This has been a remarkable week of head-spinning incoherence from this White House. And for this White House, that is saying something. Yet despite that, it appears that nothing disastrous happened at the Group of Seven meeting in France. If you just ignore the fact that President Donald Trump wants to make the G-7 the G-8 again by inviting back Vladimir Putin into the fold — and wants to host the next summit at one of his own properties — everything seems relatively normal.
Despite the seemingly endless cacophony of Trump-induced anxiety and uncertainties, some encouraging messages from the real economy are breaking through. Specifically, Main Street appears to be thriving.
According to the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB)’s monthly index, optimism among small business owners rose last month, and uncertainty about the future — which had peaked in June — fell 10 points. If taken together, American small businesses would represent the third-largest economy in the world.) So, while the world’s central bankers may be sitting on the edge of their seats, and the Democratic candidates for the 2020 presidential nomination are hoping for the worst, owners of America’s small businesses are actually feeling confident. If that were not already enough, capital outlays for purchases of new equipment are up. Hiring is up — in fact, the only limitations seem to be in the available labor market — as are wages and consumer spending.
None of this is to say that market jitters aren’t real, but these are all very robust indicators. Small business in the United States is booming — and that is good news for everyone. And it is especially good news for both parties’ incumbents, even including President Trump. In the meantime, many in the media are practically rooting for a recession. They are fixated on the Dow dropping more than 700 points on Friday, which may have been partially fueled by a Trump tweet about how the United States would be better off without China, but they refuse to even acknowledge that most on Main Street are enthusiastic about the economy’s performance.
It is certain that economic circumstances produce political consequences. But it is not certain that the president’s incredibly outrageous, dumbfounding, jaw-droppingly embarrassing, self-serving and absurd behavior will produce political consequences. Only time will tell. Our politics have never really been here before. So, while some in the commentariat class want us to believe that as Russia collusion has faded and charges of racism have overreached and become background noise, we are on the brink of a recession. But there remain reassuring facts about the economy that cannot be shushed.
Of course, good news today does not mean good news tomorrow. While the world’s central bankers were holding their annual retreat out in Jackson Hole, Wyo., last week, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell — who Trump recently labeled an “enemy” — told his counterparts that the fundamentals of America’s economy remain strong, but current growth could be endangered by a trade war with China and that the Federal Reserve is limited in what it can do to counter the effects of such turbulence. The fact is, we just don’t what we don’t know.
What we do know is that even as the silly season of August winds down, U.S. businesses — at least the kind that connect with and employ millions of voters — are feeling just fine. And no one in the media or elsewhere should suggest otherwise, no matter how hard they want to punish the president and his bizarre and troublesome behavior.
Ed Rogers writes for the Washington Post.