By John A. Tures
The most repeated phrase of the Republican National Convention was that President Donald Trump created the greatest economy the world has ever seen. The evidence, however, shows that it’s not the greatest in world’s history, or American history. It may not be even better than the Obama economy, even before the pandemic devastated our economy.
GDP Growth: I went to Macrotrends.net to gather all of the data on annual growth rates from 1961 to 2019, before the pandemic. In his best year, 2018, Trump’s growth rate was 3.18 percent, good for 29th best since JFK took office. In 2019, the GDP growth rate was 2.33 percent (41st best) and in 2017, it was 2.22 percent (44th best) out of all 59 years. In 1950, our first quarter GDP growth rate was 16.7 percent, according to Trading Economics.
And that’s before 2020. The Bureau of Economic Analysis revealed that our economy shrank by 5 percent during the first quarter, and a historic low -32 percent in the second quarter, as confirmed by Trading Economics.
Unemployment: President Barack Obama inherited the Great Recession, which began at the end of the George W. Bush administration. The unemployment rate was 9.9 percent in 2009. It declined every year down to 4.7 percent in 2016, according to Forbes. It has further declined under Trump to 3.5 percent in 2019 but then shot up to 14.7 percent in April in the midst of the pandemic. As of this writing, it is still in the double-digits.
Annual Median Household Income: As the Joint Economic Committee concluded: “During the last two years of the Obama administration, annual median household income increased $4,800. This is three times more than the $1,400 increase during the first two years of the Trump administration.” And this was published before the declines of 2020.
Stock Market: I expected that the stock market would have done better for Trump than Obama. I was incorrect. According to the JEC: “Between President Trump’s Inauguration Day and November 2019, the Dow Jones Average increased more than 40 percent, while over the eight years of the Obama administration, the DJIA increased almost 150 percent – a substantially greater pace.” The stock market had declined so much before Obama took office, so his numbers look better primarily for this reason.
Trade Deficit: Given his rhetoric on the trade and all of his claims to success. I was surprised to discover that under Trump the trade deficit became worse than it did under the Obama administration. “Despite his aggressive trade moves, the total monthly trade deficit in goods and services — that is, the value of goods and services exported by the US minus the value of imports — has gotten larger in the last couple years,” confirms Business Insider.
There is no evidence at the writing of this column that this was the greatest economy in the history of the world, or America, over even the last several years. Times had been generally okay since the Great Recession of 2007-09 for both presidents, until the calamity of 2020.
Opinion contributor John A. Tures is a political science professor LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga. His work appears frequently on the Capital-Star’s Commentary Page. Readers may email him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @JohnTures2.