Q&A: Economy Moving Full Steam Ahead
With U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley
Q: Do the positive economic benchmarks echo what you’re hearing from Iowans?
A: The long-awaited economic recovery is lifting paychecks and wages on Main Street and in households across Iowa. In October the U.S. economy is pushing full steam ahead, adding 250,000 jobs, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employers are hiring across the board. From retail and service industries to health care, manufacturing, construction and transportation. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is estimated to drive a 7.1 percent increase in wage and salary income for Iowa’s average household. Median wages are expected to increase by $4,128. Already, Iowa’s median household income has increased 5.2 percent, reaching $63,481. That’s the highest ever recorded. Boosted by the tax cuts that are freeing up capital for business expansion and investment, workers are earning more and keeping more of their hard-earned money. Job creation is on the rise and people are going back to work. It makes sense that consumer confidence rose in October to an 18-year high. Here in Iowa, a 2.5 percent unemployment figure positions our state with the second lowest unemployment ranking in the nation. The U.S. Labor Department reports the lowest nationwide unemployment rate in nearly 50 years with 7.1 million job openings, a record high. Labor participation and wages are going up and moving in the right direction. And U.S. unemployment claims are going down, reaching their lowest level since 1999. There’s a reason for optimism among job seekers and breadwinners and that’s reflected in consumer spending. Consumer spending accounts for approximately 70 percent of the U.S. economy. Don’t forget the strong pace in job creation and economic growth from Main Street to Wall Street helps grow the tax base that pays for public services, public works and public safety. The bigger we grow the economic pie, the more opportunity we grow for more Americans to earn a bigger slice of prosperity. Consider that the percent of Iowans living below the poverty level has reached its lowest point since 2007. The strong economy is lifting more people from dependence to independence. Enrollment in federal welfare assistance programs, including the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/food stamps) and Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for poor Americans, has declined during the first two years of the Trump administration. The economic recovery is liberating more people to get back to work and restoring hope for a higher quality of life for their families.
Q: What’s the economic forecast for agriculture?
A: America’s system of free enterprise is the underbelly of prosperity. That includes free and fair trade. For generations, it has encouraged Americans to think big and go big. From agriculture to manufacturing, energy, information technology, pharmaceuticals, and everything in between, the entrepreneurial spirit in the United States drives Americans to produce the best food, goods and services and to market them to consumers all around the world. Reducing taxes, cutting red tape and rolling back unnecessary regulations unleashes even more investment, ideas and innovation. From generation to generation, this is the magic formula that drives pioneering Americans to pour their hearts, resources and sweat equity into building their vision of the American Dream. Here in Iowa, our natural resources and agricultural abundance have paved the path to prosperity. Our state helps feed and fuel the world from America’s Heartland. Our prosperity is tethered to trade. We depend on access to overseas markets to reach billions of people around the world who want high-quality, American-grown food and U.S. manufactured farm equipment. As promised, the Trump administration is working to negotiate better trade deals for the United States that protects U.S. intellectual property, including trade secrets in agriculture. However, retaliatory tariffs against U.S. farm commodities have caused understandable uncertainty across Iowa. A prolonged trade war would be catastrophic to farm exports and the Iowa economy. I’m glad the Trump administration continues to make measurable progress with a number of key trading partners, including Canada, Mexico, South Korea, Japan and the European Union. As Iowa farmers wrap up the harvest this fall, they are making key marketing decisions and investments for the next crop. Making progress on trade agreements and paving the way for year-round E-15 alleviates some of the anxiety. But the bottom line is clear. America’s farmers and related agribusinesses and manufacturing businesses depend on exports to achieve prosperity. A prolonged trade war is not sustainable. The path to prosperity is not achievable through the U.S. Treasury. I’ll continue working with the White House and in Congress to solve our trade disputes with China and to secure even better trade agreements that expand new frontiers of trade and economic freedom for America’s farmers.