Calling it “The Most Important Least-Noticed Economic Event of the Decade,” the New York Times finally acknowledges the degree to which Barack Obama’s policies were strangling business investment in his final year in office. During the presidential campaign, acknowledging this “mini recession that many missed” was taboo, of course. And among those “many” who “least-noticed” it was the New York Times. So why is the Times admitting it now? Why, of course, to denigrate the achievements of President Trump in rescuing the economy from the miasma Obama inflicted on it with taxes and regulatory policies.
Neil Irwin writes:
[In 2015 and 2016, t]here was a sharp slowdown in business investment, caused by an interrelated weakening in emerging markets, a drop in the price of oil and other commodities, and a run-up in the value of the dollar.
The pain was confined mostly to the energy and agricultural sectors and to the portions of the manufacturing economy that supply them with equipment. Overall economic growth slowed but remained in positive territory. The national unemployment rate kept falling. Anyone who didn’t work in energy, agriculture or manufacturing could be forgiven for not noticing it at all.
Even though the Times and its readers were able to disregard the suffering in the oil patch, on farms, and in the Rust Belt manufacturing strongholds, candidate Trump actively campaigned with these constituencies and won the presidency on his promise to revive them from the suffering inflicted upon them. He knew; he acted; and after he won, he revived them. As Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds quips:
It wasn’t invisible – Trump saw it – they just didn’t report it because they didn’t want to make Obama look bad or hurt Hillary’s prospects.
Now, the Times acknowledges the reality and immediately turns to crediting Obama. I kid you not:
It helps explains the economic growth spurt of the last two years. The end of the mini-recession in the spring of 2016 created a capital spending rebound that began in mid-2016, and it has contributed to speedier growth since. Oil prices have reached four-year highs, a major factor in a surge in business investment this year.
Actually, in very different language, I acknowledged weeks ago that the wreckage left by Obama did help Trump look good in comparison:
Obama shackled existing businesses and entrepreneurs contemplating new businesses with tax increases and years’ worth of red tape. That’s why his recovery from the 2008 financial shock was the slowest recovery from a recession on record.
But during this period, technological innovation did not stop, nor did opportunities for business projects stop developing in the minds of people who would carry them out, should the business environment (taxes + regulations) improve. There was, in other words, a substantial backlog of business opportunities that built up during the 8 years of Obama’s oppressive anti-business policies.
But far be it from the Times to recognize achievement on the part of Trump. No, the reporters over there have to wag their fingers and warn of danger!
The episode is stark evidence of the risk the Trump administration faces in threatening economic damage to negotiate leverage with other nations on trade and security. What happens overseas can return to American shores faster and more powerfully than once seemed possible.