Trump, Truth, and the Economy

The State of the Union (SOTU) speech was less a report to the nation than a well-produced reality show and a well-staged campaign rally.  But what really offends is that most of the substance Trump advanced was not true. Unsurprisingly, the President who has spit out more than 16,000 false or misleading claims in his first three years, played fast and loose with the facts.  

Misstatements about the economy were particularly bothersome.  I awakened the next morning to the headline: “Trump extols US economy.”   Stories focused on Trump’s oft-repeated theme that he has brought us “the greatest [economy] in the history of our country.”  Sorry to rain on your parade, Mr. President, but that just isn’t so.  And if this rains on the parade of Trump supporters, welcome to the world of facts.  Our economy is doing just fine on many fronts, but the source is not tariff master Trump. 

After nearly 27 years in economic development, economic information is in my wheelhouse.  Elected officials often tout their accomplishments and once in a while even “spin” their claims a little.  We can live with that, but, unlike Trump, normal elected leaders root their claims in reality, facts and truth.  For example, the “Economic Report Card” I regularly produced at Governor Brian Schweitzer’s Office of Economic Development featured actual Top 10 rankings for Montana from a myriad of established and credible external sources.  Nothing made up.

But President Trump’s assertions seem to be cut from whole cloth as he describes everything for which he wants credit as “best” or “greatest” or “perfect.”   Perhaps that’s acceptable in Trump-world, where a presidential advisor once claimed that false statements were “alternative facts.”  However, I adhere to the view of the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”  

So, after 16,000 falsehoods, let’s fact-check some of Trump’s economic claims, starting with his main assertion: that he “inherited a mess” which he turned into the “single greatest comeback that we’ve ever had.” 

The reality is that Trump inherited economic momentum from Obama, not an economic mess.  You want a mess? Obama truly inherited an economic mess, “the great recession” – the most severe economic recession since the 1930s depression.  Obama’s policies helped us turn the corner, and we entered an indisputable record eleven-year expansion.  The nearly eight-year expansion under Obama has continued under Trump, but let’s not pretend Trump started it.     

Let’s check out some specific facts about Trump’s “greatest ever” performance relative to our generally good economy.

Trump’s real statistics show his economic performance is far from the “greatest ever.” As he instinctively and unnecessarily lies, we are reminded of what Aesop said: “A liar will not be believed even when he speaks the truth.”

Truth does not come easily to President Trump.  He’s been putting the big lie theory into practice here in America.  Joseph Goebbels described it well: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”   

So, we’d all do well to listen to Trump with skepticism, anchor our thinking in the facts, and not fall for the repeated “big lie” that is the modus operandi of the President.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

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About the author

Evan Barrett

Evan Barrett, now retired and living on the Butte hill, is a regularly published political columnist in many Montana daily newspapers. Though never an elected official, Barrett’s political and governmental experience includes three years as Executive Director of the Montana Democratic Party and twelve years on the Democratic National Committee; senior staff positions with Governors Forrest Anderson, Tom Judge and Brian Schweitzer, Congressman Pat Williams and Senator John Melcher; and campaign management positions with Judge, Williams and Melcher. Barrett is a recognized Montana historian, teacher and award-winning chronicler of Montana’s progressive past.


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  • What a great post, Mr. Barrett! Thank you – but sadly, far too many of our fellow Montanans choose to believe the lies of Trump and his minions because their only source of news is Fox or their Facebook news feeds. And what a cesspool that is!
    I only wish that people would diversify their news sources – the truth is out there in plain sight. Trump even admits his own wrong-doing on national TV, and then dares to call it FAKE NEWS!

  • I don’t think your going to convince anybody that the Obama Economy was wonderful, and that doubling the number of people on food stamps was really Bush’s fault. Too funny.j

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