At a White House cabinet meeting last month, Donald Trump raised a few eyebrows by whining about the economic conditions he inherited from Barack Obama. "Look, I've been given a very tough hand," the president complained. "Because I came up here, we had an economy that was going down."
By any sane measurement, that didn't make any sense, but Trump has nevertheless pushed the line further. At an event in Iowa yesterday, the president went so far as to say "the economy was going to hell" in the Obama era. This morning, Trump added, "We've accomplished an economic turnaround of historic proportions."
This is utterly bonkers, even by 2018 standards. Consider this quote from the president's remarks earlier today:
"Everywhere we look, we are seeing the effects of the American economic miracle. We have added 3.7 million new jobs since the election, a number that is unthinkable if you go back to the campaign. Nobody would have said it. Nobody would have even in an optimistic way projected it."
Reality isn't that complicated. In the 17 full months since Trump took office -- February 2017 to June 2018 -- the U.S. economy created 3.22 million jobs. What's wrong with that? Nothing. It's a perfectly good number.
But it's not a "miracle." In the 17 full months before Trump took office -- September 2015 to January 2017 -- the U.S. economy created 3.54 million jobs.
If Trump sees himself as some kind of miracle worker on the economy, he must see Obama as some kind of once-in-a-lifetime wizard. Indeed, for all of the Republican president's hype, job growth in the United States actually fell to a six-year low in Trump's first year in office -- a development the White House has so far failed to acknowledge or explain.
What about GDP growth? This morning's quarterly report pointed to great news -- the economy grew at an annual rate of 4.1% between April and June -- but Trump's boasts overlook the fact that it grew even faster in several quarters during the Obama era.
What's more, in Trump's first year, economic growth reached 2.3%, which wasn't bad, but it was short of the growth we saw in 2010, 2014, and 2015 -- and it was short of the growth Trump promised to deliver before he took office.
A Washington Post analysis in June explained, "For the last time: Trump inherited a good economy, and he hasn't made it better."
Except it need not have been the last time for this basic truth, because Trump still doesn't understand it. He inherited a healthy domestic economy, with falling unemployment and steady growth. When this president says the economy "was going down" before he took office, he's lying. When Trump says say "the economy was going to hell" in the Obama era, he's brazenly lying.
Perhaps the White House can explain whether the president is confused about the meaning of the word "turnaround"?