Media Resorts to ‘What If’ Scenarios to Talk Up Recession, Take Down Trump

Mainstream media has moved beyond trying to talk a recession into becoming reality to trying to assess the impact of the recession that does not yet actually exist and may well never materialize.

“How bad would a recession be for Trump in 2020? 8 experts weigh in,” wrote Vox in its headline. “An economic slowdown could hurt Trump’s re-election chances, but partisanship might soften its impact,” read the subhead.

“Trump’s Riskiest Bet,” read the headline on Peter Nicholas’ story at The Atlantic. “That old truism of American politics – ‘It’s the economy, stupid’ – could come back to haunt the money-minded president in 2020,” read the subhead.

“Trump 2020 can’t afford a recession,” flatly stated CNN in the headline on Harry Enten’s story.

“Wall Street hoisted another hurricane warning on the economy on Wednesday as fear continues to rise that a recession could arrive by next year, potentially crashing into President Donald Trump’s attempt to win a second term,” wrote Ben White of Politico under “Trump’s recession risk rises” – subhead: “A closely watched gauge in the bond market suggests the economy is headed into recession soon.”

ABC News ran an Associated Press story by Josh Boak and Jonathan Lemire under the headline: “Signs of recession worry Trump ahead of 2020.”

And the Washington Post followed with “How a recession could doom Trump’s 2020 reelection” – subhead: “Economic forecasts are increasingly pointing in that direction. Here’s what history tells us” – by Aaron Blake.

There was plenty of media kvetching over the recent inversion of the U.S. Treasury yield curve, but the chief investment officer for Franklin Templeton, among others, says such talk “is completely misguided” and that the yield curve “is telling us nothing about what lies ahead for the real economy.”

But most of the pieces are careful to note the U.S. economy is not in recession and some even admit no recession is likely through 2020.

“There are still a lot of unknowns regarding if and when a recession will take place,” Vox reported.

Enten of CNN refused to acknowledge the economy’s strength, but he noted that an average of 53 percent approve of Trump’s handling of the economy in the last three CNN polls, even though his overall approval rating in those polls was just 44 percent.

“But what happens if the economy loses some steam? Some indicators, such as the yield curve, suggest this could occur. Trumps already shaky reelection chances would likely drop significantly,” he wrote without evidence.

The Atlantic took the same tack.

“It’s the nightmare scenario that President Donald Trump’s camp dreads most: an economic downturn that steadily intensifies as the 2020 election nears. What would it mean for Trump if, by the fall of 2020, the jobless rate had doubled, economic growth was hovering at an anemic 1 percent and, with no end in sight for the trade war with China, the stock market was plunging? A president whose argument for reelection rests on a healthy economy would suddenly find that his rationale has collapsed, right along with voters’ retirement funds.”

The AP reporters chimed in along similar lines, noting without evidence or attribution that “privately, Trump is growing increasingly worried the economy won’t look so good come Election Day.”

Boak and Lemire continued: “Though a pre-election recession here is far from certain, a downturn would be a devastating blow to the president, who has made a strong economy his central argument for a second term. Trump advisers fear a weakened economy would hurt him with moderate Republican and independent voters who have been willing to give him a pass on some of his incendiary policies and rhetoric.”


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Author: Brian McNicoll

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