How the American economy did under Donald Trump
特朗普治下的美国经济表现如何

用自由派的泪水浇灌 Watered with liberal tears-书迷号 shumihao.com

IN HIS NEW book Casey Mulligan offers an intriguing explanation for why President Donald Trump makes outlandish economic claims. Mr Trump knows he is hyperbolising when he says that America has enjoyed “the greatest economy in the history of the world” on his watch, suggests Mr Mulligan, who was until recently the chief economist on the president’s Council of Economic Advisers. It is a “strategy for getting the press to cover a new fact, which is to exaggerate it so that the press might enjoy correcting him and unwittingly disseminate the intended finding”. Journalists’ dislike for Mr Trump, according to Mr Mulligan, blinds them to many of the administration’s genuine economic successes. He may have a point.
在他的新书中,凯西·马利根(Casey Mulligan)对特朗普为何经常在自夸经济成就时言语荒唐地给出了一个有趣的解释。不久之前还在担任总统经济顾问委员会首席经济学家的马利根表示,当特朗普说美国在他任内取得了“世界历史上最伟大的经济成就”时,其实他知道自己是在夸大其词。这种策略就是“为了让媒体去报道一个新事实,就是通过夸大事实来诱使媒体起劲地反驳和纠正,从而不知不觉地将预期内容传播出去”。马利根表示,记者们对特朗普的反感导致他们对其政府取得的许多真正的经济成就视而不见。他讲的也许有点道理。

Assessing leaders’ economic records is fraught with difficulty. Presidents typically get credit when the economy is doing well and blame when it does badly—but short-term economic outcomes are usually more influenced by central banks, demography and what is happening in the rest of the world, among other factors. Even today, political scientists continue to argue over whether the economy in the 20th century did better under Democratic or Republican administrations. All this is of little use to the American public, whose vote for a president must be based, in part, on a real-time assessment of economic competence.
要评估领导人的经济政绩很不容易。总统们通常在经济好时被夸,在经济糟糕时被骂——然而短期经济表现往往更多地受央行、人口结构、世界局势以及其他因素的影响。即使在今天,政治学家们仍在争论20世纪的经济到底是在民主党还是共和党执政时表现得更好。这些对美国民众来说都没什么用处,因为他们对总统的投票必然在一定程度上基于对其经济领导力的实时评估。

Mr Trump came to power with unrealistic promises to create 25m jobs and supercharge economic growth, and to that end cut taxes and boosted spending, widening the fiscal deficit (see chart 1). Economists will continue to weigh up the specific costs and benefits of those policies. A true evaluation will take some time. At present, however, it is possible to assess whether the American economy overall did better or worse under Mr Trump. That involves comparing actual American economic performance, on the one hand, with what an impartial spectator could reasonably have expected, on the other. To that end The Economist has gathered a range of economic data, from business investment to wage growth, wherever possible comparing American economic performance to that of other rich countries.
特朗普上台时许下了不切实际的承诺,包括要创造2500万个就业岗位和推动经济高速增长,还要为此减税、增加支出、扩大财政赤字(见图表1)。经济学家还将继续衡量这些政策的具体成本和收益。要得出真正的评价还需时日。然而,现在仍有可能评估美国经济在特朗普的领导下整体上是变好还是变坏了。这就需要将美国的实际经济表现与一个中立的旁观者会有的合理预期做比对。为此,本刊收集了从商业投资到工资增长的一系列经济数据,尽可能将美国的经济表现与其他发达国家做比较。

The bulk of the analysis covers the period from 2017, when Mr Trump took office, to the end of 2019. We stop in 2019 in part because some data are released only annually, and in part because the pandemic has turned economies across the world upside down. Our conclusion is that, in 2017-19, the American economy performed marginally better than expected. (That conclusion remains if we follow the practice of some political economists, who argue that the influence of presidents on the economy can be discerned only after a year in office, and limit our analysis to 2018-19.)
我们的分析主要涵盖从特朗普2017年上任到2019年底的这段时间。分析截止于2019年,原因之一是有些数据仅每年发布一次,另外也因为新冠疫情已经让世界各国的经济陷入混乱。我们的结论是,在2017到2019年间,美国经济的表现略好于预期。(一些政治经济学家认为,总统对经济的影响只有在其就职一年后才能分辨出来,如果按这种说法把分析限于2018到2019年,这一结论仍然成立。)

Take gross domestic product (GDP), a measure of output which is the most common yardstick of economic performance. GDP growth was somewhat faster in 2017-19 than it was in either Barack Obama’s first or second term, according to official data. America also did well relative to other countries. The world economy peaked in 2017. In 2018 it slowed but America accelerated. In 2019 America slowed too, but stayed ahead of others.
以衡量经济产出的GDP为例,这是衡量经济表现时最常用的指标。官方数据显示,2017至2019年美国GDP增速比奥巴马的第一或第二任期时的增速都略高一些。美国相对于其他国家的表现也不错。世界经济在2017年见顶。2018年,全球经济放缓,美国反而加速。2019年,美国经济也开始放缓,但仍好于其他国家。

