Trump is Correct: GDP Growth Lowest Since 1929-1939

During Sunday’s presidential debate, Republican candidate Donald J. Trump claimed that the U.S. GDP growth rate is the lowest since 1929. Specifically:

If China has a GDP of 7 percent, it’s like a national catastrophe. We’re down at 1 percent. And that’s, like, no growth. And we’re going lower, in my opinion. And a lot of it has to do with the fact that our taxes are so high, just about the highest in the world. And I’m bringing them down to one of the lower in the world. And I think it’s so important — one of the most important things we can do. But she is raising everybody’s taxes massively.

He later came back to the same topic, interjecting: “We have the slowest growth since 1929.” The usually accurate Breitbart fact-checkers held that this claim was “hyperbole” and “mostly false.”  However, the average growth rate in real GDP during the period from 1929-1939 was 1.3% per year. The average growth rate from 2005-2015 was 1.4% per year. Every decade in between has had higher growth than 1.4%, as shown in the graph below:

Trump also may also be correct in his opinion that real GDP growth appears to be heading even lower. According to the latest press release from the BEA, GDP growth in the first two quarters of 2016 was just 0.8% and 1.4%.

Howard Richman with his father and son co-authored the 2014 book Balanced Trade published by Lexington Books, and the 2008 book Trading Away Our Future published by Ideal Taxes Association.