Wednesday, April 3, 2019

BTRTN March 2019 Month in Review: Mueller Time Masks a Dreadful Month for Trump on Signature Issues


Tom with the BTRTN March 2019 Month in Review.

THE MONTH

When the final chapter of Donald Trump’s sad, dark and weird presidency is written, history will record March, 2019 as perhaps his finest month.  Now it is no great accomplishment to avoid being named as an unindicted co-conspirator – it’s not exactly up there with defeating Hitler, creating the Marshall Plan, winning the Cuban Missile Crisis, enacting monumental Civil Rights legislation, landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth, signing the Camp David Accords, bringing down the Soviets, or killing Osama bin Laden.  But it is something.

Image result for month in review marchThe Mueller report – when it is finally released – may indeed be a stunning indictment of the Trump Administration, chock full of indictments, sordid shenanigans, evidence of “obstruction;” it will quite possibly serve as a “roadmap” for Democratic-controlled congressional committees and will most certainly be a companion piece to numerous other investigations already underway or passed on to other investigative bodies.  But Trump can indeed crow for now about the legal validation of his long-repeated “no collusion, no obstruction” mantra, based on Attorney General Barr’s four-page summary conclusions (Barr indicated that Mueller concluded there was no evidence to support a collusion/conspiracy charge; while Mueller declined to take a position on obstruction, Barr quickly stepped in that void to exonerate Trump.)

None of this may matter much in the long run of history, or even in the balance of Trump’s presidency.  The month was chock full of setbacks of all kinds for the Trump Administration, on many of his signature issues. 

The economy.  A measly 20,000 jobs were created last month, a number exceeded in Obama’s presidency in 90 out of 96 months, and 86 of the last 88.  The Q4 2018 GDP was revised downward to a tepid 2.2%.  The Fed has announced that it will suspend any further interest rate increases, and any number of leading indicators are dropping.  A sagging economy in an election year is not kind to sitting presidents (see:  Bush 41).

Immigration.  Trump’s “national emergency” declaration was voted down on a bi-partisan basis by both the Democratic-controlled House and the GOP-controlled Senate, thus requiring a Trump veto (the first of his presidency).   Now the matter moves on to the courts.

Trade.  Trump believes that America’s failure is best measured by the size of its trade deficit.  Most economists don’t agree, but if Trump wants to keep score that way, he is losing bigly.  The trade deficit for 2018 rose to $621 billion, the highest in 10 years.  And there is no end in sight, nor any breakthroughs anticipated, in Trump’s negotiations with China.

North Korea.  Intelligence sources now believe that North Korea has begun rebuilding a satellite launching facility that it began dismantling last year as a sign of goodwill.  North Korea has done this in plain sight – they know the world is watching.  Kim Jong-un is strategizing, playing chess while Trump stumbles over the checkers.

In the aftermath of the Mueller report, Trump, without a shred of common sense, trampled on his own victory parade by suddenly insisting that the GOP would craft new health care legislation to replace Obamacare.  This is, of course, the third rail for the GOP, since they never offered an alternative in the Obama years, and failed miserably in their various attempts to develop an alternative in Trump’s administration.  Mitch McConnell would prefer ongoing root canal work to another attempt to deal with health care.

Also inexplicably, Trump chose to forward a budget that defunded perhaps the most popular program funded (in part) by the federal government: the Special Olympics.  It’s hard to fathom the political thinking that drove this cut, and even Trump was forced to “overturn” the directive after watching Betsy Devos twist in the wind for a day.  Trump’s quick, effortless solution was to blame the whole mess on Devos.

Finally, Trump also failed to deal decisively with the Boeing 737 MAX disaster, as the United States was the last nation to ground the deadline aircraft in the aftermath of two crashes that killed 346 people.

How Trump picks up the pieces of his presidency and turns it into a winning story for 2020 is the next drama, twinned with the Democrat’s now launched saga of whom to find to challenge him. 

TRUMP APPROVAL RATING

Trump’s approval rating ticked up one point to 42%, though the reality is that Trump remained smack in the middle of the same zone he has been in is entire presidency.  Trump’s highpoint for any month was 46% in February, 2017, the first full month of his presidency, and the low was 38%, just six months later in August, 2017.  But most of those months Trump has been in the 40-43% range.  No president has operated in such a tight band in his first two years, another sign of the polarized world we live in and that Trump has exacerbated.

TRUMP MONTHLY APPROVAL RATING

2017
2018
2019

Jan
Jun
Dec
Jan
Jun
Dec
Jan
Feb
Mar
Approve
45
40
39
41
42
43
42
41
42
Disapprove
44
55
56
55
53
53
54
55
54
Net
1
-15
-17
-13
-10
-10
-12
-14
-11


TRUMPOMETER

The “Trumpometer” declined again February to March, from +17 to +11, and has been halved in the last two months.  The Dow was flat and the unemployment rate dropped, but gas prices jumped and consumer confidence dipped.  And, as mentioned, the GDP for Q4 was revised downward to +2.2% (from +2.6%).  The +11 Trumpometer reading means that, on average, our five economic measures are +11% higher than they were at the time of Trump’s Inauguration (with more explanation of methodology below).

TRUMPOMETER
End Clinton  1/20/2001
End Bush 1/20/2009
End Obama 1/20/2017 (Base = 0)
Trump 2/28/2019
Trump 3/31/2019
% Chg. Vs. Inaug. (+ = Better)
Trumpometer
25
-53
0
17
11
11%
  Unemployment Rate
4.2
7.8
4.7
4.0
3.8
19%
  Consumer Confidence
129
38
114
131
124
9%
  Price of Gas
1.27
1.84
2.44
2.47
2.70
-11%
  Dow Jones
10,588
8,281
19,732
25,916
25,928
31%
  GDP
4.5
-6.2
2.1
2.6
2.2
5%

Notes on methodology:

BTRTN calculates our monthly approval ratings using an average of the four pollsters who conduct daily or weekly approval rating polls: Gallup Rasmussen, Reuters/Ipsos and You Gov/Economist. This provides consistent and accurate trending information and does not muddy the waters by including infrequent pollsters.  The outcome tends to mirror the RCP average but, we believe, our method gives more precise trending.

For the generic ballot (which is not polled in this post-election time period), we take an average of the only two pollsters who conduct weekly generic ballot polls, Reuters/Ipsos and You Gov/Economist, again for trending consistency.

The Trumpometer aggregates a set of economic indicators and compares the resulting index to that same set of aggregated indicators at the time of the Trump Inaugural on January 20, 2017, on an average percentage change basis... The basic idea is to demonstrate whether the country is better off economically now versus when Trump took office.  The indicators are the unemployment rate, the Dow-Jones Industrial Average, the Consumer Confidence Index, the price of gasoline, and the GDP. 



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