- - Thursday, February 6, 2020

The U.S. economy is slowing down, with economic growth crawling along at a mere 2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2019, worsened by President Trump’s trade war policies.

Economist Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, is keeping his eye on key swing states such as Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, where Mr. Trump’s trade tariffs have “done a lot of damage” to American manufacturing.

Fourth-quarter consumer spending that accounts for 70 percent of economic activity “slowed to an annual gain of 1.8 percent,” he added. “While that was still a solid number, it was down from a spending surge of 4.6 percent in the second quarter and 3.2 percent in the third quarter.

“That’s still a solid number,” writes Martin Crutsinger, economic reporter for the Associated Press.

“The slowdown was led by a drop-off in new car sales,” he says.

“Business investment spending also fell for a third straight quarter, dropping at a rate of 1.5 percent, a decline that has been blamed on business uncertainty generated by rising trade tensions.

“For the whole year, GDP increased 2.3 percent, the weakest performance in three years and a slowdown from a 2.9 percent gain in 2018.”

Forecasts for 2020 aren’t expected to improve anytime soon. Instead, 1.8 percent slower growth is in the forecast or worse is threatened from a spreading coronavirus flare-up in the face of further trade tensions between the United States and China, Mr. Crutsinger says.

The widely-read Bloomberg economic survey late last year ran an analysis under this headline: “Trump Boasts on Economy Undercut by Weak Middle-Class Pay Gains,” citing the U.S. Census Bureau as its source.

“By several measures, middle-class Americans’ incomes have risen more slowly under Trump than during Barack Obama’s final years — hardly a period renowned for gangbuster pay increases. Workers should finally be getting big raises with the unemployment rate down to 3.5 percent,” the newsletter observed near the end of last year.”

“Trump often claims that wage gains have picked up since he took office. But once inflation is factored in, overall progress on wages doesn’t look much different,” the website said. “Real average hourly earnings under Trump have grown at an annual rate of 1.1% through September versus during Obama’s second term.”

Despite Mr. Trump’s persistent claims that he has given our country the best economy ever, the statistics don’t support that claim.

“High-school-educated men still haven’t caught up to their pay in 2000. Their $45,459 median earnings in 2018 was $2,128 lower than their counterparts at the turn of the century. High-school-educated women are further behind, with 2018 median earnings of $32,412, down $2,356, says the Bloomberg economic researchers.

“Weak pay increases contribute to ‘ambiguous feeling’ about the economy even as unemployment remains at historic lows,” says Alan Abramowitz, a political science professor at Emory University who studies public opinion and presidential election forecasting.

“What matters politically is the subjective economy, how people feel about the economy,” Mr. Abramowitz says. “Real incomes aren’t rising that much, so it’s not obvious that things are that good,” he says.

• Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and contributor to The Washington Times.

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