Economist questions Trump’s economic growth projections at Steamboat talk

Economist Robert Gordon speaks to a packed house Monday during a Seminars At Steamboat talk focusing on the future of the economy.
Scott Franz

Speaking to a full house at Strings Music Pavilion on Monday night, economist Robert Gordon outlined why he thinks this country’s economic growth won’t be as strong in the coming years as President Donald Trump thinks it will.

Gordon based his prediction of slower economic growth on a number of headwinds facing America, including growing economic inequality, a lack of workers to join the workforce and woes in the education system, such as the rising cost of college degrees during a time when jobs that require them are harder to find.

“I’m here to tell you tonight even the 2-percent growth we’ve had (in recent years) is in jeopardy,” Gordon said.

He said the president is projecting 3- to 4-percent growth with his budget proposal.

Gordon, an economics and social science professor at Northwestern University, did not come to Steamboat without some recommendations to boost economic growth.

And he said the U.S. need look no further than its neighbor to the north for some solutions.

Gordon recommended a “tremendous” increase in legal immigration and a Canadian-style point system.

Immigrants would be graded on their employment history and language skills.

“It would raise the quality of the American workforce and not threaten to take jobs of low-income workers,” he said.

He also suggested reform is needed in the prison system to avoid having potential workers sitting in jails for extended periods as punishment for non-violent crime.

Gordon also weighed in on the Trump administration and its policies.

He called the administration’s attitude toward immigration “obnoxious.”

“It takes people out of the workforce,” he said. “The best way to help pay for Social Security and Medicare in the future is to have much higher (rates) of legal immigration.”

At one point, Gordon even recalled meeting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and wondering why he couldn’t be president instead of Trump.

The comment drew laughter and applause from many in the audience.

While the talk touched on politics, Gordon, at one point, turned his attention to the impact of innovation on economic growth.

He said the so-called third industrial revolution has not generated the same boost the previous two did, and Americans should not fear that jobs will disappear en masse because of the arrival of robots or automated systems.

As an example, he said while driverless cars might instantly add more conveniences, they will not immediately render delivery truck drivers obsolete, because self-driving cars have not shown any prospect so far of also being able to deliver packages and unload cargo.

Gordon’s talk was the third installment of this year’s Seminars at Steamboat.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10

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