Harm­ful in­ac­tion

The Times-Tribune - - EDITORIAL -

Editor: Pres­i­dent Trump’s sup­port­ers of­ten cite his busi­ness acu­men as a rea­son to sup­port him this Novem­ber.

In polls, Trump con­sis­tently fares bet­ter than Joe Bi­den when re­spon­dents are asked which can­di­date is bet­ter equipped to man­age the econ­omy. In truth, how­ever, pres­i­dents have lit­tle ef­fect on the econ­omy. Un­til re­cently, the econ­omy un­der his ad­min­is­tra­tion fol­lowed the same tra­jec­tory as that since the 2007 re­ces­sion.

In a 2014 study pub­lished by the Na­tional Bureau of Eco­nomic Re­search, Prince­ton economists Alan Blinder and Mark Wat­son showed that the an­nu­al­ized GDP growth rate since the Tru­man ad­min­is­tra­tion was 4.35% un­der Demo­cratic ad­min­is­tra­tions and 2.54% un­der Repub­li­cans. The top four spots were held by Democrats de­spite higher av­er­age tax rates un­der Democrats. The au­thors at­trib­uted the ad­van­tage to luck — fewer oil price-shocks, su­pe­rior con­sumer con­fi­dence and a more sta­ble in­ter­na­tional geopo­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment dur­ing their ad­min­is­tra­tions — not more skilled eco­nomic man­age­ment.

Trump’s poor per­for­mance in com­bat­ing the coro­n­avirus is con­sid­ered a “shock,” as out­lined by Blinder and Wat­son. From day one he played into the strengths of a novel virus when in Jan­uary 2017 he can­celed a reg­u­la­tion re­quir­ing nurs­ing homes and hos­pi­tals to have plans to mit­i­gate air­borne dis­ease and have ad­e­quate stock­piles of per­sonal pro­tec­tive equip­ment at each fa­cil­ity. He and mem­bers of his ad­min­is­tra­tion felt it was too bur­den­some and ex­pen­sive.

Trump’s late re­sponse, fail­ure to lead on masks and dis­tanc­ing and fail­ure to de­ploy the De­fense Pro­duc­tion Act to en­sure the kind of rapid test­ing avail­abil­ity that he, his White House con­tacts, and ma­jor league ath­letes all en­joy con­trib­ute to this vi­ral calamity. Eco­nomic his­to­ri­ans will need to cor­rect Blinder and Wat­son’s study to show that pres­i­den­tial per­for­mance can im­pact the econ­omy.


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