Making America great again
October 3, 2017
"And I've been around for a long time. And it just seems that the economy does better under the Democrats than the Republicans. Now, it shouldn't be that way. But if you go back, it just seems that the economy does better under the Democrats than the Republicans," said Donald Trump, Wolf Blitzer CNN interview, March 19, 2004.
When now-President Donald Trump was campaigning, he promised to "Make America Great Again," as if America was disintegrating economically and in other ways. He proclaimed, "Only I can fix it." His followers lapped it up.
Now that he is president, Trump is claiming credit for trends that started long before he was elected. Unemployment down, stock market up, and so on. Here are some historical statistics to compare how America has done under Republicans and Democrats.
Job creation and income growth: Since President Harry Truman took office in 1949, through the end of 2008 under President George W. Bush, Republicans have been in office for 36 years and Democrats for 24. During those years, Republicans created 38.3 million new jobs, about 1.1 million a year, while Democrats created 53.2 million jobs, about 2.2 million a year.
Under President Barack Obama, net positive private sector job growth began in March 2010, leading to 82 consecutive months of job growth under Obama, the longest streak in our history. The trend has continued under Trump.
Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, said this about Trump's boasts on job creation: "But it is unfair to say the good economic news began with Trump's election. The economy has been consistently creating jobs for about 7 years – a record length of time. And the pace of job growth has been very consistent; the same before and after the President's inauguration. The economy was on fundamentally solid ground when Trump took office, and that hasn't changed."
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Regarding income growth, median household income in 2016 was $59,039, the highest-earning year since the previous record of $58,655, set in 1999. Democrats do better for both job creation and income growth.
Unemployment: When Trump took office, unemployment was 4.7 percent and decreasing steadily. This August, unemployment was 4.4 percent. Low, but not a record. Unemployment under President Ronald Reagan hit 9.6 percent; under President Bill Clinton, it dropped to 4.0 percent, the lowest in decades.
National debt: Republicans claim to be the party of fiscal responsibility, but under Reagan they adopted the policy of "Borrow and Spend." When Reagan took office, the national debt was $930 billion, which he said was too high. When President GHW Bush took office, the debt had climbed to $2.7 trillion, a 189 percent increase (nearly triple). When Clinton took office, the debt was $4.2 trillion.
The debt rose some under Clinton, to $5.7 trillion, but he had balanced the budget and was paying down the debt when he left office. GW Bush managed to squander the surplus Clinton left, and nearly doubled the debt to $10.8 trillion, which Obama inherited.
Federal spending rate: Obama had to pay for the budget items Bush put on the national credit card, so the debt continued to grow, but he managed to reduce the deficit and slow federal spending to the lowest rate in decades. Under Reagan, federal spending increased by an average rate of 6.8 percent a year; under GW Bush, it was 7.7 percent a year. Clinton reduced spending increases to 3.55 percent a year, and Obama cut it back even further, to 1.4 percent a year. Clearly, Republicans are the big spenders.
Stock market: When Obama took office, the stock market was crashing, hitting a low of 6,547 on March 9, 2009. Under Obama, the market grew, reaching the record-breaking high of 19,000 on Nov. 22, 2016. From Jan 20, 2009 until Jan. 19, 2017, the market rose 148 percent, more than double. Under Trump, it's just continuing that growth.
Trump says he wants to "Make America Great Again," but America was pretty great when he got elected, and has been great for a long time. How exactly will his policies make it greater? America does well under Democrats. The periods when America's greatness seems to dim are under Republicans, who create recessions, increase the national debt, and so on.
Under Obama, the economy was growing steadily. If we are very lucky, Trump won't botch this up and we won't fall back into recession. But bankruptcy is something with which Trump is very familiar. I just don't want our country to go down that hole with him.
Jeanette Strong, whose column appears every other week, is a Nevada Press Association award-winning columnist. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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