Sen. John Thune
When the American people hear politicians and pundits discuss the economy, the message is often framed in broad and subjective terms – one person says it’s booming, another says it’s weak, and they might use phrases like bulls, bears, and bubbles to describe what they mean.
Sure, politics sometimes shapes how a person views the state of the economy, but there are always undeniable truths that are shielded from even the strongest political force: facts. And as President Reagan duly noted, they can be stubborn things. With facts in mind and politics aside, an objective look at the economy, which grew by a solid 3.4 percent in the third quarter of 2018, I might add, is worth seeing.
January marked the 11th straight month that the national unemployment rate has been at or below 4 percent – the longest streak in nearly half of a century. The number of job openings hit a record high at the end of 2018, and there were more job openings than job seekers, which is great news for people who are looking for work. Wages have been growing at a rate of 3 percent or greater for six straight months – a level unmatched since 2009 – and the median household income is at an all-time inflation-adjusted record of $61,372.
Again, those aren’t my opinions, those are facts, and the facts reflect what a lot of Americans are feeling these days. According to Gallup, “Americans’ optimism about their personal finances has climbed to levels not seen in more than 16 years, with 69% now saying they expect to be financially better off ‘at this time next year,’” and more Americans “rate the economy good or excellent” than at any time since January 2001.
Some people might disagree, but I don’t think today’s strong economic growth and consumer optimism just magically happened on its own. A strong economy is built, at least in part, on strong policies that help create an environment in which businesses can grow and hire more workers and where workers can better position their families for future opportunities.
I strongly believe the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which became law just 14 months ago, set the stage for a lot of what we’re seeing today, and I’m working with my colleagues to find additional ways we can further enhance the benefits of this historic effort.
Tax reform is working, but some people are determined to undermine its success for their own political gain, even if it means distorting the facts in order to do it. For example one of my Democrat colleagues who’s running for president just recently stretched the facts to try to claim that preliminary tax refund figures suggest that tax reform is hurting, not helping middle-income families.
While the IRS data is far from complete, it’s true that up to this point (remember, tax filing season just opened at the end of January), the average tax refund is down in 2019, but that doesn’t mean Americans are paying more in taxes. The whole point of a tax refund is to give money back to taxpayers who overpaid the government throughout the year. According to the Washington Post, “a smaller tax refund means you gave less of a loan to the U.S. government over the course of the year. Ideally, you should end up with no refund or tax due.”
Since tax reform lowered rates across the board, Americans kept more of their hard-earned money in 2018. In fact, 90 percent of families that make between $40,000 and $200,000 should expect to see a lower tax burden this year. This is good news, not bad news for the American people.
Back to my original point, though, I believe the economy is strong, not purely in a rhetorical sense, but because the facts clearly highlight the reality. Policymakers can always do more, and the economy can always be stronger, which is why we’ll continue to pursue pro-growth policies that help create more opportunities and greater financial security for the American people.