- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 24, 2017

The economy roared to life this year under President Trump, who proudly claimed the success as his own and said the lack of credit given to him was one of the media’s biggest slights against him all year.

There was no disputing the business revival. The stock market soared all year long, setting 70 record highs as the Dow topped a stunning 24,000 points, and investors’ retirement accounts gained as much as 20 percent.

The unemployment rate, already down to 4.8 percent when Mr. Trump took office, dropped to a 17-year low of 4.1 percent. By December, employers had added nearly 1.7 million jobs.

Consumer confidence increased in November for a fifth straight month and remained at a 17-year high. Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at the Conference Board, said consumers’ optimism was driven primarily by “further improvements in the labor market.”

“Consumers are entering the holiday season in very high spirits and foresee the economy expanding at a healthy pace into the early months of 2018,” she said.

Gross domestic product, a measure of total economic output, rose to 3.1 percent in the second quarter and 3.2 percent in the third quarter, the first time since 2014 that the economy experienced growth of 3 percent or more for two straight quarters.

That was before the tax cuts, a $1.5 trillion package of business and individual rate cuts that Mr. Trump signed into law Friday.

The president said companies “are literally going wild” over the tax relief, with business owners calling to tell him about their plans.

“They’re going out and they’re going to buy, frankly, factories that are closed, abandoned, and now they’re not going to be abandoned any longer,” the president said. “This is having an even bigger impact, faster than I thought.”

Indeed, on the day the legislation passed Congress, corporate titans including AT&T, Verizon, Wells Fargo and Boeing announced special bonuses or raises for their workers and/or plans for increased investment in the U.S.

All of it thrilled Mr. Trump, a rare businessman in the Oval Office, who continually called out the media to pay more attention to his impact.

“I’m not getting enough credit for it,” he told Laura Ingraham on Fox News in November, calling the boom “one of the greatest [economic revivals] in the history of our country.”

Economists are mixed in their assessments of how much credit Mr. Trump deserves for the momentum, saying an administration generally cannot have an impact on something as big as the U.S. economy for at least a year.

But Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Economic Advisors Inc. in Holland, Pennsylvania, said the administration can be credited at least in part for the surge in equity markets.

“Business optimism soared and the hopes for tax cuts that would flow to company bottom lines were rampant,” Mr. Naroff told The Washington Times. “Those expectations may be fulfilled. It is hard to explain the bulk of the large gains that began after the 2016 election unless you ascribe it to beliefs that the administration will be more ‘business friendly’ than the Obama administration and that would lead to strong economic growth and better profits, especially after-tax profits.”

Mr. Trump set the tone for a key part of that “business friendly” environment just after his inauguration, issuing an executive order that each new regulation imposed on businesses would need to be accompanied by the elimination of two other regulations.

By the end of the year, the president said the administration had far exceeded his goal, cutting 22 regulations for each new one issued.

The mood was clearly evident in February, when Mr. Trump hosted a meeting of some 20 CEOs of manufacturing firms at the White House. The president vowed of his policies, “Everything’s going to be based on bringing our jobs back, the good jobs, the real jobs.”

Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris gushed to the president, “Thank you for bringing the language of business back to the White House.”

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney carried the torch of deregulation, declaring in midyear that the administration had frozen or rolled back hundreds of business rules that were either obsolete or still in the pipeline from the Obama administration.

Meanwhile, business spending on equipment accelerated in the first three quarters of the year for the strongest rate of growth since 2014. Manufacturers added nearly 190,000 jobs through November, the biggest 12-month increase since early 2015.

And the stock market kept rising, and rising, gaining more than 5,000 points since Mr. Trump’s election.

“Trump is unapologetically pro-American business. It’s one of the reasons the stock market has nonstop rallied since last November and wealth has risen by at least $5.5 trillion since Election Day,” economist Stephen Moore, a Trump campaign adviser and an analyst at The Heritage Foundation, wrote in The Hill.

But good timing also has played a part for Mr. Trump in presiding over this economic revival. A global economic resurgence was underway in 2017; Japan’s stock market performed slightly stronger than the U.S. markets; and the markets in Germany and the United Kingdom also made strong gains.

A stronger energy industry also boosted the global economy this year.

“Much of the swing in investment spending came from the energy sector, which collapsed in 2016 but started rebounding in 2017,” Mr. Naroff said. “The most important factor driving growth during 2017 may have been the rebound in energy prices.”

He said the collapse in energy prices in 2016 “led to massive cutbacks in investment and hiring.”

“Economic growth in 2017 looks like it will be about 2.3 percent, essentially the same pace that we saw over the previous five years,” Mr. Naroff said. “In other words, there was no significant change in growth that could be directly traced to the Trump administration.”

The job market, while strong in 2017, wasn’t a significant improvement from the previous five years. From 2010 through 2016 under President Obama, U.S. employers added an average of 1.875 million jobs per year — about the same level as jobs created under Mr. Trump through November.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, referring to Mr. Obama’s claim in early December that his policies deserve partial credit for the strong economy, observed a political reality that will likely come into play next year as the congressional midterm elections approach.

“At least we can all agree the economy is better under President Trump,” she tweeted.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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