(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump spent most of his Tuesday speech praising the overall gains that the U.S. economy has posted on his watch. He also touched on an issue that’s likely to be front and center for his Democratic opponent next year: how those proceeds have been shared out.
America’s economy is more unequal than it’s ever been in data going back to the 1960s, according to the Census Bureau. Democrats competing to take on Trump in the 2020 presidential vote have made that central to their campaigns -- especially Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, who promise a raft of new taxes on the rich to finance spending on health care and education that helps the middle class and poor.
Most of the president’s address to the Economic Club of New York was devoted to aggregate measures of how well America is doing -- but when he talked about rising wages, Trump got distributional too. “For the bottom income group, real wages are soaring,” posting an increase of 9% during his presidency, Trump said.
“You might make a couple of bucks less in your companies” as a result, he told an audience largely made up of finance and business executives. “That’s OK. When you talk about equality, that’s a great thing for our country.”
Trump’s emphasis on wage growth for low earners echoes a point often made lately by Federal Reserve officials including Chairman Jerome Powell. They’ve cited it as one reason they’re determined to keep the decade-long expansion going.
There wasn’t much evidence elsewhere in Trump’s speech that he’s on the same page as the Fed -- which he blasted for not letting him run the economy even hotter. Its failure to follow Japan and Europe by cutting interest rates below zero has made America less competitive, Trump said. And U.S. stock markets, which have surged under his presidency, could have added another 25% or so “if we had a Fed that worked with us.”
Trump cited the tax cuts he pushed through in late 2017, which most economists say were skewed toward the wealthy, as being “at the heart of our revival.”
He said “investment is pouring in” as a result of the tax incentives offered to “opportunity zones” under that bill. Democratic lawmakers have called for a probe of cases where wealthy investors are said to have benefited from measures supposed to help poor areas.
The president wrapped up his speech with an attack on the “radical agenda of socialism” that he said his Democratic rivals are pursuing. Asked about risks from climate change, he focused instead on the risk to jobs and America’s energy supply under a policy of shifting away from fossil fuels -- which many Democrats advocate.
“These people have gone loco,” he said. “The people we’re running against are crazy.”
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