everybody stupider.

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      • Sean, You are not just arguing with deniers. you are addressing the denial for all to read. No sense in yielding the soapbox, which is often the aim of the denier.

        Thanks

        Liked by 1 person

        • Arguing with climate deniers is so weird. In my lifetime those of us arguing that “increasing the gasses regulating earth’s temperature will increase earth’s temperature” will ‘win’ the debate. So, very recently I have turned most of my thought away from how to ‘win the debate’ towards how to debate in a way that puts me in the best position to move forward after I’ve ‘won’. Perhaps it’s best to consider these debates as a way to grow fruit through which we can be identified as truthful ‘prophets’. Much like the children of South Park turned to Al Gore once they realized what he had said about ManBearPig was true (again, I want to bemoan the fact that South Park has done more to help me cope with climate change than my church has).
          But to that end I’ve grown some bitter fruit arguing with deniers, which was probably a mistake.

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          • “So, very recently I have turned most of my thought away from how to ‘win the debate’ towards how to debate in a way that puts me in the best position to move forward after I’ve ‘won’. ”

            Alex,

            This is a very thoughtful strategy. I have typically abandoned reasoning with fundamentalists and others who are disinterested in facts that challenge what they prefer to believe, but when I do get into it with my acquaintances, I have started to shift my thinking away fro “winning” the moment towards planting a seed of curiosity that may blossom in them at a latter date when they are not wrapped up in ego-driven public debate.

            Thanks for posting on this blog!

            Liked by 1 person

          • Alex, at least I get some comfort from knowing that climate deniers, like our friend James, would be horrified and enraged at what I do. I speak and teach on climate change and its history, often to kids, and I get paid for it. This is a double irritant to deniers: not only am I making money off the “hoax” of climate change, but I’m “indoctrinating” young minds and getting them engaged on an issue that will probably drive their votes for the rest of their lives. I’m actually out there doing something about climate change. The deniers are keyboard warriors who contribute nothing and have never lifted a finger or taken the slightest action to back up their convictions. They carp, complain, dismiss and quack their dumb talking points about “climate has changed before” or “it was cold this morning, so no global warming!” but fortunately they never actually *do* anything. For that I’m glad. We’ve got a generation of voters coming up now who are deeply engaged on climate change, and they’ll be in power for a very long time. I’m proud to be helping that process as much as I can.

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            • Sean,
              If your prediction is true, I need to start maximum use of my V-8 gas-drinking truck. There might be little time to enjoy it before it is banned by coercive utopians.

              James

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  2. I have always thought of Presidents as surfers and the economy is the wave coming to shore. If there is a good wave he rides it and looks good. If it’s a bad wave he looks bad.
    I am sure some of his policies effect the economy but the economy is bigger than the government, and impacted by things happening around the world. If a president truly knew exactly what buttons to push to “make” a constantly great economy he could have the system put into a computer program and it would be worth trillions of dollars.
    Trump was handed a much better economy than Obama was and should be thankful.

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    • Jeff,
      You are correct that economics is a very inexact “science.” Also President Obama inherited a very shaky economy so his economic advisors looked good when it did improve, albeit in selected spots. The problem is that his administration nearly doubled the debt.

      A generation or two ago, the GOP politicians had a reputation for being budget hawks. Now they are almost as addicted to spending as the DEMs are. I really wish that both parties would get together and seriously address our national spending crisis, but unfortunately budget demagoguery would likely kill the effort. We need for Trump, Schumer, and Pelosi to sit down and make an honest attempt to staunch the drunken-sailor spending to which both parties are addicted.

      James

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  3. Hello Paul,

    I am sure you are acquainted with the noted quote by George Bernard Shaw that “if all economists were laid end to end, they’d never reach a conclusion.” While I don’t know if you have an advanced degree in economics, Paul Krugman does. You might know that he predicted from his perch at The NY Times after the 2016 Presidential Election that a recession or worse would immediately hit after Trump’s election. Of course, it did not happen.

