Trump right/WaPo wrong on 2015 Q3/Q4 GDP growth
At the Washington Post, Glenn Kessler and Michelle Ye Hee Lee have attempted – and failed – to rigorously fact-check the 12th GOP debate.
Kessler and Lee note that Donald Trump made the following statement in the debate: "[a]s an example, GDP was zero essentially for the last two quarters."
The WaPo columnists then attempt to claim that "[t]his is wrong. The gross domestic product – the broadest measure of the economy – increased at a rate of 1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015 and 2 percent in the third quarter, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. That's not great, but it's better than zero."
This is sloppy language, and Trump's statement is correct.
During Q3 and Q4 in 2015, real GDP growth was just 0.49% and 0.25%, respectively – or "zero essentially" as Trump stated. The annual compounded rate of growth, a very different metric, was 1-2% for this period.
For the more relevant real per capita GDP metric, growth in Q3 and Q4 was only 0.28% and 0.04%, respectively. Even on the annual compounded rate of growth, Q4 was sitting at just 0.16%.
The American economy has performed so poorly in recent years that Trump could have said that GDP growth has been effectively zero since late 2007.
In Q4 of 2007, real per capita GDP was at $49,506. In the subsequent eight full years, it has grown a cumulative total of only 3.0% to $50,993, or an annual average rate of just 0.38% – aka "zero essentially."
Even worse, real median household income has declined substantially during President Barack Obama's terms. In 2008, the year before Obama took office, it was $55,313. As of 2014, the latest year available, it reached $53,657 – a decline of 3.2% under Obama. Since its peak at $57,843 in 1999, real median household income in the United States has fallen 7.2%.
By comparison, from 1984 (the earliest year with available data) through 1989 under President Ronald Reagan, real median household income grew 9.5%. In the entire period since Reagan left office, real median household income has grown only 0.6% in total, meaning the USA is now approaching its fourth decade of no real growth in real median household income.