Trump takes credit for the good economy. Here's what economists say

JUDY WOODRUFF: But first: This weekend will mark a full year since President Trump was


It has been a week of good economic news, which he touted today, including the Dow Jones

average quickly cracking the 26000 mark and Apple announcing that it will bring huge overseas

profits back to invest in the U.S., paying tens of billions of dollars in taxes.

How much of that credit should go to the president?

Our economics correspondent, Paul Solman, posed that question for his weekly series,

Making Sense.

PAUL SOLMAN: Unemployment 4.1 percent, down from 4.8 when President Trump took office,

GDP growing at more than 3 percent, faster than the last two Obama years, the stock market

hitting new highs nearly every day.

And President Trump says it's a function of his policies.

Here is in Pennsylvania this afternoon.

DONALD TRUMP, President of the United States: At the center of America's resurgence are

the massive tax cuts that I just signed into law, with tremendous tax relief for working

families, for small businesses, for big businesses that produce jobs, for just about everybody,

tremendous numbers.

And you are already seeing what is happening.

PAUL SOLMAN: And so the question, does the president deserve the credit?

At the annual Economists Convention in Philadelphia last week, I started with some of his toughest


AUSTAN GOOLSBEE, Former Chairman, Council of Economic Advisers: If you look at the trends

of job creation, of growth of the economy, of the stock's market appreciation, there's

not a very notable break on January 20.

PAUL SOLMAN: That's AUSTAN GOOLSBEE from the Obama White House.

Lisa Cook served there too.

LISA COOK, Former Obama Economic Adviser: We set in motion what we see now.

You can't create an economy overnight.

PAUL SOLMAN: Now, for the full-on defense of Trump's policies, we were trying to secure

an interview with the head of the president's Council of Economic Advisers, Kevin Hassett.

But, though he was at the conference, no luck.

So, instead, we turned to longtime American University Professor Bob Lerman.

BOB LERMAN, Economist, American University: On policy, I would give him maybe a B-minus

to a B.

PAUL SOLMAN: Lerman calls himself a moderate or market economist.

He likes much of what Trump is doing for the economy.

BOB LERMAN: I think the corporate reforms make sense.

I think he's been pro-energy.

Now, you can argue against it on environmental grounds, but I think that several steps will

expand output in the energy field.

PAUL SOLMAN: And that means jobs.

BOB LERMAN: And that means jobs, and usually good jobs.

PAUL SOLMAN: And how do the naysayers reconcile their low marks with a high-grade economy?

Nonpartisan former International Monetary Fund chief economist Olivier Blanchard:

OLIVIER BLANCHARD, Former International Monetary Fund Chief Economist: Other things are going

on which explain why the economy's doing well.

PAUL SOLMAN: But what, besides momentum, are those other things?

For the companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 stock index, says Blanchard, start with

their earnings from elsewhere.

OLIVIER BLANCHARD: More than half from the S&P 500 actually come from outside the U.S.

And the world is in much better shape.

Europe is in much better shape than it was a year ago.

The U.S. stock market has done well because the rest of the world is doing well because

uncertainty in the rest of the world has decreased and because of the tax cut, because no matter

what pre-tax profits you make, if you get a tax cut, you get more post-tax profits.

PAUL SOLMAN: But that's a key part of what Trump's taking credit for, that the tax cut

has both spurred the stock market and will lead to more investment, more higher-paying


More than 70 financial institutions, airlines, AT&T, have announced employee bonuses or raises.

Fiat-Chrysler announced a billion-dollar investment to build Ram trucks near Detroit, currently

made in Mexico.

Even Wal-Mart hiked its minimum wage.

But then Wal-Mart is also closing 63 Sam's Club stores.

So what matters is the net effect in the long run, argues Austan Goolsbee, because, in the

nearer term, for individuals, say:

AUSTAN GOOLSBEE: The tax bill is a small temporary cut to taxes for a small number of middle-class

people, and a very large permanent tax cut of high degree of windfall handout.

It is not geared towards the people that elected Trump.

It is piling on of the continuing income inequality trends that have been there for a long.


AUSTAN GOOLSBEE: It's not as though President Trump created that.

They have been going for decades.

PAUL SOLMAN: Republicans, Democrats.