    Paul, I do not have an advanced degree in economics but have had two undergraduate courses and one graduate course———enough to know what stimulates the economy and what contracts the economy. Obviously, Trump’s tax cut was a stimulant as you said, but it did not result exclusively in stock buy-backs. Many companies returned bonuses, increased hours, and other favors to their employees. It is impossible to categorize all companies into one block.

    I will agree that tariffs can have a negative effect upon consumers and upon certain industries. Trump is gambling that his current tariff negotiations with China will be settled before serious retaliation and consumer price hikes occur. It is a reasonable gamble and we will all have to wait and see if it pays off for the American consumer and producer. If it does not, Trump might well suffer in the next election. I would like to think that most Americans hope these negotiations yield positive results——-not necessarily for Trump but for the country as a whole. At least we finally have a president who is putting American interests ahead of those of transnational corporations.

    In the meantime, I will read your predictions as well as those of Paul Krugman just to give myself a balanced intake.

    James

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    • Speaking of tariffs, Trump’s lie……I mean tweet today: “For 10 months, China has been paying Tariffs to the USA… These payments are partially responsible for our great economic results.”

      https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2019/05/05/trump-proposes-massive-increase-chinese-tariffs-tweet/1111952001/

      The problem with this is that China, except in a few instances, does not pay the US. Per Forbes:

      ”A tariff is a tax on imported goods. Despite what the president says, it is almost always paid directly by the importer (usually a domestic firm), and never by the exporting country. Thus, if the U.S. imposes a tariff on Chinese televisions, the duty is paid to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Service at the border by a U.S. broker representing a U.S. importer, say, Costco.”

      https://www.forbes.com/sites/howardgleckman/2018/09/25/what-is-a-tariff-and-who-pays-it/#72f3cba137be

      So, if it’s true that the income from the Tariff-Tax is “…partially responsible for our great economic results,” then it is because American consumers are directly funding, in part and via the artificially compounding of the actual cost of goods, America’s economic growth through Tariff-Tax payments to the Trump government.

      And, unlike the tax cut package that Trump and his Republican guard passed and that is largely played out to the benefit of corporations and the very well off, this Tariff-Tax, being paid into the Treasury by American consumers, keeps on ticking while the tax payers keep on taking a licking.

      The Wall Street Journal helpsclarifyt he cost to consumers:

      https://www.wsj.com/articles/consumers-bore-cost-for-u-s-tariffs-on-washing-machines-paper-finds-11555936276

      Oh yeah, Trump’s tweet included, “The 10% will go up to 25% on Friday. 325 Billions Dollars … of additional goods sent to us by China remain untaxed, but will be shortly, at a rate of 25%….”

      All I can say is that I’m glad that I bought my new washer and drier under the unprecedented long-term and steady growth of the Obama economy before Trump imposed his Tariff-Taxes. And, especially before the Tariff-Tax increases on Friday.

      As you say, time will tell (and Krugman’s observations in 2016 had no time limit since it would take some considerable effort and time to undo the solid work done under the Obama administration after our last financial meltdown).

      Happy Cinco de Mayo everybody.

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      • Jim in STL,

        You don’t have to sell me on opposition to tariffs. A framed photograph of Milton Friedman hangs in my den!

        Trump’s ultimate goal is not to increase treasury revenues through tariffs but rather to bring the Chinese and others to the bargaining table in current negotiations. All people of good will should hope this tactic will work.
        James

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  4. I’m not really sure it’s the economy that motivates the evangelical Trump supporter. I has a similar conversation with a member of my church. After running a similar laundry list of POTUS’ ethical problems (I mentioned his pre-election litigation/mechanics liens and bankruptcies because I’m a lawyer) and asked my fellow church member how they could vote for a double minded man. I heard all about Roe v. Wade.

