ERIE, Pa. — President Trump took credit for the economy’s success in an interview with the Washington Examiner, while laying any hiccups, like this week’s stock market losses, on the Federal Reserve.
“I want to bring the country together. It’s happening,” said Trump, who in his next breath said, “I think the Fed is overly aggressive” in raising interest rates.
“Other than that, we are doing so well, it’s incredible,” added Trump. “The numbers, the corporate earnings, the liquidity, it’s incredible. Our country is so strong. We’ve never been in a position as good as we are now, economically."
Trump’s staked much of his presidency to date on the strength of the economy overall, and the stock market in particular. He has credited himself with an extended rally in U.S. equities markets, which he ties to the tax cuts he pushed for last year. The unemployment rate is its lowest in roughly half a century, although economic growth remains below the pace it has reached in past decades.
Despite his bravado over the economy’s performance, Trump has taken the unusual step of taking to the press to repeatedly criticize the Fed for raising interest rates, which it has gradually done this year to reverse crisis-era stimulus measures. The president has argued that the Fed’s rate hikes have undercut his trade negotiations with China, the European Union, and other countries, and dragged down the stock market.
Senators from both parties dismissed Trump's criticisms of the central bank, some seeing it as a way to redirect blame for the unwelcome stock market developments, with the Dow Jones industrial average tumbling more than 5 percent in two days.
“Nothing surprises me. Anytime he can criticize somebody and blame somebody else and finger-point, he does,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, the top Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee, which oversees the Fed. “If anything goes not exactly the way he wants it it’s always somebody else’s fault, so now it’s the Federal Reserve’s fault.”
Republicans didn’t go so far in their rebuke of Trump as Brown, but sided with Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell while emphasizing the Fed’s independence.
“I disagree with the president on this,” said Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., another member of the Banking Committee. “We’ve waited way too long for the Fed to begin normalizing interest rates. I’m glad that they finally have begun that process.”
Toomey and others praised Powell, who they thought would continue to ignore Trump’s pressure to keep rates low.
“I’m absolutely convinced, regardless of any comment by any person, that Powell’s going to be an independent Fed person,” said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who added that Trump threatened markets himself if he continued to publicly knock the central bank.
“It’d be much better if the president wouldn’t make those comments. Even those comments sometimes can affect markets, that the president makes,” added Corker.
Brown added his own voice to those predicting the Fed would continue to ignore Trump on the issue of interest rates. But the Ohio Democrat included a caveat.
“I think everybody is used to President Trump doing things in ways like that, in unorthodox ways, and I would assume the Fed doesn’t pay attention to him,” said Brown before adding, “although those are his nominees on the Fed, so you’ve got to be concerned.”