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Trump shows cracks in his economic confidence

President Donald Trump in the Oval Office on

President Donald Trump in the Oval Office on Monday. Photo Credit: Bloomberg/Kevin Dietsch

Bears in the woods

When you're Donald Trump, you can have it both ways. You can brag that you "created perhaps the greatest Economy in our Country’s history." And then you can point fingers for why it's not doing better than that.

The president renewed his complaints Monday via Twitter about "a Federal Reserve that doesn’t know what it is doing" because it didn't cut interest rates.

"Think of what it could have been if the Fed had gotten it right. Thousands of points higher on the Dow, and GDP in the 4’s or even 5’s. Now they stick, like a stubborn child, when we need rates cuts, & easing, to make up for what other countries are doing against us. Blew it!"

Trump may be betraying worry heading into an election year that economists are right — that the current economic expansion, now 10 years old, may be petering out. Politico writes that signs of a slowdown are mounting with weaker job growth, reduced manufacturing activity and hints from the Fed that it will indeed consider rate cuts when the time is right.

“The economy has been a tail wind for him, but by Election Day next year, it will at best no longer be blowing,” Politico was told by Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody’s Analytics who maintains a model gauging how economic trends influence voting outcomes.

“And there is a reasonable probability that he will be facing an economic headwind for reelection with growth slowing to the point that unemployment is starting to rise next year, though a lot depends on what he does with the trade wars and what the Fed does in response,” Zandi said.

Worrisome too for Trump is that Rust Belt areas where Trump in 2016 promised a manufacturing renaissance are still bleeding such jobs, The New York Times reported. It could threaten his support in three states he narrowly won — Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

The savior of Obamacare?

Trump came to Washington to bury Obamacare. Even in the last three months, he called it a "disaster" and a "catastrophe." But on Monday, he credited himself with saving it, sort of.

"Obamacare doesn't work — but it works at least adequately now," Trump said as he signed an executive order to make hospitals disclose their pricing. (More on that later.)

"I had a decision to make. Do we do a good job with Obamacare — a remnant of Obamacare? Or do we do a bad job? If I do a bad job, well, there you can blame Obama and the Democrats. If we do a good job, they'll get a little bit more credit, but it's still very faulty," Trump said. 

While Trump and Republicans in Congress failed to repeal Obamacare, they eliminated the individual mandate for coverage and have supported a court battle to throw out the Affordable Care Act entirely.

Janison: Mr. Nice Guy

The term "suspension of disbelief" — putting aside logic and fact to enjoy or appreciate a piece of fiction — provides a way to try to understand some of Trump's recent moves, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.

He called off a military strike on Iran at the last minute because the destruction of an unmanned U.S. drone would not justify killing 150 people, as estimated by officials. But how did the crisis get to that point? Why does he retain hawks like John Bolton, whose war lust he says he disdains?

The president said he'd put off a big Immigration and Customs Enforcement sweep to deport people living in the U.S. illegally, including families, to buy time to work out solutions with Congress.

But there's no sign of a deal in the offing, with Congress soon headed for a holiday recess. ICE worried that officers’ safety would be compromised after details about the raids were made public — notably, by Trump himself on the eve of a campaign rally in Florida.

Children moved 

The U.S. government has removed most of the children from a remote Border Patrol station in Texas following reports that more than 300 children were detained there, caring for each other with inadequate food, water and sanitation, The Associated Press reported.

Just 30 children remained at the station outside El Paso Monday, said Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) after a briefing by Customs and Border Protection.

Meanwhile U.S. news media are kept away from seeing conditions.

Race to the bottom?

Four years into the Trump era (dating back to his June 2015 campaign announcement), the Democrats who would replace him face a crucial challenge: how to respond to a rival who goes low and gets personal, reports Newsday's Emily Ngo.

Looking back on Trump's relentless attacks on "Crooked Hillary Clinton" the last time around, Florida-based Democratic strategist Steve Schale says, “It’s easy to lull yourself into thinking this stuff doesn’t matter, but at some level, it did.”

Trump has already affixed nicknames to several of the 2020 contenders. including “SleepyCreepy Joe” Biden, “Crazy Bernie” Sanders and Elizabeth “Pocahontas” Warren.

Basil Smikle, a political consultant and former executive director of the New York State Democratic Party, said the answer is “You don’t have to respond in kind, but you have to respond with force.”

All is forgiven

Two top-tier Democrats rolled out big policy plans ahead of the first Democratic debates to be held Wednesday and Thursday.

Bernie Sanders announced a plan on Monday to erase the country’s $1.6 trillion outstanding student debt and pay for it with a new tax on Wall Street transactions. That topped Elizabeth Warren's plan for canceling $50,000 in debt for those earning less than $100,000 per year, to be paid by higher taxes on those with more than $50 million in wealth.

Joe Biden unveiled an immigration policy that called for granting immediate citizenship to "Dreamers," the undocumented immigrants brought by their parents to the U.S. as children. He also favored "smart investments in border technology" and fixing the asylum system so it recognizes "legitimate claims of those fleeing persecution, while reducing potential for abuse."

Making hospital prices right

Trump signed an executive order Monday that aims to curb rising health care costs by showing prices to patients and predicted: "Prices will come down by numbers that you wouldn't believe."

Some health economists and industry observers aren't believers. Larry Levitt, senior vice president for health reform at the Kaiser Family Foundation, tweeted that although the idea of greater price transparency makes sense from the perspective of consumer protection, it doesn't guarantee lower prices. It "could even increase prices once hospitals and doctors know what their competitors down the street are getting paid," Levitt wrote.

But the consumer group Families USA, which opposes the Trump administration's Medicaid and Obamacare policies, said it favors price disclosure. 

It will take time to determine if the idea will work. The executive order calls for a rule-making process by federal agencies, which typically stretches over months or even years. In May 2018, Trump rolled out a Blueprint To Lower Drug Prices, but no rules have been finalized.

'Not my type'

Trump elaborated on his denial of a rape allegation by writer E. Jean Carroll by telling The Hill in an interview: 

“I’ll say it with great respect: Number one, she’s not my type."

He went on: "Number two, it never happened. It never happened, OK?”

Carroll said she was assaulted by Trump in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room in the 1990s.

What else is happening:

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, speaking in Queens Monday, renewed her call to religious leaders to condemn Trump’s now-postponed immigration raids, saying they should appall anyone who believes all humans are "children of God," Newsday's Ngo reports.
  • Trump signed an executive order on Monday targeting Iran's supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, and his associates with financial sanctions. It blocks their access to any financial assets they have under U.S. jurisdiction.
  • Jason Miller, a frequent Trump TV surrogate and former top campaign aide, is out of his consulting-firm job after a profanity-laced Twitter tirade last week aimed at House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, the Daily Beast reported. "Fat and nasty" were among the least offensive epithets.
  • A day after North Korea reported Kim Jong Un received an "excellent" letter from Trump, the U.S. president said he got a "very nice letter" from Kim with belated "birthday wishes."
  • The sentencing of Mike Flynn, Trump's former national security adviser, for lying to the FBI has been delayed another two months after his new lawyer said she needed time to get up to speed on the case.
  • The Treasury Department's inspector general will investigate why the Harriet Tubman $20 bill — which was set to debut in 2020 — has been delayed for years under the Trump administration. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York asked for an inquiry, including whether the White House was involved.
  • Lines are uniquely blurred between the roles of Kelly Craft, the ambassador to Canada now up for UN envoy, and her spouse, a wealthy coal magnate and GOP donor. 

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