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Column: On the economy, there’s no comparison between Biden and Trump

Former President Trump on a stage holding golden sneakers
Donald Trump was booed Saturday when he took to the stage at a convention in Philadelphia to sell shoes. This is not what success looks like.
(Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press)
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Let’s talk about political theater for a moment.

Last fall a House subcommittee held a hearing to discuss the impact of one of President Biden’s key pieces of legislation: the Inflation Reduction Act. Predictably, Republicans hated it. They were particularly peeved about the clean-energy tax incentives. Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.) framed his criticism around a populist message.

Opinion Columnist

LZ Granderson

LZ Granderson writes about culture, politics, sports and navigating life in America.

“Some of these green cars, electric cars can cost $100,000 a year, and so almost by definition the really wealthy showoffs of our society are the people building them,” he said, before asking a witness: “You mean they give special credits to the rich guy who likes to show off with his $100,000-a-year Chevy but you don’t get a credit if you’re an average guy trying to buy a car for $35,000?”

Grothman’s Norma Rae impersonation was so convincing you almost forget he is the same politician who was once cornered by hundreds of pro-union protesters as they yelled, “Shame, shame, shame!” because his policies were so harmful to the “average guy.” His stunt last fall was bold political theater.

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House Republicans are ready to kill any measure that might improve security at the southern border, because sustaining the danger could help Trump in November.

Jan. 31, 2024

As was the answer that came from the witness, Preston Brashers, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation. That is the same think tank that is reportedly guiding the policies that a future Trump administration would enact should the former president be reelected in November. Brashers, who once bafflingly accused the Biden administration of plundering the American people, lamented the lack of affordability of green-ticket items such as solar panels.

Hold on, now. We all get that many Americans were feeling pinched financially last year. But this brain trust wants us to believe the stress at the grocery checkout line was caused by one year of Biden’s inflation policy? After Trump spent four years pillaging the economy to serve the rich? Corporate tax receipts under Trump fell to an almost 75-year low. The top 1% now has more wealth than the entire middle class.

Check the history books for a better example of moral leadership: Hiram Revels, the first Black Republican in the Senate.

Jan. 26, 2024

We can have a discussion about fiscal policy without pretending our problems are all Biden’s fault.

We can have a discussion about spending without vilifying Republicans.

But there’s no longer room for debate about Trump’s ability to handle the economy. That’s done.

The circus surrounding Hunter Biden should drive approval ratings even lower for Congress. Did we bring this upon ourselves?

Jan. 15, 2024

Even before he first ran for president, Trump led businesses into bankruptcy six times. (He explained that away as shrewd business.) He has been in legal trouble with the U.S. government again and again since the 1970s.

Trump ballooned the deficit by $7.8 trillion — and $3.3 trillion of that was before COVID-19 hit the U.S. and necessitated vast stimulus programs.

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And now he owes so much money after losing a string of court cases that he is selling gold gym shoes at campaign stops to raise money for his legal fees. Gym shoes with red bottoms — a Christian Louboutin knockoff of sorts. The exact kind of shoe associated with wealth. The kind of wealth Republicans in the House tell you they are fighting against.

It’s all theater.

And yet for Trump, the show is not over. In some ways it is just beginning, and the next act does not look good for him.

Because as someone whose entire image has been based on wealth and power, he has to be suffering a significant blow to his already fragile ego now that so many more Americans know for certain that he inflated his wealth by billions of dollars in order to swindle money from others.

We need to talk about the economy: Last June, the Congressional Budget Office estimated in its 30-year outlook that publicly held debt will be equal to a record 181% of American economic activity by 2053. But anyone who pretends Trump is a proven expert on financial matters will instantly lose as much credibility as the former president has. His record is clear: Trump’s policies wrecked the federal government’s finances much as they have run his businesses into the ground.

Trump’s record as a public official: When he left office, he had grown the federal deficit by roughly $23,500 per person. Just the 2017 tax cuts for corporations and wealthy Americans dug the nation $2 trillion deeper into debt.

Trump’s record as a businessman: He has now been exposed as having lied about his success. That’s not an opinion; it’s a finding proved in court despite Trump’s efforts at obfuscating. Just in the past two months, he has lost court cases with price tags adding up to nearly $600 million. He’s going to have to sell a lot of shoes to cover that.

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We can debate Biden’s record versus Trump’s on most anything else: public health, immigration, you name it. But pretending as if the former president should be given the keys to our economy is beyond the limits of political theater. It’s dangerous.

@LZGranderson

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