During his State of the Union address last week, President Trump touted the strength of the U.S. economy. “I am thrilled to report to you tonight that our economy is the best it has ever been,” he said. Though some may quibble with such a bold statement, there’s no question that — at least by certain metrics — the economy is booming.
The economy is in the midst of the longest expansion in American history, as it continues to grow from the worst days of the Great Recession. Unemployment is at the lowest rate in 50 years, and the stock market has spiked to record levels.
A strong economy may be the most potent argument Trump has as he campaigns to win a second term. Even though a president’s influence on the economy is limited, voters tend to reward them when it’s strong and punish them when it’s weak. The last two incumbents to lose reelection, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter, were defeated during flagging economies.
Why there’s debate
Trump’s supporters say he deserves praise for the historic highs the economy has reached since he took office. They credit his trillion-dollar tax cut and the trade battles with China, Mexico and others for boosting investment and creating jobs in the U.S.
Trump’s detractors say the gains made in the past three years are merely an extension of the progress Barack Obama set in motion. Not only did Obama prevent another depression, they argue, but he also built a solid foundation on which the current economic expansion has grown. Others say Trump has weakened the country’s long-term prospects by cutting taxes and increasing spending to create a short burst of growth that will ultimately destabilize the economy.