Most economists think America’s potential growth is only about 2 percent, and most agree the best way to make it higher is to get more people working and make those workers more productive. Stimulating the economy with government spending or tax cuts will only boost short-term growth and cause inflation.
But right now, getting more people into the labor force is a challenge. For one, it means fighting a demographic tide.
“We have a huge wave of baby-boom era people retiring,” says Robert J. Gordon, an economist at Northwestern University and author of The Rise and Fall of American Growth. “Right now, we’ve got a shortage of construction workers. We’ve got a shortage of long-distance truck drivers. We’ve got a shortage of many kinds of skilled workers needed to work in manufacturing.”
Gordon says bringing immigrants into the workforce is the best way to deal with this mass retirement of baby boomers.
In the past couple of decades, half the growth in the labor force has come from immigration. But, Gordon points out, Trump has said he will deport millions of immigrants.
“They’re called illegal immigrants, and they’re here illegally,” Trump said in an interview with CNN. “They’re going to have to go, and they’re going to have to come back in legally, and otherwise, we don’t have a country.”
Stephen Moore, who has advised Trump on his economic growth policy, says Trump isn’t against immigration, just illegal immigration. Personally, Moore says he believes even some of those workers who are in the country illegally shouldn’t be deported.
“People who are in this country, are working, and productive Americans who are contributing, I personally would not like to see those people deported,” says Moore, who is also an economic consultant with FreedomWorks, the grass-roots organization that helped launch the Tea Party.
He also argues that a faster growing economy will not only provide jobs for the unemployed but will attract others back into the labor force, including some retirees. Most economists are skeptical that could provide enough workers to get to a 4 percent growth rate.