Obama on Trump Economy: 'You Didn't Build That'

The former president claims credit for economic growth under the current administration.

Nate Jackson · Feb. 18, 2020

Remember when Barack Obama used to blame George W. Bush for the bad economy that persisted years into his presidency? Neither does Obama. Now he’s trying to take credit for Donald Trump’s economy.

“Eleven years ago today, near the bottom of the worst recession in generations, I signed the Recovery Act, paving the way for more than a decade of economic growth and the longest streak of job creation in American history,” Obama boasted on “Presidents’ Day.”

First, we’ll stipulate something that isn’t said often enough: In America’s free-market economy, presidents have less impact on the economy than they take credit or receive blame for. Presidents are not kings or central-planning despots, even if, like Obama, they try to be. It’s also true that every president claims credit for the good and blames the other guy for the bad. That’s politics.

But let’s also set the record straight — again.

The “Great Recession” of 2008-2009 was seeded in the 1990s with Democrat policies regarding mortgage lending. The bubble that created took more than a decade to burst, but when it did, the crisis of confidence yielded the worst recession since the Great Depression.

It’s also arguable that, unpopular and controversial as it was, Bush prevented a worse catastrophe by working with the Democrat Congress to bail out major banks. That decision certainly remains open for criticism, but Obama, to coin a phrase, didn’t build that.

What Obama did build was the slowest recovery in U.S. history. When the economy is, as he said, “near the bottom,” the only place to go is up. But it took a long time to move up because Obama increased federal spending dramatically, passing out “stimulus” cash to his favored constituency groups while promising “shovel-ready jobs” that never really materialized. Where the economy did grow, such as the energy sector, it was despite Obama’s best efforts to stifle that growth with draconian regulations and higher taxes. Obama oversaw two terms without a single year exceeding 3% economic growth — the average was just 2.1%. That was unprecedented, and it was appallingly bad for a recovery.

It is true that since Obama signed the Recovery Act America has seen uninterrupted job and economic growth. Even Leftmedia “fact-checkers” would rake him over the coals if that weren’t the case.

Yet in 2016, there were persistent rumblings of another recession as the economy slowed to a crawl. The likely reason that didn’t come to pass is Trump’s election. As his campaign press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, rightly argued, “President Trump reversed every single failed Obama-era economic policy, and with it, reversed the floundering Obama/Biden economy.”

Trump grossly overstates the case when he claims, as he did in his State of the Union Address, that “our economy is the best it has ever been.” But his policies of reducing taxes and regulation removed significant obstacles to economic growth and ensured that we are, to coin another phrase, better off today than we were four years ago.

That’s really the point of Obama’s empty boast. He knows Democrats are in trouble this year, so, without a Democrat-induced recession in sight to derail Trump’s momentum, the best Obama can do is claim credit where it isn’t due.

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