- President Trump’s 2020 State of the Union address was a remarkable turnaround from his first speech laying out a country wracked by “carnage.”
- He used the opportunity to tout the strength of the American economy, now entering its 11th year of expansion – thrusting it to the centre of his 2020 reelection bid.
- Trump pointed to low unemployment and rising wages, but his economic record is more complicated.
- Here are four campaign pledges on jobs, debt, manufacturing, and GDP growth where Trump fell short.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
President Trump assumed office in 2017 with a remarkably grim view of the country’s social and economic health. In his inaugural address, he invoked “rusted-out factories” scattered across the country “like tombstones,” as well as people “trapped in poverty in our inner cities.”
Three years later, the president ditched the dark imagery of “American carnage,” and instead heralded “the great American comeback” and portrayed a country making renewed progress.
Trump delivered his third State of the Union address on Tuesday evening, arguing his administration revitalized the US economy in a brief timespan. In doing so, the president thrust the issue into the centre of his 2020 re-election pitch.
“In just three short years, we have shattered the mentality of American decline, and we have rejected the downsizing of America’s destiny,” Trump said. “We are moving forward at a pace that was unimaginable a short time ago, and we are never going back!”
Time and time again, the president returned to his biggest strength among voters: the economy, which chugged along amid an impeachment proceeding that’s likely to end with his acquittal in the GOP-led Senate. Despite a partisan battle that could have led to his removal from office, Americans support his economic record.
He pointed to historically low unemployment rate (3.5%), rising wages, and higher household incomes.
Throughout his presidency, Trump has boasted about his skills managing a “historic economy,” repeatedly assuming credit for an expansion that began under President Obama and continued under his watch – now the longest on record and entering its 11th year.
But other benchmarks indicate the economy is a mixed bag under Trump. Inequality has continued widening, and tariffs from his trade wars weighed on the manufacturing sector it was supposed to help and boosted prices for consumer goods.
Here are four campaign pledges on the federal debt, jobs, manufacturing and economic growth where Trump has fallen short.
Promise 1: Creating 25 million new jobs over the next decade.
Trump’s original economic plan in 2016 said it would create 25 million new jobs and inject energy into a sluggish economy.
Over 6.7 million more Americans are employed today compared to when Trump first took office, according to the Bureau of Labour Statistics.
That puts him off track to achieve his goal by 2026 – and he trails Obama in average monthly job gains.
Still, the economy is adding jobs at a robust pace with many employers struggling to fill open positions in a tight labour market and older Americans retire in greater numbers.
Promise 2: 3.5% GDP growth
During his first presidential run, Trump pledged to lock in above-average growth for the American economy.
“Over the next 10 years, our economic team estimates that under our plan the economy will average 3.5 per cent growth,” Trump told the New York Economic Club in September 2016.
But federal statistics show the president has missed that goal each year he’s been in office:
- 2017: 2.4%
- 2018: 2.9%
- 2019: 2.3%
Back in 2017 alongside congressional Republicans, Trump signed into law corporate tax cuts arguing it would accelerate economic expansion. But it served as a short-term boost that faded relatively quickly and helped swell the federal deficit.
There was stronger growth during the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, which averaged over 3% under them.
Promise 3: To wipe out the federal debt within eight years.
Trump made a campaign pledge to wipe out the federal debt within eight years, assuming he would be elected for two presidential terms.
But instead, Trump veered into the opposite direction and embarked on a spending binge. When he assumed office in 2017, the debt was nearly $US20 trillion.
But it now stands at over $US23 trillion. Trump made no mention to either shrink the mounting national debt nor to reduce the deficit in his address.
The Congressional Budget Office says the deficit will top $US1 trillion in 2020, the highest its been since the Great Recession. It will continue steadily increasing as the result of the tax cuts and mounting federal spending.
Another nonpartisan organisation, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, estimated Trump has signed $US4.7 trillion into law so far.
It doesn’t appear to be a big priority for Trump to cut the debt and balance the budget. The president reportedly tore into critics of increased federal spending during his presidency at a Florida fundraiser last month, saying, “Who the hell cares about the budget?”
Promise 4: Revitalize US manufacturing.
Trump sought to rescue American manufacturing through trade wars he waged with allies and rivals alike. He embarked on a trade dispute with China in early 2018, and both countries slapped tariffs worth hundreds of billions of dollars on each other.
Manufacturing suffered as a result, since its an industry susceptible to shifts in global trade, particularly tariffs or the rising cost of imported components. The industry just barely slid out of a recession into a state of expansion in January.
Trump, however, put a positive spin at the address, saying he’s restoring the country’s “manufacturing might.”
“After losing 60,000 factories under the previous two administrations, America has now gained 12,000 new factories under my administration,” he said.
But according to the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, the US added only 11,000 factories since 2017 – and 8,000 of them employ five or fewer employees.
In addition, employment growth in manufacturing slowed to fewer than 50,000 jobs in 2019, the worst rate of his presidency and far from “a blue collar boom.”