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    • Because God’s Anointed in Trump Tower DC (formerly the White House) hath given us a Supreme Court that WILL Overturn Roe v Wade, Put Prayer Back in Schools, and Restore America to a Christian Nation. Yadda yadda yadda. So God WON’T Punish Us with Putin’s nuclear arsenal, yadda yadda yadda. (Only thing missing from God’s Agenda is getting rid of the Homosexuals, but two out of three is apparently enough. Even for Wondering Eagle’s regular SCRIPTURE-spouting Trump-fanatic troll.)

      Ever since Reagan, the GOP (“God’s Own Party”) has been stringing Christians and Pro-Lifers along with promises they WILL pack the Supreme Court with Christian justices who WILL overturn Roe v Wade. (And blaming the 30+ years of not achieving this on “If it weren’t for Those Pesky Democrats.”) I remember that as NRLC dogma back around 1988 and (with all-caps and exclamation points) American Life League SCRIPTURE during the whole Bork confirmation circus.

      Like LBJ signing the Civil Rights Act (and Nixon picking up the peed-off white backlash with his Southern Strategy in ’68), the GOP could have strung White Evangelicals along and had them voting stright-ticket Republican for the next hundred years — until Trump upset the applecart by actually DOING it. So now they give Trump praise and adoration in thanksgiving. And keep on giving.

      The USSR wasn’t the only country to make their political system into their State Religion.

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  5. Paul,

    GDP growth under Trump has far exceeded forecasts. If your supposition that it will slow before November, 2020, then It may well hurt The President’s re-election hopes. On the other hand, Larry Kudlow and many nonpartisan economists are not as pessimistic as you are. I heard a survey of NY money managers last week who spoke about the strong likelihood of a Trump re-election based on the economic numbers. They were not partisan Republicans either.

    Psychologically, this whole matter is very interesting. Now that the Mueller investigation has not given Democrats any substantive verbal ammunition against Trump, they are shifting their attacks to other things. Joe Biden was in Iowa last week stating that the national economics were not really doing too well. I realize the DEM politicians need to keep their base energized, but many prospering citizens would rather hear what new, creative, and innovative ideas the DEM presidential candidates bring to the table. Simply protesting that “up is down and black is white” is not going to work outside of the current DEM voter base.
    James

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    • I hate responding to people who opine on things they know nothing about, but the idea that growth far exceeded forecasts is flat-out wrong. Economists expect a tax cut to juice GDP. It did, but if anyone was wrong it was the administration.

      Trump and his cabinet have said we would get 4% growth, but it was 2.9% in 2018 and certainly will drop in coming years. That’s not to say the economy is bad — it isn’t and the forecast I deliver when I write and speak is generally optimistic. .

      GDP growth is a function of the number of workers and productivity. If Trump cared about GDP, he wouldn’t be kicking immigrants out, since they are a positive driver of growth. Productivity is still a mystery, but it hasn’t changed much in recent years.

      The tax cut did not spur much (if any) growth in business investment, nor did it boost wages as advertised. Most of the tax savings has been used to buy back stocks. But it is good for the bottom line of business. My industry (CRE) has benefitted tremendously in terms of the tax breaks. Corporations have been extremely profitable for this entire cycle, and the tax cut was another shot in the arm. But some industries have been harmed by tariffs.

      To Prof. Fea’s point, though, the president, any president, has only so much control over the economy.

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  6. Sean,
    You would have a debate proving that Hurricane Maria or any other recent hurricanes were caused by blobs warming. Severe hurricanes have been with us prior to the mass use of the internal combustion engine.
    Come to think of it, the Ice Age also ended prior to the automobile.

    James

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      • Sean,

        First of all, I am not sure what your definition of a “climate change denier” is. Does it include people who think that climate changes might well be a normal part of history and will occur regardless of man’s feeble efforts? Would it apply to people who notice in ten years that the world is getting colder yet deny that fact?

