Ever since he took office, President Donald Trump has been snatching at the wheel of the world economy, insisting that if anyone knows how to drive that car, it’s him. Tough talk, tariffs, trashed trade deals: Trump has plowed through it all like a demolition derby king. His supporters have cheered, reveling in their faith that he can’t lose. And the raging U.S. economy has been the one area in which a solid majority of voters approve of the results they’re getting from Trump.
But now it looks like the wheels might be coming off. With growing indicators of a possible recession, global markets are going wild. Investors everywhere appear poised to cash in and run for cover. Not doing it yet, but still. Trade disputes between the U.S. and China, uncertainty over Brexit, and general unrest in so many places make it unlikely the turmoil will end soon.
So Trump is pushing back. Through his never-ending torrent of tweets, he is trying to reassure Americans that even if some things go economically awry in some faraway places, he won’t let it happen here. Your 401(k) won’t be decimated. Our markets won’t crash. Your job won’t slide into the abyss.
In all sincerity, anyone who cares about this country has to hope he is right. Because if another recession comes our way, the real-life impact could be awful. People losing homes, cars and insurance. College hopes crumbling. Retirement plans collapsing. Businesses closing.
But in political terms, Trump should fear this news more than anyone else. He has staked so much of his identity on this idea that he knows how to make the economy hum, an economic collapse would be devastating. Sure, he’s trying even now to lay the groundwork for blaming someone else — the Federal Reserve is a favorite target — but I suspect that is a waste of time. Fairly or not, voters judge every president on the strength of the economy, and if this economy cracks up, Donald Trump will likely find his legacy buried in the wreckage along with the rest of us.