Are Trump and Sanders hurting the economy?

trump sanders debate 2

Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders give the impression that the U.S. economy is a disaster.

Trump says the American Dream is dead and the country is no longer great. Sanders believes the economy is rigged and the middle class is "collapsing."

All of this doom and gloom is dragging down the economy (and even the stock market), some argue. It makes people feel worse off than they really are.

"As a result of this negative drumbeat, many Americans now believe that their children will not live as well as they themselves do. That view is dead wrong," Warren Buffett warned Saturday in his annual letter.

The economy just isn't that bad. While it has problems, the reality is the U.S. is growing at a decent clip, hiring is strong and unemployment is back under 5% -- a level considered full employment -- for the first time since early 2008.

"I can't say the economy is in fabulous shape, but it's in decent shape," says Greg Valliere, chief strategist at Horizon Investments. "The negativity is extraordinary from the politicians."

Related: Why Hillary Clinton can beat Donald Trump

What the evidence says...

The concern is that all the verbal bashing of America's economy will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. People will believe the U.S. is in poor shape and curb their spending, causing the economy to falter (about 70% of the U.S. economy is built on consumption).

"When I was John McCain's advisor [in 2008], my deep belief was if you're running for president, you should act like a president and never talk down the economy," says economist Doug Holtz-Eakin, who is now president of the America Action Forum.

So does the evidence back up that Trump and Sanders (among others) are hurting the economy?

In short: No.

Related: Under Sanders, income and jobs would soar, economist says

Sentiment is down...a little

Sentiment is always difficult to measure. But there are three main gauges of consumer confidence: the University of Michigan monthly report, and the Conference Board monthly report and Gallup's daily poll.

All are lower than a year ago...but not by much.

"There is no evidence that the presidential campaign has lowered consumer sentiment over the past six months as the Sentiment Index has hardly changed," says Richard Curtin, director of the University of Michigan survey.

Lynn Franco, who heads up the Conference Board survey, is also skeptical. If you want to know why sentiment has fallen a bit, Franco says look at the stock market.

The main stock market index -- the S&P 500 -- was down 10% in January. It's gained back a little ground, but remains down about 5.5% at the end of February.

A lot of people are worried that stocks are going to decline more, Franco told CNNMoney. That's dragging sentiment down.

Related: Markets may be tanking but the U.S. economy isn't

The other argument is that Trump and Sanders are scaring stock market investors. Trump talks about starting a trade war with China and Mexico, while Sanders wants to break up big banks and impose many new taxes.

It's highly unlikely any of these initiatives would make it through the Republican Congress, but a President Trump or President Sanders could do a lot to impact trade policy or regulation from the White House alone.

Experts warn if candidates say it enough, people are going to believe that things are in terrible shape -- or could get worse.

"There is a chance you will do real damage. You have a big megaphone and you don't want to harm the economy," says Holtz-Eakin.

Still, even trying to link the campaign rhetoric to falling stock prices this year is tenuous considering oil and stocks are moving almost perfectly in sync right now. Oil is having a lot more influence than Trump, Sanders or anyone else.

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