The Selling of America


Dean Baker:

Trump got elected by making many promises that he will not be able to keep. Rebuilding an economy in which the benefits of growth are broadly shared is a great idea, but Donald Trump is not going to bring back the coal mining jobs lost in West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio and elsewhere….We should make sure that people regularly are informed about President Trump’s progress in bringing back coal mining jobs to Appalachia.

This is absolutely true. But I wonder if it matters. Ronald Reagan got credit for the economic boom of the 80s merely by loudly and persistently taking credit for it. He said his tax cuts would hypercharge the economy, and when the economy finally recovered he took a victory lap. It didn’t matter that his tax cuts had barely anything to do with it.

I suspect Trump can play the same game. He will make extravagant promises, and make them loudly enough that a lot of people are convinced. If he passes an infrastructure bill, for example, he’ll tout it as the greatest job-producing machine for blue-collar workers ever in American history—and there’s a good chance his fans will believe him even if they don’t personally get a job building infrastructure.

The same may well be true of lots of other things. I can easily envisage Trump enacting a lot of fairly modest bills but selling them as a huge sea change in the way America is run.1 If he says it often enough, people will believe it. Maybe.

1Along with some big ones, of course. I’m just saying that even in the areas where he can’t do the stuff he promised, he’ll simply lie about it and lots of people will believe him.