Donald Trump has spent the past three years alienating a majority of Americans while bumbling just about everything he touches. His reelection effort is largely centered around his argument that because the economy is still growing, it means he must be doing a good job, and therefore he should be allowed to remain in power.
This is a dangerously simplistic measure of a presidency, both because no president has a magic wand over the economy, and because much of the long term economic trajectory you see under any given president is at least partially the handiwork of the previous president. But Trump is trying to hang his hat on the still-growing Obama economy anyway – and that’s what made today so dangerous for him.
Just as the stock market was opening this morning, the new jobs report was published. It was a positive one, at least for economic growth, if not for individual workers. But this particular jobs report was based on data from entirely before the coronavirus became a thing in the United States. Everyone knows the next jobs report is going to reflect a pullback in travel and tourism within the U.S., and the impact that the worldwide economic slowdown is having on the U.S. economy. To that end, the Dow Jones finished down more than 250 points today, a stunning development on the day of a strong jobs report.
The existence of the coronavirus is not Donald Trump’s fault. It is his fault that his administration’s negligent response appears to have made the coronavirus far worse in the United States that it needed to be. But in terms of economic impact, this isn’t about blame. It’s about the reality that the U.S. economy is contracting as we speak, and that it’ll show up in the official economic numbers over the next month or two. Trump will no longer be able to claim the economy as a selling point. Instead he’ll be judged for how he can handle the economic mess we’re stepping into. He’s up against it now.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report