He repeated one of his most common refrains, for example, that before the pandemic struck, his administration built “the greatest economy in history.”
Coming into the year, the Trump team aimed to make that argument the spine of its reelection pitch to voters. And it’s true, as Reuters’s Howard Schneider writes, that before the coronavirus forced an economic shutdown, “record-low unemployment and rising wages were helping the less well-off, while a record stock market buoyed richer Americans.”
In the first half of his term, Trump’s signature tax cuts and a major spending package gave the economic expansion he inherited a turbo-boost of fiscal stimulus. But as they faded, and Trump launched a multi-front trade war that weighed on investment and spending by businesses, growth slowed from 2.9 percent in 2018 to 2.3 percent last year, well short of the 3 percent pace he promised to lock in, at a minimum.
And even if Trump had lived up to his pledge to maintain a 3 percent pace, it would have fallen short of the roughly 4 percent growth in the second half of the 1990s — as well as a mid-1980s boom.
Judged on a more recent timeline, from the beginning of the Obama administration, pre-pandemic growth under Trump has merely followed the trend — contrary to Trump’s claim in the debate that after his 2017 tax cuts, the economy “boomed like its never boomed before”:
Similarly, job growth during Trump’s first term mostly continued apace from the Obama years until the pandemic hit.
Skipping over the worst of the damage from this year’s recession, Trump i pointed to “10.4 million in a four-month period that we’ve put back into the workforce.” But as the chart suggests, Trump is on track to finish his term with fewer jobs than when he