President Donald Trump told business and political leaders in Davos, Switzerland last week that the economy under his tenure has lifted up working- and middle-class Americans. In a newly released interview, Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz sharply disagreed, saying Trump’s characterization is “just wrong.”
“The Washington Post has kept a tab of how many lies and misrepresentations he does a day,” Stiglitz said of Trump last Friday at the annual World Economic Forum. “I think he outdid himself.”
In Davos last Tuesday, Trump said he has presided over a “blue-collar boom,” citing a historically low unemployment rate and surging wage growth among workers at the bottom of the pay scale.
“The American Dream is back — bigger, better, and stronger than ever before,” Trump said. “No one is benefitting more than America’s middle class.”
Stiglitz, a professor at Columbia University who won the Nobel Prize in 2001, refuted the claim, saying the failure of Trump’s economic policies is evident in the decline in average life expectancy among Americans over each of the past three years.
“A lot of it is what they call deaths of despair,” he says. “Suicide, drug overdose, alcoholism — it’s not a pretty picture.”
The uptick in wage growth is a result of the economic cycle, not Trump’s policies, Stiglitz said.
“At this point in an economic recovery, it’s been 10 years since the great recession, labor markets get tight, unemployment gets lower, and that at last starts having wages go up,” Stiglitz says.
“The remarkable thing is how weak wages are, how weak the economy is, given that as a result of the tax bill we have a $1 trillion deficit.”
As the presidential race inches closer to the general election in November, Trump’s record on economic growth — and whether it has resulted in broad-based gains — is likely to draw increased attention.
“The middle class is getting killed; the middle class is getting crushed," former Vice President Joe Biden said in a Democratic presidential debate last month. "Where I live, folks aren't measuring the economy by how the Dow Jones is doing, they're measuring the economy by how they're doing," added Pete Buttigieg, a Democratic presidential candidate and former Mayor of South Bend, Indiana.
Trump has criticized Democrats for tax and regulatory policies that he says will make the U.S. less competitive in attracting business investment.
“To every business looking for a place where they are free to invest, build, thrive, innovate, and succeed, there is no better place on Earth than the United States,” he said in Davos.
Stiglitz pointed to Trump’s threats last week of tariffs on European cars to demonstrate that turmoil in U.S. trade relationships may continue, despite the recent completion of U.S. trade deals in North America and China.
“He can’t help but bully somebody,” Stiglitz said.
Max Zahn is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Find him on twitter @MaxZahn_.