On “60 Minutes” the other day, Donald Trump eventually took a break from talking about himself and offered some praise for his new running mate. “Unemployment? What a great job he did,” Trump said of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R).
Trump made a similar comment during his VP announcement speech on Saturday: “Indiana, their unemployment rate has fallen, when he was there, when he started, 8.4% when he was governor, when he took over, to less than 5% in May of 2016.”
The problem with this rhetoric, of course, is that by Trump’s reasoning, President Obama has also done “a great job” with the U.S. economy – which saw the unemployment rate reach 10% during the Great Recession, only to fall below 5%.
In fact, while Indiana’s economy has done very well in the Obama era, the unemployment rate in the Hoosier State is actually slightly higher, not lower, than the national average. If Pence has done a great job producing economic results, by Trump’s own reasoning, it’s hard not to consider Obama an amazing success.
Of course, it’s not just Indiana. Politico’s Michael Grunwald reported today that tonight’s Republican National Convention theme is “Make America Work Again” – a curious choice in a country with 4.9% unemployment – but as he found talking to delegates in Cleveland, convention attendees think the economy in their area is actually terrific.
Just as most Americans say they hate Congress but routinely vote for their local congressmen, most Republicans seem to detect a national economic malaise while – with some exceptions in places like coal country and the oil patch – touting the economic progress in their local communities.They square that circle in a variety of ways – crediting their Republican mayors and governors, accusing Obama of manipulating data, or citing legitimate weaknesses in the recovery from the Great Recession. But with unemployment down from 10 percent to below 5 percent since late 2009, one of Trump’s many challenges will be persuading non-Republicans that America isn’t working even though nearly 15 million more Americans are.
Grunwald talked to a South Carolina delegate who said, “Actually, we’re doing great.” A New Hampshire state legislator added, “Oh, yeah, unemployment is way down.” A GOP county chair in Ohio said her local economy is so “wonderful” that employers “can’t fill all the job openings.”
Behold, the nightmare of the economy in the Obama years.
My personal favorite was an anecdote about a delegate from Florida.
Tina Harris, a longtime realtor in Palm Harbor, Fla., told me the housing market is “booming.” […] “I’m not saying everything is horrible,” Harris said. “But it was George W. Bush who put in the policies that got the economy going. Obama did nothing.”
I’ve long wondered when we’d see rhetoric like this. For seven years, Republicans have said that Obama’s economic policies have failed the nation, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. No longer able to sustain such an argument, the right has no choice but to turn reality on its head: Obama’s economic policies actually don’t exist, so let’s credit Bush/Cheney.