Who deserves credit — Obama or Trump?

From the pages of In Business magazine.

There's an old saying that goes something like this: Success has 100 fathers, but failure is an orphan. Nowhere is that truer than in the political realm.

Perhaps a bit annoyed by President Donald Trump taking all the credit for today’s robust economy, former President Barack Obama has taken to the campaign trail to remind people of the disastrous economy he inherited and the many consecutive months of job creation his policies helped produce.

The Trump camp’s ready retort is that economic growth was flagging when he took the oath of office, and his regulatory streamlining and tax rate cuts have given the recovery new life and boosted wage growth. 

So who is right? Who deserves the credit? The truest answer is they both do.

President Obama’s 2009 stimulus package could have been better structured to drive sustained growth, but it did stop the bleeding caused by the 2008–09 financial crisis. Obama-style stimulus added to the deficit and doubled the national debt, but it also lent further proof that there is a psychological element to the economy, and back then the economy definitely needed any kind of boost it could get. 

As for President Trump, I fully realize that it’s hard to give him credit for anything. His outrageous manner is unsightly and un-presidential, but he wasn’t elected to play nice. He was elected to be a disrupter, to break some eggs, and in that sense he hasn’t disappointed. In particular, he was elected to end, as he put it, America’s economic surrender, especially on trade, and while the jury is still out on the impact of Chinese tariffs, he’s made progress with North American and European trading partners.

The same manufacturing employees that helped Trump win Wisconsin also voted for Obama — twice — and they no longer put all their support behind one political party. Instead, they get behind anyone who has their back.  That’s a primary reason why Tony Evers could be our next governor, and U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin appears headed toward a comfortable re-election margin. They haven’t forgotten Gov. Scott Walker signing right-to-work legislation, which they believe works against their interests, and they haven’t forgotten Leah Vukmir’s legislative support of right-to-work.

So when it comes to doling out credit for current economic conditions, both Obama and Trump can accept some. They can’t, however, take more credit than the people who really make the economy go — American taxpayers.

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