In his State of the Union address, President Donald Trump missed an opportunity to lavish praise on someone other than himself.
Not fellow Republicans and certainly not the Democrats who tried to remove him from office. If you get past the Trump-Nancy Pelosi dynamic and delve into the substance of the speech, it’s clear that a presidential shout-out is in order.
We’re not talking about Rush Limbaugh. We’re talking about the American consumer.
Trump projects himself as not only the lead architect of a booming economy, but as the leader who managed in just three short years to reverse America’s inexorable decline. If this is true, then consumers, those humble Americans who fuel the economy with purchases of bread, cars and everything in between, deserve some credit for withstanding the carnage of the previous administration and making it to this new renaissance.
Gallup polling shows that an increasing number of Americans share a buoyant outlook, with the latest economic confidence index reaching the highest level since October of 2000. Gallup’s index shows that Americans’ economic outlook plunged after the 2008 recession and reached positive territory in late 2015. A significant increase began in 2016.
Consumer confidence continues to rise, driven by an unemployment rate at 50-year lows. The White House communication office, eager to put some numbers to what otherwise sounds like hyperbolic boastfulness, released a page of statistics the day after the speech. These bullet points showed that 2.5 million Americans have risen out of poverty, African-American unemployment has reached a record low and 500,000 factory jobs were created since the 2016 election.
What was left unsaid, both in the State of the Union and the next day’s release, was the reality that gross domestic product has dipped to 2.1%, below Trump’s bullish promise to achieve 3% to 4% gains in this broad measure of economic activity. Economists attribute this to the impact of Trump’s trade wars, the fading effect of tax cuts and the new normal for a graying society. Factory output fell in 2019 due to trade disputes and lost productivity during the strike at General Motors.
Every politician deserves to take an occasional victory lap and draw distinction with the policies of political opponents. But in delivering a speech called “The Great American Comeback Story,” the president and his advisers would be wise to tone down the hyperbole and appreciate that not every accomplishment is the greatest in history. At the very least, heed the example of another recent comeback that occurred at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami.
You didn’t hear Andy Reid walk out of that stadium and say, “Look what I did.” Sometimes, it’s best to let others say it.