As the economic indicators have started to show the possibility of a recession coming in the next 12 to 18 months, I’ve been thinking I need to write a post about the Trump economy. No matter what happens with the economy, I figure Trump is going to keep his base. But for reelection, he needs more than his base. His approval numbers have been low his entire presidency. Mostly low 40s, although creeping up into the middle 40s. I often wonder how much of that number is the true die hard base who will vote for him no matter what he does and how much are people who are voting for him based on the fact that they think the economy is going well. So, from a numbers standpoint, if we do head into recession, it’ll be interesting to see if we can figure out what the floor is on his approval.
I liked this article’s premise. The title is Republicans sabotaged Obama’s Economy and Assume Democrats are doing it to Them. If I google the idea of “rooting for recession,” a who’s who of right-wing sites with posts about Democrats or the media rooting for a recession pops up. There are also a smattering of articles out there from the left telling us that we shouldn’t root for a recession. And the idea is sound. Don’t be like Republicans, who hated Obama so much that they tried not to help the country recover from the Great Recession just so they could defeat him in 2012. And you can make a good argument that the recovery we eventually got took longer and has not been as full as it could have been. If you believe in the fact of the business cycle – boom/bust – then the idea should be for stimulus during a down cycle (recession) and then ease off on the stimulus and pay attention to other things during the recovery. The Republicans, though, have it backwards. During the Great Recession they fought against stimulus and said we needed to worry about deficits. Now that we’ve been in recovery (and with a Republican President of course), they passed additional stimulus, in the form of a tax cut for the rich.
Still, I want to address the idea of “rooting for a recession.” First, just as a baseline premise, I don’t think the fact that I am rooting for a recession is going to affect the fact of whether we have a recession. Even if a large number of ideologically motivated liberals and Democrats were to root for a recession, it’s unlikely that’s the thing that could end up bringing about the recession. Talk to me when the Republican controlled Senate and the White House settle on a plan to help the country avoid a recession or come out of a recession. If they’re even going to admit that the economy isn’t going gangbusters. Which is it Donald? Is the economy great or do we need a payroll tax cut for stimulus? Then if the Democrats in the House try to torpedo that plan for partisan gain, maybe there’s something there. I’d probably join in one some criticism of Pelosi and company then, although I’d also realize that would just mean that the Democrats are on the same exact level as the Republicans from the Obama era. Not better, but also not worse. But since Dems are the party of trying to make government work, I seriously doubt it would come to that. But, if they go down that path, feel free to call me out on it.
In the first couple of years of the Trump presidency, conservative Facebook friends would crow about the stock market or low unemployment or any other positive economic indicators they could find. I would occasionally be pushed to acknowledge how great the economy is doing. I would always decline. And that points out the disconnect between Republicans and Democrats in this sort of discussion. The economy is not doing well. Yeah, duh, the whole post has been about a looming recession. But I say the economy has not been doing well for a while. I reject the idea that we gauge how well the economy of the country is doing based on the stock market, unemployment numbers or interest rates. The stock market is a place that matters to the rich and, to a certain extent, the upper middle class. I have a 401k, so I’m marginally interested in the stock market. My mother and mother-in-law rely solely on Social Security. How does the stock market affect them? Even less. I’d rather see an economy that worried more about people on Social Security or Medicare or food stamps, than on how Trump and his buddies’ stock portfolios are doing.
Or yeah, unemployment is low, but what kind of jobs are we talking about? Good union jobs? High tech, green energy jobs? Are we worrying about how to transition the people in coal country to a different type of economy? Or are we doing everything we can not to have to raise the minimum wage? On this count, the economy is not doing well and hasn’t been for a long time.
And how about interest rates? The Fed sets them based on this idea that we must, must, must keep inflation in check. Well, inflation has been below the benchmark for a long time with no sign of it getting out of control. Why isn’t the guiding purpose full employment instead of inflation? Well, while hyperinflation would be bad for the average person, the difference between 1.5% and 3% inflation matters most to the people who are sitting on massive amounts of money. For the average person, I think, a focus on keeping unemployment low is more important than worrying about devaluation of rich white guys’ fortunes. An economy being run this way is not a good economy to me.
So, when we talk about rooting for a recession and the Republicans have a hard time understanding, other than partisan reasons, why someone on the Left won’t acknowledge how great the economy is and that we have to save it as is. Give us more tax cuts for the rich! Well, remember, it may not actually be because we’re just sticking with our tribe and rooting for a terrible economy so that Elizabeth Warren can win next November. It’s very simply because we don’t think the economy is going well.