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For more than two years, Democrats and their media friends have confidently insisted the U.S. economy under President Donald Trump (a) would crash and burn, or (b) benefits only the few, or (c) was fake, or, failing all of that, was just (d) the lucky beneficiary of policies put into place under Barack Obama.

None of these arguments is tenable today. Anyone seriously interested in defeating Trump at the polls next year should stop making them.

The very pleasant reality of the U.S. economy was neatly captured in the headline of Neil Irwin's analysis last Friday in The New York Times: "The Economy That Wasn't Supposed to Happen: Booming Jobs, Low Inflation." Unemployment is at 3.6 percent, a 50-year low. Job creation remains strong. Average hourly earnings are up 3.2 percent over last year. Inflation is 1.6 percent.

"After more than two years of the Trump administration, warnings that trade wars and erratic management style would throw the economy off course have proved wrong so far," Irwin writes, "and tax cuts and deregulation are most likely part of the reason for the strong growth rates in 2018 and the beginning of 2019."

Irwin allows that the economy could slow as the effects of the tax cuts fade. That's always possible. But for now, the economy is in even better shape than the headline data suggest.

There have been more job openings than job seekers for 13 straight months. Workers without college degrees have seen significant gains in their wages. Productivity growth is up, unusual at this point in an almost decade-long expansion. There are no obvious bubbles in tech, real estate or other industries, and the Dow has mostly recovered from last year's swoon.

And as an astute friend pointed out to me recently, Trump's scary tweets even seem to have the effect of tempering market exuberance, acting as a kind of check in lieu of interest-rate hikes.

How should Democrats deal with the good news? Denial can't work forever.

In 2017, denial took the form of emphasizing the issue of wage stagnation. But then wages stopped stagnating. In 2018 the critics said the tax bill would provide nothing more than a sugar high for the economy, and yet the recovery has, if anything, accelerated. Earlier this year, we had "the incredible shrinking Trump boom" until the data showed no shrinkage.

Now the Often-Wrong-But-Never-Humbled Department tells us the boom is really just a big fat Keynesian stimulus incurred at the cost of our ballooning budget deficits. Perhaps it is, but then how does the department explain the last 30 months of its doom-saying?

Eventually a recession will come. Recessions always do. The problem for Democrats is that there's no guarantee it will come before the election. In the meantime, they've left a trail of bad forecasts that make them look silly and out of touch, which the Trump campaign will gleefully use against them.

More importantly, it creates the perception that Democrats (at least those of the more ideological variety) are secretly hoping for a downturn, to help their electoral chances and vindicate their own past predictions.

It's unbecoming. It suggests a party led by people for whom questions of job creation and growth will always be abstractions, since their own jobs and prospects will always be safe. It's what The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan shrewdly described in 2016 as the "protected class"--people who make policies but never really have to live with the consequences.

In 2016, Hillary Clinton was the candidate of the protected class, Trump of the unprotected. If Democrats decide to run against prosperity--either by pretending it isn't really happening or that it doesn't matter--it will only send a message to the voters they lost last time that the party still doesn't get it.

They'll lose again.

There's a reason Trump's approval rating is now at 46 percent--the highest of his presidency, according to Gallup--despite all the Democratic thundering about William Barr's testimony to Congress and the renewed talk of impeachment. Wittingly or not, Trump is delivering on the core promise of the presidency.

There's also a reason that Joe Biden has taken a commanding early lead in the race for the Democratic nomination. His central theme is that he's a regular guy who will restore regular order to Washington and regular behavior in the White House without mucking things up through a grand redesign of American capitalism. It isn't clear that Biden will be able to get through the primary without putting both feet in his mouth and falling flat on his face. But that's the right theory of the race.

Democrats need a candidate who gets this. They need someone who will work to enlarge our prosperity, not redistribute it. They need someone who can communicate and deliver without embarrassing and frightening normal people the way Trump does.


Bret Stephens is a New York Times columnist.

Editorial on 05/10/2019

Print Headline: It's the economy, again


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  • Praxiteles
    May 11, 2019 at 9:01 a.m.

    Dems would rather eat worms than admit Trump has resuscitated the American economy in spite of their efforts.

  • joebub61yahoocom
    May 11, 2019 at 9:17 a.m.

    It won’t change a thing. For Democrats could care less of any consequences other than their complete control.

