President Donald Trump has made the performance of the economy a centerpiece of his re-election campaign. But in an op-ed for The New York Times on Wednesday, former Treasury Department counselor Steven Rattner walked through all of the ways in which Trump's economy is weaker than it appears — and how Democrats must challenge him on it to the American people whose situations have not been improving.
"The Trump recovery is merely an extension of the Obama recovery," wrote Rattner. "Take jobs. In Mr. Trump’s 35 months as president, the economy added an average of 191,000 jobs per month and the unemployment rate fell by 1.2 percentage points. Sounds pretty good, right? But during the last 35 months of the Obama presidency, new jobs averaged 227,000 per month and the unemployment rate dropped by 2 percentage points."
Meanwhile, wrote Rattner, Trump's 3 percent wage growth sounds good, but "add in the effect of inflation and the picture looks quite different. On average, real wages have risen at just a 0.8 percent rate under Mr. Trump, compared with 1.3 percent over a similar period under Mr. Obama."
Moreover, "Not only has Mr. Trump failed to reverse the steady decline in industrial production’s share of our economy, but his self-inflicted trade war contributed to outright job declines last year in key 2020 states," wrote Rattner. "Wisconsin and Pennsylvania lost factory jobs, as did Oklahoma, Indiana and New York. At least partly as a result, total jobs grew at below-average rates in those states (along with other important states like Ohio, Michigan and Minnesota). What happened to Make America Great Again?" Rattner also noted that because most of the growth is concentrated in cities, and the agricultural sector has taken a trade hit, the weakest performing areas are in the heart of "Trump country."
And through all of this, Rattner added, income inequality is worse than ever. "Corporate profits have risen sharply (thanks in large part to the Trump tax cut), and a soaring stock market has benefited the wealthy disproportionately. Mr. Trump’s tax cuts for individual Americans was regressive, helping the rich more than middle-class Americans. While earnings for those at the very bottom have increased, that’s at least partly due to states increasing their minimum wages. But the gap between those at the top and those in the middle continues to widen."
"The fact remains that little of what Mr. Trump has done has helped the economy. The challenges for most Americans remain steep," concluded Rattner. "Democrats need to keep reminding voters of those two simple facts."
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