OpEds

Sometimes, particularly during election silly season, when candidates complain about this, that and the other thing, we fail to recognize how good we have it. Such, I believe, is the case with our economy.

As Joni Mitchell wrote, “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone?”

Well, to determine just what we’ve got, let’s look at the current state of our economy and then examine how it might be impacted by the outcome of the presidential election.

Recently, we have seen some very positive economic news that has sent some seriously strong signals that our economy is on a straighter and stronger path than it has been since the Great Recession ended in June 2009. In fact, we’ve witnessed 88 continuous months of economic growth, the fourth-longest expansion since 1854. But wait, there’s more.

–On Friday, the Commerce Department announced that our total economic output, also known as gross domestic product, surpassed expectations during the third quarter of this year. Analysts anticipated a 2.5 percent growth rate during the July-through-September quarter, but the economy actually grew at 2.9 percent. That’s more than double the 1.4 percent growth we saw in the second quarter.

To put things in perspective, when the Great Recession began to really wallop our economy during the fourth quarter of 2008, growth was negative 8.2 percent. (The recession technically began in December 2007.) Since that time, growth has varied. But the bottom line here is that 2.9 percent is very positive.

–On unemployment, we just witnessed the 86th week of jobless claims below 300,000. That’s far below the near 50-year average of roughly 358,000. The current national unemployment rate is 5 percent, which is where it’s been for about a year. (The state with the highest unemployment rate is Alaska, at 6.9 percent, and the state with the lowest is New Hampshire, at 2.9 percent.) To put that in perspective, just after the recession began, the unemployment rate increased to 10.1 percent. (In more than 45 years, the highest rate was seen in December 1982, when it reached 10.8 percent, and the lowest rate was recorded in May 1969, when it measured 3.4 percent.) Bottom line: 5 percent is very positive.

–On consumer confidence, the widely watched University of Michigan index currently stands at 87.2. While that figure’s somewhat lower than it has been in recent months, it’s still above the 60-plus year average of 85.9. Bottom line: positive.

–On fuel costs, the current average price is $2.22 for a gallon of regular. (Oklahoma has the lowest price at $1.96, and Hawaii and California have the highest at $2.90 and $2.78, respectively.) Last year, the average driver saved $540 due to reduced gas prices, a fact not lost on the families and businesses that rely on affordable fuel to manage their budgets. Bottom line: very positive.

All of this economic data is objectively encouraging, but what might happen economically following the election of Democrat Hillary Clinton or Republican Donald Trump?

–Well, the Tax Policy Center projected the economic effect of each candidate’s tax proposal over the next decade and determined Clinton’s would be better for growth than Trump’s.

–New research contained in a Brookings Institution report suggests “financial markets expect a generally healthier domestic and international economy under a President Clinton than under a President Trump.”

–And, correspondingly, the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget determined that Clinton would produce better growth than Trump.

Based on all of this data and analysis, it’s difficult to dispute that we’re on an admirable economic course. Sure, it’s easy to degrade and disparage, and that’s particularly true during campaign season. Many say things should be better, that our trade deals are bogus, that health care needs to be more affordable and of better quality, that tax polices need to be reformed, and that we need to invest in an economy with better paying jobs.

But what’s most worth noting is that our economy is doing much better than those of most other nations. We wouldn’t trade it for any of the European economies. Even the Chinese economy, which continues to have decent growth, isn’t the type of structural economy we would want in our free market system.

Things could be better, but they are pretty, pretty, pretty good — and continue to improve.

Now that we know what we’ve got, let’s just hope that after this election we stay on our straight, strong course and head toward an even brighter economic and financial future.

Tribune News Service on


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