President Trump’s economy is a resounding success — so far.
Economic growth has averaged 2.6 percent — the Bush and Obama presidencies together posted less than 2 percent. Historically low unemployment is promoting greater racial and gender equality.
Wages are advancing at about a 3.7 percent annual pace after falling to 2.5 percent during the final years of the Obama presidency. Gains are increasingly flowing to lower income Americans and minorities, as blue collar industries like construction and maintenance face shortages of workers. The president’s apprenticeship program is opening new high-paying opportunities across the economy for non-college bound youth.
In November, women rose to fully half of all non-farm employees. In 2018, women opened businesses at nearly twice the pace as during the prior six years, and college women are shifting in greater numbers to once male-dominated higher-paying college majors. Those should do a great deal to substantially reduce the gender pay gap.
Democrats like to harp about inequality and an unfair economy but that’s what Mr. Trump inherited from his predecessor. Now his polices are turning things around to the satisfaction of Americans.
A recent Economist/You Gov survey found 60 percent of Americans are happy or very happy with their jobs, only 13 percent said the reverse, and many more say they are better off today as compared to four years ago than voiced the reverse sentiment.
Economists and the media have made a lot of his trade wars and claim manufacturing is in a recession but that sector — normalizing for the temporary disruptions imposed by the GM strike — has gained jobs during 31 of 33 months of the Trump presidency.
Firms like GM and Ford are focusing, not on cluttering the road with more vehicles but rather on enhancing the nature of what they make — investing in R&D for artificial intelligence assisted driving to improve safety and electric vehicles. That doesn’t require more factories and machines but rather more intellectual property that shows up in higher-value vehicles, fewer fatalities and a cleaner environment.
Retailers and other businesses are sourcing less from China and somewhat more from U.S. factories and from Mexico and other Asian locations — nations that don’t throw up barriers to U.S. exports or steal our technology with the zeal of Beijing’s subsidized enterprises.
The Midwest is losing jobs in agriculture and in some manufacturing sectors in the face of Chinese retaliation, and a phase one trade agreement focused on agriculture, patent protection and financial services won’t fix a lot of that.
Cheap currencies drove China’s farm imports to Argentina and Brazil, as much as its tariffs, and Chinese enterprises will still be able to force technology transfers through mandatory joint ventures and by selling counterfeit products through offshore platforms.
However, a robust jobs market is opening new opportunities in key states like Wisconsin and Iowa. As some farms and factories shed workers, other employers are crowding the gates to recruit the new workers as they leave.
In the Trump economy, a Midwesterner would have to stay in bed not to find a decent job.
Going forward, the impeachment farce should be behind the president by spring and then he should challenge the Congress on unfinished business.
The country needs immigration reform and the president has advocated moving toward a skilled-based system — akin to the Canadian and Australian regimes.
Higher education debt is causing young people to delay marriage, children and home purchases, and far-reaching and quick debt-relief forgiveness can get us out of that box. Universities that lured students into dead end majors should be made to pay up.
To contain China’s mercantilism and increasingly aggressive foreign policy, we need allies and their cooperation.
Getting the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Free Trade Agreement (USMCA) through Congress is a relatively easy lift — at least Mr. Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi essentially agree on its overall benefits. However, the president and his trade representative must back off confrontation to re-engage our allies in Asia and Europe by reopening discussions for U.S. membership in the Trans-Pacific Partnership and reforms to modernize the World Trade Organization (WTO).
That’s a tough but necessary course adjustment for Mr. Trump, but the hard left that dominates the Democratic Party is decidedly isolationist and protectionism. Americans generally see the threat posed by China, and most want more cooperation with our friends.
That’s the pivot Mr. Trump must make to keep robust growth going and get an A from this professor.
• Peter Morici is an economist and business professor at the University of Maryland, and a national columnist.
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