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David Sparks Ph.d GNP
by David Sparks Ph.d, click here for bio

Program: Line on Agriculture
Date: May 24, 2019

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First-quarter gross domestic product growth of 3.2% is positive news if taken at face value, but there's a dark cast to these seemingly bright numbers. If you only want the good news, it's probably best to leave now.

If you're still with us, keep in mind the look-back nature of the Fed's GDP report; the advance estimate for the first quarter of 2019 was released April 26. This report is for economic activity that has already occurred. It is like knowing what your blood pressure was this morning. It provides no real information as to how your spouse's actions will affect those numbers tomorrow.

Overall, the economy grew by $147 billion (real) from the fourth quarter of 2018. Recall the GDP is made up of four – maybe five – things: personal consumption expenditures, gross private domestic investments, net exports – or imports and exports – and government consumption expenditures.

One of the better ways to assess the health of our economy is to look specifically at the things reflecting our economic behavior. Imports are not part of our economic behavior. Yes, they can plug holes in our demand versus our domestic supplies of specific goods, but imports don't reflect our work. Government expenditures are also, to a large degree, independent of the economy as they are driven by federal, state and local political decisions.

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