U.S. Rep. French Hill summed up Wednesday what he called "The Good and the Bad and the Ugly" of current events.
Addressing the Political Animals Club, the Republican from Little Rock placed the U.S. economy in the "good" category, telling the audience that this country is outperforming the rest of the developed world.
"In Europe we're constantly asked ... 'What's the secret sauce? How did American business rebound so ably from the Great Recession in '08?'" Hill said.
After eight years of sluggish growth, "we're now growing, finally, at over 3 percent," Hill said. "We're seeing the economy continue to expand. We're seeing wages expand. We're seeing the benefits of the historic tax reform that's reallocating capital to this country, bringing capital back from overseas, seeing new jobs and new businesses created in our country."
The nation's real GDP climbed 4.2 percent during the second quarter of 2018; 3.4 percent during the third quarter and 2.2 percent during the fourth quarter, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Hill also placed U.S. trade policy progress in the "good category."
The U.S. trade deficit in goods peaked last year, reaching an all-time high of $891.3 billion. But the gap narrowed in both January and February, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
"When you look at what's happened over the last couple of years, we're shifting the debate on trade, I think, in a constructive way," Hill said.
The lawmaker pointed to the United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement, which was revised last year, with changes adopted that President Donald Trump said would help American businesses.
The White House announced this month that the U.S. trade deficit (in goods and services) with South Korea had fallen 40 percent in 2018, partly because of higher U.S. exports of automobiles, natural gas and farm products.
The business community has also given the revised deal positive marks, Hill said.
"The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, when I was in Seoul, told me it was the single best trade agreement that the companies in that room were participating in. So I took that as a positive," Hill said.
Bilateral trade negotiations between the U.S. and China are continuing, he noted.
The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which is awaiting congressional action, is also an improvement, Hill said.
"It's not a perfect agreement. There are things in it I don't like," Hill said. But "in general, it is a better agreement than the 1994 NAFTA agreement."
The U.S. is also working to make the world a safer place, Hill said.
"The destruction of ISIS has been an important accomplishment between the United States and our allies," he said. "I think it's good we have a door cracked open with trying to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula."
Increased military spending in the U.S. is good news because it means "the [Department of Defense] budget is back in a much better stable situation from a readiness point of view," he said.
While Hill highlighted administration successes, he also pointed briefly to problems on Capitol Hill.
"Productivity in the House has sort of ground to a halt," Hill said.
The number of bills passed by the House has dropped sharply since Democrats gained control of the chamber, Hill said.
Divisions within the Democratic caucus over taxing and spending issues are also a source of concern, Hill said.
"They have just basically pulled the plug on trying to pass a budget in the House," he added.
In addition, Hill said, there hasn't been much "bipartisan activity" thus far.
In the "ugly" category, Hill cited lack of progress on "immigration reform and border security" as well as inaction on "fixing the broken health care system that we have in this country."
Overseas problems Hill pointed to include war-torn Syria and Yemen and the ongoing crisis in Venezuela.
Business on 04/18/2019
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