In recent days, President Trump and allies have offered a fulsome defense of a presidential economic record.
Alas, the presidential record they’re describing isn’t Trump’s. It belongs to his predecessor, Barack Obama. And perhaps also to Obama’s second-in-command, Joe Biden.
Team Trump, in promulgating the myth of Trump’s economic genius, has recently doubled down on a false narrative: that Trump inherited a recession and magically turned it into a boom. This is almost the exact reverse of events of the past 3½ years. In reality Trump inherited from Obama an expansion — one that, in retrospect, turned out to be the longest in U.S. history — and converted it into a bust.
Not just any bust; a possible depression, at least for the working class.
Now, my standard disclaimer applies: Presidents generally get too much credit when the economy is good and too much blame when the economy is bad. They don’t control the business cycle and can affect things only on the margin. For example, they could bungle the response to an existing downturn (by, ahem, appointing incompetent aides, discrediting real experts, increasing distrust in government statistics, alienating crucial allies — that sort of thing).