Memo to Bloomberg News and its Editor-in-Chief Emeritus Matthew Winkler: If you’re going to try to foist a flagrant piece of trade fakeonomics on your readers, choose a contention that can’t be debunked after twenty minutes searching on Google.
According to an August 18 article by Winkler, Idaho is America’s “top performing” state economy and “relies heavily on international trade for its success.” Moreover – irony alert! Even though its “21st century economy…shows that the U.S. does best when it puts the world first,” the state’s (inexplicably) doofy voters went for that quintessential America-Firster, Donald Trump, in the last year’s presidential election – and by a two-to-one margin!
And the author marshals some impressive statistics to back up this claim. Winkler’s big takeaway on Idaho:
“It’s had the best combination over the 12 months that ended on March 31 of robust personal income, job growth, stock-market gains and home-price appreciation because its largest employers sell the bulk of their products overseas, count the world’s biggest multinational companies among their customers and suppliers, and make most of their money from the technology driving globalization.”
He seems unaware, however, of all the data showing that Idaho’s trade performance has been anything but impressive. For example, let’s look at the state’s goods export performance, and over an analytically respectable period of time. This information is easily found on the Census Bureau’s website. These data show that, from 2013 to 2016, measured in current dollars, Idaho’s goods sales overseas actually shrank as a share of the U.S. total: from 0.4 percent to 0.3 percent. Moreover, its exports as a share of its the state economy fell faster than the corresponding figure for the entire country – by 23.76 percent versus 17.09 percent.
Idaho has indeed grown faster than the nation as a whole during this period – by 6.57 percent in toto in constant dollars (the same value unit used for the above trade figures) versus 6.48 percent. But it clearly hasn’t grown much faster. And exports have hardly been at the leading edge.
It’s true, moreover, that Idaho has run a merchandise trade surplus during this period. Indeed, it’s risen from $244 million to $383 million. (We’re back to pre-inflation dollars here, because the Census state trade date don’t adjust for price changes.) But that’s mainly because its imports have tanked. Does Winkler view that as a positive? If so, he wouldn’t be much of an enthusiast for trade’s contribution to the U.S. economy overall – since in those years it ran a goods deficit that grew from $738.8 billion to $778.2 billion.
Similarly, Idaho has performed relatively well in terms of those measures that shed light on how well its economy has been performing for its inhabitants. For example, its wages have been growing faster, in current dollar terms, than their national counterparts, both measured by the average and by the median. The former in Idaho is up during those years by 7.43 percent, versus 5.57 percent for the United States as a whole. The latter is up 7.93 percent between 2013 and 2016 versus 6.85 percent for all American workers. (See this Bureau of Labor Statistics site for national- and state-level information for 2016 and this source for the 2013 numbers.) At the same time, how can trade and especially exports be credited if the latter have fared so poorly?
In fact, if the state’s trade performance was really up to snuff lately, maybe its average and mean wages wouldn’t be lagging the national averages so significantly as of last year – by 11.45 percent for the former and by 15.55 percent for the latter. In addition, maybe its poverty rate wouldn’t rank in the top half nationally. Along with its level of hunger and food insecurity. And the percentage of its population lacking health insurance. (Find these and more such info here.)
Again, these data are no secret. But Winkler either was completely unaware of them and had no interest in thorough research, or he was hoping you wouldn’t find out.