“America is roaring back,” Donald Trump pitched to the global elite gathered in Davos, Switzerland. Those back home should be asking two questions: How loud, really, is that roar? (The economy’s, not Trump’s.) And what price are Americans paying for his approach to growth?
The Davos billionaires are not unimpressed by the opportunities offered by the grand deregulator. If the United States wants to let their mining companies ravage its public lands, why would they stop it? Energy Fuels, a Canadian uranium producer, successfully lobbied the Trump administration to shrink the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah by 85 percent.
If the U.S. permits the world’s financial predators to go after ordinary Americans with abusive loans and such, well, there’s money in that. And who in Davos is going to argue against lower taxes on their investments?
Speaking of investments, the U.S. stock market has performed admirably in Trump’s first year. No denying that. But the globally oriented know that others are doing better. As The Wall Street Journal reports, “foreign stock returns edged out those in the U.S. last year for the first time since 2012.”
As for this year so far, stock yields in dollars have risen by a higher percentage in France, Germany and Sweden than in the United States, according to Morgan Stanley Capital International. Just don’t tell America’s little people that France, Germany and Sweden enjoyed these gains without dismantling their generous universal health care systems. Their populations would never put up with it.
In a 2016 presidential debate, Trump vowed to raise American economic growth by 4 percent a year — hey, maybe 6 percent. “We’re bringing (the gross domestic product) from 1 percent up to 4 percent,” he assured voters. “And I actually think we can go higher than 4 percent.”
For the record, real GDP grew by 2.3 percent last year. That was not bad, though nowhere near 4 percent.
In Obama’s last year in office, real GDP rose only 1.5 percent. But for two years under Obama, it grew faster than Trump’s 2.3 percent. Guess Obamacare didn’t destroy the economy after all.
The Affordable Care Act certainly wasn’t the nation’s “biggest job killer” as Ted Cruz once stated with great confidence. The U.S. added 2.24 million jobs in 2016, Obama’s last full year in office. That’s more, by the way, than the 2.06 million jobs created in Trump’s first calendar year.
A trade war would be no fun for the American economy, especially for farmers so dependent on export markets. The attendees at Davos also find Trump’s hostility to multinational trade deals worrisome, as well as baffling.
There must have been some silent guffawing when Trump said that the U.S. might re-enter the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This is the 12-nation trade pact that he pulled the United States out of the first Monday of his presidency. The assembled knew full well that a few days before the Davos speech, the other 11 TPP members had agreed to create a trade bloc without our participation. They’re moving on.
So what have Americans given up for this kind of economic growth? They’ve been held back from fully participating in the booming green energy economy — a Trumpian payoff to the fossil fuel interests. Their health coverage is in jeopardy, and in coal country, so is their health. Meanwhile, the country’s precious (and priceless) natural heritage is being sold off piece by piece.
Rising deficits, made worse by the new tax law, threaten a recovery already old by historical standards. When things turn south, as will inevitably happen, there will be a reckoning. And many Americans will ask: Were the gains worth what we lost?
Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. Email her at email@example.com.