Harris: Trump inherited a long economic expansion and drove it into the ground

Harris: Trump inherited a long economic expansion and drove it into the ground

A leftover from yesterday’s official campaign debut. I realize she and Biden need to make some sort of economic attack on Trump, as that’s his strongest credential for reelection, but do they really have nothing better on the shelf than this embarrassing talking point? Harris was so proud of it that she repeated it in a tweet, where it was predictably greeted with all manner of “yasss kweeen” replies by liberal zombies.

Trump didn’t drive the economy into the ground, of course. COVID did, just like it would have under President Obama or President Biden or President Harris. In fact, the economic downturn might have been worse under their administrations since Democrats this year have typically been more willing than Republicans to endorse long, comprehensive lockdowns. Meanwhile, Trump has been the country’s loudest cheerleader for reopening, precisely because he’s worried about the economic consequences of lockdown to American workers (i.e. because he’s worried about his big reelection credential going bust before November).

You could understand Dems coming after him over the COVID recovery if he had obstinately refused to approve any stimulus or financial aid to Americans. But he’s approved trillions, and may yet approve more within the next few weeks.

A more sophisticated argument about Trump driving the economy into the ground would claim that it’s *because* he was too eager to reopen that we’re in the pickle we’re in now. If he had tolerated a longer lockdown at the start, maybe we would have driven down cases to the point where this summer’s outbreaks were smaller and less disruptive. If he had been more proactive about contact tracing, maybe we could have extinguished those outbreaks before they took off. Any economic critique has to derive from a critique of his handling of the pandemic. As it is, Harris sounds here like she just wanted to lay a sick burn on him, emphasizing how much wealth and privilege he inherited from his father.

Mike Pence was asked about Trump’s economic record on Fox and, ah, didn’t do much better:

That’s like losing 100 grand at the casino, winning 10 back before the end of the night, then excitedly telling your spouse, “Honey, I won more in my last hour of play than I ever have in my life.”

Just emphasize that the recovery is proceeding nicely, Mike. Reminding people of the abnormally large employment gains lately is destined to also remind them of the apocalyptic employment losses this spring. Better yet, instead of talking about jobs, why not focus on the favorable polling for Trump’s recent stimulus-driven executive orders? Here’s what YouGov got when it asked, “Do you approve or disapprove of the executive order President Trump signed on Saturday which he says will extend unemployment benefits and defer payroll?”

A lot rests on the phrase “which he says” in the question, perhaps, but Americans approve of the orders by a two to one margin, with even a third of Biden voters giving thumbs up. That was predictable, and why I thought Trump’s orders were bad law but good politics. At a moment when voters are left groaning over another partisan stalemate in Congress, he’s signaling that he’s willing to do whatever he can to try to ease their pain.

The question is whether they’ll hold it against him if/when the payroll tax ends up not being deferred and unemployment benefits end up not flowing again. This result from Morning Consult on which party voters trust more to handle jobs seems ominous:

It’s basically even between Republicans and Democrats and has been for months, but a bluish trend less than 90 days from Election Day isn’t ideal. Why it’s trending that way isn’t clear, but presumably it has to do with Dems wanting a gaudier round of stimulus relief ($3 trillion) than Republicans ($1 trillion). Democrats also lead by 14 points on which party would best handle COVID, an advantage the GOP might be able to counter at the polls if it enjoyed the public’s faith on the economy — which it may not at the moment. Having congressional GOPers revert to fiscal conservatism in negotiating the next stimulus package could end up being electorally costly.

Here’s Trump being pressed last night on how he plans to pay for Social Security without the payroll tax. Simple, he says: Growth. Growth was also how the party expected to avoid running massive deficits after the 2017 tax cuts. You know how that turned out.

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