The "Trump Economy" Before Covid-19
By Pierre Lemieux
In the cover feature of the Summer issue of Regulation, I review the American economy and the economic performance of the Trump administration before Covid-19 hit. I review the evidence on unemployment, GDP growth, wages, stock prices, regulation, trade, public finance, etc. Nine figures illustrate my evaluation. A short excerpt on only one of the topics covered:
In the spring of 2016, then-candidate Trump told Washington
Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, “We’ve got to get rid of the $19 trillion in debt,” referring to the gross federal debt (which actually was $18.1 trillion at the end of 2015). “How long would that take?” the interviewers asked. “Well,” Trump answered, “I would say over a period of eight years.” Would he increase taxes to achieve that? “I don’t think I’ll need to,” he replied. “The power is trade. Our deals are so bad.”
It’s unclear why he segued to trade. A charitable interpretation
is that he confused the federal government’s budget deficit
with the country’s trade deficit, which are two very different
things. But assume that he was not confused; eliminating a
federal debt of $18.1 trillion in eight years would have required, over each of those eight years, a reduction in expenditures of 61% or an increase in taxes (which make up nearly all federal revenues) of nearly 70%.
So, what did President Trump do about the annual deficit
during his first three years in office? As Figure 8 shows, he oversaw an increase in the deficit from $585 billion in Obama’s last year to $984 billion in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2019. … The increase was due mainly to higher outlays.
As you will see if you read the article (you can download the pdf version), I tried to present a balanced evaluation.