Even in a volatile political year with endless crosscurrents, once voters actually start casting their ballots it seems reasonable to assume that one traditional factor will still motivate most voters: Which candidate can create more prosperity? On this score, President Trump had an impressive weekend, and his achievements shine in contrast to Joe Biden’s week of embarrassing stumbles.
On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the July jobs report, revealing that America added 1.8 million new hires and lowered the national unemployment rate to 10.2%. This report registers as the third-highest month ever, and the combined three-month total of new jobs created stands at 9.3 million. To be sure, much work remains to return our country to the thriving job market we enjoyed in early 2020 before our world was rocked by a new virus raging around the world, which threatened to crash the global economy. The damage remains real and widespread, but recent macro data also point to recovery, as green shoots abound. For example, last week’s ISM Manufacturing Index rose to the highest level in 1.5 years, as factories powered back up. On the consumer side, the most recent existing homes sales achieved the largest monthly increase ever, as historic low mortgage rates encouraged buyer confidence.
Predictably, much of the news media sought to downplay this encouraging trend of economic renewal. “July Jobs Report Could Show Losses as Coronavirus Spreads,” CNBC had warned its audience a week before. Instead of a correction, the network doubled down. On Friday, one CNBC anchor teed up market analyst Jim Cramer this way: “It’s less about what the numbers say today and more about how you extrapolate what you think they’re gonna mean next month and the month after and the month after. How do you see it?”
“I don’t see anything here that makes me confident,” replied Cramer, who said the moral of adding 1.8 million new jobs is that Americans must wear more masks and continue social distancing. “If we don’t do it, those numbers go back.”
And so it went. “The Truth About the Jobs Report,” blared The New Yorker magazine. “Yes, Unemployment Fell,” warned 538, “But the Recovery Seems to Be Slowing Down.”
As someone who actively studied and transacted on these reports monthly throughout my 25-year career on Wall Street trading desks, I can say confidently that this payroll report was simply good news. And the deeper one delves into it, the better it looks. For example, the statistics beneath the blockbuster headline number reveal a Hispanic jobless rate that has now declined almost five percentage points in just the last two months. Anyone trying to pour cold water on this kind of hiring expansion – admittedly from the dire lows of the lockdowns – is peddling agenda-driven interpretation instead of factual reporting.
Then on Saturday, President Trump unilaterally broke apart the dysfunctional Washington logjam by issuing executive orders to suspend payroll taxes for workers, provide continued enhanced jobless relief to those still searching for work, and postpone all student loan payments for the rest of the year. These measures assure that the vigorous, but still-nascent, recovery can sustain itself -- and accelerate. Unfortunately, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her lieutenants again refused to bargain in good faith, insisting on attaching massive federal bailouts for profligate liberal states to legislation designed to boost wages for working-class Americans while proffering extended assistance to the financially vulnerable who have been harmed through no fault of their own.
Rather than acquiesce to the intransigent Democrats, President Trump outmaneuvered the speaker and to help the citizens he serves. Although critics in Washington wail, including some from the political right, Trump acted with speed because this is a unique crisis. In addition, the president did so without establishing any new bureaucracies or government agencies. Nor did he create any lasting federal entitlement program. Rather, the president sensibly provided relief for a populace just regaining its footing. His actions deliver tangible benefits to encourage the intangible – the confidence needed to resurrect the enterprise and creative spirit of American strivers.
In contrast to this weekend of stellar news for our country and strong action from our president, Joe Biden slogged through the worst week yet of his general election campaign. First, he canceled his trip to Milwaukee to accept his party’s nomination in person. By bailing on Wisconsin, he reminded the state’s voters how Hillary Clinton took them for granted. Biden also struggled through his rambling digital meetings from his basement redoubt. It got so bad that he and his staff had to issue several clarifications for various inane comments, including the suggestion that black Americans are all alike. Biden also crudely mocked a reporter for asking about his cognitive health, openly admitting that he has not taken the very tests he previously boasted about completing.
This divergence of recent days suggests a tightening of the election, and various surveys indicated this is happening. According to the RealClearPolitics poll average, Biden’s lead dropped by four percentage points over the last two weeks. If the past week is prologue, by our national decision day in November, Americans will embrace an administration that showed it learned how to effectively manage virus risks while reigniting the great economic engine of the United States. One weekend in August highlighted the contrast of Donald Trump as a bold leader at the helm, forging a national renaissance, versus Joe Biden as a tired and tottering basement dweller, being commandeered by the most radical elements of American politics.