Juan Williams: Trump's empty economic boasts

Juan Williams: Trump's empty economic boasts
© Getty

At the 2016 Democratic National Convention, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg got belly laughs with a quip about Donald Trump’s penchant for overstating his wealth and business success.

The “richest thing about Donald Trump is his hypocrisy,” Bloomberg said.

On this Labor Day, after eight months under the man who promised to be “the greatest jobs president that God ever created,” it is time to reframe Bloomberg’s joke.


The richest thing about President TrumpDonald TrumpFormer New York state Senate candidate charged in riot Trump called acting attorney general almost daily to push election voter fraud claim: report GOP senator clashes with radio caller who wants identity of cop who shot Babbitt MORE these days is that so many people are still buying his lies about job creation and wage increases.


It is true that the economy added 1.07 million new jobs in Trump’s first six months in office. It is also true that the GDP expanded by 3 percent in the second quarter.

That is very close to the good news that 1.08 million jobs were created in President Obama’s last six months in office.

“Indeed, no matter how you slice it,” the Washington Post reported last month, “there isn't even one six-month period after mid-2013 during which Obama didn't see at least 1 million jobs created.

“One million jobs in six months is not unprecedented — it has become the norm since the recovery from the Great Recession really kicked in,” wrote Post reporter Aaron Blake.  

Remember how candidate Trump disparaged Obama’s strong economic indicators by charging the Federal Reserve with creating a “false economy” under the Democrat.

Has anyone asked him if the Fed is still creating a false economy. If not, exactly when did it stop?

Candidate Trump also promised that he would produce 25 million jobs in 10 years with 4 percent GDP growth. Last week, before news of job growth lagging for the month of August, he went back on that promise by claiming that if he can sustain 3 percent growth it will result in “12 million new jobs.”

But even Trump’s crowing about 3 percent GDP growth is misleading.

There were eight quarters during Obama’s eight years in office during which GDP growth rose above 3 percent. In the third quarter of 2014, growth surged to 5.2 percent.  

To be fair, Obama never saw an entire year with three percent GDP growth. But most economists doubt Trump will get there either, on an annual basis, especially if he can’t get tax cuts through Congress.

In fact, 78 percent of registered voters agree with the skeptical economists, telling a Fox News poll last week that Congress is not likely to pass any tax reform this year.

That pessimism extends across party lines: 79 percent of Democrats and 76 percent of Republicans agree that tax reform is unlikely.

Much of Wall Street’s patience with Trump is based on his repeated promise to cut taxes.

So, what happens if that promise proves hollow?  

At the moment, even the long heralded promise Trump made to cut the 35 percent corporate tax rate to 15 percent – a pledge he repeated as recently as April – has now reportedly been softened to a 20 or 25 percent rate in talks between White House officials and Congress.

Is that enough of a tax cut to generate new jobs for workers?

The New York Times quoted Michael Linden, policy director at the Roosevelt Institute, as saying that cutting corporate taxes will “have no effect on ordinary workers…Taxation of corporations falls entirely on the owners of capital, and not at all on workers and consumers.”

As for Trump’s promise to cut taxes for working people, the Times reported last week that Gary Cohn, the president’s chief economic advisor, and Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Goldman Sachs - Biden rallies Senate Dems behind mammoth spending plan Mnuchin dodges CNBC questions on whether Trump lying over election Democrats justified in filibustering GOP, says Schumer MORE, his Treasury secretary, are considering leaving it at the current level of 39.6 percent.   

Trump’s campaign boasts about his singular ability to pump up the economy — boasts made in tandem with dismissals of all that Obama did to get the country out of the Great Recession — call to mind an earlier empty promise made by another Republican.

During the 2012 presidential election, GOP nominee Mitt Romney promised he would get unemployment to 6 percent or lower by the end of his first term.

Obama succeeded in getting unemployment down to 5 percent by the end of 2015.

Yet to this day Republicans refuse to tip their hat to Obama’s record, which also includes saving the auto industry and generating consistent economic growth.

Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonThe Koreas are talking again — Moon is for real, but what about Kim? For families, sending money home to Cuba shouldn't be a political football Anything-but-bipartisan 1/6 commission will seal Pelosi's retirement. Here's why MORE won the presidency 25 years ago with the campaign theme articulated by James Carville – “It’s the economy, stupid.” Trump is turning that slogan on its head. He is betting that stupid people won’t see through his boasts and falsehoods about the economy.

You can be assured that if failed tax reform and a government shutdown send the economy on a tumble, Trump will revert to talking about Obama’s economy.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.