NRI Ideas Summit

White House Economic Adviser Touts Trump’s Help for ‘the Hopeless’

National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru and Kevin Hassett, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisors (Pete Marovich)

Kevin Hassett, the chairman of President Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers, on Friday contrasted Trump’s campaign message with that of his opponent, Hillary Clinton, and suggested that he’s made good on his promise to revitalize dying communities by pursuing policies that raise wages for low-skilled workers.

“When historians look back at 2016, they’re going to see that there were two candidates that had a message for blue-collar America,” Hassett told the audience at the National Review Institute’s 2019 Ideas Summit. “One message was, ‘Sure you lost your job . . . sure there’s a lot of despair in your town. . . . That’s just the new normal. That’s what you can expect. But it’s not because of our policies.’ Then there was a candidate who said, ‘If we change policy, there’s hope.’”

Hassett went on to explain that Trump has directed his economic advisers to focus their policy-making on lifting up the hopeless,” a directive he claimed has resulted in dramatic wage growth for the lowest earners.

“Trump went into office and he stayed focused on policies that would revive those places. And if you look at the data, there’s something going on,” he said. “Blue-collar wages are growing the fastest in 20 years. The bottom 10 percent of wage distribution . . . the people with lowest skill and most responsive to favorable manufacturing news . . . their wages grew 6.5 percentage points. No decile grew fastest than the bottom 10 percent.”

While wages remained largely stagnant for the first year of Trump’s presidency, data released by the White House earlier this year show that wages have grown 3.4 percent over the last year — the most significant nominal wage increase since 2009.

As Hassett noted, GDP grew at 3.1 percent from the fourth quarter of 2017 to the fourth quarter of 2018, the fastest annual rate in 13 years. Job openings grew commensurately with the broader economy; 2.6 million jobs were created last year, and the number of job openings surpassed the number of unemployed Americans for the first time on record.

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