        Second, the link you furnished makes generalizations based on models and estimates. There is nothing concrete in the article which specifies which parts of the economy are being effected. Exactly which industries or government entities are paying more for these estimated changes?

        James

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        • James, a denier is someone who denies a proven fact because they can’t bear to face it, usually for ideological reasons. That the climate is getting warmer, and that it’s the result of burning of fossil fuels and other industrial processes, is proven fact. It is not controversial outside of the Fox News fantasy world. It’s been known about since 1896 and proven many times since then. There are numerous basic texts on this; I’d recommend starting with Spencer Heart’s 2008 book on the history of climate change.

          As for economic data, there’s a lot of it. I suggest you begin with Mercer Consulting’s 2015 report “Investing in a Time of Climate Change” which breaks down climate risks by economic sector. The report is freely available on the web. Also there’s a recent Bank of England report on the economic risks of climate change; numerous other insurance industry reports (with exhaustive documentation); the World Bank has done a lot of work on this; so has Lloyd’s of London and various securities industry groups. These reports are easy to find and I encourage you to read them, as the picture of economic risks associated with climate change are becoming ever more clear.

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  7. This is an area in which I have some expertise. I am in charge of US research at a big company and write and speak all over the country about the outlook for the economy and commercial real estate.

    It is true the economic numbers are good. But they were good before Trump took office — there is virtually no difference between the economy today and three years ago. GDP growth is a little higher, based on the stimulus from the tax cut, but employment growth, wage growth, inflation, the trends are pretty much unchanged.

    Looking at what Trump has done policy-wise, the tax cut as I said injected some stimulus, but in 2020 that will have worn off and produce a negative drag on GDP. The forces that shape wage growth are unchanged. Regulatory reform is the other major change, but the impact of that won’t be seen for years, good or bad,

    What’s most interesting is that Trump argued pre-election that the economy was bad and as soon as he took office wants credit for the economy being great, even though there has been little change.

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  8. John,

    I think I can safely say that Trump is not going to get your vote no matter what he does. Recent political history in America, however, shows that economic factors are generally the strongest determinant in the re-election of a sitting president. Accordingly, barring a significant economic setback in the next eighteen months, the likelihood of “four more years” is reasonable.

    I would think you would be appreciative of the fact that lower income wages are rising and that employers are being forced to offer more to unskilled Americans who were written off by the previous administration.
    James

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    • Anyone concerned about the health of the economy should have climate change as their number one issue, since it is climate change that represents the single biggest threat to economic institutions at all levels. Given the billions we are already losing from climate-related losses (like Hurricane Maria, which Trump refused to do anything about), reelecting a climate denier to the presidency is the worst move for the economy that voters could possibly make.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You mean (as I’ve been lectured to too many times) The Global Warming HOAX? The Global Warming SCAM?

        And don’t forget: To 80% of Born-Agains, “In the beginning was the Trump. And the Trump was with God. And the Trump WAS God. And the Trump Became flesh and dwells among us.”

        Thing is, when Global Warming/Climate Change first surfaced, Kyle’s Moms and similar activists glommed onto it as their Righteous Cause for Virtue-Signalling and in doing so their excesses discredited their own cause. And we’re now (as my first paragraph above) seeing the pushback.

        And while our One True Ways bicker over the Iron Throne, the White Walkers sweep down from the north.

        Liked by 1 person

    • “…unskilled Americans who were written off by the previous administration.

      I assume that you are referring to the previous administration under which the firm foundation of this long-growing, current economy was built? I hear that it’s best to build on a rock than sand. That being said, the president does not magically build or preserve an economy and, outside of the tax package that was recently passed that offered some temporary stimulus, there have been no real moves under the current administration to stack the deck for the unskilled Americans who aren’t really seeing a real-world net gain.

      Ultimately, the GOP ideal of trickle-down economics is not designed to elevate the unskilled worker but to keep them healthy enough and alive long enough to be productive workers, no matter how many jobs they may need to collect enough trickle to survive.

      Like

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