Sunday, July 29, 2018

Trump Jr.'s claims about GDP are not even close to being true

Like his father Donald Trump Jr. just can't let a good thing alone. The US economy grew by a healthy 4.1% last quarter, so of course Trump feels the need to gloat and to make political capital out of it. However, in doing so he makes some pretty gross mistakes and makes the whole thing worse.
He tweeted yesterday that: "Just because Obama never broke 2% doesn't mean that someone with great policies can't". I'm not sure where Trump got that particular false factoid from, But it's not even close to being true. In fact, US GDP grew by over 2% no fewer that 15 times during President Obama's tenure, and it exceeded Trump's 4.1% four times: 4.5% in Quarter 4 of 2009, 4.7% in Q4 of 2011, 4.9% in Q3 of 2014, and 5.1% in Q2 of 2014. Mr. Trump and his supporters have never admitted it, but Obama actually left the US economy in pretty good shape.
Despite being alerted of the discrepancies, Trump Jr. has not bothered to withdraw or correct his tweet, which has now been retweeted over 10,000 times and liked 31,000 times by other people who would like to believe it but who are not too fastidious about the truthfulness of their claims. So, political capital had indeed been made, but not in a legitimate way.
Regardless of the "mine's bigger than yours" comparisons, though, most economic commentators do not see last quarters figures as representative or sustainable. In particular, last quarter benefitted from a flurry of panic exports of soy beans, aircraft, steel and aluminum in advance of the retaliatory tariffs that are expected to take effect this quarter, an effect that is likely to reverse in future quarters, especially given the high US dollar value. It also benefitted from the one-off effects of the tax cuts that were brought in recently. There may be another one-off benefit this quarter as the $12 billion in economic aid to farmers (to recompense them for Trump's own rash policies) clicks in, at huge cost to the country's debt. But sustainable? Probably not.

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