Who Takes Credit for the Economy?

We’re planning on putting in a new kitchen. I think. I’ve got some pretty solid numbers on a complete gut and redo with some walls shifting, and I’m feeling ill. Maybe it’s better to just paint the cabinets and call it a day. We’re not going to start the kitchen until Jonah’s winter break is over in the middle of January, so I have plenty of time to obsess over the kitchen.

A contractor came last week to give us an estimate. As he measured the room, we did a little chit chat. I asked him how business was going. With a sheepish shrug, he said business has been booming since the election. He glanced over at me to see if I was going to throw him out of the house, and then kept measuring. He didn’t have to say it, but the message was implied — because business was so good, his prices were going to go up. Great.

So, can Trump take credit for this bounce in the economy and the stock market, or is this bounce part of the natural cycle of the economy that had already picked up during the Obama administration?

57 thoughts on “Who Takes Credit for the Economy?

  1. The President takes credit in good times, and blame in bad times. And everyone is a hypocrite about whether this is fair and just.

    It is not so different from the days when a good king meant a good harvest and a bad king meant an early frost.


  2. MichaelB pretty much nails it. Objective observers generally consider that, to the extent an administration can influence the economy at all, it might be fair to attribute economic responsibility starting about one year after the inauguration. So Obama would get credit for this year’s economy. And Clinton would get the blame for the recession in 2001. Obviously no one in politics or punditry follows this rule.


  3. One of the interesting things here is that the guy had a plausible fear that you would discard him as a potential contractor because he said Trump had been good for business. First, football goes political. Now, kitchen remodelling! Is no sphere of our communal life safe?


    1. If I had a choice, I wouldn’t for a second hire an open Trump supporter as a contracter. If you want me to give you money, you’d pretty much plan on keeping that information to yourself (though admittedly, I can imagine many situations in which my choice would be limited). Indeed, absolutely no sphere of our communal is immune from my concerns about Trump the person, the ideology that his election has surfaced, and the potential for significantly wrong-headed policy decisions on everything from health care to civil rights to war.

      But, I would listen to someone telling me their business was booming after the election and ask for specifics, if they were willing to volunteer information.

      The construction economy is definitely booming in our neck of the woods. I worry periodically about a bubble. Our house value is now 15% above its peak pre-recession zestimate value, which concerns me. We’re due for a kitchen renovation, but I wouldn’t do it based on the current value of our house.


      1. “If I had a choice, I wouldn’t for a second hire an open Trump supporter as a contracter.”

        No bumper stickers?


      2. I’m not normally a huge Andrew Sullivan fan, but that has a lot of insight:

        “One of the great attractions of tribalism is that you don’t actually have to think very much. All you need to know on any given subject is which side you’re on. You pick up signals from everyone around you, you slowly winnow your acquaintances to those who will reinforce your worldview, a tribal leader calls the shots, and everything slips into place. After a while, your immersion in tribal loyalty makes the activities of another tribe not just alien but close to incomprehensible.”


        In fact, that’s a pretty good description of what Donald Trump has been doing–achieving unquestioning tribal loyalty. To do the exact same thing in the name of opposing him is more than a bit ironic.

        “When criticized by a member of a rival tribe, a tribalist will not reflect on his own actions or assumptions but instantly point to the same flaw in his enemy. The most powerful tribalist among us, Trump, does this constantly.”

        Right–and it’s also common among Trump supporters.

        And the logic on this is just crazy. I can do XYZ bad thing because my opponents did XYZ bad thing–never mind that XYZ is terrible.

        ” The intellectual right and the academic left have long since dispensed with the idea of a mutual exchange of ideas. In a new study of the voting habits of professors, Democrats outnumber Republicans 12 to 1, and the imbalance is growing. Among professors under 36, the ratio is almost 23 to 1.”

        “Conservative dissent therefore becomes tribal blasphemy. Free speech can quickly become “hate speech,” “hate speech” becomes indistinguishable from a “hate crime,” and a crime needs to be punished.”

        “When it actually came to undoing the reform earlier this year, the GOP had precious little intellectual capital to fall back on, no alternative way to keep millions insured, no history of explaining to voters outside their own tribe what principles they were even trying to apply.”

        As some smart person was saying recently, conservative media is ideological under Democratic presidents and partisan under Republican presidents, which means that we never actually get what we want–jam tomorrow and jam yesterday, but no jam today.

        “When a party leader in a liberal democracy proposes a shift in direction, there is usually an internal debate. It can go on for years. When a tribal leader does so, the tribe immediately jumps on command.”


