Fox News has gone into a frenzy over a Twitter exchange between former President Barack Obama, marking the anniversary of the stimulus law that helped to bring the country back from the Great Recession, and President Donald Trump, who gave a heated response.
It all started with Obama’s tweet on Monday celebrating the 11th anniversary of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which did not even mention Trump.
Trump responded on Twitter, castigating Obama for even daring to take credit for today’s economy and trumpeting his own administration’s employment statistics — even though Obama’s last three years of job creation were each better than Trump’s single best year so far:
Over on Fox’s regular news coverage, anchor Bret Baier hosted senior political analyst Brit Hume, who claimed that really, the recovery in the Obama years had been bound to happen and was underwritten by the Federal Reserve anyway.
“It's worth remembering however, that an economy that is flat on its back, as the U.S. economy was when Barack Obama became president, is poised to recover,” Hume said. “Especially when the Federal Reserve has been pumping, as it was, tons of money into the economy through lowered interest rates and other measures.”
Of course, it’s also worth remembering that the Federal Reserve is still pumping tons of money into the economy — indeed, Trump becomes visibly irate any time there is even talk of raising interest rates again, which would be a necessary measure to build up the tools that a central bank needs for whenever the next recession might occur. (Without those tools at the ready, the financial system might have to resort to negative interest rates — a very tricky situation, in which savers would have to pay their banks instead of generating any benefit.)
During a panel discussion much later in the program, RealClearPolitics associate editor A.B. Stoddard made the point that the economy is still running on easy money and a high federal budget deficit. But even the supposed news anchor Baier himself simply repeated Hume’s pro-Trump talking point: “The Obama economic recovery, most economists will tell you, was pretty weak in the recovery itself, and had a lot of Fed pumping billions and billions of dollars in to make it go.”
Then Fox played a video comparing Obama’s tweet to the “You didn’t build that” quote from the 2012 election — a line that was taken grossly out of context in the first place.
Later in the panel discussion, The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway made a remarkable declaration about the supposed “sluggishness” of the recovery, claiming that “during the Obama administration, I don't think there was a single year with 3% GDP [growth]. And it was very frustrating for a lot of people. That type of exiting from the labor force, that sluggishness, was very meaningful for how Donald Trump won election the first time, and I think it was an under-reported aspect of his election victory.”
Of course, none of the Trump years have ever achieved 3% GDP growth, either. Obama and Trump each came very close at different points — at just over 2.9% apiece in 2015 and 2018, respectively — but Hemingway and other right-wing media personalities continue to celebrate Trump for economic figures that are not radically different from the Obama era and which follow in the wake of the earlier recovery from the Great Recession.
Things got even worse during the Fox Business show Mornings with Maria, when New York Post editorial board member Kelly Torrance said Trump’s entire Twitter blow-up was a function of Obama making things all about himself.
“He does like to take credit,” Torrance said, “Remember the ‘You didn’t build that’ comment.”
And on Varney & Co., longtime right-wing economist Art Laffer offered Obama some faint praise — and then gave Trump some truly fawning adoration.
“Well, President Obama is a fine man, but he’s not an economist. He did inherit a very, very bad economy, and he was able to take from the trough a very slow growth path — the slowest recovery in U.S. history. But he did bring it back, it did come,” Laffer said. “But what’s really happened is Donald Trump is an economist — he really understands the economy far better than President Obama did. And you’ve seen a continuation and a surge in this economy that is second to none.”
“I mean, what’s more to ask?” Laffer added later. “This is the Goldilocks economy if I’ve ever seen one. And it’s because President Trump understands economics. We’re getting the trade deals, we’re getting all of this stuff way late in a recovery. I think it’s the longest recovery in U.S. history, I think — and it’s all because of Trump. It’s all because of Trump, believe me.” (Trump awarded Laffer the Medal of Freedom last year.)
But for some balance, Fox News anchor Ed Henry hosted contributor Donna Brazile to give the Democratic perspective — which consisted of giving some credit to both sides.
“We all know that when President Obama took office, the country was hemorrhaging jobs — over 700,000 a month,” Brazille said. “When President Trump arrives in the White House, unemployment is cut in half, from 10% to 4.7%. What is it now, 3.5%?”
“Historically low,” Henry said.
“Yeah, 11 years of consecutive job growth. So first of all, let’s just thank President Obama — and also President Trump,” Brazile responded. “There’s no reason to lie about a man’s record when it’s clear, it’s on paper, and we all know it.”