How much control does the president have over the U.S. economy?

Not nearly as much as President Donald Trump claims when the news is good.

And not nearly as much as Trump’s critics claim when the news is bad.

Some factors that affect our economy can be influenced by the president and Congress. But others are hard to anticipate, hard to control or both.

Politicians and TV personalities, however, insist on turning every part of American life into partisan fodder, including economic performance.

We see it also on the state level, where governors and lawmakers have even less economic clout.

During the administration of Gov. Sam Brownback, critics blamed the Republican governor for Kansas’ lagging economy.

Now, Kansas has a Democratic governor, and the state’s economy has improved, but not much. Still, without irony, many Republicans who defended Brownback’s lousy numbers criticize Gov. Laura Kelly for less-lousy numbers.

Governors’ powers are limited. Yes, governors should be expected to shape fair tax policies, manage the state’s finances and sponsor responsible programs that facilitate growth. But they can’t set commodity prices, control export markets or decide a long list of other factors that shape Kansas’ fortunes.

It’s actually weird that so many Republican capitalists claim Americans should be grateful to them for creating conditions in which, according to their rhetoric, government should play no role.

Just consider Trump’s claims that he has led the nation to glorious economic times, reversing the economic decline of the Obama years.

That’s inaccurate. Almost all the metrics for 2017, 2018 and 2019 show continuation of trends that began during the Obama administration.

A report from Politifact looked at several economic trends and found measurements for such things as economic growth and job creation typically continued patterns established about 2012.

The Politifact piece quoted Gary Burtless, an economist with the Brookings Institution: “I do not think economic gains have been any faster or better under Trump than gains we would have forecast based on the steady improvements we saw in the economy and job market in President Obama’s second term.”

Certainly, anyone can cherry-pick statistics to find something about which to brag.

The stock market used to be a Trump favorite. He tweeted more than 120 times claiming stock market rises were evidence of his extraordinary economic leadership.

But when the markets fell, Trump’s powers turned to petulance.

Over the past several weeks, he frequently has blamed the media and others for the markets’ dive. At one point, the president even blamed Democratic presidential candidates for losses on Wall Street.

All of that finger-pointing highlights Trump’s lack of control. After all, if he deserved credit for the good times, he must own responsibility for the bad.

In reality, his economic capabilities are limited. But it is fair to say that Trump’s leadership style, which depends on bluster and deceit, has been ineffective and even counterproductive in handling a health care crisis.

As COVID-19 is creating economic turmoil as well as a worldwide health emergency, a couple of points should be clear.

The first is that political leaders have only limited power to protect the size of our portfolios or the nation’s economy.

The second is that we need leaders who are more interested in protecting the public’s health than in using partisan gibberish to protect their own interests.

A native of Garden City, Julie Doll is a former journalist who has worked at newspapers across Kansas.