Donald Trump has heralded a new 'world of charts' -- so we looked at how honest they are

Donald trump chart debt obamaJoe Raedle/Getty ImagesRepublican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds up a chart as he speaks during his campaign event at the BB&T Center on August 10, 2016 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Donald Trump’s rallies have featured many things: dance troupes, crying babies, and some occasional violence. Nowadays, the Republican presidential candidate has added something else: charts.

Over the past two days, Trump has featured a number of charts detailing various supposed deficiencies in President Barack Obama’s and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s economic policies.

In fact, at an event in Miami on Thursday, Trump said he has “gotten into the world of charts lately.”

We decided to take a look at these charts and break down what they are, what Trump is saying about them, and what they may actually mean.

Two of the charts — the number of commuted prison sentences under Obama and contributions to the Clinton Foundation from foreign nations — are a bit outside of our economic purview, so we have omitted them.

We’ve recreated a few of the charts, included pictures of Trump holding the others (you can see all of the originals in a video here), and added some context as to what each chart may mean for the US economy.

Check out our breakdown of Trump’s entry into the “world of charts” below:

One of the charts featured the homeownership rate.

Business Insider/Andy Kiersz

Trump claims that the rapid decline in the homeownership rate over the past eight years has been a symptom of the Obama presidency.

The chart and Trump's claims that the rate is at its lowest level in 51 years are both correct. The homeownership rate as of the second quarter of 2016 is at its lowest level since the third quarter of 1965.

But there are most likely two reasons for the decrease, and neither has to do with the Obama presidency.

On the one hand, the drop-off is mostly because too many people owned homes at the peak. The huge increase in the number of people buying homes in the 1990s and 2000s under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush pushed the rate to a peak of 69.2% in the fourth quarter of 2004.

The increase in the rate, however, was inflated by homeowners who could not afford their homes and eventually led to the bursting of the housing bubble.

Trump also pointed to the peak of the rate to illustrate the decrease, saying 'Obama, Obama' while highlighting the drop. However, the rate when Obama took office was already down to 67.3%, down 1.9 percentage points from highest rate (see chart above).

In addition to the decrease from the bursting of the bubble, there are also structural shifts -- the retirement of baby boomers and the desire of millennials to live in urban centres -- that have contributed to the decrease in homeownership.

Trump also pointed out that hedge fund managers, or as he called them 'killers,' have donated vastly more to Hillary Clinton.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Trump said on Wednesday that while some hedge fund managers are 'friends of mine,' he has declined to take money for his campaign from the investors.

Trump's chart comes from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) and is spot on.

According to the most recent report from the CRP in July, Clinton and funds associated with the election of Clinton have received $48.5 million from hedge funds. On the other hand, Trump's campaign has received $19,000.

In fact, hedge fund donations make up just .02% of Donald Trump's total haul of $91.4 million, according to the CRP, while they represent 12.95% of Clinton's $374.4 million.

Trump claims that these hedge fund donations don't come for free and that hedge fund managers are using the donations to influence the Democratic candidate in their favour.

In a chart that Trump called a 'beauty,' Trump highlighted the increase in the national debt under Obama.

Business Insider/Andy Kiersz

The national debt has roughly doubled in the almost eight years since Obama took office, as Trump indicated in the chart.

'Great job, great job, Obama,' said Trump sarcastically while showing the chart of increasing debt.

Trump is also correct that current projections are for the debt to top $20 trillion by the time Obama leaves office.

What Trump failed to note is that some of the legislation that added to the debt following the recession, including the Economic Stimulus Act and the Emergency Economic Stability Act were passed in 2008, were enacted prior to president Obama taking office.

To Trump's point, however, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was passed by Obama in February 2009, and has cost around $831 billion.

It should be pointed out, additionally, that the adding debt in response to recessions has been a common tool used by US presidents from Franklin Roosevelt to Ronald Reagan.

Since 2009, the federal deficit (new additions to the overall debt) has continually declined.

Trump also showed the abrupt jump in the the federal debt between January 2009, the month that Obama took office, and the current debt.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Trump's numbers here are correct, and the jump in the federal debt is certainly dramatic, but it may not be as big of a deal as it seems.

Federal debt can be concerning. For instance, Japan has seen its national debt balloon without seeing a corresponding rise in economic growth, a cycle that has ensnared the nation.

For the US, however, it may be a different story. Debt becomes an issue for two reasons: if you can't repay it or if people think you can't repay it. As we've noted before, the US dollar is the world's reserve currency so the debt can get paid.

As long as the US can print, it can pay. Additionally, US debt is one of the most trusted in the world, and is valued by a huge number of investors as a 'safe asset.'

Or as Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James put it, 'There is no magic level of debt that gets an economy in trouble.'

Even Trump himself admitted at his rally on Wednesday that the debt is something 'we can straighten out.'

So is it a stunning jump in the debt? Absolutely. Is this the end of the US economic system? Probably not.

Trump finished off his chart section with a poster board detailing the number of Syrian refugees entering the United States.

Business Insider/Andy Kiersz

Using data from the US State Department's Refugee Processing Center, Trump pointed out the increasing flow of Syrian refugees into the US that 'may be ISIS.'

These numbers are correct. Additionally, Syrian refugees made up roughly 25% of the refugees admitted in July of this year.

To be fair, the number of Syrian refugees admitted to the country are relatively small compared to the millions flowing out of the country.

Trump claimed that there was 'no way to vet' those coming into the country; however, the reason that these raw numbers are so low has much to do with the process required to admit refugees into the US.

In addition to the typical process that refugees go through, Syrian refugees go through an extra step, according to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

'This review involves FDNS providing intelligence-driven support to refugee adjudicators, including identifying threats and suggesting topics for questioning,' said the USCIS.

'FDNS also monitors terrorist watch lists and disseminates intelligence information reports on any applicants who are determined to present a national security threat.'


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