The Corner

Elections

Apparently, Democrats Really Are Worried about an Economic Rebound

President Donald Trump talks to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House, May 1, 2020. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

This story in Politico will add fuel to the fire to the GOP argument that Democrats are rooting against signs of an economic recovery before November. Jason Furman, a top economist in the Obama administration and now a professor at Harvard, contends that “we are about to see the best economic data we’ve seen in the history of this country.” As the country gradually figures out how to function with the coronavirus, the sudden steep drop in economic activity will climb back up again.

In fact, it may be happening already, although it may not show up in economic statistics for a while. The Wall Street Journal reports: “Truck loads are growing again. Air travel and hotel bookings are up slightly. Mortgage applications are rising. And more people are applying to open new businesses . . . . For the first time since the pandemic forced widespread U.S. business closures in March, it appears conditions in some corners of the economy aren’t getting worse, and might even be improving.”

Furman believes “the months preceding the November election could offer Trump the chance to brag — truthfully — about the most explosive monthly employment numbers and GDP growth ever.” And Politico offers this eye-popping quote:

Furman’s counterintuitive pitch has caused some Democrats, especially Obama alumni, around Washington to panic. “This is my big worry,” said a former Obama White House official who is still close to the former president. Asked about the level of concern among top party officials, he said, “It’s high — high, high, high, high.”

If the opposition party’s argument against an incumbent president is strong and compelling and aligned with the values of the electorate, the economic conditions in the fall shouldn’t matter that much. Democrats believed they had a virtual encyclopedia of arguments against the president before the coronavirus hit. An economic rebound shouldn’t derail their argument against the president; if it does, maybe those arguments weren’t as strong as Democrats thought.

Public approval of Trump’s response to the virus is falling along the lines of his overall approval rating.

No matter what happens from here on out, Joe Biden and the Democrats will be arguing that President Trump fumbled the initial response to the coronavirus and will likely argue that Trump and Republican governors reopened parts of the country too fast, increasing the risk of more casualties from the virus. And Democrats will still argue that Trump is xenophobic, racist, ignorant, filled with rage, reckless, selfish, unhinged, etc.

Democrats might want to spend some time examining if the Biden economic agenda that was largely put together in a 2019 boom will look as appealing if the economy isn’t rebounding in autumn.

Back during one of the debates, Tim Alberta of Politico asked Biden, “As president, would you be willing to sacrifice some of that growth, even knowing potentially that it could displace thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of blue-collar workers in the interest of transitioning to that greener economy?”

Biden responded, “The answer is yes. The answer is yes, because the opportunity — the opportunity for those workers to transition to high-paying jobs, as Tom said, is real.”

Biden pledged “no new fracking” during a debate, then walked it back; he wants to set a price on carbon to be used for either a carbon tax or cap-and-trade; Biden endorsed California’s AB5, the anti-“gig” law; he would raise the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent, and he insists he can raise taxes by $4 trillion over the next decade, without raising taxes on anyone making $400,000 per year or less.

If the Democrats’ argument against Trump can’t work if there’s a partial economic rebound before November, they truly deserve to lose.

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