A Trump economy?

I’ve been listening recently to claimed accomplishments of the current U.S. administration.  Most of these claims come directly from the current U.S. administration (i.e., “I blow Ronald Reagan away” (Fox News, Washington Examiner))(whitehouse.gov), but there are other sources of breathless adoration as well, for those who care to find it (Washington ExaminerSky NewsGateway Pundit, MAGAPILL).  The challenges I have with all of these list are the conflations of occurrences and responses and of benefits and features.  In other words, there seems to be a lack of interest in arguing that ‘this policy led to this outcome that benefited these people in this way.’  They mostly seem to point to favorable trends or occurrences and assume the president deserves credit for them.

For example, a claim like “Almost 4 million jobs created since election” sounds like a clear victory.  But, how many jobs would have been created without any Trump policies?  How many jobs were created in a comparable time period before the election?  What is the argument for causality?  Upon what basis can we expect that this accomplishment was a response, and not just an occurrence?  In fact, how do we argue that it didn’t occur despite Trump policies?

 

Also, claims such as “Record number of regulations eliminated” or “Moved U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem” might be benefits or they might be simply features–it really depends upon whether one considers regulations to be bad or Jerusalem to be a good place for an embassy.  It would be more useful to describe who benefited and who suffered from such initiatives.
To be sure, the U.S. economy is indeed doing well (CNN, CNS News, MAGAPILL, AP).  However, it seems (based upon indicators such as employment, GDP, and the stock market) to be continuing the favorable trend it has been on since the end of the last recession (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (employment and unemployment for the last ten years), CNN, Vox, FactCheck.org).  (Mining and logging jobs, in particular, seem to be increasing faster than jobs in other sectors (CNBC, Quartz).)  While it’s a good economy, it’s unclear whether this has anything to do with tax cuts, incentives, or any other recent policy changes (Forbes).  It’s difficult to know what the argument would be, then, that the current economic success (as seen, for example, in the chart below) belongs to the current president any more than to the former.  I can see the turnaround that happened in 2009, but what, exactly, turned around in 2017?  Fortunately, it seems, not much.
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