Jill Abramson reports for The Guardian:
The strength of the economy was the keystone of President Trump’s State of the Union speech. There was no need to exaggerate how good things are – low inflation, lower unemployment, soaring stock market. Nonetheless, as usual, he had to inflate his boastful claims with hot air.
There were so many encomiums for various Americans in the president’s speech that the personal, anecdotal stories blurred into each other. But there was no word of thanks for the person most responsible for the strong economic winds keeping the Trump administration afloat.
Janet Yellen, perhaps the most successful Federal Reserve chair in modern history and the first woman to hold the job, was completely unrecognized. President Trump gave her the boot, making her the first Fed leader not to be renominated for a second term. All of her predecessors were renominated by presidents of the opposite party. But not Yellen, whom President Barack Obama appointed in 2014 and whose last day on the job is 3 February.
Yellen was denounced by some of the Republican lawmakers who clapped thunderously as the president bragged about the 2.4m jobs created during the first year of his presidency. Conservatives in the Congress lambasted Yellen in her early days for her singular focus on job creation and her tenacious loyalty to the bond-buying program known as quantitative easing.
As a member of the Fed board of governors, Powell had supported virtually all of Yellen’s key decisions. It’s telling that the president had to embroider the already impressive economic gains the country had enjoyed during his first year in office.
“Since the election, we have created 2.4 million new jobs, including 200,000 new jobs in manufacturing alone,” he boasted. But according to Pro Publica, only 206,000 real jobs have actually been created so far and only 63,000 of those can be attributed to President Trump.
As for manufacturing jobs, the president began his tenure by anointing himself as the savior of a Carrier plant in Indianapolis, Indiana. But only two weeks ago, 200 workers at the plant lost their jobs. And it took $7m in tax breaks and other goodies just to get Carrier to back off from its plan to move to Mexico.
The New Yorker published the anguished stories of some of those being laid off earlier this month, just as President Trump began drafting his speech. The magazine gathered with a group of about-to-be former Carrier employees at Sully’s, a local bar. They expressed their sense of having been had by Trump.
Among those who spoke at the gathering was Chuck Jones, the former president of United Steel Workers Local 1999, in Indianapolis, who disputed Trump’s initial claims about the Carrier deal and was attacked by Trump on Twitter as a result. “Trump is a liar and an idiot,” Jones told the crowd, adding, “He’s a con man, pure and simple, who sold us a bag of shit.”
The 2.4m new jobs figure Trump trumpeted for 2017 is accurate. But it’s also less than the 2.7m jobs created during President Obama’s last year in office. The president’s “Happy Days Are Here Again” economic picture hinges on what he described in his address as “the biggest tax cuts and reform in history”.
Actually, the Trump tax cuts are only the 12th largest in history. Ronald Reagan’s 1981 rate cuts were the largest. Everyone knows that the tax bill that was the president’s signature achievement in 2017 is a wet kiss to the billionaire class and robs the poor and many members of the middle class. Nonetheless, Trump and the Republican party believe the tax cuts may be the only thing standing between them and Armageddon in the 2018 elections.
The Koch Brothers, among the chief beneficiaries of the bill, just announced their intention of asking their donor network to spend $400m to beat back an expected Democratic wave in congressional races. They more or less sat out those races in 2016 and were lukewarm to Trump. With the tax bill gift, they are lukewarm no more.
Trump also repeated the most cynical boast of all – that he’s responsible for improving the economic standing of black Americans. He was stung by criticisms from Jay-Z and tweeted: “Somebody please inform Jay-Z that because of my policies, Black Unemployment has just been reported to be at the LOWEST RATE EVER RECORDED!”
Black unemployment has been declining steadily for the past seven years. It is now at its lowest rate – below 7%, but it is still more about double the 3.7% rate for white Americans, hardly something to brag about.
Before the speech, pundits debated whether the president would be “Twitter Trump” or “Teleprompter Trump” for his State of the Union. The angry, dark president on view a year ago on Inauguration Day was replaced by the calm reader. Also on display, to good reviews, in Davos.
But substance, not presentation, is what’s important. And it was really the same Donald Trump standing in the well of the House of Representatives, the man who regularly does set a record: for untruths uttered by an American president.
Jill Abramson is a Guardian columnist”
You can be pretty sure that when the inevitable financial crisis comes, both Trump and “The Munchkin” will be clueless about what to do. After all, this is a dude whose formula for dealing with his own business incompetence was “stiff the suppliers, screw the workers, and declare bankruptcy!” We all have to hope that new Fed Chief Jerome Powell turns out to be smarter and more “Yellen-like” than the clowns who ousted her.
And, of course, when the tough times come, Trumpie will blame the Democrats, “sanctuary cities,” Barak Obama, Hillary Clinton, Mexico, Canada, California, New York, The New York Times, CNN, NBC News, or just about anybody, rather than accepting any personal responsibility. That’s just not in the Con-Man’s makeup. But, when things look good again, you can bet that The Donald will take all the credit and stiff the “real heroes” no matter who they are.