On Thursday morning in an interview with Fox & Friends, President Trump’s son Eric Trump continued his father’s criticism of the media by saying that everyone — with the exception of Fox News — was focused on “garbage” and “distractions” rather than how the United States is “thriving” under the Republican administration.
In fact, to see this abundance, apparently one need look no further than their local Home Depot.
“I mean, go into Home Depot. Just a simple test. Look at the lines in Home Depot, right? I mean, we're thriving as a nation,” Eric Trump said. “Everybody wants to get focused on nonsense, on garbage, on distractions.”
While there is no such thing as the Home Depot Index, Trump is right that the economy — and, perhaps more importantly for him, views of the economy — are in a rather rosy place. However, that isn’t because of some Make America Great Again magic or even substantive changes in policy.
As Vox’s Matt Yglesias wrote after the election, view of the economy among Republicans jumped almost immediately after Trump’s election despite no changes in economic policy:
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.
Yglesias correctly predicted that the robust economy coming out of the Obama administration would be one of the few things on which Donald Trump could hang his hat.
Importantly, this economic satisfaction also has critical implications for the president’s approval rating. Dogged by the Russia scandal, with his health care bill stalled, no movement on tax reform, and few other major policy movements — other than his partially resurrected travel ban — it seems odd that President Trump is even polling as high as he currently is.
He probably has the economy to thank, as Vox’s Jeff Guo wrote:
But the economy is also part of the story. Since February, economic confidence has been rock steady — Republicans continue to think the economy is going well, and Democrats continue to think the nation is in trouble.
There is of course a well-documented relationship between partisanship and economic perceptions. Having someone you approve of take office can make you believe the economy is doing better right now — even if your politician hasn’t had a chance to do anything yet. (That’s what surveys reported when Trump was elected — a sudden uptick in economic confidence.)
The reverse is true as well. A revved-up economy can color people’s perceptions of their politicians. Trump inherited a rosy situation from his predecessor. The economy is not in perfect health, and overall growth is still disappointingly slow, but the number of jobs continues to rise, and the unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been since 2001. In other words, people who want to work do not seem to have much trouble finding employment.
So Eric Trump’s claims that “the Dow is at an all-time high” and that “the S&P 500 is at an all-time high,” as well as his claims about jobs and wage growth, are true, but these are not a result of things his father has actually done.
Stronger growth, higher wages, and lower unemployment are holdovers from the Obama administration and were largely true in November of last year, before Donald Trump took office.