The problem with bluster

The President of the United States is a pretty strange dude. He’s certainly not the only person in the world with the same kind of strangeness, but he seems to be almost completely devoid of humility and modesty. This may be what attracts some people to him, because it could be seen as strength to them, but to me it just makes him look like a really insecure person who is in constant need of validation to counteract his self-loathing. I can’t stand too strongly by that assumption, because I don’t know him. I’ve never talked to him in real life, and even if I had, I don’t have the ability to read his mind and know what he really sees when he looks in the mirror. So in the end, this is much like the missed opportunities that I’ve pondered before (here and here), but it’s amazing to me how much more mileage it seems the president could get by just being accurate, without the exaggeration and bluster.

Trump is at a world economic meeting in Switzerland today and gave a fairly normal speech (yes, this is where we are: giving a normal speech without going off the rails about collusion or Hillary Clinton is considered an accomplishment). He touted the job creation during the first year of his presidency. Pending any revisions, 2,055,000 new jobs were added in 2017. This is great, and nobody should minimize how much better that is than a lower number, or a loss of jobs. But Trump does more than that. He talks about reviving a stagnant economy (“After years of stagnation the United States is once again experiencing strong economic growth”) and boasts about the 2.4 million jobs that were added since he was elected. First of all, job growth in 2017 was the lowest (not by much, but still the lowest) since 2010.

Jobs Created:
2010: 1,061,000
2011: 2,091,000
2012: 2,142,000
2013: 2,302,000
2014: 2,988,000
2015: 2,713,000
2016: 2,240,000
2017: 2,055,000
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

There are a things to think about here. First, it’s not entirely clear how much control the president has over job creation, so we should be a bit cautious before handing out credit to President Obama or President Trump. Second, it’s easy for me to consider saturation effects here. Yes, economies can grow, so there’s not a real ceiling effect on the number of jobs, but it’s one thing to put enough air into a balloon to give it a little shape, but it takes more force to make the rubber really stretch, and the more stretched it is already, the more force it takes to make it stretch more. In that sense, after losing 3,567,000 jobs in 2008, and another 5,068,000 jobs in 2009, there was plenty of empty space in the balloon. In other words, it wasn’t until May of 2014 when we ventured into positive job growth (including the losses in 2008 and 2009). Before then, we were just filling the void left by the recession. But we did fill that void, and then some.

Those numbers don’t take into account that 3,567,000 jobs were lost before Obama took office. To keep things even, and exclude the losses that came before Obama took office, the net growth under Obama started by December of 2012, and by the end of 2016 there was net job creation of 10,479,000 jobs.

So what we’re left with is a situation where jobs were certainly added during Trump’s first year in office, and that is great. But is this coming after years of stagnation? Certainly not. It’s coming after years of growth. Why not just express excitement over the addition of 2,055,000 new jobs? Why lie about the previous years and pretend that this is a new direction? I can’t stop feeling like we’re watching a baseball game, with a starting pitcher who threw 8 excellent innings (maybe struggled during the first), and a closing pitcher who came in and got a save, but went on TV and talked about how he won the game.

I know this kind of exaggeration has worked for Trump his whole life, and there are clearly people who love his style, but I can’t stop wondering how much more united we’d be as a country if he’d stop the bloviating, and give credit where it’s due, instead of making it all about him. Missed opportunities, over and over and over.




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