This is the General Election scenario that Democrats were dreading.
In April, when the Chinese Communist Party’s coronavirus was forcing the shutdown of the economy, Jason Furman, a Harvard professor who was a top economist in the Obama administration, spoke to a bipartisan group of top officials from both parties in a large Zoom meeting. Remember, this was when the economy had just shut down, unemployment was climbing, and predictions of another Great Depression were being made.
Democrats were rubbing their hands with glee as the likelihood of an inevitable Trump re-election seemed to be slipping away and they knew that they could hide their terrible, confused, gaffe-prone ancient MeToo-accused candidate in his basement for the foreseeable future.
And then Furman spoke and shattered their dreams of easily taking back the White House.
Furman, tapped to give the opening presentation, looked into his screen of poorly lit boxes of frightened wonks and made a startling claim.
“We are about to see the best economic data we’ve seen in the history of this country,” he said…
…“Everyone looked puzzled and thought I had misspoken,” Furman said in an interview. Instead of forecasting a prolonged depression-level economic catastrophe, Furman laid out a detailed case for why the months preceding the November election could offer Trump the chance to brag — truthfully — about the most explosive monthly employment numbers and GDP growth ever.
Since the Zoom call, Furman has been making the same case to anyone who will listen, especially the close-knit network of Democratic wonks who have traversed the Clinton and Obama administrations together, including top members of the Biden campaign.
Large swaths of the country have been shut down for approximately 12 weeks due to a global pandemic, and Democrats are pushing to extend the lockdowns under the guise of “public health” to hit President Trump right in the economy. We all know that’s only part of the story–the continuation of lockdowns and the vilification of those who want them to end is, at least in part, political. It’s just gauche to say it out loud.
But now, states are starting to open up.
Today, Governor Andrew “Grandma Killer” Cuomo rang the opening bell for the New York Stock Exchange, and it’s expected to rally just as President Trump and his economic advisors have said that it would.
This is a nightmare scenario for Joe Biden who has lagged behind the President in polls on the question of who Americans trust to handle the economy.
“Trump beats Biden on the economy even right now!” said one Democratic operative in the POLITICO article. “This is going to be extremely difficult no matter what. It’s existential that we figure it out. In any of these economic scenarios Democrats are going to have to win the argument that our public health and economy are much worse off because of Donald Trump’s failure of leadership.”’
One of Obama’s White House officials who is still close to the former President said, “Even today when we are at over 20 million unemployed Trump gets high marks on the economy, so I can’t imagine what it looks like when things go in the other direction. I don’t think this is a challenge for the Biden campaign. This is the challenge for the Biden campaign. If they can’t figure this out they should all just go home.” He added, “This is my big worry.” When asked about the level of concern by top-ranking Democrats, he responded, “It’s high — high, high, high, high.”
Furman says that we’re likely heading for a “V-shaped” economic recovery, rather than a long, slow one.
The quicker that we can get businesses back open and employees back to their original jobs, the better the recovery will be. The longer we stall, the higher the chances of businesses never reopening.
We will still have people out of work in some industries such as travel and hospitality, and those people will have to find other jobs. In addition, some companies have downsized or already gone out of business due to the government-mandated shutdown. This means that millions of people are out of work and may continue to be for some time.
The scenario would be a major long-term problem for any president. But before that reality sets in, Trump could be poised to benefit from the dramatic numbers produced during the partial rebound phase that is likely to coincide with the four months before November.
That realization has many Democrats spooked.
“In absolute terms, the economy will look historically terrible come November,” said Kenneth Baer, a Democratic strategist who worked in a senior role at the Office of Management and Budget under Obama. “But relative to the depths of April, it will be on an upswing — 12 percent unemployment, for example, is better than 20, but historically terrible. On Election Day, we Democrats need voters to ask themselves, ‘Are you better off than you were four years ago?’ Republicans need voters to ask themselves, ‘Are you better off than you were four months ago?’”
Furman says that when the monthly jobs reports are released between now and Election Day, four of the five will likely be fantastic. He said, “You could easily have one to two million jobs created a month in those four reports before November. And then toward the end of October, we will get GDP growth for the third quarter, at an annualized rate, and it could be double-digit positive economic growth. So these will be the best jobs and growth numbers ever.”
He did say that in the event of a second wave of the pandemic and another set of lockdowns this could all change, but adds, “I think the most likely case is the one I just laid out.”
President Trump has said repeatedly that he is going to bring the economy roaring back. He said that he did it once and he’ll do it again.
I’ll do it again! https://t.co/ND3yBfM1lJ
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 16, 2020
Nothing that the Democrats have tried to pin on President Trump has stuck:
- the Access Hollywood tape
- Stormy Daniels
- a Deep State-run investigation including spying on the president-elect and his team conducted with the full knowledge of the former President and former Vice President
- a media-stoked conspiracy theory about “Russian Collusion”
- a 2-year Special Counsel investigation which only served to expose how corrupt and partisan the Deep State actually is
- alleged “quid pro quo” during a call to Ukraine
- impeachment over the Ukraine phone call
The only things that they’ve managed to stick to “Teflon Don” are that he sometimes tweets mean things and the state of the economy. But that last thing may backfire if the recovery is V-shaped.
Furman, a Democrat, has some advice for Biden’s team.
Furman is an economist, but he had some strategic advice for the Biden campaign. “Don’t make predictions that could be falsified. There are enough terrible things to say you don’t need to make exaggerated predictions,” he said. “The argument that we are in another Great Depression will look like it was overstated. Trump can say, ‘Two million deaths didn’t happen, Great Depression didn’t happen, we are making a lot of progress.’”
What Furman doesn’t seem to understand is that’s what Democrats have been doing all along–trust the models completely and then ramp up the panic to 11. We were told that every move that President Trump has made was going to be disaster, anarchy, and would begin world wars and likely usher in both the dystopian world of the Handmaid’s Tale and the Apocalypse simultaneously. None of that happened.
What did happen is most people got tax cuts, more people had jobs, manufacturing is coming back, we’ve got energy independence, our allies, as well as our enemies, know that we mean business, and things are looking pretty good in general.
How do you run against that when you’re Bumblin’ Joe Biden?
I guess we’re going to find out.