Business & Economy

On The Money: Economy grows 2.3 percent in 2019, slowest year under Trump | How coronavirus could impact the US economy | Farm bankruptcies jump | Pelosi not ready to back UK trade deal

Happy Thursday and welcome back to On The Money. I’m Sylvan Lane, and here’s your nightly guide to everything affecting your bills, bank account and bottom line.

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THE BIG DEAL–US economy grows 2.3 percent in 2019, slowest year of Trump presidency: The U.S. economy grew at a 2.3 percent pace in 2019, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), the lowest rate of growth in Donald Trump’s presidency.

The rate was a fall from 2.9 percent the previous year and below the 2.4 percent growth level in 2017.


What happened?

  • Slowing global growth paired with an unpredictable trade war both took their toll on U.S. growth. But increased government spending helped prevent a steeper fall.
  • A significant decline in investment growth also contributed to the lower growth last year. The increase in gross private domestic investment fell from 5.1 percent in 2018 to 1.8 percent in 2019.

The Hill’s Niv Elis breaks it down here.



  • “Rather than causing a flood of business investment that would trickle down to workers, today’s report shows that, in the wake of his tax cuts, business investment has declined for three consecutive quarters,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said.
  • “While growth in 2019 was slower than that in 2018, it remained above what we consider to be the pace of long-term trend growth for the U.S. economy, which is around 2.0 percent,” said Nationwide’s chief economist David Berson.


What comes next: Next Friday will be significant for our understanding of how well the economy has done over the past year. We’re not only getting the January jobs report, but also a boatload of downward corrections to the 2019 jobs numbers. That could make Trump’s economic record look notably weaker.



Coronavirus outbreak could threaten Trump economy: The outbreak of the coronavirus threatens to impact key sectors of the economy in an election year and in particular could spell trouble for President Trump’s “Phase One” trade deal with China.

As public health officials around the world scramble to contain the spread of the virus, others are beginning to warn of the economic impact across the globe.

  • The World Health Organization on Thursday declared the outbreak “a public health emergency of international concern,” and warned of the delicate balancing act taking steps to contain the disease while not damaging the global economy.
  • “There is likely to be some disruption to activity in China and possibly globally based on the spread of the virus today and the travel restrictions and business closures that have already been imposed,” Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell cautioned on Wednesday.
  • American business too are already being impacted, with airlines cancelling flights to China and other companies restricting travel to the country or warning of disruptions to their supply chains.

Niv Elis tells us about the toll it could take on the U.S. economy.


US farm bankruptcies jumped 20 percent in 2019 despite federal aid: U.S. farms faced a surge of bankruptcies in 2019, up 20 percent despite aid efforts from Washington.

President Trump’s administration allocated $28 billion in aid for farmers affected by his trade war with China in the past two years, but bankruptcies were recorded at the highest level since 2011, according to the American Farm Bureau’s study.

The bureau said there were 595 Chapter 12 family farm bankruptcies last year. In addition to retaliatory tariffs from Beijing that hurt soybean exports, U.S. farms were also hampered by brutal flooding, weak commodity prices and industry consolidation.

“The trade wars were salt in an existing wound,” said Kara O’Connor, government relations director at the Wisconsin Farmers Union. She said the spike in bankruptcies were “deeply disturbing [and] completely predictable after decades of farm policy at the federal level incentivized overproduction, resulting in plummeting commodity prices.”


Pelosi unready to support UK trade deal as Brexit progresses: The European Union’s decision to accept “Brexit,” the United Kingdom’s exit from the EU, has not left House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) ready to support a potential trade deal between the United States and U.K.

“I don’t think we’ll know for a while,” she said in response to a question from The Hill about a potential deal.

  • Pelosi said last year that she would oppose a U.K. trade deal if Brexit harmed the Good Friday Accords, an agreement that led to power-sharing in Northern Ireland, and which was ratified in elections in Ireland and Northern Ireland. 
  • The agreement was reached after decades of violence involving paramilitary groups and the U.K. government known as “the Troubles.”

“I hope and pray that it’s OK and we don’t have to engage in this, but I don’t think we can make a judgement on the strength of the EU saying they have accepted Brexit,” Pelosi said.

“I think that perhaps [U.K.] Prime Minister Boris Johnson knows how important this is, but the proof will be in the pudding,” she added.


Marijuana banking bill update: From The Hill’s Alex Gangitano: A coalition of policy groups sent a letter to Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) on Thursday to thank him for slowing down the passage of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which would allow banks and financial institutions to work with cannabis businesses. 

Over 35 groups, including Smart Approaches to Marijuana Action, Drug Free America Foundation, Inc., and Heritage Action, sent the letter after Crapo expressed concerns about the bill, which passed the House in September. 

Key takeaway: The letter highlights the opposition to the bill in conservative quarters and the uphill climb it faces in the GOP controlled Senate.



  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) on Thursday filed a lawsuit against Citizens Bank, alleging it routinely failed to investigate and resolve billing errors and unauthorized credit card charges reported by customers.
  • The House on Wednesday passed legislation aimed at overhauling consumer credit reporting and providing additional protections and opportunities to rebuild credit.
  • White House hopeful Mike Bloomberg unveiled a plan Thursday that he says would make housing more affordable and tackle homelessness. 
  • Democratic lawmakers and advocates warned at a congressional hearing Thursday that even with the proliferation of credit and mobile payments, putting restrictions on cash payments would harm low-income Americans who do not have a bank account.



  • Two of the country’s largest banks have ended their donations to a Florida private school voucher program after an investigation by the Orlando Sentinel revealed some of the schools it supports discriminate against LGBTQ students. 
Tags Donald Trump Mike Crapo Nancy Pelosi Steny Hoyer

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