Economic numbers pad Trump’s first State of the Union
Even the harshest and most ardent critics of America’s first reality show star to be elected to the U.S. presidency have to take an honest look at the nation’s economy after his first year in office and marvel at President Donald Trump’s performance.
At least, that’s the case if one listens to President Trump’s first “State of The Union” address. Democrats, and no small number of economic analysts, give former President Barack Obama at least equal credit for the current improving economy.
“I don’t see any noticeable break over the past year,” Michael Strain, an economist at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, told The Denver Post last week. “We tend to overstate the degree to which the president has the ability to control the economy.”
A recent Quinnipiac University poll showed that two-thirds of American voters label the economy either “excellent” or “good” but that 49 percent of poll respondents believed Obama to be responsible while 40 percent gave the nod to Trump.
Trump’s best argument is economic growth. On his watch, economic growth has been around three percent. Toward the end of the Obama presidency, growth had slowed to 1.6 percent. Trump’s reversal of a number of Obama regulatory policies is also part of the president’s justification of his responsibility for an improving economy.
First, a caveat: When the nation’s economy is tanking, it’s never totally the fault of the sitting president and likewise, when the nation’s economy is expanding, it’s never totally the accomplishment of the sitting president, either.
President Trump’s “State of the Union” address roundly ignored that caveat, but it’s hard not to step back and give pause to the nation’s current economic numbers on Trump’s watch.
Since Trump’s election, there has been a nearly 29 percent increase in the stock market — which analysts say has produced just under $7 billion in new paper wealth. In rural Mississippi, most families don’t buy, sell, and trade stocks on the Dow and might be tempted to chalk that gain up to one that benefits only the rich.
But the fact is that if you own even a modest IRA or 401(k) or if you work in a public or private job with pension benefits, the stock market gains likely gave you some substantial help.
In August of last year, jobless rates dropped to the 4.1 percent, the lowest in some 17 years — and the jobless rate remained there through the most recent reports. The most recent number indicate unemployment rates for Hispanics and African-Americans at or near the lowest levels in 40 years. Over the last year, the U.S. economy added some 2.2 million private sector jobs.
The great unknown as the nation moves into the 2018 economy is the full impact of the Republican tax cuts. But in the short time since those measures were adopted, the private second seems to be responding with a retreat from the “offshoring” of jobs and a return to U.S. shores of tens of thousands of jobs from blue chip companies like Apple, Fiat Chrysler and others.
For many U.S. workers, both white collar and blue collar, the jury remains out on the state of the U.S. economy and whether Trump and the GOP or Obama and the Democrats should be applauded for the current relatively upbeat economic numbers. Why?
Wages and salaries have been stagnant for the last 15 years or so and that’s particularly prevalent for middle-class workers. If salaries and wages see the same improvement over the next year as the rest of the nation’s primary economic markers, Trump will be well-positioned to make a re-election bid and he will bring some much-needed help to GOP congressional majorities as well.
While many U.S. voters remain aghast at many of Trump’s more outlandish and disturbing pronouncements and social media provocations, those aren’t the voters who elected him. If the economy continues to improve and wages likewise increase, the so-called “Trump Train” may add some passenger cars.
Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at email@example.com.