President Trump isn’t worried about the economy. No really, he isn’t. Everything is going to be fine. Seriously. All of that talk of a recession last week and over the weekend, spurred by a few ominous market indicators, a sputtering global economy, and Trump’s continuing trade war with China, was overblown hype peddled by forces that want nothing more than to make the president look bad. After all, how bad could things really be when we’re all so rich?
“I don’t think we’re having a recession,” Trump told reporters on Sunday in an attempt to quell fears over a potential market crash. “We’re doing tremendously well. Our consumers are rich. I gave a tremendous tax cut and they’re loaded up with money.”
President Trump: "I don't think we're having a recession. We're doing tremendously well. Our consumers are rich. I gave a tremendous tax cut and they're loaded up with money." pic.twitter.com/An41BZcWtT
— The Hill (@thehill) August 19, 2019
“I don’t see a recession,” he continued. “I mean, the world is in a recession right now. Although, that’s too big a statement.”
This doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, nor does citing his 2017 tax cut, which very much did not load consumers up with money. Despite what Trump promised prior to the tax cut’s passage, the bill did not result in soaring wages for workers, the deficit has skyrocketed, and the primary beneficiaries have been corporations and the wealthiest Americans. Meanwhile, growth is slowing, and Americans who aren’t about to board a luxury helicopter are struggling to make ends meet. A study published by the Federal Reserve earlier this year found that 39 percent of Americans don’t have enough cash on hand to cover an unexpected $400 expense.
Never mind any of this, though. The president says consumers are rich, which means the only explanation for swelling economic anxiety is, what else, a conspiracy.
On Thursday, for example, Trump accused the media of deliberately precipitating an economic apocalypse in order to run him out of office. “The Fake News Media is doing everything they can to crash the economy because they think that will be bad for me and my re-election,” he wrote on Twitter. “The problem they have is that the economy is way too strong and we will soon be winning big on Trade, and everyone knows that, including China!”
The paranoia doesn’t end there. The New York Times reported on Sunday that in addition to his public grievances about the economy — which have also been directed at Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, whom Trump has accused of hamstringing growth by not cutting rates by enough — the president has been griping privately to aides and allies that everyone is out to get him and that all of this talk of an economic downturn is part of a multi-pronged scheme perpetrated by enemies who he believes are more concerned with sticking it to him than they are with the welfare of the United States. Very sane. Very normal.
Americans better hope Trump is right, though, because if the nation is indeed on the brink of a recession, the White House is in no way prepared to deal with it. Trump can’t stop pouring gasoline on the still-raging tariff war with China, and the administration can’t seem to get its story straight as to whether the import taxes are hurting China or American consumers. Trump has repeatedly, falsely, said China is paying them, but his decision last week to delay the imposition of a new round of tariffs out of concern for holiday shoppers seems to indicate the opposite.
When asked about the apparent contradiction on CNN’s Face the Nation, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said on Sunday that business leaders “had already bought everything that was going to be on our shelves [for the holidays], but they’d done it in dollar contracts, which means they weren’t able to shift the burden back to the Chinese.”
So the tariffs aren’t hurting China, then? What’s going on here? When host Jake Tapper explained to Navarro that several studies have shown U.S. importers shoulder 95 percent of the price change from the tariffs, Navarro said “that dog won’t hunt” before once again claiming that the tariffs “are not hurting anyone” in the United States. (The farmers the Trump administration tried to appease with $16 billion in subsidies this year might disagree.)
— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) August 18, 2019
None of this makes any sense, and it’s terrifying to think how Trump’s economic Dream Team would tie themselves in knots trying to spin — much less stem the actual effects of — economic collapse.
The team’s point guard is chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow, who joined Trump and Navarro on Sunday in calling for everyone to chill out and hope for the best. “We are doing pretty darn well in my judgment,” he said on Meet the Press when asked by Chuck Todd whether the trade war with China could ultimately lead to a recession. “Let’s not be afraid of optimism.”
Anticipating this response, Todd presented Kudlow with a pretty damning receipt: “In 2007, right before the second-worst downturn in American history, this is what you wrote: ‘There’s no recession coming. The pessimistas were wrong. It’s not going to happen. … The Bush boom is alive and well. It’s finishing up its sixth consecutive year with more to come.'”
“I plead guilty to that,” was Kudlow’s response.