March 29, 2018

AP January Fact Check: ‘Where’s Trump’s 3 Percent Growth?’ Wednesday’s Answer: ‘Right Here’

In January, the government released its first estimate of fourth-quarter 2017 economic growth, reporting that the economy’s gross domestic product grew at an annualized 2.6 percent. In short order, the Associated Press’s Christopher Rugaber and Calvin Woodward published a snotty “Fact Check” (“So where is Trump’s 3 percent growth?”) ridiculing that result.

Wednesday’s third estimate of fourth-quarter GDP growth came in at 2.9 percent, bringing the average during Trump’s first three full quarters in office to just over 3 percent. To answer the AP reporters’ question: It’s right there under your noses. Naturally, the wire service hasn’t yet recognized that its January taunt was erroneous and premature.

It’s perfectly fair to accuse the two supposedly objective AP reporters of engaging in an end-zone dance before crossing the goal line in their January 26 “Fact Check.”

To make their case, the AP reporters decided that Trump should be fully responsible for the dismal 1.2 percent annualized growth seen in the first quarter of 2017, even though it resulted from Barack Obama-era policies, and even though many key players on Trump’s economic team weren’t in place until halfway through the quarter (e.g., Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, confirmed February 13, 2017; Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, confirmed February 16):

AP FACT CHECK: So where is Trump’s 3 percent growth?

President Donald Trump on Friday praised an America that is “roaring back” just as his government was releasing figures showing a year of economic growth well short of what he told people to expect.

Trump’s speech to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, overstated U.S. economic performance on several fronts.

Trump was gunning for 3 percent or better (economic growth) — and crowing about his chances.

… (Trump) told a Pensacola, Florida, rally on Dec. 8 … “You know, I used to hear, you’ll never hit 3 percent. You’ll never hit two and half. You figure maybe 2.3 percent, 2.4 percent.”

Those skeptics figured correctly — it was 2.3 percent.

That 2.3 percent result is for calendar year 2017.

The “skeptics” to whom Rugaber and Woodward referred also believe that consistent 3 percent growth is unsustainable. During the past three quarters, using the government’s rounded percentages, the economy has grown by an annualized 3.07 percent (the average of the second quarter’s 3.1 percent, the third quarter’s 3.2 percent, and the fourth quarter’s revised 2.9 percent). The exact result, based on dividing the dollar amount of fourth quarter GDP by first-quarter GDP, is 3.03 percent.

The AP’s Rugaber and Woodward, in basing their “Fact Check” on preliminary figures they knew were subject to two more revisions, essentially declared that they had scored a touchdown before reaching the end zone. They were also disingenuous in using calendar year 2017 as their benchmark. But  the AP reporters apparently couldn’t resist the urge to pile on as Trump was on the world stage in Davos.

Though they’re the ones who are now looking like fools, don’t expect them to go back and correct their errors.

Cross-posted, with possible revisions, at


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