'60 Minutes' bothers Trump with the truth about the economy

Trump's insistence that he created the strongest economy in history is demonstrably ridiculous, and insisting otherwise doesn't turn fiction into fact.
Image: Donald Trump, FILES-US-VOTE-TRUMP
President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media upon arrival at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, Arizona on Oct. 19, 2020.Mandel Ngan / AFP - Getty Images

With Election Day just 12 days away, and with millions of Americans casting ballots already, one might assume that Donald Trump would focus exclusively on rallying voters' support. Instead, the president has spent much of the week lashing out at "60 Minutes."

Indeed, just this morning, the Republican incumbent published yet another tweet on his not-yet-aired interview with CBS News' Lesley Stahl -- his third tweet on this in three days -- in which he described his answers to Stahl's questions as "full, flowing and 'magnificently brilliant.'"

No, seriously, that's what he wrote. (It's not clear why he put "magnificently brilliant" in quotes, but Trump has long struggled to understand how quotation marks are supposed to work.)

We'll see soon enough why the interview touched such a nerve with the president, though CBS this morning released a brief preview in which the anchor asked Trump about his "biggest domestic priority." The Republican has long struggled with questions about his agenda and plans for a second term, and he answered by bragging about the pre-pandemic economy.

"We created the greatest economy in the history of our country, and the other side was coming in-" Trump said before Stahl cut him off. "You know that's not true," the CBS reporter told him. "It is totally true," the President shot back. "No," Stahl said before pressing Trump on the question again.

This is no small matter: Trump's standing on the economy appears to be the only thing sustaining his modest levels of public support, so Stahl challenging the president's boast calls into question the most important of Trump's many lies.

But to the extent that reality still has any meaning, the "60 Minutes" anchor was right and Trump was wrong.

Take job creation, for example. As we recently discussed, for all of the Republican incumbent's chest-thumping, the truth remains that fewer jobs were created during Trump's first three years than during Obama's last three years, and the incumbent president has never explained why job growth slowed after he took office -- even before the coronavirus pandemic. What's more, no individual year from Trump's tenure has produced job growth that matches the best years from Obama's second term.

Complicating matters further, Joe Biden noted recently that Trump is on track to be the first president since Hoover to leave office with fewer jobs than when he came into office -- a claim that has the benefit of being true.

There's also GDP to consider. As a candidate, Trump set specific targets for U.S. economic growth, and as a president, he failed spectacularly to deliver those results. In fact, the best year of GDP growth in Trump's first term fell a little short of the best year of Obama's second term.

When Trump told Stahl that he and his team "created the greatest economy in the history of our country," the truth is they didn't even create the greatest economy in the history of the last decade.

The Washington Post published an interesting analysis about a year ago, explaining, "[I]f we are linking economic numbers to presidential performance, Trump's insistence that his abilities are unparalleled are rendered somewhat suspect in that he ranks second out of the last two presidents" on several key economic indicators. That, of course, was before this year's severe downturn.

The president's insistence that he created the strongest economy in history is demonstrably ridiculous, and insisting otherwise doesn't turn fiction into fact.