Donald Trump was elected President because of strong blue-collar support. Many blue collar workers feel left out of the American dream because of stagnant incomes and/or job loss.
At the same time there is a huge national focus on the high cost of college and the associated huge student loan debt. But student loan debt is a fixable problem and is not what is holding our economy back.
Take a look at the two charts below from recent issues of the Wall Street Journal, here and here.
The first chart shows the last four growth cycles and how wages eventually tick up as unemployment continues to fall. Missing this time is hardly any growth in wages towards the end of the cycle (Of course, the current cycle won’t be over until we have the next recession).
The second chart shows that there are now more job openings (6 million) than job hires for the first time since 2001. Furthermore there were only a low of 138,000 jobs added in May with an average of 121,000 per month for the past three months. This suggests that employers are having a hard time finding qualified workers.
Obviously, what is badly needed is a renewed emphasis on workforce training. Interestingly enough, the Business Roundtable has just issued an extensive report detailing what many major corporations are doing to close America’s skills gap.
Conclusion. Lots of people, certainly including President Trump and the Republican Congress, would like to see faster economic growth. Clearly there are practical and useful ways to achieve this and many people are already trying to make it happen.
I have now been writing this blog for just over two years. I usually write three posts per week and this one is #280. My top sources for background information are the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. My own local newspaper, the Omaha World Herald, carries the Washington Post economics journalist, Robert Samuelson, whom I greatly respect.
A column of his discusses a recent report from the Senate Budget Committee prepared by its outgoing chair, Patty Murray (D-WA), entitled “The updated fiscal outlook and its implications for the budget debate next year.” To me this report clearly shows why there has been so little progress made in straightening out the budget over the past few years. Here are some highlights of the report:
“Both our current fiscal situation and the outlook going forward have significantly improved, meaning we need a budget approach more focused on jobs and growth, not just on cuts.”
“Deficits have fallen dramatically over the last five years, and projected debt and deficits have also declined.”
“Revenue losses due to the recession and slow recovery were significant enough to counteract nearly half of the improvement in projected deficits, which highlights the need for new revenue from the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations as part of any future deficit reduction effort.”
“It is clear that we need a federal budget approach more focused on jobs and growth, not on cuts for the sake of cutting. That leaves Republican leaders with a critical choice.”
In my opinion there are two basic problems with Senator Murray’s analysis:
Deficits have indeed fallen dramatically from their very high level in 2009, but not far enough! Deficits are projected to rise back to 3.9% in just ten years, as shown in the first chart. This means that debt will keep growing indefinitely, as shown in the second chart. This is unacceptable!
We do badly need to focus on jobs and growth but more deficit spending is not the way to do it. Although immigration reform and expanded trade would help, fundamental tax reform, individual and corporate, is what is really needed to grow the economy.
Hopefully a new Congress will be able to move in this direction next year!