In case you hadn’t noticed, the economy has Donald Trump on edge. “Everyone is nervous — everyone,” a Republican close to the White House and GOP lawmakers confided to the Washington Post.
But Trump is especially pissy about the prospect of an economic meltdown heading into a re-election year that could decide whether he can be held to account for his lawlessness and potentially jailed for years, or perhaps decades. So yeah, this whole economic downturn prospect is bugging him, and naturally, he’s decided to just keep doing the things he’s been doing to destabilize the markets while bombarding the American public with a fantastical PR blitz on the matter.
First: Escalate the tariff war with China. Check! After the Chinese government announced another round of tariffs on American goods Friday morning, Trump went bonkers on Twitter and ordered the entire American private sector to cut ties with China. Cool. That should soothe investors and steady the markets.
Second: Thumb your nose at the world to make America feel better about any potential state of decline. Check! “I mean, the world is in a recession right now,” Trump told reporters last week, snubbing America’s allies and foes alike. “If you look at China, China is doing very, very poorly. They’ve had, I just saw a report, they’ve had the worst year in 27 years because of what I’ve done.” Way to get an extra dig in at the economic power that’s in position to perpetuate your pain.
Third: Deny reality, gaslight America, and instead of asking consumers about their finances, tell them how it is. Check! “I don’t see a recession,” Trump told reporters at the same impromptu presser where he chuckled at the world. “Our consumers are rich,” he continued, “I gave a tremendous tax cut, and they’re loaded up with money.” That’s what is known colloquially as finger on the pulse.
Trump is reportedly convinced that regardless of what Americans can actually afford, he can just tell them they’re flush with cash and people will believe him.
Of course, at the same time that Trump is telling everyone how rich they are and his aides are declaring the strength of the economy’s fundamentals, they’re also floating the idea of cutting both payroll and capital gains taxes while perhaps slashing the corporate tax rate again.
Never mind recent projections that the federal deficit will reach $1 trillion in the next fiscal year due mainly to decreased revenues from the GOP tax giveaway to the rich. Trump is also trying to bludgeon the chair of the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, into lowering interest rates. Oh, and he delayed implementing his latest round of tariffs on Chinese goods so higher prices wouldn’t torpedo consumer spending during the holidays. And yet, Trump insists that it’s “obvious to everyone” China is footing the bill for his tariffs. But bottom line: Nothing exudes confidence like taking steps one would only take during an economic downturn.
Taken together, it’s little wonder that stocks have been jumping up and down like a pogo stick and new signs of trouble have emerged in places like the manufacturing sector.
“The irony here is that Trump’s erratic, chaotic approach to the economy is probably the most significant economic risk factor in the world right now,” Clinton/Obama economist Gene Sperling told the Post. “Their response is just to show even more erratic behavior. It’s economic narcissism. It’s economic policy by whim, pride, ego and tantrum.”
Inside the White House, aides are reportedly scrambling to come up with new ideas to smooth Trump’s ruffled feathers, but he changes his mind day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute. One never knows when that next tweet is coming or what it will say—not even those in the White House.
It’s a recipe for disaster.