Donald Trump’s chief economic adviser on Friday stopped short of endorsing the president’s repeated claim that the U.S. economy is at its strongest point in the country’s history.
“In history? I think it’ll rank up there, yes,” Lawrence Kudlow told CQ Roll Call on Friday. But he notably did not say the U.S. economy is the strongest it’s ever been as his boss heads into what pollsters and strategists in both parties say could be a photo-finish election.
Kudlow’s assessment came one day after Trump made one of his favorite boasts during a religious freedom event in the Oval Office.
“You just have to take a look at the polls. You see, I don’t need anybody’s help,” he said when asked about Lev Parnas, an associate to his embattled personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, who suddenly is at the center of the Ukraine scandal that prompted House Democrats to impeach Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
“We’re doing phenomenally well,” Trump said Thursday. “The economy is the best it’s ever been in — we have never had an economy like this in history. We just made the two best trade deals in the history of our country. We are doing well.”
Kudlow offered his view of the economy after being asked to describe the metric Trump used to get to his.
The former Reagan administration official and Wall Street executive cited “big gains in take-home pay.”
“I think probably as much as anything, the fact that the middle- and low-end wage earners are growing faster … I think that’s very interesting,” he said. “I think that is a historic pace. It’s lasted over two years now.
“That’s what he’s thinking about: tremendous gains in take-home pay, tremendous in jobs and wages for the middle and lower middle [classes],” Kudlow said. “Tremendous unemployment declines. I’m not blowing smoke.”
He also noted that “this is one of the biggest stock markets in history,” sounding a lot like Trump’s usual line at one of his raucous political rallies in battleground states.
Voters give the president high marks for his overall handling of the economy. Aides acknowledge Trump and his campaign organization intend to continue hammering their reelection drum about low unemployment, wage growth, retirement fund growth and other positive economic indicators as he seeks a second term.
Polling by the nonpartisan Gallup organization recently found something of a mixed bag for Trump on economic matters. Fifty-seven percent of Americans approve of his handling of the economy (42 percent disapprove), while 54 percent disapprove of his handling of trade issues (44 percent approve),” according to Gallup.
The overall economic approval figure is up 7 percentage points since May.
But experts and government data undermine Trump’s claim.
For instance, recent gross domestic product growth rates have slowed, making Trump’s economy on par with Obama’s in that category. Candidate Trump panned his predecessor for policies that he said slowed growth.
What’s more, Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows the level of U.S. adults ages 25 to 54 who are employed is below the levels of the late 1990s under President Bill Clinton. And the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta has crunched data that shows wage growth has gone up and down for several years; it stands at 3.7 percent now, the same as two years ago.
One former Clinton administration official has raised doubts about the Trump team’s claims.
“Big Bank profits in 2019 $120 billion. Before Trump's tax cut for billionaires, these banks’ profits had never climbed past $100 billion,” former Labor Secretary Robert Reich tweeted. “Meanwhile, wages are going nowhere. Enough of this trickle down nonsense.”