  • Skeptic1
    May 11, 2019 at 9:43 a.m.

    And Trump has done more in 2 years than the last three presidents did in eight and while under a 24/7 assault by the corrupt media and corrupt career Democrat politicians. He is bombastic, insulting, and he doesn't care, and guess what, neither do the voters. We don't need a Hollywood president, we need a CEO that understands the global economy by a someone that knows how to negotiate a deal, thank you Trump - MAGA!

  • Lifelonglearner
    May 12, 2019 at 7:56 a.m.

    "Success has many fathers...." Republicans refuse to admit that Obama did anything right, especially with the economy. Or that they "did everything they could to make sure he was a one term President."

    In a perfect comparison, Trump would be inheriting the Bush administration Wall Street crash.

  • mozarky2
    May 12, 2019 at 8:44 a.m.

    The democrats not a serious party. They have abandoned policy for witch hunts, Medicare for all, the Green New Deal, abortion after birth, and slavery reparations. The America hating, terror supporting Rashida Tlaib summed up the party's agenda perfectly when she said "Impeach the mother****er"!

  • WhododueDiligence
    May 12, 2019 at 9:57 a.m.

    "Now the Often-Wrong-But-Never-Humbled Department tells us the boom is just a big fat Keynesian stimulus. Perhaps it is, but then how does the department explain the last 30 months of its doom-saying?"
    That's absurd. Coming from someone as smart as Bret Stephens, it's uncharacteristically stupid. Trump's tax cut wasn't a Keynesian stimulus. Keynesian economists do NOT advise a tax cut stimulus during times of economic growth. Keynesian economists advocate a tax cut stimulus during recessions, and that policy--tax-cut stimulus--during recessions has been successfully used ever since the 1930s Great Depression by both Republican and Democratic administrations. That's why the old saying "We're all Keynesians now" comes back into vogue among Republicans and Democrats during recessions.
    Keynesian tax-cut stimulus combined with unemployment payments for laid-off workers and FDIC loan guarantees among other stimulus spending during recessions have passed the test of time. There were several economic depressions before the Great Depression without Keynesian policies and none since the Great Depression with consistent Keynesian policies. The downside is that tax cuts combined with increased government spending cause deficits to spike during recessions. Until recent decades when many Republicans have been signing the Republican pledge never to raise taxes--as Republican Alan Simpson smartly protested--no matter what.
    Government stimulus during economic growth can overheat the economy and cause unwanted inflation. If anything, Keynesian economists would advocate nudging taxes slightly higher during economic growth periods to prevent dangerous skyrocketing of our national debt. That's the opposite of Trump's tax-cut stimulus which is projected to raise deficits above $1 trillion annually. Stephens blithely ignores this reality in his smarmy so-called Keynesian statement which is as nonsensical as Trickle-down Dick Cheney's nonsensical hyper-partisan claim, "Reagan proved deficits don't matter."

  • WhododueDiligence
    May 12, 2019 at 10:05 a.m.

    Meant to say--
    Until recent decades when many Republicans have been signing the Republican pledge never to raise taxes--as Republican Alan Simpson smartly protested--no matter what, the policy had been to cut taxes during recessions and then nudge them back upward as need during economic growth periods to limit the national debt.
    Our national debt was under $1 trillion in 1980. Now it's over $22 trillion and climbing fast.

    May 12, 2019 at 10:45 a.m.

    TDS. Free treatment for all the Dems/leftists/socialists/progressives.

  • mozarky2
    May 12, 2019 at 11:04 a.m.

    Progs would do well to read David Von Drehle in today's WaPo. Here's an excerpt:
    "This battle royal between the legislative and executive branches will grind its way through the courts — all the while allowing Trump to continue hogging the media’s attention. Meanwhile, some two dozen would-be Democratic nominees are starving for airtime. House Democrats could be passing popular legislation and forcing Team Trump to block it, thus laying the groundwork for the coming campaign. They appear trapped in their Trump obsession".
    Meanwhile, the Trump Miracle Economy marches on unabated.

  • mozarky2
    May 12, 2019 at 11:09 a.m.

    Record low unemployment for blacks, Hispanics and women, and rising wages, but the democrats tell us it's only the rich getting those jobs. Pathetic. Trump's going to hand them their a**es in 2020.