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Good morning. Spain orders a curfew. The Senate prepares to confirm Amy Coney Barrett. And we look at the good and bad of Trump’s economy.
President Trump is not running a re-election campaign based mostly on policy. He has released no agenda for a second term, and the Republican Party did not publish a new platform at its convention.
But when Trump tells voters why he deserves to win re-election, he tends to focus on the economy. He created a prosperous economy, he says, and will do so again — better than Joe Biden would — once the coronavirus passes. I want to devote today’s newsletter to explaining the Trump economy, through four key points:
1. The economy was strong before the virus hit. Trump inherited a growing economy, and it kept growing on his watch. It accelerated a bit in his first two years in office, before slowing down again in 2019.
2. Perhaps the best news: Wages were rising, even for lower-income workers. After more than a decade of economic growth, the labor market had become tight enough that employers were increasing pay more quickly than inflation was rising. The trend began under President Barack Obama and continued under Trump.
3. Trump deserves some credit. Josh Barro of New York magazine has argued that Trump’s overall economic record is problematic, partly because his tax cuts were so skewed to the rich — but also that Trump got some big decisions right. Most important, he appointed a Federal Reserve chairman, Jerome Powell, who focused on growth (rather than wrongly thinking inflation was a threat) and kept interest rates low.
4. But Trump also deserves some blame — including for the virus and the recession it caused. Trump’s economic policy geared almost completely toward lifting growth in the short term, while largely ignoring long-term dangers.
He increased the deficit, mostly to give wealthy households big tax cuts. He scrapped environment regulations, which increases the likelihood of costly climate destruction. And he hollowed out parts of the government, including its ability to respond to a pandemic.
(One year ago yesterday, Biden tweeted: “We are not prepared for a pandemic. Trump has rolled back progress President Obama and I made to strengthen global health security.”)
The bottom line: Much of the economy’s performance is beyond the control of a president. Trump had the good luck to take office with a far stronger economy than either of his predecessors — Obama and George W. Bush — enjoyed. Just look at the start of each president’s lines in this chart on job growth:
Later, of course, Trump had the bad luck to have a global pandemic arrive during his re-election campaign.
He has tried to claim full credit for his good luck and deflect all blame for the bad news. But that’s not the fairest way to evaluate the Trump economy. Ultimately, he deserves solid marks for its performance during his first three years — and much worse marks for his long-term economic legacy.
THE LATEST NEWS
The 2020 Campaign
The Senate voted yesterday to limit debate on Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination and is expected to confirm her to the Supreme Court tonight. Every Democratic senator is set to vote against, as is Susan Collins of Maine, a Republican who is up for re-election.
Pope Francis named Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, a cardinal, making him the first Black American to achieve that rank.
Chileans overwhelmingly voted to scrap the country’s constitution — a dictatorship-era document — and create a new one.
The Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 5 of the World Series, moving to within one win of a championship. One key play: a rare and unsuccessful attempted steal of home.
A Morning read: As protests raged in Minneapolis, Charles Adams, a police officer and high school football coach, called some of the players on his team. “Before I hit the streets, I have to tell you guys something,” he said. “Just know that I care.”
Lives Lived: Edith O’Hara founded the 13th Street Repertory Company, a mainstay of the Off Off Broadway scene, after leaving northwestern Pennsylvania for New York City in her 50s. She died at 103.
The Times can help you navigate the election — to separate fact from fiction, make sense of the polls and be sure your ballot counts. To support our efforts, please consider subscribing today.
IDEA OF THE DAY: Red-state populism
Seven states have already passed laws that will eventually raise the minimum wage to $15. All seven are heavily Democratic: California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York.
This year, a more conservative state — Florida — will be voting on the policy. If the referendum passes, Florida’s minimum wage would gradually rise from its current level of $8.46 an hour to $15 an hour in 2026. After that, it would rise with inflation. Currently, no southeastern state has a minimum wage above $10, and most defer to the federal level of $7.25.
But progressive economic policies, like minimum-wage increases, tend to be popular even in red states. Ballot initiatives to expand Medicaid, for example, have passed in several red states, including Missouri, Oklahoma and Utah. And polling shows that a majority of Americans support expanding Medicare, spending more money on clean energy, increasing taxes on the wealthy — and raising the minimum wage.
If the Florida initiative passes, it will add to the momentum toward a higher minimum wage, through either ballot initiatives in other states or through federal policy. Biden favors a $15 federal minimum wage. Trump has said states should decide.
PLAY, WATCH, EAT, TIKTOK
The TikTok effect
More than four decades after its release, Fleetwood Mac’s album “Rumours” returned to the Top 10 of the Billboard chart last week. Its resurgence was spurred by a viral TikTok video of a man named Nathan Apodaca, a potato worker in Idaho, longboarding along to the band’s song “Dreams” as he drank from a bottle of Cran-Raspberry juice.
It’s the latest example of TikTok’s influence on the music industry. “TikTok is an early indicator and trendsetter as far as seeding music, new and old,” the Times music reporter Joe Coscarelli said. “You might have a song like ‘Dreams’ that goes viral on TikTok, then the TikTok goes viral on Twitter and Instagram, then Spotify puts the song higher up on more playlists.”
From there, morning shows and local news may note the phenomenon, and it all leads to more people watching the music video or streaming the song. The effect can give old songs a second life, or jump-start new songs by relative unknowns, like Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” last year.
On a recent episode of Popcast, the Times pop music critic Jon Caramanica went into more detail.
Make some fish
Roasted fish with sweet bell peppers comes together quickly for a healthy weeknight dinner. Mild, flaky fish like hake, cod or flounder are ideal to go with the garlicky parsley dressing.
The pangram from Friday’s Spelling Bee was toothpick. Today’s puzzle is above — or you can play online if you have a Games subscription.
Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Big drop of water? (five letters).
Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. — David
Correction: Friday’s newsletter switched the order of a couple of Trump’s sentences about the virus during the debate. The correct order is: “I take full responsibility. It’s not my fault that it came here. It’s China’s fault.”
You can see today’s print front page here.