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Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Likely as not, Iowa fared worse under Trump than during the Obama years

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President Donald Trump’s disappointing finish in the state on Tuesday might have affected his poll numbers, but it certainly didn’t impact its economy.

Iowa has been a Democratic stronghold in presidential politics for more than 60 years. Yet under President Barack Obama, the Hawkeye State’s economy grew 7.2 percent in 2011, ranking it among the top 10 most-populous states in the country.

The population of the state, meanwhile, grew 2.5 percent between 2010 and 2015, the fifth fastest in the country. The unemployment rate, at 2.9 percent last year, was lower than the national average, too.

The third most populous state in the nation, California, began picking up where Trump left off.

California, which has 1.3 million more people than Iowa, experienced robust growth, expanding its GDP by 3.8 percent from 2011 to 2015 and adding 1.2 million more people than its neighbor.

More than any other state, Iowa is struggling, owing to an inability to keep up with a shifting economy. Its population grew 1.8 percent in the past five years, less than half of the national average, according to U.S. Census data. Iowa’s unemployment rate of 3.8 percent is a full percentage point above the national average.

In recent years, Iowa has been hit especially hard by a slump in the agriculture industry, which, like all aspects of the state’s economy, has been overwhelmed by competition from China. Iowa has also struggled with increased competition from other countries for agricultural exports, a reality that has lessened demand for the state’s corn, soybeans and other commodities.

The state faces a $313 million shortfall for the current fiscal year, and Governor Kim Reynolds has cut funding for local education.

In recent months, Reynolds announced several measures to stimulate the economy. The state, which is known as a right-to-work state, is working to raise the minimum wage and pass a sales tax increase to pay for road upgrades.

The state also moved to create a “disability friendly” brand. According to economists, the state government’s growth has been stymied by a corresponding drop in the workplace, as many businesses have adopted a cost-cutting posture, retrenching amid heightened opposition.

Under Obama, the state had laid the groundwork for creating jobs. Its government departments together spent $83 million to assist businesses in 2012 and $25 million in 2013.

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