Fact check: Biden falsely claims the US has the ‘fastest-growing economy in the world’
Washington, D.C. (CNN) President Joe Biden made a bold claim about the US economy on ABC’s late-night show “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” on Wednesday, then repeated himself for emphasis.
“Look, here’s where we are. We have the fastest-growing economy in the world. The world. The world,” Biden said.
First and foremost, Biden’s claim is untrue. According to estimates issued by the International Monetary Fund, the US economy increased by 5.7 percent in 2021, but more than 50 other countries grew faster; many of them are tiny or emerging countries, but some are huge or wealthy. Furthermore, the US economy contracted in the first quarter of 2022, despite growth in other countries. While economists predict that the US economy will expand again in the second half of this year, a large number of other countries are predicted to develop faster.
When asked for comment on Friday, a White House official declined to expressly support Biden’s assertion that the United States has the world’s fastest-growing economy.
Instead, the official pointed out that the United States’ real gross domestic product grew at its quickest rate since 1984 in 2021, at 5.7 percent. The official also noted that, as of the fourth quarter of this year, the size of the US economy will be larger than any of the other six countries in the international forum known as the Group of Seven: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom, in comparison to its late-2019 pre-pandemic level.
Those remarks are correct. However, Biden stated three times on Kimmel’s show that the US economy is expanding faster than any other country in “the world,” not just six specific countries.
“Clearly the US has been the G-7 economy that has done best in terms of GDP growth rates since the inception of COVID, but is not literally the fastest-growing economy in the world over this period,” said Gian Maria Milesi-Ferretti, who is a former International Monetary Fund Officer and is now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution think tank’s Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy.
How the US compares
Biden was sworn in as Vice President in late January 2021. Among the dozens of countries that grew their real GDP faster than the United States in 2021 were Ireland (13.5%), Chile (11.7%), Turkey (11%), Colombia (10.6%), India (8.7% for the fiscal year that began in April 2021), Greece (8.3%), Israel (8.2%), China (8.1%), the United Kingdom (7.4%), France (7%) and Italy (6.6%), according to figures published by the IMF and the countries’ governments. (Many countries’ growth rates were higher than usual in 2021 because their economies were rebounding from the 2020 economic crisis caused by the pandemic.)
According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s latest economic forecast, the United States will rise by 2.5 percent in 2022. The OECD’s predictions for 11 other members of the Group of 20 international forum in 2022 were lower: Saudi Arabia (7.8%), India (6.9% for the fiscal year), Indonesia (4.7%), China (4.4%), Australia (4.2%), Spain (4.1%), Canada (3.8%), Turkey (3.7%), the United Kingdom (3.6%), Argentina (3.6%) and South Korea (2.7%).
We’ll add one stipulation. There are a variety of techniques to evaluate growth, including selecting multiple start and end points as well as different indicators of economic activity, and the data can be complicated.
If Biden was using “fastest-growing” in the traditional sense, referring to a percentage shift, Laura Veldkamp, a finance professor at Columbia University’s business school, said there is “no chance” that his claim is genuine. She did, however, call the President’s assertion “misleading,” rather than “wrong,” because “the term growth in discourse may indicate several things,” she noted.
We’ll stick to our harsher conclusion with respect. Biden could have explained whether he was referring to some odd or esoteric measure of growth. When contacted for comment, he didn’t respond, and neither did the White House.