FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Trump Derangement Syndrome at the NYT

Donald Trump provides no shortage of grounds for criticism, but the NYT is really grasping at straws in it editorial headlined, “clouds darken Trump’s sunny economic view.” The confusion that characterizes the piece starts in the first paragraph when it tells us “the stock market seemed unimpressed” by the 157,000 jobs reported for July.

This is bizarre for two reasons. First, a major complaint of the piece is that workers are not getting their share of productivity gains, instead, it is going to profits. While this is true (although the revised data do show a substantial shift from profits to wages in the last three years), the story of stagnant wages and rising profits should lead to a higher stock market, other things equal.

If shareholders believe that Trump policies will shift income from wages to profits, this would be a reason for the market to rise. If we are supposed to be impressed by the market’s decline then this could mean shareholders are worried about future profits. This is again a case where it is worth pointing out that the stock market is not the economy.

The other point is that monthly jobs data are erratic. It is common for bad months to be followed by good months and vice versa. This is why economists typically focus on job growth over several months, as opposed to a single month.

We created 268,000 jobs in May and 248,000 jobs in June. Both numbers were revised upward with the July data. This gives us an average of 224,000 new jobs over the last three months. That is a pretty damn good story by any measure.

The piece also warns us that people are running out of money to spend. While many people certainly are pressed, the big news in the second quarter GDP data released last month was a sharp upward revision to the savings rate. The revised data show the savings rate to be close to its average for the last two decades, rather than being extraordinarily low, as was the case with the unrevised data. Furthermore, the Federal Reserve’s data on debt service burdens shows them to be at relatively low levels. Consumers are not about to run out of money to spend.

And of course, we get the curse of an inverted yield curve, with short-term rates rising above long-term rates. According to the curse, this gives us a recession.

Rather than there being some mysterious force that causes a recession from an inverted yield curve, there is a more simple explanation. All but two of the post-World War II recessions were caused by the Fed raising interest rates to try to slow the economy, presumably to head off inflation. (The two exceptions were the crash of the stock bubble in 2001 and the crash of the housing bubble in 2008.) The recession comes because the Fed goes too far.

We tend to get an inverted yield curve because long rates never rise one to one with short rates so any sharp rise in short rates will eventually lead to an inverted yield curve. In the current environment, since long rates have been at extraordinarily low levels, it is not hard for the Fed to raise short rates enough to lead to an inverted curve. What does the inversion mean for the economy? Pretty much nothing in my view.

Anyhow, it’s best to keep our eyes on the ball and focus on the many bad policies that Trump is actually putting in place. Many will hurt the economy, but much more in the long-run than the short-run. And, we should not be rooting for a recession to somehow save us from Trump’s incompetence and evil.

This column originally appeared on Dean Baker’s Beat the Press blog.

More articles by:

Dean Baker is the senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC. 

Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael Duggin
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
Nomi Prins 
The Inequality Gap on a Planet Growing More Extreme
John W. Whitehead
Know Your Rights or You Will Lose Them
David Swanson
The Abolition of War Requires New Thoughts, Words, and Actions
J.P. Linstroth
Primates Are Us
Bill Willers
The War Against Cash
Jonah Raskin
Doris Lessing: What’s There to Celebrate?
Ralph Nader
Are the New Congressional Progressives Real? Use These Yardsticks to Find Out
Binoy Kampmark
William Blum: Anti-Imperial Advocate
Medea Benjamin – Alice Slater
Green New Deal Advocates Should Address Militarism
John Feffer
Review: Season 2 of Trump Presidency
Rich Whitney
General Motors’ Factories Should Not Be Closed. They Should Be Turned Over to the Workers
Christopher Brauchli
Deported for Christmas
Kerri Kennedy
This Holiday Season, I’m Standing With Migrants
Mel Gurtov
Weaponizing Humanitarian Aid
Thomas Knapp
Lame Duck Shutdown Theater Time: Pride Goeth Before a Wall?
George Wuerthner
The Thrill Bike Threat to the Elkhorn Mountains
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Selfhood and Her Ability to Act in the Public Domain: Resilience of Nadia Murad
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
On the Killing of an Ash Tree
Graham Peebles
Britain’s Homeless Crisis
Louis Proyect
America: a Breeding Ground for Maladjustment
Steve Carlson
A Hell of a Time
Dan Corjescu
America and The Last Ship
Jeffrey St. Clair
Booked Up: the 25 Best Books of 2018
David Yearsley
Bikini by Rita, Voice by Anita
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail