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With eyes on election, White House insists economy is strong

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway talks with reporters at the White House in Washington, Monday, Aug. 19, 2019. Conway declares that the “fundamentals” of the U.S. economy are strong, citing benchmarks to support her contention. The job market does look solid, yet the factory and housing sectors are struggling and financial markets are sounding the alarm that growth is much shakier than the administration says. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON (AP) — 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.