AUSTAN GOOLSBEE: I just don't understand the argument that, let's try to steer the tax

code to pile onto the trends that have already been disturbing.

PAUL SOLMAN: And here's another long-term economic negative, says libertarian economic

historian Deirdre McCloskey: the president's aversion to trade.

DEIRDRE MCCLOSKEY, Economic Historian: Trashing the North American Free Trade Agreement, stopping

the Trans-Pacific thing, all this is nuts from an economic point of view, in my opinion.

PAUL SOLMAN: That's because, to almost all economists, voluntary trade benefits sellers

and consumers alike.

As to Trump's trumpeting the liberating effects of deregulation, in the long run, Clinton

adviser and Nobel laureate Joe Stiglitz asks:

JOSEPH STIGLITZ, Professor of Economics, Columbia University: Why do we have these regulations?

Because we want to breathe clean air, we want to be able to drink water, we want to be able

to be sure the food we're eating is safe.

We don't want the banks to engage in the kind of risk-taking that could risk our entire


The question is, what is the cost that we're going to be faced with stripping away the


PAUL SOLMAN: So, that's why you give the Trump administration such a low grade for its first


JOSEPH STIGLITZ: I think there are a lot of other things that disturb me even more.

The long productivity of our society depends on science, innovation, research.

And he's been slashing research budgets.

Long-term, to me, that is devastating.

PAUL SOLMAN: And in addition to tax cuts, trade, deregulation and science, what about

the long-term cost of not building the infrastructure the president promised, says Professor Cook?

LISA COOK: I really thought that we were going to invest in long-term growth, and I haven't

seen that.

PAUL SOLMAN: But the idea behind the tax bill is that companies will now invest in America,

as opposed to overseas.

LISA COOK: Well, why not invest broadly in America through infrastructure?

These coal jobs that possibly may never come back, what can take their place with the skills

that the coal miners have?

Construction, the building of bridges, the repairing of bridges.

We still have the worst grade from the civil engineers with respect to infrastructure.

PAUL SOLMAN: And, finally, if that weren't enough piling on, what's the cost of increased

uncertainty, Austan Goolsbee asks?

AUSTAN GOOLSBEE: I took at face value the arguments made by the business community for

at least half of the Obama administration that the single worst thing that you could

do to business formation and investment was to add uncertainty.

There has in modern memory not really been a president who's added as much uncertainty,

geopolitical uncertainty, regulatory, a whole bunch of policy uncertainty, more than what

President Trump has.

PAUL SOLMAN: But if uncertainty is so bad, how come consumer confidence is the highest

it's been since the dawn of the millennium?

TREVON LOGAN, Ohio State University: I was very uncertain as an economist about what

would happen with the economy, but it seems as if consumers are able to divorce many of

their concerns about America's political state from its economics.

PAUL SOLMAN: Though he still worries about the long-term, Ohio State economist Trevon

Logan acknowledges the good economic news in the here and now.

For example:

TREVON LOGAN: The numbers just released show African-American unemployment is at its lowest

rate ever, and white unemployment as well is at one of the lowest rates that it's ever

been, so we're near full employment.

PAUL SOLMAN: So, then why so much negativity from economists?

BOB LERMAN: I think in part because people have taken a very negative view of him personally.

PAUL SOLMAN: You're a Republican?

She is.

And Rhonda Sharpe is also a president of the National Economic Association, founded in

1969 as the Caucus of Black Economists.

Our last interviewee, she had been listening to all the anti-Trump talk at the economics


And it worried her.

RHONDA SHARPE, National Economic Association: I think that he probably has the ability to

reinvent himself in ways that we haven't seen other politicians.

I think the big question is going to be which way that goes, and if folks who are very opposed

to him will recognize that they have an opportunity potentially to influence some of that.

PAUL SOLMAN: So, are you worried that in kind of reflexively opposing him, people make it

harder for him to change direction and be more bipartisan?

RHONDA SHARPE: I think both the reflexive response to him not only makes it difficult

for him, but I think it also makes it difficult for anyone who wants to be a part of that.

PAUL SOLMAN: Part of the bipartisanship that Sharpe at least thinks may still be possible.

For the "PBS NewsHour," this is economics correspondent Paul Solman, reporting from