Mr. Obama’s former advisers note that their boss inherited what was widely seen as the worst economy in generations and took enormous political risks by making unpopular decisions to turn it around, while Mr. Trump inherited a growing economy and made an easy decision to cut taxes.
“A buffoon could have kept the recovery going,” said Jen Psaki, who was Mr. Obama’s White House communications director, “and in fact one has so far.”
Christina D. Romer, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, who headed Mr. Obama’s council of advisers, said the former president “was fundamentally correct to claim much of the credit for the current health of the economy.”
“That said,” she added, “I suspect that some of the current growth is being spurred by the Trump tax cut.” She said the reduction in taxes had produced a stimulus much like the extra spending Mr. Obama enacted in 2009. The difference, she said, was that Mr. Obama’s stimulus was undertaken when the economy needed it, while Mr. Trump’s tax cut was not needed in an already growing economy.
Mr. Kudlow, however, pointed out that while growth was higher in 2014, it had slowed by the time Mr. Obama left office. “President Obama really let an anti-business attitude seep through,” he said. He said business investment had increased since Mr. Trump took office, encouraging spending on new factories and creation of new businesses that would continue to pay off.
One way that even Mr. Obama’s former advisers say Mr. Trump has done better than his predecessor has been in trumpeting the economy. Where Mr. Obama was always measured in his descriptions of the recovery for fear of being accused of exaggerating his case or ignoring the very real pain many still felt, Mr. Trump does not bother with caveats or subtlety.
His skill as a salesman may help explain why the consumer confidence index has shot up significantly since his election. According to Gallup, 54 percent of Americans rated the condition of the economy as good or excellent last month, up from 25 percent in April 2016. When Mr. Obama took over, it was just 7 percent.
“There’s a linkage between taxes, regulation, confidence, business investment and wages,” Mr. Kudlow said. “It’s changed the thinking of people.”