        “[The overuse of the term white supremacism] wins no converts, and when actual white supremacists march in the streets, you have no language left to describe them as any different from, say, all Trump supporters, including the 13 percent of black men who voted for him.”

        Right. If everybody is a Nazi, nobody is a Nazi.

        And then he loses me:

        “In fact, the person best positioned to get us out of this tribal trap would be … well … bear with me … Trump.”

        Don’t let’s all hold our breath waiting for that.


      3. If I had a choice, no bumper stickers. There was a trump sticker on the car next door, so you are right that even in a city that voted 85% for Clinton, the likelihood of a trump free construction team is high.

        Regarding whether my personal boycott makes it more likely that trump continues to win — I think not, but if it does, I’m not willing to collaborate with what is happening now, which is worse than I’d imagined. Trump is worse than anything I’ve faced before.


      4. Sitting alongside nazis, which is what you do if you support for trump, in my book, is something I must shun with whatever power I possess.


      5. More! Today’s Times had contrasting columns on the editorial page, Goldberg and Brooks:

        “But America is now two countries, eyeing each other across a chasm of distrust and contempt. One is urban, diverse and outward-looking. This is the America that’s growing. The other is white, provincial and culturally revanchist. This is the America that’s in charge…Twice in the last 17 years, Republicans have lost the popular vote but won the presidency, and it could happen again.”

        “…eventually a new establishment came into being, which we will call the meritocratic establishment… well educated. They cut their moral teeth on the civil rights and feminist movements. They embraced economic, social and moral individualism. They came to dominate the institutions of American society on both left and right. Hillary Clinton is part of this more educated cohort. So are parts of the conservative establishment. If you’re reading this newspaper, you probably are, too, as am I. This establishment, too, has had its failures. It created an economy that benefits itself and leaves everybody else out. It led America into war in Iraq and sent the working class off to fight it. It has developed its own brand of cultural snobbery. Its media, film and music industries make members of the working class feel invisible and disrespected…Donald Trump came into a segmenting culture and he is further tearing apart every fissure. He has a nose for every wound in the body politic and day after day he sticks a red-hot poker in one wound or another and rips it open…Day by day Trump is turning us into a nation of different planets. Each planet feels more righteous about itself and is more isolated from and offended by the other planets….He is so destructive because his enemies help him. He ramps up the aggression. His enemies ramp it up more, to preserve their own dignity. But the ensuing cultural violence only serves Trump’s long-term destructive purpose. America is seeing nearly as much cultural conflict as it did in the late 1960s. It’s quite possible that after four years of this Trump will have effectively destroyed the prevailing culture. The reign of the meritocratic establishment will be just as over as the reign of the Protestant establishment now is…Of course Donald Trump is a buffoon…”

        The Goldberg column I read as basically, ‘those people are icky, and the damned Electoral College is how this catastrophe has come down on us, and let’s fix the Electoral College’. The Brooks column I read as basically ‘the Trumpistas have a genuine grievance, and if we don’t fix it the country is riven apart for the forseeable future, and the clerisy is letting itself get fetched and losing the struggle’. I think Brooks’ take is much smarter.


      6. bj said:

        “Trump is worse than anything I’ve faced before.”

        Trump can be managed, with lots of ear scratches and belly rubs.


        It’s kind of a disgusting job, though. (You know how uncomfortable relatively normal people who have to deal with Trump look? They all eventually look like they’re trying to blink T-O-R-T-U-R-E in morse code.)

        Fortunately, it’s not my problem and there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it.

        Cheer up–he’s going to eventually give you guys single payer (in fact Trump has spoken out in favor of single payer before). It’s going to be terrible, but as Seth Mandel’s Game of Thrones quote at the top of his Twitter says, “We are sinful creatures. We deserve death. All of us.”

        But we might be nuked by the North Koreans first.



      7. BeeJay, as Instapundit regularly says, “if you want more Trump, this is how to get more Trump”. And furthermore, Laura will get more options and better bids on her kitchen than you will.

        Not wanting to hire people who are obnoxious makes more obnoxious people? I don’t quite follow the logic. (And this is Instapundit we’re talking about, not someone on the falling side of the normal curve…)

        And I can find plenty of good tradesmen around who are either (a) decent blue collar union type democrats or (b) are smart enough to keep their politics to themselves around me. It doesn’t seem to be a problem.


      1. Students and patients are safe in my world. I’m pretty much ok with the trump supporter refusing to take on my renovation project because I’m opposed to trump supporters (though not because I’m brown or gay or a Jewish).


