How’s this for an adjective for the Donald Trump economy: average.
That word has scarcely been used to describe the president. But Friday’s GDP revisions reveal a decidedly humdrum-looking economy.
The second quarter notched 2.1% growth, down a point from the first quarter. The economy stumbled at the end of the year and the president’s much-ballyhooed second-quarter 2018 tally of 4.2% was revised to 3.5%.
But for the true picture, it’s best to smooth it all out. Remember, the trend tells the story – not a single data point. And that trend is a ten-year expansion averaging 2.3% annual growth. Quarterly revisions for last year deliver a picture that falls short of the president’s promises of 3% economic growth and nowhere near his hyperbolic pledges for 3, 4, 5% growth.
The president and his team promised an economy supercharged by huge corporate tax cuts and historic rollbacks in regulation. Look at this bar chart.
Where exactly is that growth explosion? In fact, it looks like the economy was stronger before the tax cuts.
The economic cheerleader-in-chief has an explanation, of course. He blames the Fed.
Trump calls Fed policy an anchor around our neck. But while the Fed did raise interest rates four times last year, official rates are still well below the post-World War II average.
Meanwhile, consumers remain the strongest part of the economy – it’s business investment that has stalled. It’s hard to see the Fed at play there. Consumers are spending, but the president’s trade wars are causing business disruption that is holding companies back.
And is an economy growing above 2% a flashing red light for the Fed to slash rates? The last time the Fed cut official rates was in the depths of a financial crisis, to stabilize a system about to fall off a cliff. Today it’s the best economy in the history of the world, as the president has put it many times.
Even accounting for the normalized exaggeration from the president, it’s hard to square big rate cuts when the economy is, well, just about average.