White House insists economy still strong

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway talks with reporters Monday outside the White House.

WASHINGTON -- The "fundamentals" of the U.S. economy are solid, the White House asserted Monday, invoking an ill-fated political declaration of a decade ago amid mounting concern that a recession could imperil President Donald Trump's reelection.

Exhibiting no such concern, senior adviser Kellyanne Conway declared to reporters, "The fact is, the fundamentals of our economy are very strong,"

It's a phrase with a history. Republican John McCain was accused of being out of touch when he made a similar declaration during the 2008 presidential campaign just hours before investment bank Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, setting off a stock market crash and global financial decline.

A case can be made for the White House position. The U.S. job market is setting records for low unemployment, and the economy has continued uninterrupted growth since Trump took office. But growth is slowing, stock markets have swung wildly in recent weeks on recession fears, and indicators in the housing and manufacturing sectors have given economists pause. A new survey Monday showed a big majority of economists expecting a downturn to hit by 2021 at the latest, according to a report from the National Association of Business Economics.

Trump begs to disagree.

"We're doing tremendously well. Our consumers are rich. I gave a tremendous tax cut and they're loaded up with money," he said Sunday. "I don't think we're having a recession."

Still, the president took to Twitter on Monday to urge the Federal Reserve to stimulate the economy by cutting interest rates and returning to "quantitative easing" of its monetary policy -- an indication of deep anxiety beneath his administration's bravado. And he backtracked last week on taking the next step in escalating in his trade war with China, concerned that new tariffs on consumer goods could hamper the critical holiday shopping season.

White House aides and campaign advisers have been monitoring the recent turbulence in the financial markets and troubling indicators at home and around the world with concern for Trump's 2020 chances.

The situation today isn't nearly as dire as in September 2008, when the U.S. and the world were heading into the "Great Recession." There are no waves of home foreclosures, no spike in layoffs, no market meltdowns and no government rescues to save powerful banks and financial companies in order to contain the damage.

What does exist is a heightened sense of risk about the economy's path amid slowing global growth and the volatility caused by the trade dispute between the United States and China.

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