    1. Your neighborhood is running a virtually 100% risk of having some Trump supporters among the construction guys, as well as an elevated risk of anti-HRC bumper stickers.

      Brace yourselves!


  4. I suspect there’s a big difference between somebody like a recent plumber of ours whose cell phone case is a Confederate flag, and whoever was the owner of a pickup and closed trailer I saw once at the mall, which had probably 20 different Confederate flags–stickers, flags, you name it, plus some AK-47 outline decals for good measure. I have to confess to having been somewhat concerned about the contents of the closed trailer.

    (A fun fact–I actually rarely see Confederate flags in TX. 99% of the time, it’s Texas flags, Texas stars, t-shirts or jewelry or tattoos with the state outline, Dallas Cowboys or Longhorns paraphernalia, etc.)

    A rule of thumb:

    One Trump sticker: probably normal stand up guy.

    20 different political bumper stickers (of whatever stripe): nut.


  5. Because I am a bad person, here’s the first theory that comes to mind

    Deceased or no-longer-driving mom’s handicapped permit.

    But it might actually be a well-heeled disabled person.


    1. Successful contractor (or other member of the blue collar super-elite), now elderly with enough mobility problems to get a handicapped sticker (they aren’t that tough to get), and having at least a minor midlife crisis.


    2. It stinks that our biggest campus gossip isn’t working here any more. I would have had the full deets. Now I have to guess. This is a person who is on campus on Mondays and Wednesdays (I saw the car again today). It’s always in the same spot, on the 4th floor of the garage. This leads me to believe that it’s a faculty member, as faculty have been told to park on the 4th floor or higher, and this is the first handicapped spot on the 4th floor The license plate is a low number plate, which suggests either that the person is a longtime RIer or wants to appear as one (i.e., cares enough to enter the lottery for low number plates).

      As you can tell, I do not have time to do surveillance on this car but I do have time to think about it. 🙂


      1. OK, then, a faculty member with some money from somewhere (e.g., a father who engaged in sordid commerce so his children could focus on higher things), mild mobility problems, and at least a mild mid-life crisis (not unknown in those circles, but a car is better than sleeping with coeds).


      2. More likely sordid corruption. The dealer on the license plate frame was one located in a part of RI known for being very old school, Cianci-era RI. So, Trump’s kind of commerce.


  6. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/09/11/priest-stole-dead-parishioners-disabled-parking-badge-told-court/

    “A priest who denied stealing a dead parishioner’s blue badge so he could park for free said he was telling the “gospel truth.”

    Father Bill Haymaker, accompanied to Hove Crown Court by his official clerical dog The Venerable Mr Piddles, was found guilty of stealing the badge from woman who had died two months before and then using it in his own car.

    Today, he was spared jail but ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work and to pay £3,700 in court costs.”


  7. On the economy, the last couple of years have been good for me. But this isn’t my first rodeo and in my experience a couple of years of good money means the economy is about to crash. Whenever I see records on the Dow, I look for expenses that can be cut. On top of that, while funding for what I do has always been unstable, a determined, systematic attempt to destabilize the whole sector in which I work is new. I cut discretionary spending last November and will continue to do so until there is a political climate that looks like it will provide some stability.


    1. So that looks like a vote from MH for “..Maybe it’s better to just paint the cabinets and call it a day…” And I think that may well be a good idea. Laura, think about your life plan – you gonna be there for 3 years? fifteen? Is your house a teardown when you leave it? If you put 35 grand into the place and then sell it when you no longer need the school district, how many years do you have to have lived there to have had twenty grand worth of fun from the new kitchen and get fifteen more for the house when you sell it?
      We redid our kitchen in 96 and it was definitely worth it for the fun we have had. We cook a lot and we have been there for a long time. Our house may well be a teardown when our kids sell it – or they may keep living there for its sentimental value to them. Can’t tell. #2 seems to favor frozen microwave heat-ups from Trader Joe over actually cooking, so our swell kitchen is probably of no value to him. #3 cooks.


      1. You have time to get multiple quotes. We’ve done this, and friends/relatives have done this, and there is often a large range between bids from contractors. My theory is sometimes the contractor doesn’t really want to do the job, for whatever reason, but doesn’t want to turn down any possible client. So the contractor highballs the bid, with extra to make it possible to hire multiple extra crews or deal with a demanding client.

        We’re getting ready to downsize. Expenses incurred in updating a house that has been your principal residence for at least 2 years out of the previous 5 can serve to reduce taxes on capital gains, after the automatic $500K for joint filers : https://www.houselogic.com/finances-taxes/taxes/tax-breaks-capital-improvements-your-home/. So, keep receipts. Don’t tidy up receipts for work you’ve already had done on the house. Figure out how much your house has appreciated since you bought it, to know what the effect might be.

