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August 19, 2019

U.S. unemployment is still near record lows and consumer spending is strong, but there are a mounting signs that the long U.S. economic expansion is coming to an end. Along with slowing growth in other major economies and the brief flash of an inverted yield curve last week, The Wall Street Journal and the Indianapolis Star highlight another economic bellwether pointing toward recession: The flagging recreational-vehicle industry in Elkhart County, Indiana, the "RV Capital of the World."

"Economists like to use the RV industry, which dominates the manufacturing city on the very northern edge of Indiana, as a barometer for the health of the U.S. economy," the Star reports. "And the news coming out of Elkhart is giving some plenty of reason to be worried." Local economists largely blame President Trump's trade war with China.

Trump and his top economic advisers dismissed such concerns on Sunday, going on TV to insist that there's no recession looming, the U.S. economy is strong, China is paying for the tariffs, and if there is a slowdown, it's the Federal Reserve's fault.

Trump, privately "agitated in discussions of the economy," has publicly "unleashed what is by now a familiar response: lashing out at what he believes is a conspiracy of forces arrayed against him," Maggie Haberman writes at The New York Times. "He has insisted that his own handpicked Federal Reserve chair, Jerome H. Powell, is intentionally acting against him. He has said other countries, including allies, are working to hurt American economic interests. And he has accused the news media of trying to create a recession" by "overstating the damage his trade war has caused."

Aides tell the Times that "Trump understands that presidents face harder re-election battles in a bad economy." But "the economy may be more important for Trump than it is for other presidents," writes CNN's Stephen Collinson, "given that its current health is one of the few policy areas where polls show he has majority support." Peter Weber

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