A new Post-ABC News poll finds that “58 percent of all Americans give positive ratings to the state of the economy. That is the highest in a Post-ABC survey in 17 years and seven points higher than on the eve of [President] Trump’s inauguration. At the same time, Trump’s approval rating has remained at a historically low level, compared with past presidents. Today, 36 percent approve of the job Trump is doing, while 58 percent disapprove, little changed over the past few months. Strong disapproval of the president, at 49 percent overall, remains twice as high as strong approval, which stands at 24 percent.”
Those who seethe when they think of a president temperamentally and intellectually unfit to govern should be happy to know they have lots of company:
Seven in 10 Americans say [Trump] has acted in a way that is not presidential, while a quarter say his behavior has been fitting and proper for the nation’s chief executive. About 2 in 3 say the president’s use of Twitter has hurt his presidency. A bare majority (52 percent) say he is biased against black people.
The president in a recent tweet, which came after a renewed round of questions about his stability in light of a new book that described him in unflattering terms, said he was both mentally stable and a “genius” for being able to win the White House in his first try for public office. On those two questions, Americans are almost split evenly about his mental stability but by better than 3 to 1 say he is not a genius.
With such a high percentage of voters who intensely dislike Trump, the president isn’t getting credit for the thing he boasts most about — the economy. (“On the economy, Trump receives less credit for the gains seen over the past than does his predecessor, [Barack] Obama. Fewer than 4 in 10, 38 percent, say the Trump administration deserves significant credit for the state of the economy while 50 percent say the Obama administration should get credit.”)
As a factual matter, voters may be right. The economy had a strong year in 2017, but not as strong as 2016 in some respects. As CNN reported in December 2017, “The job market is actually underperforming compared to last year. Average monthly job growth was 190,000 in the first 11 months of 2016, according to [the Bureau of Labor Statistics]. This year BLS figures show it has fallen to 174,000 per month.” Trump likes to brag about the stock market, but here, too, he falls short. “The Dow rose nearly 31% in those first 11 months under Obama and only 22% this year under Trump, the MarketWatch figures show.”
Moreover, voters are correct insofar as the positive economic trends certainly began under Obama and continued as we got further from the 2008 financial crisis. (“The problem is, Trump’s economy owes largely to trends started in the Obama era,” The Post’s fact-checkers found. “By almost every economic measure, the upward trends [Sarah Huckabee] Sanders and Trump cite began while Obama was still in office.”) On jobs, for example, “Trump inherited low unemployment numbers from Obama. Since 2011, the unemployment rate has steadily declined from a high of 9.6 percent following the Great Recession. It was 4.8 percent in January, when Trump took the oath of office, and it was 4.1 percent in the December employment report.”
Here is one case where Trump’s boasting takes its toll. Since, it seems, he takes credit for everything (no domestic airline crashes!), voters are wary of taking his boasts seriously. They know he’s a braggart and an exaggerator. Here their skepticism is well-founded. Some would argue that the economic recovery was the result of handiwork by two presidents, the outgoing and the incoming presidents in 2009. They each decided to guide the auto industry to safety and to stabilize the financial system via the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). Moreover:
But all this aside, and more than any president, this is still, above all, the Bernanke-Yellen economy. For nearly a decade now, these back-to-back Federal Reserve chairs have kept short-term rates low, while driving longer-term rates down by scooping up $4.5 trillion worth of government bonds and mortgage-backed securities. This has pushed investors into risky assets (i.e. stocks), a rocket fuel for the incredible stock market run that began in March 2009 and continues today. It’s the biggest reason why corporate profits have soared, and the housing market came roaring back.
In short, a large percentage of voters intensely dislike Trump. It’s not surprising that they don’t want to give him credit for the economy. In this case, however, they are right to reject his spin. He deserves little credit for surfing on the economic wave he caught a year ago.
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