Alfonse D'Amato

Is the economic news too fit to print?

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America’s premier newspaper, The New York Times, prides itself on its commitment to reporting “All the News That’s Fit to Print.” But it seems the good U.S. economic news today is too fit to print for much of the mainstream media. Is the animus of CNN and other news outlets against President Trump so great that they can’t bring themselves to report this good news?

The economy is growing at a rate above 4 percent. Unemployment overall has fallen to below 4 percent, and unemployment in minority communities is at the lowest level ever. Businesses have added more than 350,000 new jobs in the past two months.

The economy has been steadily climbing out of the abyss of the 2007-09 recession, buoyed in the past year by the tax cuts enacted in 2017. These tax cuts have added to the bottom lines of U.S. businesses and put money in the pockets of working people.

Trump’s laser focus on basic economic issues deserves a great deal of the credit for the nation’s improved financial fortunes. He has brought a much-needed businessman’s attention to the economy. Along with reducing taxes, his administration has been paring back onerous regulations that held back economic growth. He’s been a booster of the U.S. energy sector, which is booming, with the U.S. now the world’s largest energy producer. And he has consistently championed a fairer, more reciprocal international trade system that would put U.S. manufacturing companies and workers on more equal footing with our trading partners.

All of this makes it understandable that the president is deeply frustrated with the media’s fixation on anything and everything negative relating to him. A case in point is the never-ending Russia probe. While media outlets harp at Russian attempts to influence the 2016 election, they too conveniently ignore the fact that under the Trump administration, the U.S. has imposed harsher sanctions on Russia than the administrations of his predecessors.

There is more pressure on Russia today for its annexation of Crimea and its meddling in Ukraine. There are more direct financial sanctions on Russia’s oligarchs. And with Trump’s constant prodding, NATO member nations are stepping up their financial and military support for the defense of Eastern Europe in the face of Russia’s expansionist ambitions. If Vladimir Putin thought he was getting a better deal with Trump than he would have gotten with Hillary Clinton, he got himself a very bad bargain. In fact, he made it harder for Trump to cooperate with Russia even where we should, most notably on Iran and the Middle East.

One can only wish that at some point, the president will be able to match the offer President Obama made when he famously leaned over to then Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and, in reference to negotiating nuclear weapons agreements with Russia, whispered, “This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.” Mr. Medvedev agreed to “transmit this information,” presumably to his patron, Putin. Hopefully the Mueller probe will be over someday, and the normal, real-world collaboration of leaders who are adversaries won’t be deemed “collusion.”

In the meantime, Trump is right to remain zeroed in on the economic issues that helped win him the presidency. Amid all the attention on Russia, a basic fact has been overlooked: Russia is not a long-term threat to the U.S. Its economy is anemic, and overly dependent on oil export revenue. And it will continue to be hemmed in by the European Union and the NATO alliance.

The real threat to the U.S. comes from China, which has mercilessly undercut America’s economic and strategic position with underhanded currency manipulation; unfair trade practices, like below-cost dumping of everything from steel to solar panels; and the ruthless theft of American technology secrets. By hitting hard at these unacceptable practices — and threatening large, offsetting tariffs on China — Trump may be able to set the stage for an actual reduction in trade barriers.

And at some point, the president and Congress must face the reality that the biggest threat to America’s long-term prosperity could be a financial one. That threat is the mounting, unsustainable growth of federal spending on “entitlements” — Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid — which now consume well over half of the federal budget. Neither Trump nor members of Congress have shown much appetite for taking on this looming problem, but if they don’t, these entitlements will essentially devour the federal budget, undoing much of today’s good news.

Al D’Amato, a former U.S. senator from New York, is the founder of Park Strategies LLC, a public policy and business development firm. Comments about this column? ADAmato@liherald.com.