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Obama, Trump, and the Economy

President Donald Trump speaks at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., February 7, 2019. (Kevin Lamarque/REUTERS)

The graphs in this Jordan Weissmann article in Slate are worth a look (which is not to say that you should ignore the text), and effectively make the point that neither President Trump’s election nor his inauguration was any kind of inflection point for the economy. You have to do very careful cherry-picking to make the case that Trump took a weak economy and made it strong.

But I’d add four caveats to this basic point about continuity.

First: It doesn’t mean, as progressives sometimes take it to mean, that President Obama deserves the credit for the good economy; it could be (and I think it is) true that the strength of the economy doesn’t have a lot to do with presidential policy choices over the last decade. (Weissmann doesn’t make this error, by the way.)

Second: One might have expected a recovery getting long in the tooth to lose strength, and the avoidance of that scenario can reasonably be counted as a success in itself.

Third: Some Trump policies may have been helpful in achieving that success, including the tax cuts and deregulation.

Fourth: Regardless of who deserves credit, presidents get credit for a strong economy, and can’t be expected not to try to get as much as they can.

Ramesh Ponnuru — Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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