        In the end, I’d say do it now if you plan to stay in the house for some time. It would annoy me if we have to redo our kitchen now to appeal to buyers. I should’ve done it years ago.


      2. Gee, I have kind of an opposite view. I think home improvement is always a good idea when you feel rich, because you can turn it off easily in a downturn. (I.e., this year, redo the kitchen; the next year, rebuild the porch; the next year, replace the plumbing; the next year–whoops! eliminate all home improvement in favor of having enough to eat.) In contrast, if you have to give up even small regular expenses, like weekly restaurant meals, in a pinch, it feels like a sacrifice. Also, if you never do home improvement, the house eventually becomes unmanageable, whereas a year or two of deferred maintenance in a recession is harmless.

        Of course, if you have a very secure job, there’s the theory that you can get better prices during a downturn. Glenn Reynolds once described himself as living that way. But Laura’s husband doesn’t have that kind of job. (Neither do I, and neither did my wife when she worked, and we don’t have any defined benefit retirement income, so we are at the mercy of the economy and the market.)


      3. y81 said:

        “Gee, I have kind of an opposite view. I think home improvement is always a good idea when you feel rich, because you can turn it off easily in a downturn. (I.e., this year, redo the kitchen; the next year, rebuild the porch; the next year, replace the plumbing; the next year–whoops! eliminate all home improvement in favor of having enough to eat.)”

        That’s assuming it’s done with cash, rather than borrowed via a home equity loan.

        I think that’s not a bad theory for small projects, although I suspect that one could easily wind up in the middle of a big project at the beginning of an economic downturn. (You know how renovations tend to drag on.)

        “Also, if you never do home improvement, the house eventually becomes unmanageable, whereas a year or two of deferred maintenance in a recession is harmless.”

        Agreed–although I think it might wind up being more like 5 years of deferred maintenance.

        But that’s actually all the more reason to do it while you can if there’s going to be a long pause between projects.


      1. The $1,000 family vacations is actually probably what a lot of people spend, or would like to spend. Not a once-in-a-lifetime vacation involving air travel, but some driving, a few nights in a hotel, some entrance fees, some restaurant meals, a t-shirt or two. Our non-family travel costs well under $1,000 for the five of us–but we do really short trips.

        Otherwise, yeah, I’m really happy I didn’t say what he said.

        I think that the problem is that while there are a lot of important things you could do with $1k (buy a new fridge, buy a sofa, buy new tires, do a major car repair, rent several industrial dehumidifiers for a week, furnish a kid’s room with IKEA, pay an ER bill, do pre-baby shopping), these are fairly modest projects.


    1. I’m a cluttery person, but that kitchen gives me hives. I think I would have ripped out those cabinets and bought metal shelving at IKEA the day I moved in.


      1. Those are nice meals, but knowing they’re prepared in that mice-infested kitchen is putting me off them a bit. I can’t imagine cooking for 12 every day in that kitchen.

        (Also, I’m not sure a woman with ten kids is the most persuasive advocate for NFP as a form of birth control.)


    1. When you flush after shitting a little aerosol blast of bacteria goes out into the room. This is why building inspectors will ding you if the bathroom door opens directly onto the kitchen. Just saying.


    2. When I was young, I had grad student friends who lived in tenement apartments with the bathtub in the kitchen. (The toilet was down the hall.) The builder only wanted to do one set of risers, I guess. I don’t know how many of those apartments still exist. Then again, I don’t know how many grad students can afford to live in Manhattan.


  8. Our kitchen is forty years old, but it was a super fancy job. The cabinets are all solid wood and custom-made. So, I feel a little guilty ripping them out. Everything still works. The layout and the style are dated, but the cabinets themselves were very well made. On the other hand, I don’t think I can survive the knotty pine cave much longer.

    The appliances and the countertops are a disaster and need to be dumped ASAP.


    1. We have a place where you can donate used construction stuff, including old cabinets, for reuse. Maybe that would feel less guilty if there is such a thing near you.


      1. I’ve noticed Italian restaurants have become a thing recently. My theory is that the younger generations in the restaurant families are finally taking over.

        There is Italian food outside of NYC. It’s even cooked by Italians.


      1. Does painting cabinets actually work?

        I have some pinkish pickled oak cabinets and I’ve wondered if painting works. My primary concern is areas like the cabinets under the kitchen sink that get more moisture exposure. (Our master bath vanity is painted and there’s definitely a lot of peeling in those areas.)


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