Judging Trump’s term by the numbers

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Today's Agenda

Grading Trump

Grading President Donald Trump on his term in office using traditional standards is sort of like grading kids for a semester in which Godzilla destroyed half the school. Also, the kids unleashed Godzilla.

Still, we must try, if only for a sense of completion. Back in January 2017, when SARS-CoV-2 was just a twinkle in a bat's eye, Bloomberg Opinion writers compiled several metrics on which Trump's term could be graded. It included a lot of stuff you'd expect — jobs, stock prices, approval ratings — and some you maybe wouldn't expect — including babies named "Donald" and Google searches about moving to Canada.

Nearly four years later, the pandemic and associated recession/depression have made a hash of many of these numbers. Trump's poor crisis management is to blame for much of that. But some metrics were moving in the right direction before this year, including stock prices, Rust Belt jobs and personal income. On the other hand, the trade deficit, Trump's approval rating and babies named "Donald" have not done nearly as well. Read the whole report card.

The Republican National Convention, which wraps up tonight, is naturally accentuating only the positives of Trump's tenure. But given the chaos swirling around it, from the massive hurricane crushing Louisiana to violence in the streets to the still-raging pandemic, the RNC feels increasingly out of touch, writes Jonathan Bernstein. A dearth of speakers outside Trump's immediate family and staff only adds to the sense of a party that has shrunk down to an inward-facing nub.

Many Republican foreign-policy mavens — who might have been RNC speakers in other times — are this year backing Democratic nominee Joe Biden, in horror over Trump's policies. But these Never-Trumpers should return to the GOP fold once he is gone, writes Hal Brands. Without these internationalists, the Republican Party will be increasingly isolationist and American foreign policy increasingly erratic.

The Fed Jawboning Will Continue Until Inflation Improves

Federal Reserve policy, meanwhile, is increasingly predictable. After months of navel-gazing, the Fed today announced its new plan is to keep doing what it has been doing, only more so. It still wants higher inflation. It still wants low unemployment. But now it really, really wants those things, and it is super-duper serious about it this time, you guys. This shocked no one, and it simply means the Fed will keep pouring money into the bond market, writes Brian Chappatta. Whether that actually boosts inflation and hiring is a different question. But without fiscal policy to help, jawboning and bond-buying is all the Fed can do.

What America's economy could really use right now is somebody like Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. He helped his country escape its deflationary trap with a combination of aggressive fiscal and monetary policy. Now he is apparently ailing and his future is in doubt, notes Dan Moss. But the legacy of Abenomics will be influential around the world for years to come.

Our Power Grid Is No DeLorean

Adding renewable energy to an ancient electrical grid made out of chicken wire and failure is like trying to build a time machine out of a broken-down Yugo instead of a DeLorean. (Though, to be fair, the DeLorean is often similarly useless.) That's part of the reason California is suffering rolling blackouts in the middle of a heat wave. Mark Buchanan writes America's grid is not only old but also built to handle fossil-fuel-generated power, which is more predictable. A smarter grid could handle the flows of renewable energy while also withstanding the rising temperatures caused by all the fossil fuel we've been burning.

Telltale Charts

Movie theaters are opening again! How pumped are you to go sit in an enclosed, clammy room with possibly diseased strangers? Not very? You're not alone, notes Tara Lachapelle. Theaters won't find much of a willing audience as long as the virus is out of control.

You hear a lot these days about workers abandoning cities for small towns where they can frolic in nature between Zoom meetings. But Justin Fox notes many of these towns already have high percentages of people working from home. Surging demand will probably result more in a housing-cost boom than a population boom.

Further Reading

Incompetence, not a conspiracy, has been holding up the mail. — Bloomberg's editorial board

More, faster testing is our best way out of this pandemic, so why is the CDC calling for less? — Faye Flam

Vladimir Putin keeps beating Angela Merkel because he doesn't have to fight fair. — Andreas Kluth

Covid-19 is killing Davos this year, and good riddance. It's too cloistered and homogeneous to be useful. — Clara Ferreira Marques

A bunch of unicorns are rushing to go public in a hot market, but investors beware: Not all are created equal. — Tae Kim

ICYMI

Microsoft and Walmart (?!?) teamed up to bid on TikTok.

China fired some missiles over America's bow.

Kenosha protests expose festering racial inequality in the Midwest.

Kickers

By 2245, half the atoms on Earth could be digital data. (h/t Mike Smedley)

Rare Indonesian plants can "mine" nickel.

Blank spots on Chinese maps help reporters find detention camps.

It doesn't have to be so lonely at the top.

Note: Please send nickel and complaints to Mark Gongloff at mgongloff1@bloomberg.net.

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