By Trump's standards, the economy is 'in deep trouble'

U.S. President Barack Obama meets with President-elect Donald Trump to discuss transition plans in the White House Oval Office in Washington, Nov. 10, 2016. (Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
U.S. President Barack Obama meets with President-elect Donald Trump to discuss transition plans in the White House Oval Office in Washington, Nov. 10, 2016. 

Before Donald Trump took office, he set high expectations for the kind of economic growth Americans should expect to see if he became president.

Indeed, while Candidate Trump was nearly always vague about his policy goals, he was rather specific about the nation's GDP, condemning Barack Obama for failing to reach 3% annual growth, and assuring the electorate that in a Trump administration, growth would be between 4% and 6%.

In one especially memorable online missive, the New York Republican marveled at a quarterly GDP report from the Obama era pointing to 1.9% growth. It was, Trump said at the time, evidence that the economy was "in deep trouble."

Yesterday, the latest quarterly GDP report showed the economy growing at ... wait for it ... 1.9%. It came the same morning that the president assured the public that we currently have "the Greatest Economy in American History!"

All of which leads to an awkward question about how and why Trump sees 1.9% quarterly growth as both alarming and amazing.

Of course, the GDP is only one of several economic metrics that matter, which led the Washington Post to publish an interesting analysis taking a broader view.

There's no telling Trump that the economy is anything but sensational under his stewardship, of course, and there's no telling him that it's doing well for any reason other than his stewardship. Generally speaking, the economy is doing well, though there are ongoing concerns that the economic boom is slowing. But given Trump's habit of comparing his performance to history, we thought it was worth comparing economic metrics under Trump to the second term of the last guy to hold Trump's job: Barack Obama.

I have a hunch the White House won't care for the results of the analysis. Comparing the economy under Obama and Trump at the same points in their presidencies, the Post found that the economy grew faster under Obama, hiring grew faster under Obama, the S&P 500 grew faster under Obama, the unemployment shrunk faster under Obama, and the national debt grew slower under Obama.

The analysis concluded, "[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 a lot of these indicators."

It's worth emphasizing that it'd be wrong to suggest the economy is bad under Trump. It's not, at least not yet. But the more the Republican tries to convince people that he's responsible for the greatest economic boom since the dawn of humanity, the more relevant it becomes that he hasn't yet matched Obama's record of success.

* Postscript: The latest GDP report, released yesterday morning, also pointed to an unexpectedly steep decline of late in business investment. This was the one thing the Republican tax breaks for the wealthy and big corporations were supposed to prevent.