What I’m about to say would be shameless name-dropping – except I’m not dropping any names. You might still accuse me of self-indulgence, but then the whole idea of writing a newspaper column is fairly self-indulgent if you stop and think about it.
At any rate, you’ll have to take my word for it. I know several famous writers. The real McCoys. Novelists. Serious essayists. Hilarious storytellers. Prose artists. They are friends but also number among my few heroes.
Sometimes these writer friends of mine send me a note about columns I write. Often, they strongly imply I have no idea what I am talking about.
But damn it. They are so clever and facile with their words I’m never sure if I have been harpooned in the heart, lightly chided, or just plain insulted.
One such note came last week – prompted, I suspect, by a recent column that was criticial of President Donald Trump. It read:
“Rich, my man:
“What ever happened to it’s the economy, stupid? This President has done more for America in more ways in two years than anyone since FDR, who was needed at the time. All he’s done is improve things while all the media does is promote socialism. When did they get so stupid? More importantly, WHY?|”
Difficult to tell if I am the “stupid” referenced in the note but that’s the way it goes with these masters of intentional ambiguity.
The most likely interpretation (and least hurtful to me) would be that the writer was referring to renowned political consultant James Carville’s famous battle cry in the 1992 presidential election: “It’s the economy, stupid!” Keeping that phrase constantly in mind, Carville guided Bill Clinton to victory over incumbent George H.W. Bush, whom the Clinton campaign excoriated daily regarding the condition of the U.S. economy. Turned out the recession that Clinton blamed on Bush had ended but no one knew that until after the votes were counted in November.
Deftly, this author swiped wide and hard at the media in general but no confusion there. I am part of it.
I responded by agreeing that economic progress seems apparent on several fronts but that I do not admire the president in any way so I’m loath to give him credit.
My friend responded that he votes with his pocketbook, not with the wispy winds of personal affection for politicians – most of whom, he said, he cannot stand.
Personally, I can’t say that I feel the upsurge in the economy.
At the gas pump my Jeep always seems to drink fuel like it did the week before. My grocery bills have not declined. Restaurant prices seem to climb. Reports indicate the residential real estate market has slowed.
But Matt Egan of CNN Money reported Sept. 18 that despite concerns by some investors about Trump’s trade policies and other economic uncertainties, good signs abound:
“U.S. markets have been bolstered by a strong domestic economy that can hopefully shrug off the trade tensions. The U.S. unemployment rate is sitting at just 3.9%. America’s gross domestic product climbed at an annualized pace of 4.2% in the second quarter.
“Despite the trade standoff, growth is on track to accelerate to 4.4% in the third quarter, according to a volatile forecasting model from the Atlanta Federal Reserve.”
Other reports say wages will rise an average of 3 percent this year. Inflation will knock those down to somewhere around 1 per cent. A raise is a raise, although for most workers the days of an automatic pay increase ended many, many years ago.
I am not trying to be disputatious but the trade/tariff situation seems to change so quickly I find it difficult to comprehend whether things are better, worse, or the same.
There does seem to be considerable agreement that the economy is better, even if some folks have trouble defining exactly what constitutes “the economy.”
So. Is the economy thriving because of Trump and his economic policies?
Seems as though he should get the credit. He’s sitting in the big chair behind the big desk and if things were worse he would surely get the blame.
Amid this ball of confusion, I agree with my author buddy. When voters go to the polls, particularly in the presidential election in two years, the key to how we vote will be, “It’s the economy, stupid.”
Richard Connor is president and publisher of the Fort Worth Business Press. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org