John wrote about and posted what he calls Trump’s first re-election ad. The ad touts the record level stock market and the unusually low unemployment numbers. It doesn’t cite any legislative victories or foreign policy accomplishments. Nor could it.
As a re-election pitch, current stock market prices and employment numbers couldn’t be less relevant. The relevant numbers will be the ones in 2020, when Trump faces the voters. At that time, no one will remember or care about what the numbers were in mid-2017.
The ad is really intended, as John said, to remind voters of Trump’s record so far. And given unrelenting media hostility, it’s wise of Trump to tout his accomplishments. The level of his job approval is relevant to his ability to govern.
But are stock market prices and unemployment numbers really Trump accomplishments? Not to an appreciable degree, in my view.
Both continue trends from the Obama administration. The stock market’s ascent has accelerated, to be sure, and I think Trump’s victory — or at least Hillary Clinton’s defeat — played a role. But that part of the bounce predates Trump’s actual presidency.
As for employment, Ramesh Ponnuru points out that job growth has been weaker under Trump than it was during Obama’s last year in office. From February to July 2017, employment rose by 1.074 million jobs. From February to July 2016, it rose by 1.246 million. Thus, job growth in the Obama months was 16 percent higher.
As Ponnuru says, conservatives tend to be skeptical (at best) of claims that the president “creates jobs” — an assertion Trump applied to himself at his impromptu press conference yesterday. I don’t deny that a president’s polices have an impact on employment, but rarely is that impact experienced in the first six months of his presidency.
I agree with Ponnuru, however, that in the case of Trump his reduction in regulations and the prospect of future positive changes in economic policy might have (I would say probably have) strengthened the economy’s “animal spirits.” Thus, it may well be that Trump can, in Ponnuru’s words, “legitimately take credit for a small fraction of those 1.074 million jobs.”
Let’s hope those “animal spirits” will sustain the economy. We are now, what, eight years into an economic recovery? It’s very rare for a recovery to last for eleven years. Perhaps this one will because it was tepid (or for some other reason), but I wouldn’t count on it.
Thus, some significant legislative and foreign policy accomplishments would be especially welcome.