President Trump this week gave a high-profile address on the economy that was filled with fiction. It’s just one speech of many, but it’s also a preview of the claims Trump will be making during the next 12 months as he tries to persuade voters to give him another four years in office.
Trump doesn’t need to lie about the economy under his watch. Unemployment is at the lowest level in 50 years. Consumer confidence is solid. People are spending money. The stock market keeps hitting record highs. Economic growth is middling at around 2%, but that’s still good enough to keep adding new jobs.
Yet Trump has a kind of messiah complex that requires him to be the savior of everything. So he peddles a narrative of misery before he arrived in the White House, and salvation after. This is bogus. For the most part, the Trump presidency is a continuation of trendlines that began around 2012, as the economy finally bounced out of the deep rut known as the Great Recession.
To puff himself up, Trump spun at least 22 glaring lies in his latest economic speech, lies voters are likely to hear repeatedly during the presidential campaign. The Trump-o-meter has no tolerance for lying, which is why this week’s reading is FAILING, the second lowest.
Here are Trump’s 22 lies:
Under Obama, 5 million people left the labor force. In Obama’s first month, the labor force was 154.2 million. In Obama’s last month, the labor force was 159.7 million. That’s a gain of 5.5 million, not a loss.
“In 2016, the Department of Labor predicted that Americans would continue dropping out of the workforce in record numbers.” No it didn’t. It predicted the labor force would rise from 156 million in 2016 to 168 million by 2026.
The Department of Labor “expected unemployment over 5% – and really 6, 7 and even, in some cases, 8% – for years to come.” Nope. DOL foresaw an unemployment rate of 4.7% in 2026, with no spikes along the way.
The Federal Reserve under Trump has executed a “near record number of rate increases.” Not even close. The Fed has raised interest rates 7 times during the Trump presidency, a quarter point each time. From 2004 to 2006, the Fed hiked rates 17 times. During the 1970s, the Fed raised short-term rates for seven straight years, from 4.65% to 19.85%.
“My administration has created nearly seven million jobs.” Ask any conservative: The government doesn’t create jobs. Consumers and businesses create jobs.
“We brought back over 600,000 manufacturing jobs.” It’s actually 443,000 manufacturing jobs creating during the Trump presidency. But maybe that’s just an honest math flub. Mining jobs are up by 101,000 under Trump, but he claims it’s just 25,000.
“We have added nearly $10 trillion of value to our economy.” GDP was $19.2 trillion when Trump took office, and it’s $21.5 trillion now. That’s a gain of $2.3 trillion, not $10 trillion.
“Under my administration, [median income] rose $5,000.” Census data shows median household incomes have risen from $62,626 to $63,179 since Trump has been in office. That’s just $553. The data ends in 2018, but another 11 months won’t account for that extra $4,447 Trump tossed in.
The average household is $10,000 richer under Trump. He gets this figure by starting with the $5,000 in income gains he’s inflated by a factor of 10, then making similarly gassy claims about savings from tax cuts, deregulation and “energy cuts,” whatever that means. Nobody can come close to substantiating this figure, and ordinary people can fact-check that by looking around for their own magical $10,000 windfall.
“Just now they announced we have the highest number of people working in the history of our country.” Nobody announced this, but it has been true every year since 2014, for the simple reason that population and GDP are both growing.
The 2017 tax cut was the largest in U.S. history. As a percentage of GDP, it’s more like 8th largest.
“Our regulatory rollback is also leading to major price reductions in health care and prescription drugs.” Health care costs have risen 7.5% since Trump took office, according to Census Bureau data. Drug costs are up 2.8%.
“On the WTO, we’re winning cases for the first time.” It’s not the first time. The United States has historically won more than 90% of the cases it brings before the World Trade Organization. It also loses the majority of cases other countries bring against it.
“America is now the number one producer of oil and natural gas on the entire planet Earth.” The word “now” implies this is a new development. It’s not. The U.S. has been the world’s biggest oil producer since 2012 and the biggest natural gas producer since 2009.
“There are certain countries that the average tariff is 100%.” According to the World Bank, Palau has the world’s highest average tariff on imports, at 29.9%. Only three countries, including St. Kitts and Bermuda, impose import tariffs above 20%.
“We’re taking in billion and billions of dollars in tariffs that China is paying for.” American importers and businesses are paying the tarrifs, not China. The tally so far is about $75 billion in new taxes on businesses on an annualized basis, according to the American Action Forum. This may be Trump’s most prolific economic lie—he’s told it at least 100 times, according to a Yahoo Finance tally.
China is having “the worst year in more than 57 years.” During the last few decades, China has evolved from a dirt-poor country that struggled to feed its people into a moderately prosperous nation. Its economic growth has slowed lately, but there have been many worse periods.
We have a $500 billion trade deficit with China. This is a Trump classic that refers only to the trade deficit in goods with China, as if services such as insurance and tourism aren’t part of the real economy. The deficit in both goods and services in 2019 was $379 billion.
Obama’s trade deal with South Korea killed 250,000 U.S. jobs. Congressional researchers think that deal probably had little impact on U.S. employment.
Thirty percent of U.S. auto production moved to Mexico during the last 20 years. Imported cars from Mexico only account for 14% of U.S. auto sales today. So this can’t be true.
Ivanka Trump created 14 million jobs. Trump correctly claims that employment has risen by 7 million jobs during his presidency. So how could his daughter have single-handedly created twice that number? Obviously she didn’t.
“We’ll have a trade deficit of … close to $800 billion. Who ever heard of this?” Literally nobody ever heard of this. The U.S. trade deficit in 2018 was $628 billion. Again, Trump is mentioning only the trade balance in goods, which is bigger. The U.S. is a net exporter of services, which lowers the trade deficit.
Rick Newman is the author of four books, including “Rebounders: How Winners Pivot from Setback to Success.” Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman. Confidential tip line: firstname.lastname@example.org. Encrypted communication available. Click here to get Rick’s stories by email.