One of the great paradoxes of the 2016 presidential election is that whatever you make of the generation-long course of the American economy, it was the best year of the 21st century in basic pocketbook terms by almost any measure.
And thanks to Donald Trump winning the election, Republicans are suddenly noticing:
This kind of comically large impact is why you can’t take poll respondents at their word when they explain to you how they voted. Trump’s message was that the economy was terrible, and Trump voters agreed with his message, but the causal arrow there could point in any direction. If Trump starts saying in March that the economy is now fixed, Republicans will believe him. Not because of anything special about Trump or Republicans, but because that’s how human perception works.
The thing is, Trump will be right.
He has not taken office yet or done anything that could conceivably merit credit, but data from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta shows that wages are growing at their fastest pace in eight years. Nobody noticed in the heat of the October campaign, but data released last month also showed that American wages reached an all-time high point. A little less than a year from now, we are due for a census report that will show that median household income is at an all-time high.
Members of the Obama administration whom I’ve spoken to this week are pained about many aspects of the election result, but this particular set of information stings especially badly to those who are aware of it. Had Clinton won the election, an easy narrative would quickly begin to emerge of how the Obama administration picked up an economy that had fallen to pieces and nursed it back to strength — handing over a rosy situation to its successor.
Trump’s hard rupture with Obama’s legacy means that the exact same 2017 economic data is going to play very differently, as a series of new highs hit thanks to Trumpian deregulation and Greatness Making rather than the pretty sweet situation he was handed by his predecessor.