Despite widespread condemnation of President Donald Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, a majority of Americans still prefer Mr. Trump over the Democrats when it comes to managing the economy, several polls have found. This is a crucial issue as we approach the November 3 election since Mr. Trump is claiming that he “built the strongest economy in the world” prior to the pandemic and can do the same again when the pandemic is behind us.
At the same time, Mr. Trump and his surrogates frequently disparage the economic performance of the Obama administration. At a recent news conference, he stated, without evidence, that “the last administration had the slowest, weakest and worst recovery in American history.” Of course, we know that President Obama, in January of 2009, inherited an economy which was in near total collapse as a result of the financial crisis which took place prior to his taking office.
While many believe that the extent of the current economic crisis is attributable to Mr. Trump’s failure to respond effectively to the pandemic, there is no question that, under the best of circumstances, such a public health crisis would have had severe economic consequences. To gain a fair and balanced perspective on the economic record of the Trump versus the Obama administrations, we have examined the Trump economy in the three years before the outbreak of the pandemic, 2017 to 2019, and the Obama administration after allowing a reasonable time for Mr. Obama’s recovery program to respond to the crisis of 2008 to 2009.
We have examined the comparative economic performance of the two administrations using the following key factors:
- Growth of gross domestic product (GDP) — Growth in quarterly GDP under Obama for the 30 calendar quarters from October of 2009 through March of 2017, and growth in the 11 quarters under Trump from April of 2017 through the end of 2019 both averaged between 2% and 3%. There was no significant increase or decrease in quarterly GDP growth between the two administrations. Mr. Trump’s best single year was 2018 with growth of 2.9%, a far cry from the “five or even 6% growth” he recklessly predicted.
- Jobs — For the seven years of the Obama administration from 2010 through 2016, 15.7 million new jobs were added, an average of 2.23 million per year. Under three years of Mr. Trump, job formation was 6.6 million, an average of 2.16 million per year, slightly less than Mr. Obama. The peak post Great Recession job growth occurred in 2014 when, under Obama, more than 3 million jobs were added. By 2019, under Mr. Trump, job growth had dropped from the peak nearly 30% to 2.1 million.
- Federal deficit — We know that the level of economic activity is greatly affected by the fiscal stimulus of greater or lesser federal budget deficits. In the Obama years from 2010 to 2016, the deficit was reduced 45% from $1.3 trillion to $585 billion when he left office. Conversely, in just three pre-pandemic Trump years (2017 to 2019), the deficit increased 68% from $585 billion to nearly $1 trillion, largely as a result of the Mr. Trump tax cut of 2017.
In examining economic performance as measured by these three critical factors, it is clear that we have gained nothing from all of Mr. Trump’s boasting other than a sharp increase in our annual deficits. These deficits only serve to increase the national debt, a burden which is passed on to our children and grandchildren.
The American voter should be very skeptical of voting for Donald Trump this November based on his claim to once again build “the greatest economy in the world.” He never did.
Alexander R. M. Boyle (email@example.com) is retired vice chairman of Chevy Chase Bank.