We frequently hear paeans to the wonders of President Trump’s economic policies while denigrating the policies of his predecessor, including in this paper. The facts, however, paint a different picture.
By typical economic measures such as GDP growth or jobs created you can’t see much difference between Trump and Obama.
For example, in the 29 months Trump has been president we have added 5.6 million jobs. In the last 29 months of Obama’s term we added 6.4 million jobs. The unemployment rate has been declining steadily for nine years.
In GDP growth the quarterly numbers bounce around in the same range for both presidents. In 2018, our economy grew by 2.5 percent, although that’s far below the 3 percent or even 4 percent growth Trump promised.
Where you do see big differences are in Trump’s tax and trade policies. The Congressional Research Office agrees that the tax cut primarily benefited businesses and the wealthy, with no long-term impact on the economy. The tax cut is not “paying for itself” as promised, so we are increasing our national debt. Obama reduced the deficit every year, but Trump has increased it. It’s projected to hit $1 trillion this year, and continue getting bigger. This “don’t tax but still spend” policy is not sustainable, but there is no plan to change course.
Trump’s trade policies are also a mess, with no clear benefits to date or on the horizon. Trump has imposed tariffs, but that’s just another tax Americans pay. He is paying farmers hurt by his trade wars $15 billion this year (on top of $10 billion last year), but their pain will be long-term. And they are not the only ones hurt.
Trump inherited a good economy and largely it still is good, but not due to anything he has done. And there are storm clouds on the horizon, some of his own making. I don’t think he is a captain who can navigate around those storms.