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Fact check: No, Trump didn't build 'the greatest economy in the history' of the US

But Trump says so a lot.

By Josh Israel - September 29, 2020
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Donald Trump

In Tuesday night’s presidential debate, Donald Trump fired at Joe Biden that Biden could never have handled the coronavirus as effectively as he did, claiming that he was forced to close “the greatest economy in the history of our country.”

Trump has made this false claim repeatedly.

As early as June 2018, he was bragging, “In many ways this is the greatest economy in the HISTORY of America and the best time EVER to look for a job!”

“How do you impeach a President who has created the greatest Economy in the history of our Country”? Trump asked in a September 2019 tweet.

Last December, he shared a CNBC story about rising profits for investors with his own pronouncement of “The best Economy ever!” 

As recently as last month, as the coronavirus crisis raged, and millions remained unemployed, Trump tweeted, “My Administration and I built the greatest economy in history, of any country, turned it off, saved millions of lives, and now am building an even greater economy than it was before.”

Trump in fact never “turned” the economy off, refusing to issue national stay-at-home orders and leaving it up to state governors to figure out how to curb the coronavirus pandemic.

In reality, even before his botched response to the COVID-19 pandemic cost more than 10 million Americans their jobs, Trump’s economy never came close to living up to his promises.

As a candidate in 2016, Trump vowed on his website to “[b]oost growth to 3.5 percent per year on average, with the potential to reach a 4 percent growth rate.” In March 2016, he told Fox News that economic growth of “4% or 5%” was “absolutely doable.”

By the October debates, he was claiming that he could “go higher than 4%. I think you can go to 5% or 6%.”

And as he signed the GOP tax bill in December 2017, Trump told the nation the changes would fuel growth that would rise from “3%” to “4, 5, and maybe even 6% ultimately,” even as experts warned the bill was a boon to mega-corporations and the super wealthy.

But according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the economy has not grown at even a 4% rate in any quarter since Trump took office in 2017. Trump instead saw negative growth in the first two quarters of 2020, including a more-than-31% contraction between April 1 and June 30.

President Barack Obama, whom Trump has criticized for his economic policies, presided over multiple quarters with more than 5% growth during his administration.

Harry Truman’s presidency, which saw GDP growth of 16.7%, 12.8%, 16.4%, and 7.9% in 1950, also counteracts Trump’s claims of the best economy “ever.”

As Forbes noted in February, Trump’s best year — about 2.31 million jobs created in 2018 — was actually lower than Obama’s totals for each of the final three years of his presidency. Obama added more than 3 million new jobs in 2014, 2.72 million in 2015, and more than 2.34 million in 2016, for a net eight-year total of about 11.6 million jobs gained.

As of mid-July, Trump had lost a net 7.8 million jobs since taking office, his administration hit particularly hard by the massive layoffs resulting from the coronavirus crisis, for which has has also received ample criticism regarding his botched response efforts.

TRUMP: Let me tell you something, Joe. If you would’ve had the charge of what I was put through. I had to close the greatest economy of the history of our country. By the way, now it’s being built again.

 

CHRIS WALLACE: We’ll talk about the economy in the next segment.

 

TRUMP: It’s going up fast.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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