International Analysis

Trump’s 'greatest economy': A lie that could end America's experiment

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Former President Donald Trump's economic record pales in comparison to Joe Biden's (image by Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons)

Of all the falsehoods spread by MAGA Republicans, an underrated one poses grave danger, as Alan Austin reports.

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WE CAN CLOSE another year of recording what is happening in global economics – as distinct from what mainstream media falsely report – on a positive note. America’s economy, still the world’s biggest and most influential, is emerging strongly from the disastrous Trump period.

This is significant for several reasons. First, it means 335 million Americans now enjoy greater prosperity and security. Second, millions of people in other countries are benefiting from the increased trade generated by a thriving USA. A quick glance at the blue chart, below, shows the surge in imports since Donald Trump was ousted.

Imports 2011-23 IA.jpg

Third, a robust U.S. economy today helps dispel the dangerous myth that the economy was functioning well during the Trump period, a blatant lie that risks propelling the failed wannabe dictator back to the White House.

The real "Big Lie"

The term “Big Lie” usually attaches to the nonsensical claim by Trump and his Make America Great Again (MAGA) supporters that the 2020 Presidential Election was stolen from them by sinister forces. Yes, that’s big. But it is easily debunked. Most of the liars who generated that deliberate falsehood have now confessed to this in defamation cases or criminal proceedings.

Arguably, the larger lie in its potentially destructive impact is that the U.S. economy boomed under Trump’s magic entrepreneurial touch.

Trump has hammered this theme in virtually every speech since March 2017, two months after his inauguration, when the jobless rate fell unexpectedly.

Earlier this month at a campaign rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, he said:

Under the Trump Administration, we built the greatest economy in the history of the world. There’s never been an economy like we had. With soaring incomes, rising wages and household net worth hitting the highest level ever recorded. By far, greater than now and by far greater than at any other time ... Nobody has ever seen an economy like we had.

Those who compare economies worldwide for a living know the opposite is true. The U.S. economy faltered badly during the Trump years, following multiple extraordinarily foolish calls.

Appalling fiscal collapse

Trump’s first destructive decision was to slash the tax rate on the big, highly profitable corporations from 35%, where it had been since 1993 (and much higher between 1942 and 1987), to just 21%. This immediately cut budget revenue, blew out the deficit and added trillions to the national debt.

In 2019, the deficit was minus 4.7% of GDP, the worst of all developed members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). 

Budget surplus Feb 2020 G2.jpg

Outcomes in Trump’s last year, 2020, were worsened by his gross mismanagement of the COVID pandemic. The deficit that year exploded to minus 15.0% of GDP, the worst on record by far.

These plummeting deficits led to record debt, with the USA recording the OECD’s worst expansion of debt from 2016 to 2021.