Another way to look at this question is to assess whether America in 2017-19 exceeded or fell short of economists’ expectations (see chart 2). In October 2012 the IMF forecast that in the subsequent four years (those of Mr Obama’s second term), the American economy would grow by an annual average of 3%. In fact that proved to be too optimistic; it actually grew by closer to 2% a year. But the IMF was too pessimistic in its projections for 2017-19, released shortly before the election of 2016. In those years America outperformed the forecasts.
分析这个问题的另一种方法是评估美国2017到2019年的表现是超出还是低于经济学家的预期(见图表2)。2012年10月,IMF预测,美国经济在随后四年内(即奥巴马的第二任期)将每年平均增长3%。事实证明该预测是过于乐观了——实际年均增长更接近2%。但在2016年大选前不久,IMF发布的2017到2019年预测则过于悲观了。这几年美国的表现超出了它的预期。

But if the American economy did better than expected in some respects, it disappointed in others. Take the corporate sector, which Mr Trump helped with lighter taxes. Corporation-tax cuts did increase post-tax earnings, one reason why the American stockmarket has done relatively well since Mr Trump came to power (see chart 3). America has also become a more favoured destination for foreign direct investment (see chart 4). But there is little evidence of the promised business-investment boom (see chart 5).
然而,如果说美国经济在某些方面好于预期,那在其他方面就令人失望了。以企业界为例,特朗普通过减税来助力公司发展。公司税的削减确实提振了税后盈利,这也成为特朗普上台以来美国股市相对强势的原因之一(见图表3)。同时美国也成为更受青睐的外国直接投资目的地(见图表4)。但没什么证据显示他承诺的商业投资繁荣已经到来(见图表5)。

America’s labour-market performance is similarly nuanced. Though Mr Trump particularly likes to boast about monthly employment figures, it is hard to make the case that in 2017-19 the jobs machine was whirring. Jobs growth was slower than it had been during Mr Obama’s second term. In 2009-16 America’s unemployment rate fell relative to the average for other G7 economies (see chart 6). Under Mr Trump unemployment did fall to the lowest since the 1960s, but this was not internationally exceptional. America’s improvement relative to employment in other countries stopped under Mr Trump.
美国劳动力市场的表现同样不能笼统地概括。尽管特朗普特别喜欢夸耀月度就业数据,但很难证明2017到2019年就业机器在高速运转。工作岗位的增速低于奥巴马的第二任期。2009至2016年,美国的失业率相对于七国集团(G7)其他经济体的平均水平下降了(见图表6)。在特朗普任内,失业率确实降到了上世纪60年代以来的最低水平,但这在国际上并非特例。在特朗普任期内美国相对于其他国家的就业改善终止了。

The lot of working-class Americans, however, definitely improved in 2017-19. Comparing household incomes between countries is difficult, certainly for recent years. But though there is some dispute about the reliability of the data gathered in 2020, where the pandemic made it difficult for researchers to conduct surveys, there is clear evidence of an acceleration in the growth of America’s median household income from 2017 onwards (see chart 7). A tight labour market also helped raise the wage growth of the lowest-paid Americans, relative to others, to a degree not seen since Bill Clinton was president (see chart 8).
不过,美国工人阶层的境遇在2017到2019年明显改善。在不同国家之间比较家庭收入本就不易,最近几年无疑更难了。由于疫情给研究者开展调研增加了难度,对2020年收集的数据是否可靠还存在一些争议,但有明确证据显示,美国家庭收入中位数自2017年以来加速增长(见图表7)。相对其他人群,劳动力市场吃紧也更有助于提升美国最低收入人群的工资增长,达到克林顿任总统以来的最高水平(见图表8)。

And what of the economy in 2020? Mr Trump’s loose fiscal policy before the pandemic left America with much higher debt going into the crisis. On top of that splurge, this year America has implemented the world’s largest fiscal package (see chart 9), posting stimulus cheques worth up to $1,200 per person and temporarily bumping up unemployment-insurance payments by $600 a week. It is possible, though unlikely, that Congress will pass even more stimulus before the election. Even without another package, however, and even though it is enduring a deep recession, America will probably be the best-performing G7 economy in 2020—perhaps by some margin. Just before the pandemic, the American economy looked slightly stronger than other rich countries. Before long, the gap may be more impressive. ■
那么2020年的经济又将如何?由于特朗普在疫情前实施宽松的财政政策,美国在进入这场危机时背负的债务要高得多。在这种挥霍之上,今年美国又实施了全球最大规模的财政刺激计划(见图表9),给每个人寄出高达1200美元的刺激支票,并暂时将失业保险金提高了每周600美元。尽管可能性不大,但国会仍有机会在大选前通过更多刺激方案。然而,哪怕没有新一轮刺激措施,且即使正在经历一场严重衰退,美国还是很可能成为G7当中在2020年表现最好的经济体——甚至可能领先一段距离。疫情爆发前,美国经济看起来比其他发达国家略强。不久之后,这一差距可能会更加明显。