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Lewis Morris / Aug. 9, 2017

The Economy Improves. Does Trump Get Credit?

Unemployment is down, the stock market is up, public perception is good. And Trump can do even more.

There’s an ongoing debate about to what extent a president is responsible for economic performance. In today’s spiteful partisan climate, the answer is generally based on public support. For instance, the media is tying itself in knots coming up with reasons for the current economic upswing because they surely don’t want to credit President Donald Trump. In their eyes, he’s not responsible for a good economy; he will only be responsible for a bad one.

Unemployment is down. The stock market has gained about 15% since Trump’s election last November. Polls suggest the public is starting to feel good about the economy again, and what is the stock market but the ultimate poll of consumer confidence? The public hasn’t felt this good in over a decade.

Of course, Trump’s critics will say that he is merely inheriting an economic boost that started under Barack Obama. That depends on the meaning of the word “boost.” The economic growth that happened in the later years of Obama’s term are a product of a steadily growing Republican presence in Congress. The GOP took over the House in 2010 and the Senate in 2014. This allowed them to at least slow down Obama’s economic agenda. It was opposition to the president that got the economy rolling again. Consumer confidence really began to rise only after Trump won the election.

Remember TARP? The auto bailouts? The stimulus plan? Cash for clunkers and all the other gimmicks that Obama tried early on to get the economy going? Never mind taking over the financial and health care sectors. Nothing revved the economic engine. Investors kept their money under their mattress because they didn’t want to take part in the tax-and-spend party the Democrats were throwing. It was only after the Republicans were able to put a bulwark in the way of socialist policy that things started to turn around, though even then only slowly because, well, Obama was still president.

There is no denying that things are better now than last year, or even six months ago. As for who is to thank or blame for the state of our economy, that will remain a topic of debate. Trump has already done great work in deregulation, saving businesses — and therefore consumers — billions. If Trump really wants to set the table for a good economy, then he needs to get involved on making sure tax reform happens.

The crippling corporate tax rate reduces American competitiveness overseas. The high individual and family tax rates make investment and growth difficult here at home. Chopping those down, removing some archaic regulations and offering incentives for investment will turn things around. Then the economy won’t just be swelling, it will be growing. And then, people will have no choice but to recognize Trump’s hand in the economy. Or at the very least, they will need to come up with another really good excuse for denying it.

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