Productivity Growth Has Been Declining For a Long Time

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Speaking of cherry-picked statistics, Brad DeLong is unhappy with John Cogan, Glenn Hubbard, John Taylor, and Kevin Warsh, who insist that Donald Trump might very well produce sustained economic growth of 3 percent. They back up their view with this chart of labor productivity:

Aside from looking like something a first-grader would put together, real economists don’t just draw miscellaneous arrows through data. DeLong shows how it’s done correctly, drawing a nonparametric smoothed lowess trend through a scatterplot. However, he admits that us amateurs could show the same thing using a standard-issue curve fitted by Excel. Here it is:

Hmmm. When it’s plotted with no particular bias to produce a specific result, it looks like productivity has been on a steady downward trend for the past 65 years, with a brief and modest uptick during the 90s.

Is it possible that tax cuts for the rich will produce a sudden, gigantic surge in productivity and therefore a sudden, gigantic surge in economic growth? Sure. Tax cuts for the rich have never produced this before, but anything is possible. Should you bet on it based on a crude chart drawn by folks who have an axe to grind? Well, it’s your money.

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And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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