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Trump Or Obama: Who Gets The Credit For A Booming Economy?


Who gets to claim credit for the economy? President Obama addressed campaign rallies last weekend, reminding audiences of the economic growth that started early in his term and has continued ever since. Kevin Hassett, chairman of President Trump's Council of Economic Advisers, offered a different view yesterday at a White House briefing.


KEVIN HASSETT: I can promise you that economic historians will 100 percent accept the fact that there was an inflection at the election of Donald Trump and that a whole bunch of data items started heading north.

INSKEEP: Our source for reliable data is NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley. Scott, good morning.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: Is there a case that something suddenly got a lot better in the economy around November 2016?

HORSLEY: Well, that's certainly the case that White House economist Kevin Hassett was trying to make yesterday. If you sketch a graph of a lot of economic indicators, what you see is a pretty straight line stretching back into the Obama years. You've seen a steady march upward in the total number of jobs, a steady march downward in the unemployment rate, but Hassett was trying to show some different graphs where you show a turnaround beginning right around November 2016 when Donald Trump was elected. He looks at things like business investment, for example, trying to make the point that not only is the U.S. economy doing well but that President Trump deserves the credit for that.

INSKEEP: OK. But when we hear you giving economic statistics since the start of the Trump administration, Scott, I consistently hear a pattern that the stats are pretty good but actually in many cases not quite as good as the last of Obama's years.

HORSLEY: For example, if you look at overall job growth, 3.6 million jobs have been added in the U.S. in the 19 months that Donald Trump's been in office. That's just shy of the 3.9 million jobs that were added in the comparable period at the end of the Obama administration. But here's something interesting, Steve. The makeup of those jobs has shifted just a little bit. We are now seeing faster growth in industries such as manufacturing, construction, oil drilling, other resource extraction industries, and somewhat slower job growth in the service industries, which is everything else. And the political geography could be interesting here because those, what the Labor Department refers to as goods-producing jobs, tend to be concentrated in more rural and suburban and more Republican parts of the country, the kind of areas where Donald Trump did well in 2016. So that could be a lifeline for the GOP in the midterm elections in November.

INSKEEP: Well, let's talk about the politics here because 70 percent of people in a Quinnipiac poll rate the economy as good or excellent, and that is happening on President Trump's watch. The president tends to get blamed. The president tends to get credit. He's the president. He gets credit. Seventy percent say the economy is good or excellent, yet the president's approval rating, his job approval rating - below 40 percent in that and some other surveys. What's happening?

HORSLEY: Well, it may be that people are not giving President Trump credit for that positive economy, or it may simply be that however they feel about the economy, it's trumped by other things they think about the president. If you look back to 2014, which was one of the strongest years for growth during the Obama administration, you still saw Democrats get a whuppin' (ph) in the midterm elections. So it's not - it's often the economy, stupid but not always just the economy.

INSKEEP: A lot of people still struggling out there perhaps. Scott, thanks very much, appreciate it.

HORSLEY: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: That's NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.