Donald Lambro

DONALD LAMBRO

WASHINGTON — President Trump is telling voters that he is presiding over the strongest economy “in the history of our country.”

But that’s not what top economists, major newspapers and the nation’s economic pollsters are reporting.

Here’s what economic reporter Jim Tankersley of The New York Times told his readers on July 31:

“The United States just suffered its worst economic quarter in nearly 75 years. Its recovery from the depths of a pandemic-induced recession has stalled, as coronavirus deaths rise again across the country.

“Rather than push for a comprehensive plan that could win support from both Democrats and Republicans, Mr. Trump first embraced big-ticket items that Senate Republicans did not want and that would do little to help millions of struggling workers and businesses. That included a payroll tax cut and an expanded tax break for business lunches, along with $1.75 billion to rebuild the FBI’s headquarters in Washington,” Tankersley reported.

Instead of negotiating with Congress to come up with a legislative package that could easily pass, as President Reagan did with a stubborn Democratic-controlled Congress, Trump refused to deal.

At one point, Trump declared that “we really don’t care” about further attempts to find compromise on additional economic stimulus for the economy and taxpayers. This was his idea of “wheeling and dealing”?

It was about this time that Trump’s public approval polls on the economy began to slip, as the coronavirus pandemic tightened its death grip on the nation and the economy.

“Trump’s economic approval polls were at one of the strongest levels of his presidency at the beginning of the year. He averaged a 56% approval rating on the economy in January and February, according to polls by ABC News, NBC News, The Wall Street Journal and Quinnipiac University,” according to a July 29 analysis by CNN’s Harry Enten.

However, Trump’s economic approval score was the strongest of his presidency at the beginning of the year, before falling to 49% approval, accompanied by a dismal 47% disapproval score.

“The bad news is that Trump isn’t winning on any of the major issues that are shaping the campaign,” Enten wrote at the time. “He trails Biden by at least 10 points on coronavirus. He is down by closer to 20 points on race relations. And now he is basically even on the economy.”

“There’s simply no record of a presidential candidate not leading on any major issue and still pulling out a victory,” Enten wrote. “That leaves Trump with little or no room for error.”

Things haven’t improved since then.

Nearly 900,000 U.S. workers filed unemployment claims last week, the second straight week that jobless claims were still above historical highs.

Another 839,000 Americans submitted claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, the unemployment benefits program for the self-employed and gig workers, a gloomy number that has been climbing for nearly a month.

The latest figures offer hard evidence that the troubled Trump economy is still weakening, contrary to the administration’s specious claims that everything is hunky-dory. It isn’t.

Indeed, the professional statisticians at the Labor Department say that both unemployment numbers have been rising for the past four weeks.

“It’s super disappointing,” says AnnElizabeth Konkel, an economist with Indeed Hiring Lab. “It really points to mounting damage from the coronavirus.”

The number of jobless workers filing for unemployment insurance continues to rise, too.

The Labor Department reported late last month that 29.6 million people were receiving federal unemployment insurance. That’s nearly 20 times the 1.59 million receiving jobless benefits for the same period last year.

Still, the unemployment rate in August fell below 10% for the first time since April, but according to Labor Department data, the labor market’s recovery could stall if Congress does not provide more federal aid. And as of this week, that remained problematic.

All of this is taking place at a time of deep political divisions and a weakening economy. No president in modern history has been reelected when the jobless rate was over 7.2%. As of August, it was 8.4%.

Trump has clearly lost his advantage on the economy, the deciding issue in this campaign. He came into office as a successful businessman who knew how to turn the U.S. economy around, create jobs and cut deals with Congress.

Now he is presiding over an economy that is hemorrhaging jobs, and he refuses to wheel and deal with Congress.

Donald Lambro has been covering Washington politics for more than 50 years as a reporter, editor and commentator.

©2020 UNITED FEATURE SYNDICATE DISTRIBUTED BY ANDREWS MCMEEL SYNDICATION

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