Trump Failed To Deliver On Promised Economic Growth Higher Than 3% So Biden Did It For Him

Trump Failed To Deliver On Promised Economic Growth Higher Than 3% So Biden Did It For Him

972115Donald Trump is the living embodiment of the concept that if you repeat a lie loudly enough and often enough many people will come to believe it. He owes his political success to this sad weakness of the human material.

And boy has Trump told some whoppers. In terms of severity, something like claiming that a violent mob of his supporters bent on overthrowing democracy were “patriotic and peaceful” is probably right up there at the top.

Yet, of Trump’s many dumb lies, one stands alone in how much purchase it has found even beyond the motley ranks of his most fervent supporters: that he is far better than any Democratic challenger at promoting economic growth.

Trump repeatedly promised that his policies would result in annual economic growth of more than 3%. They didn’t.

During the first three years of the Trump presidency, before the pandemic hit, the average quarterly economic growth rate was 2.5%. This was almost exactly the same rate of growth during Obama’s second term, when the quarterly economic growth rate averaged 2.4%.

Overall the gross domestic product grew by only 1.6% over the course of Trump’s entire term. This was the lowest rate of growth under any president since Herbert Hoover (although it’s not entirely fair to blame the economic impacts of the pandemic on Trump).

There were a handful of quarters in which the growth rate did temporarily exceed 3% under Trump, and one really anomalous quarter during which the GDP clawed back the pandemic-related drop from the previous quarter. But there was never the sustained growth of “much higher than 3%” that Trump promised on the campaign trail, and it certainly was not “the greatest economy in the history of our country” as Trump has repeatedly claimed.

Meanwhile, what is the latest quarterly growth rate under the Joe Biden presidency? A blockbuster 5.2%.

Though the 5.2% quarterly growth rate was quite high by historical standards, it will be some time before final numbers are calculated for all of 2023, and in 2022 growth was significantly slower. Still, the first year of the Biden presidency, 2021, saw the U.S. economy grow by 5.7% — the largest full-year economic expansion since 1984. A quickly growing economy during a Biden presidency is not a single-quarter fluke or a temporary anomaly. Biden has been able to deliver on sustained rates of growth that Trump promised but could never achieve himself.

Of course, if you are determined to convince yourself that the economy was better under Trump than Biden, there are many ways to do so. Perhaps the most popular is to note that inflation has been high.

Though the Fed seems to have now gotten inflation under control, it was indeed a problem. Even so, you can cherry pick any metric and conflate it with the health of the entire economy until the cows come home. Sure, inflation was higher under Biden than Trump, but so was unemployment — you could go all day.

On this narrow criterion, however, there is no need for endlessly redefining what, exactly, constitutes “the economy” or to argue about the overall state thereof. Trump made a very specific promise: economic growth well above 3%. We can and do measure this with some precision, and we know that while he was president, Trump failed to achieve his own goal.

Biden, on the other hand, has achieved a sustained rate of economic growth above 3%. He beat Trump at his own game. It is a little silly to judge a president too harshly when it comes to GDP growth, since many factors beyond any president’s control affect the economy’s growth rate. Just the same, when Trump is losing by his own standard, it’s worth pointing out.

Unfortunately for Biden, the lie that Trump brought something magical to the economy is particularly persistent. Poll after poll finds that more Americans trust Trump on the economy than Biden.

The people responding to these polls who put their faith in Trump are dismally, tragically wrong. But there is one thing we all should have learned over the past eight years: if you have MAGA in your heart, no amount of data or facts or objective reality is going to change your mind.


Jonathan Wolf is a civil litigator and author of Your Debt-Free JD (affiliate link). He has taught legal writing, written for a wide variety of publications, and made it both his business and his pleasure to be financially and scientifically literate. Any views he expresses are probably pure gold, but are nonetheless solely his own and should not be attributed to any organization with which he is affiliated. He wouldn’t want to share the credit anyway. He can be reached at jon_wolf@hotmail.com.

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