On Christmas Day, Donald Trump touted his sheer awesomeness and how great he's made the world just by being him.
To say that this is a new level of hubris would be an understatement. It's going to be even more astonishing when Trump takes credit for the low unemployment rate in a few months and starts rewriting history about how terrible the economy was. If you'll recall, during the Republican convention, Trump and the GOP invented an alternate America in which unemployment was out of control, the economy was on the brink of collapse and we were all doomed.
That none of this was was even slightly true was irrelevant. The American right-wing has existed in the same alternate reality for years. The "liberal" press, once upon a time the guardian of reality, was having too much fun raking in advertising dollars to push back in any meaningful way. Besides, reporting about how well the economy is doing is boring and terrible for ratings. This is why the majority of Americans think the deficit has gone up instead of dropping precipitously under Obama so there's every reason to suspect this mythology-building will persist.
But there's a problem with Trump taking responsibility for the Obama's rather healthy economy already: It ain't gonna last. The Washington Post's Catherine Rampell explains.
With so many economic metrics already so strong, there’s likely only one direction the economy can head in the medium term: down.
Recent Federal Reserve forecasts suggest that we’ve already reached close to full employment, that inflation will soon pick up and that output growth will continue to slog along at our new normal of about 2 percent.
More troubling, since Trump doesn't actually understand anything about the economy and is surrounding himself with rabid ideologues, his mishmash of "policies" will almost certainly cause an unnaturally severe recession. For example, the planned huge tax cuts to the rich will explode the deficit, "forcing" Trump to slash the very programs (SNAP, Medicaid, unemployment benefits) his less affluent followers rely on. But fiscal austerity is a proven failure on every conceivable level, inevitably leading to a recession. And then it gets worse.
Trump is currently proposing a trillion dollar infrastructure binge when he takes office. Republicans, who have been blocking infrastructure spending to hurt the economy (no, seriously), will most likely give their new (illegitimate) leader much of what he wants. The problem is that wasting a stimulus package on an already healthy economy means you won't have it available when the economy actually needs it.
Rampell is guessing that Trump will A. Find a scapegoat and B. Declare the official numbers wrong and/or possibly do what Republicans have accused Obama of doing for years: Cooking the books.
But there's a fourth option that Rampell apparently isn't pessimistic enough to consider. Just like Putin, Trump could start a war as a distraction. A loud and splashy ground war somewhere in the Middle East or Southeast Asia (as a proxy in the upcoming Cold War with China) would drag the public's (and media's) focus away from a faltering economy and keep it riveted on pretty explosions. Toxic patriotism will (once again) have a chilling effect on anyone questioning the president "during a time of war," taking the pressure off of Trump and the GOP for their impending gross fiscal mismanagement.
The bottom line here is that Trump's grandiose claims about "his" economy are going to run headlong into harsh and unyielding reality, leaving the "savior" of America in an untenable position that will lead to rash and dangerous actions. We're about to find out what happens when America's economy is run by unrestrained ego instead of ideology. Or expertise. Or common sense. Or even basic math.
It's going to be our job to ride out the storm and make sure no one forgets who is responsible. (Hint: It won't be the Chinese)
- This article kills fascists