Last week, a historic predictor for recessions—an inverted yield curve—flashed for the first time since the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis, indicating that a downturn may be on the horizon. While it’s possible a recession could still be several years away, experts are less than optimistic, given the pileup of worrying news concerning both the global and U.S. economies, the latter of which has seen a slowdown in manufacturing and a pullback in business investment, and is expected add an extra $1 trillion to an already exploding deficit this year. Add to that a shithouse mouse in the White House, who thinks trade wars are awesome and browbeating the Federal Reserve is normal, and the outlook is decidedly not good. That’s a big-to-very-big problem for Donald Trump, not to mention the other people who live in this country, as he is currently campaigning for reelection on the strength of the economy. But instead of, say, implementing policies that would do more good than harm, or realizing it’s counterproductive to keep Jerome Powell in a well demanding the Fed chair follow cut rates or get the hose again, the president is taking a different tack. That is: dispatching his acolytes to insist a recession is never gonna happen, and laying the groundwork to blame any such event on a secret cabal hellbent on taking him down.
On Sunday, the White House’s multiple horsemen of the economic apocalypse fanned out to set the the story “straight” on various morning shows. On Meet the Press, National Economic Council director Larry Kudlow told Chuck Todd,“Well, I tell you what, I sure don’t see a recession…. And let me add just one theme, Chuck, just one theme, we’re doing pretty darn well, in my judgment. Let’s not be afraid of optimism. Let’s not be afraid of optimism. It’s a funny sign of our times. And I think there’s a very optimistic economy going on out there.” Of course, Kudlow’s judgement hasn’t been entirely reliable in the past; in fact, he’s long been known for almost never being right. (Among his greatest hits: claiming, in December 2007, i.e. the month the recession started, “There’s no recession coming. The pessimists were wrong. It’s not going to happen. At a bare minimum, we are looking at Goldilocks 2.0”; declaring in February 2008 that the economy was going to rebound that summer, “if not sooner”; and stating flatly, in July 2008 (!!), that the housing market was in fantastic shape and it was “a pity [that] the mainstream media” was just “searching for more and more pessimism” to sell newspapers.)
Asked about whiffing the call on the Great Recession, Kudlow responded that he would “plead guilty,” without explaining why his powers of prognostication should be believed this time. Confronted with the uncomfortable matter of writing that tariffs have “almost never worked as intended and have almost always delivered an unhappy ending” six weeks before joining the tariff-happy White House, Kudlow claimed that he’d been talking about Trump‘s steel tariffs, not his China ones, and, most alarmingly, that the president “has taught me and others” that the levies are a good thing.