The American people are continuing to struggle with economic uncertainty and are perplexed as to what it’s going to take to turn the economy around. Recent Department of Commerce (DOC) figures are depressing and don’t help for optimism as consumer spending suffered a 0.1 percent decrease in May, adjusting for inflation. This comes on the heels of a 0.2 percent drop in April. It’s no wonder that Americans are reluctant to part with their hard-earned money given the state of the economy at large.
Last week, we were treated to yet another grim reminder that our so-called “recovery” is more like anything but. According to DOC’s most recent review of the data, the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) shrank 2.9 percent in the first quarter of 2014. GDP is critically important because it measures the market value of the goods and services produced by a nation. And while 2.9 percent may not seem like a massive drop, it happens to be the worst such contraction in five years.
The Wall Street Journal provided even greater context, pointing out that the economy performed worse in this quarter than those in which the 9/11 terror attacks, Hurricane Katrina and the implosion of Lehman Brothers occurred. According to their analysis, for the economy to catch up with its previous growth rate, it would need to grow at a rate of more than four percent for the remaining three quarters of 2014, which the Journal said hasn’t happened in over ten years.
Getting our economy moving again is certainly a challenge, but the United States does have one secret weapon in the fight against stagnation which we have yet to deploy: our full international trading power. By passing Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation, Congress can work with President Obama to finalize crucial trade agreements so that American goods and services can flow more freely around the world, supporting domestic jobs and giving our economy the boost it so desperately needs. Unfortunately, TPA has been held up for far too long because of shortsighted political calculation.