1/14/2018—It is good to be reminded of Donald Trump’s racism, as his immigration comments this week showed. It is a reminder that rating a President is not just a matter of policy outcomes.
But if Democrats do not pay attention to policy outcomes, we will be surprised that President Trump retains a great deal of support among people who voted for him in the first place. (President Trump is coming to the 18th congressional district in Pennsylvania to stump for the Republican candidate in an upcoming special election and no one seems to doubt it will help that candidate).
So, start with economic performance. The President’s tweets that the latest jobs report showed the lowest unemployment rate for African Americans ever recorded, 6.8%, is accurate. (The number began to be analyzed in 1972). That’s good news, period.
The point made in an NPR report on the claim—I never even saw coverage of the claim, which says something pretty bad about the mainstream media—that President’s don’t deserve much credit for numbers like that—is ridiculous. Presidents always take blame and credit for numbers like these. And in general the public rewards and punishes precisely along these lines—was President Bush responsible for the 2008 recession? The Republicans were hammered for it.
Then there is the GDP, the gross domestic product—a fairly broad category of economic growth (although it contains the basic biases of this kind of measure—it does not necessarily measure good things, just monetized things). Under President Obama, GDP growth never really gained traction. There were good quarters and bad ones, every year. The GDP growth in 2016 was 1.5%. Under President Trump, 2017 GDP growth will top 2.3%. That may not sound like much, but it is an addition to the economy of around $1.4 trillion. That does not all go to rich people.
The good effects of all this growth are not just higher wages (although that is the best thing—the tightening labor market is the reason wages at Wal-Mart are going up, not the new tax bill.) There was a story in the NY Times today about how workers with criminal records are now getting hired because employers have no choice.
Nor is all the regulatory cut-back bad. On January 12, the New York Times ran a story about how the fraud rule rollback benefits black colleges that probably were not its target in the first place. Not all regulations are good.
And even the tax bill’s fundamental change—lower corporate rates—reflected a policy President Obama basically supported. It was apparently a good idea.
Now none of this reflects that the bills for all this have not come due yet. Presidents Clinton and Bush relaxed regulations on lending that led to the 2008 recession that more than undid all the prior growth. It is poor tradeoff to gain oil drilling jobs by ruining the climate and the national parks.
Nor does any of this change the disaster Trump is internationally—allies cozying up to China, a potential war with North Korea, undermining the successful Iranian nuclear agreement. And much more.
But if we do not note Trump’s successes, not only will we fail to understand his appeal, we will fail to learn from those successes. President Obama would have been very happy to have had these numbers. He never did.