President Trump touts the pre-coronavirus pandemic American economy at every opportunity, as he should. Before the pandemic brought the economy to its knees with shutdowns, President Trump was cruising to re-election thanks to a very strong economy. Across the board, the numbers were very good.
Critics like to mock Trump for talking about what was, instead of the current reality, but recent data released by the Census Bureau backs up Trump’s claims. The numbers are impressive. The president would be foolish not to play up his success with the economy before a worldwide pandemic struck.
Median household income reached an all-time high, coming in at $68,700 in 2019. That is a 6.8% increase, from $64,324 in 2018, the largest one-year increase on record. The poverty rate fell to the lowest in recorded history, at 10.5%, a decline of 1.3%. The poverty level fell for the fifth consecutive year.
The specifics that Trump often refers to – the categories of specific demographics tell the tale, too. Real median incomes grew for black Americans (7.9%), Hispanic Americans (7.1%), and Asian Americans (10.6%). Remember when then-candidate Trump asked minority voters, “What the hell do you have to lose?” Any minority voter that took that challenge to heart has been vindicated, certainly economically speaking. Income levels for minorities reached record levels.
There were 2.2 million more people working at some point in 2019 compared with 2018 and 1.2 million more people working full-time year-round. Women workers drove the increase in full-time year-round workers.
On poverty, over 4 million people were lifted out of poverty between 2018 and 2019. Child poverty fell to a near 50-year low, and the poverty rate fell to an all-time low for every race and ethnic group. Declines in minority poverty rates were greater than declines in overall poverty rates – Black (-2.0%), Hispanic (-1.8%), and Asian (-2.8%).
Trump’s policies worked – deregulation and tax cuts produce economic growth and encourage employment. All of this was great before the pandemic but that was then and this is now. Now Trump’s challenge is to convince voters that he can do the same for the economy that he did before the pandemic. We are off to a good start in economic recovery but it will be months before results are felt. For now, during the presidential campaign, Joe Biden is busy blaming the country’s economic condition on Trump, not the pandemic itself. He pulls numbers out of the air and passes them off as hard data.
“If Donald Trump had acted just two weeks earlier, 54,000 lives could have been spared in March and April alone,” Biden tweeted last week. “Instead, he downplayed the threat and refused to take action — costing lives and sending our economy into a tailspin. It’s an unjustifiable dereliction of duty.”
Millions of workers are unemployed right now. That number is falling, though. Pre-pandemic, the unemployment rate was at a near-historic low, at under 4% in February which then went to 15% in April. It has since fallen to below 9% and likely to continue to drop. With the country slowly re-opening and safety measures put into place against further outbreaks of the coronavirus, this progress will likely continue through the end of the year.
One sticking point that the Trump campaign needs to address is the number of Americans without health insurance. That number increased by 1 million last year, to 29.6 million. Democrats always hit Republicans on health insurance and this year is no different. Suburban women, an important demographic in elections, are particularly concerned about health insurance coverage.
Sarah Chamberlain, a GOP strategist, previously told Fox News that her project, Women2Women Conversations Tour, is finding high concern about health care in focus groups with suburban women. “The number one, two, and three issue is health care,” Chamberlain said.
All in all, the Census Bureau’s numbers are good for President Trump. Now he just needs to do it again, assuming he is re-elected. It is possible for a full pre-pandemic recovery by the end of 2021.
The Philadelphia Federal Reserve published results of a survey of 35 economic forecasters on August 14, 2020. They predicted the US economy would expand at an annual rate of 19.1 percent in the third quarter. This was almost double the prediction of 10.6 percent from the last survey. The forecasters expected real GDP to decrease 5.2 percent in 2020 but to recover and annual rates of between 2.2 percent to 3.5 percent over each of the following three years.
In 2020, we’ll take all the good news – and hope for the near future – we can get.