10 July 2024

There’s No Debating Who Would Be Better for the US Economy


Something has been missing from the flood of commentary following the debate between US President Joe Biden and Donald Trump. While voters’ judgments about a candidate’s personality and personal strengths are important, everyone should remember the famous dictum: “It’s the economy, stupid.” In the firehose of outright lies that Trump spewed throughout the debate, the most dangerous falsehoods concerned his and Biden’s respective economic-policy records.

Assessing a president’s management of the economy is always a tricky business, because many developments will have been set in motion by one’s predecessors. Barack Obama had to deal with a deep recession because previous administrations had pursued financial deregulation and failed to head off the crisis that erupted in the fall of 2008. Then, with congressional Republicans tying the Obama administration’s hands and calling for belt tightening, the country was deprived of the kinds of fiscal policies that might have brought the economy out of the Great Recession faster. By the time the economy was finally on the mend, Obama was on his way out, and Trump was on his way in.

Trump did not hesitate to claim credit for the growth that ensued. But while he and congressional Republicans slashed taxes for corporations and billionaires, the promised surge of investment never materialized. Instead, there was a wave of stock buybacks, which are on track to exceed $1 trillion next year.

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