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President Trump Tries To Tamp Down Recession Fears


A handful of key economic indicators suggest that the United States could be approaching a recession or, at the very least, a period of slower economic growth. Now, it's worth noting that no one is really able to put an exact date on either of those worries. But the White House is downplaying fears of a slowdown as the 2020 election approaches. NPR's White House correspondent Tamara Keith is on the line. Good morning, Tam.


KING: So what is the White House saying about these predictions from economists, many mainstream economists, that a dark period could be on the horizon for the U.S. economy?

KEITH: They are essentially saying, no need to look at that, don't worry, there's nothing going on, there's no recession. Larry Kudlow, one of the president's top economic advisers, was on TV over the weekend. He says he sees no recession. President Trump, on the tarmac, on his way back from a week of vacation and work in Bedminster N.J., was asked about it, as well.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I don't see a recession. I mean, the world is in a recession right now. And - although, that's too big - save it - but if you look at China, China's doing very, very poorly.

KEITH: He also pointed to Germany having trouble. It's an interesting thing because typically when the rest of the world is having economic trouble, that's not something to gloat about because it can have spillover effects to the U.S.

KING: Also interesting that the president kind of pulled back on that statement. He said, the world is in a recession - well, maybe that's too big. That's an interesting admission. Does this mean, I guess - and I'm asking you to speculate a little bit here. But is the White House suggesting that it is prepared or unprepared to do anything to stave off a recession, if they're not saying that one may be approaching?

KEITH: So on Friday, I asked the president that very question. And he said, no, we're - there is no recession, there's nothing to worry about - look at Walmart's profits. Or look at Walmart's sales. Then he was asked that again yesterday, and his response was, I'm prepared for everything, I don't think we're having a recession.

So the president is certainly putting confidence out there, but there are signs of things that are happening that they are doing. Like, for instance, the president and the administration have postponed tariffs on consumer goods until December. That would come after the bulk of the Christmas holiday shopping season. And although the president wouldn't acknowledge that that meant that maybe those tariffs that he claims aren't affecting consumers really would affect consumers, certainly that is a tacit acknowledgment that the tariffs could be hurting American consumers, which are a big, important part of the U.S. economy.

Another thing that the White House has been doing, the president and his advisers - publicly badgering the Federal Reserve chairman, his own handpicked Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell, trying to push for rate cuts, which is one of the levers that exists to try to boost the economy.

KING: Tam, just real quick, what are the political implications of a slowdown? Is it harder for a president to win if the economy - an incumbent president to win if the economy isn't doing well?

KEITH: Absolutely. That, you know, the economy is the strongest thing President Trump has going for him. Record-low unemployment. A strong stock market, until last week's had some major drops and there's been some movement. But a strong economy is a big part of a president's sales pitch, and if he doesn't have that, that would be a major problem.

KING: NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith. Thanks, Tam.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.
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