Trump Decrees That the Economy Must Grow Twice as Fast

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


The Congressional Budget Office forecasts that the labor force will grow 0.5 percent annually over the next ten years and productivity will grow 1.4 percent. That’s total economic growth of 1.9 percent per year. But the Trumpists are forecasting 3.5 percent growth over the next decade. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they supercharge the economy, pulling everyone back into work and achieving labor force growth of 0.8 percent. They still need productivity growth of 2.7 percent. That’s astronomically higher than anyone thinks possible. So how are Trump’s economists justifying this?

The answer is simplicity itself. The Wall Street Journal explains:

What’s unusual about the administration’s forecasts isn’t just their relative optimism but also the process by which they were derived. Normally, the executive branch starts with a baseline forecast prepared by career staff of the CEA….Discussions for the Trump administration unfolded differently, with transition officials telling the CEA staff the growth targets that their budget would produce and asking them to backfill other estimates off those figures.

So…they’re doing it by just telling their economists what growth will be. That’s an interesting approach. But what’s the point of this? Here’s a pair of growth forecasts—one for 2 percent and one for 4 percent—that should illustrate things:

If you assume higher growth, you can cut taxes and still get more revenue. Alternatively, you can spend more on the military or a border wall without increasing the deficit. Or a combination of both.

In other words, it’s magic fairy dust. Sprinkle it around and you can do anything you want. Problems only arise if a bunch of snooty Ivy League economists insist that you’re delusional, which explains why Trump hasn’t bothered to hire anyone for his Council of Economic Advisors. They would just tell him stuff he doesn’t want to hear. It also explains why Paul Ryan isn’t playing this game too: his budget is vetted by the CBO, which has no intention of aiding and abetting fantasyland figures like these.

It’s hard to know what the point of this is. Most likely, Trump said on the campaign trail that he’d grow the economy at 4 percent, and by God he’s going to stick with that. (Remember: 3.5 rounds up to 4, so his campaign promise is safe.) Besides, Trump probably really believes that he can get the economy growing that fast through the sheer force of his personality.

The real shock here isn’t Trump—we already know he’s divorced from reality—but the rest of his staff. Is there really not a single person in the White House who has both the gumption and the standing to tell Trump that the president can’t peddle this kind of drivel in an official document? Is there no one who can tell him that Twitter is one thing, but the Budget of the United States of America is another?

I guess not.

UPDATE: The original illustration of 2 percent vs. 4 percent growth used figures for nine years of growth instead of ten. It’s been corrected.

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate