Trump's economic record isn't what he says it is
He claims the economy is “the best it has ever been.” Chris Lu argues the data tell a different story.
Donald Trump has been on a mission this week to distract from his impeachment by touting his administration’s economic record. First, he launched a 30-second ad after the Super Bowl promising that “the best is yet to come.” Then, in his State of the Union address Tuesday night, Trump highlighted the “American Comeback.” The speech was full of audacious—and characteristically inaccurate—claims: “our economy is the best it has ever been”; the “average unemployment rate … is lower than any administration in the history of our country”; and “wages are rising fast.”
The reality, however, doesn’t match Trump’s rhetoric. In fact, it would take much longer than a 30-second commercial to highlight the many ways that the U.S. economy isn’t working for all. Still, the moment provides an opening for Democratic presidential candidates to challenge the president’s record.
In 2019, for instance, the gap between the richest and poorest households in the United States reached its highest point in more than 50 years. The number of Americans without health insurance continues to climb following years of declines since the passage and implementation of Obamacare. And household debt is now in excess of $14 trillion, exceeding the pre-recession high.
Even with low unemployment, wage growth is lagging. The most recent employment report reported wages increasing by just 2.9 percent over the last year. With inflation at 2.1 percent, that’s not much of a pay raise. To the extent that wage growth has picked up in recent months, a major contributor has been increases in state and local minimum wages that Republicans and the president opposed.
Trump’s signature legislative accomplishment, the 2017 tax cut, has produced none of its promised benefits, including the $4,000 pay raise that he and his allies promised to American workers. In fact, as a result of the tax cut, 91 companies in the Fortune 500 paid no federal taxes last year. The country’s six biggest banks saved $32 billion at the same time that they laid off more than 1,000 employees.