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Economists give presidential candidates a big 'F'

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump
Isaac Brekken | Getty Images

The 2016 presidential election is giving new meaning to the political maxim "It's the economy, stupid."

That's because most economists believe that when it comes to formulating growth plans and talking intelligently about the challenges ahead, the candidates primarily have been, well, stupid.

Collectively, the field of Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump received a thrashing from a field of economists surveyed by Fully half of the 24 experts gave the candidates an "F," with most of the others assigning the group a "D."

Respondents groaned both that the candidates' plans were half-baked, and that there is a general lack of attention to serious economic debate during the campaign.

A typical comment: "F. There has been no debate about economic issues during the current presidential campaign," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics.

There was little charity elsewhere.

  • "'F' grade. Trump's policies are so vacuous, so lacking in detail and void of logic, they are virtually useless. Hillary Clinton's proposals may be more substantive, but she has flip-flopped on issues as well, and is openly pandering to attract Bernie Sanders loyalists. Frankly, Trump and Clinton are the least desirable candidates for the presidency in recent history." — Bernard Baumohl, chief global economist at The Economic Outlook Group.
  • "'F. Candidates are throwing around utopic polices that are not implementable nor do they address the current issues." — Lindsey Piegza, chief economist, Stifel Fixed Income.
  • "F. The anti-trade rhetoric and the suggestion we need even more regulation are both notions that would further damage growth." — Sean Snaith, University of Central Florida Institute for Economic Competitiveness.

Bill Dunkelberg, chief economist at the National Federation of Independent Business, was among the kindest, giving the candidates a "C." Seth Harris, scholar at Cornell University, said the Democrats deserved an "A" while the GOP side (presumably Trump as he is the sole remaining candidate) scored a "D."

"There was kind of a universal observation that the political candidates are not being pressed on economic issues sufficiently," said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate.

"When we try to measure financial literacy or economic literacy, the U.S. isn't at the top of the list," he added. "People are looking for a Twitter-version solution of things instead of thinking about well thought-out plans. There still may be plenty of time for these solutions to be presented, but it doesn't feel that any of these solutions are as thoughtful and elegant as we'd like to see."

The economists surveyed also gave President Barack Obama a "C+" grade for his handling of the economy. They see the unemployment rate dropping to 4.7 percent a year from now, with 63 percent believing the chance of a recession is less than 1 in 4 over the same period. More than 80 percent expect GDP growth of less than 2.5 percent, while the benchmark 10-year Treasury yield is projected to rise to 2.49 percent in a year from its current 1.8 percent.