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The latest economic news appears to be driving President Donald Trump into a deep emotional funk. As much as he likes to portray his economic management as a miracle that outpaces anything his predecessors accomplished, it’s more like a myth. The numbers don’t lie, no matter how desperately Trump tries to blame Democrats and the Federal Reserve for his troubles.

The promises Trump made about unprecedented prosperity after the 2017 tax cut have translated instead into an exploding federal deficit and lackluster economic figures. The deficit is now on track to reach $1 trillion in the next fiscal year, exactly as economists predicted when they warned against approving the 2017 tax-cut package.

This is not sustainable, says Phillip Swagel, director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which warned Wednesday that recent increases in spending have plunged the nation into levels of debt not seen since the end of World War II. Yet Trump, concerned about the distinct possibility of a recession ahead of the 2020 presidential elections, has entertained yet another tax cut and additional spending to forestall another economic downturn.

The news gets worse. A major part of Trump’s trade war with China was over cheap steel. He recently traveled to Pennsylvania to assert that his 25% tariff on steel and other Chinese exports had helped revive the American steel industry. But U.S. Steel announced Thursday that it was laying off 200 workers in Michigan, and its stock price has dropped 73% since Trump started the trade war. The Labor Department, meanwhile, said Wednesday that total job gains from April 2018 to March 2019 were actually 501,000 fewer that initially reported. That’s the largest downward revision in a decade. To reduce the nation’s financial vulnerability and put it onto a healthier course, Trump and Congress would have to agree on a series of belt-tightening measures that no one wants to pursue going into an election year. Whatever solutions Trump wants to propose, he’ll have to try a markedly different approach than the abrasive one he’s taken so far, in which everything bad in the economy is the fault of Democrats or the Federal Reserve, while everything good is the result of his unique business acumen.

The Washington Post this week compared Trump’s actual economic performance with former President Barack Obama’s using 15 major indicators based on official government figures. The figures and charts show that Trump has, at best, matched Obama’s performance in some key areas such as year-to-year economic growth while actually falling well behind the growth rates achieved by Obama on other measures such as job creation.

The more these figures reveal about the myth behind Donald Trump, the more erratic and worrisome his behavior seems to become — hardly the ingredients he needs to project confidence and shore up his sagging approval ratings as 2020 looms.

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