The economic news is not good
By Scott Sumner
Ramesh Ponnuru has a characteristically excellent piece on recent controversies within the Trump Administration. But I’d quibble slightly with this observation:
There was also an opportunity cost to Scaramucci’s remarks. Trump administration officials sometimes complain that all the good news about their work, from decent economic numbers to legislation to reform of veterans’ health care, is getting lost. Those stories aren’t going to get more attention when the communications director chooses to dish about his co-workers rather than discuss them.
Whether the economic numbers are “decent” is obviously in the eye of the beholder. But there is one point that should be completely beyond dispute; the economic numbers are no better than under President Obama:
1. Real GDP growth was 1.9% in the first half of 2017.
2. Job growth has been averaging 172,600/month since Trump took office in January.
3. Stocks have done well since the election.
Note that these are the indicators most often cited by people who claim the economy is doing well, and yet all three data points are similar to or slightly worse than what occurred under the final 7 years of President Obama. And the Obama record was almost universally described as “terrible” by Republicans, including Donald Trump. (Of course Obama’s first year was poor, but he can plausibly claim to have inherited a mess.)
Now it’s debatable as to whether the Obama economy was actually “terrible” (I’d give it a C-), but you can’t have it both ways. If Republicans are going to insist that the economy was terrible under President Obama, then they should make the same claim for the current economy—recent data is no different from what we saw under Obama.
And yet I see one GOP pundit after another go on TV and insist that the economy is doing well under Trump. What is the basis for that claim?