On the economy, Democrats must brag louder than Trump

On the economy, Democrats must brag louder than Trump
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Anyone paying attention to President Trump’s endless boasting about the economy could be forgiven for believing that he is America’s economic savior. But by virtually all objective measures, the economy has performed worse during Trump’s first three years in office compared to Obama’s last three. Democrats simply don’t have the gall to point out the facts – and highlight their own successes – as brashly or incessantly as Trump.

Indeed, Trump has fundamentally shifted the paradigm in political messaging. Perhaps it is a reflection of one half of American society. But the humility and modesty embraced by the Founding Fathers have been replaced by cocky, reality TV-style braggadocio. Democrats would be wise to read the political tea leaves and adjust their communications strategies accordingly.

Let’s start with job growth. Trump boasts about job numbers as if each monthly report will singlehandedly assure his reelection. But most Americans could be forgiven for not realizing that over one million more jobs were created during Obama’s last three years in office compared to Trump’s first three. Moreover, job growth in every one of Obama’s last three years beats Trump’s best year.

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Put simply, Obama was one heck of a better “job creator” than Trump — but far worse at bragging about it.

In much the same vein, Trump is presiding over record-low unemployment, a fact that he highlights with unrelenting frequency. But the decline in the unemployment rate has remained remarkably steady since early 2010, when Obama’s aggressive economic recovery measures saved the American economy. Indeed, Trump and his policies have nothing to do with the record-low unemployment we are seeing today; he just happened to be the guy in charge when a steady, years-long trend peaked.

Moreover, Trump’s incessant boasting about blue-collar wage growth conveniently ignores that those bumps are due to nationwide increases in the minimum wage, which Democrats champion and Republicans oppose with every fiber of their being. And all of Trump’s bluster and bragging about manufacturing jobs ignores that the sector now accounts for the smallest share of the American economy in nearly a century. Manufacturing’s decline in swing states is especially noteworthy, yet nary a peep from the braggadocious president.

Trump and his allies also relentlessly tout stock market gains since the beginning of his administration. But those gains pale in comparison to stock performance during the Obama and Clinton administrations. Most Americans wouldn’t know this because Obama and Clinton – let alone the Democrats currently running for office – do not boast and brag the way Trump does.

Moreover, it should not come as a surprise that Trump’s bluster on stocks avoids all mention of a critical reality: Record market gains mean nothing to most Americans. That is especially the case for the white, blue-collar Americans that came out in droves to vote for Trump.

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Indeed, the wealthiest 1 percent holds a whopping 50 percent of stocks, while the top 10 percent owns over 80 percent of all stock value. In other words, 90 percent of Americans – including millions of Trump voters – are frozen out of the vast majority of market gains that Trump ballyhoos relentlessly.  

Trump is also suspiciously silent on the most significant measure of all: Economic growth. In peddling his massive, debt-exploding tax cut for the wealthy, Trump promised 6 percent economic growth. But two years later, the economy is growing at 2 percent, slightly worse than the post-recession average under Obama. In short, Trump’s enormously one-sided tax cut amounted to a disastrous bust.

In the face of staggering budget deficits, skyrocketing wealth inequality and no discernible economic growth, Democrats have an enormous opportunity to hammer Trump on the spectacular failure of his tax cut.

They would also be wise to apply some Trumpian braggadocio to their own successes.

Marik von Rennenkampff served as an analyst with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, as well as an Obama administration appointee at the U.S. Department of Defense. Follow him on Twitter @MvonRen.