Op-ed by George Payne –
President Trump routinely touts a strong U.S. economy. Recently, he tweeted, “Stock Markets Up Record Numbers. For this year alone, Dow up 18.65%, S&P up 24.36%, Nasdaq Composite up 29.17%.” Borrowing a famous line from Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign, he stated, “It’s the economy, stupid.”
More than ever voters seem to be in agreement. A new CNBC Poll found that 49% of Americans approve of the president’s handling of the economy, an increase from 42% in September. Disapproval fell from 50% to 40%. Gallup finds that 65% of the public says that it is a good time to find a quality job, and 55% of the public rates economic conditions as either good or excellent. 66% say they have enough wealth and income to live comfortably, and 57% say their personal financial situation is improving. Needless to say, these are all significant accomplishments for an incumbent president seeking reelection.
But if having a strong economy is the only factor that matters to voters (many of whom find Trump morally reprehensible), then America is on a perilous course. I would like to remind readers that Hitler rose to power after The Great Depression of 1929 had crushed Germany. During this time, unemployment went from 8.5% in 1929 to 14 % in 1930, to 21.9% in 1931, and, at its peak, to 29.9% in 1932. In the first five years of his rule, Hitler achieved major economic and diplomatic successes. Unemployment had dropped from 6 million to less than 1 million between 1933 and 1937, and national production and income doubled during the same period. Hitler was even able to develop the world’s first major highway system, the autobahns; and there was talk of “providing every citizen with a low-cost, standardized car, the people’s car, or Volkswagen.”
Although it is fair to point out that the two men share unnerving similarities, including a penchant for race bating, voter suppression, military glorification, mocking the disabled, undermining free journalism, demonizing immigrants, detaining children and separating babies from their mothers, it is not my intention to compare Donald Trump to Hitler. Such comparisons are obnoxious and counterproductive. What I am saying is that building and sustaining a strong economy is not more important than leading by moral example, upholding the Constitution, and promoting democracy throughout the world. If we lose sight of this core truth, it won’t matter how many people are employed because the nation will become morally bankrupt.
Time and again, history demonstrates that nations can survive a lackluster or even bad economy, but they will collapse if there is no moral center. And who in our country provides the moral center more persuasively than the POTUS? In the words of journalist Joy Reid, ” The presidency is, in many ways, America’s comment on itself; our collective national costume. In the occupant of our sole nationwide elected office, we see who we think we are, or who we want to be.”
George Cassidy Payne is an independent writer, social justice activist, and adjunct professor of philosophy at SUNY. He lives and works in Rochester, NY. George’s letters and essays have been featured in a wide range of domestic and foreign outlets.
(The views expressed on our opinion pages are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position or viewpoint of CNY Vision.)