Economic policy of Donald Trump

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Donald Trump's signature economic policy proposals, sometimes referred to as MAGAnomics or Trumponomics,[1] include trade protectionism, immigration reduction, individual and corporate tax reform, the dismantling of the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act,[2][3] and the repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare").[4]

Bills to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare") did not pass Congress in mid-2017. However, Trump's tax reform plan was signed into law in December 2017, which included substantial tax cuts for higher income taxpayers and corporations as well as repeal of a key Obamacare element, the individual mandate. The Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) reported that the new tax law would increase the debt by $1.4 trillion over a decade ($1.0 trillion after macroeconomic feedback effects), in addition to a nearly $11 trillion debt increase forecast under prior law and the $20 trillion existing national debt. JCT also expected it to slightly increase the size of the economy (level of GDP) by 0.7% total over a decade.[5]

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported that lower-income groups would incur net costs under the tax plan, either paying higher taxes or receiving fewer government benefits: those under $20,000 by 2019; those under $40,000 from 2021–2025; and those under $75,000 in 2027 and beyond. Up to 13 million fewer persons would be covered by health insurance relative to prior law, due to repealing the individual mandate to have health insurance.[6] As a result, critics argued the tax bill unfairly benefited higher-income taxpayers and corporations at the expense of lower-income taxpayers, and therefore would significantly increase income inequality.[7][8][9][10][11]

Real gross domestic product, a measure of both production and income, grew by 2.3% in 2017 vs. 1.5% in 2016.[12][13] While job creation was marginally slower in 2017,[14] the unemployment rate[15] fell and labor force participation among prime-aged workers (age 25–54)[16] improved. Both the budget deficit[17] and trade deficit[18] were higher than the prior year. The stock market[19] and household net worth[20] continued to climb beyond 2016 record levels. The number and percentage of persons without health insurance increased from 2016 to 2017.[21]The number of persons on food stamps rose by 7%, home prices rose by 9% and corporate profits rose by 10%.[22] Trump initiated several deregulatory efforts regarding banking, net neutrality, and the environment.

CBO forecast in April 2018 that the budget deficits from 2018-2027 would total $11.7 trillion, about $1.6 trillion higher than the $10.1 trillion CBO forecast in June 2017. This was due primarily to the impact of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, with $2.7 trillion in legislative changes (tax cuts and spending increases) partially offset by $1.1 trillion in economic feedback. Under an alternate scenario that assumed current policies as of April 2018 would continue (e.g., individual tax cuts scheduled to expire in 2025 would be extended) the deficits from 2018-2027 would total $13.7 trillion, about $3.6 trillion higher than the June 2017 baseline forecast.[23][24] The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) estimated that the Trump administration's tax and spending legislation passed by early 2018 would add $2.4 trillion to the debt between 2018-2028, relative to a baseline without that legislation. The debt to GDP ratio would reach between 101% GDP and 113% GDP by 2028 depending on whether expiring tax cuts would be extended (among other factors), versus the baseline forecast of 91% GDP.[25]


Economic strategy

The economic policy positions of United States President Donald Trump prior to his election had elements from across the political spectrum.[26] However, once in office his actions indicated a politically rightward shift towards more conservative economic policies.[27][28]

Prior to election, then-candidate Trump proposed sizable income tax cuts and deregulation consistent with conservative (Republican Party) policies, along with significant infrastructure investment and status-quo protection for entitlements for the elderly, typically considered liberal (Democratic Party) policies. His anti-globalization policies of trade protectionism and immigration reduction cross party lines.[26] This combination of policy positions from both parties could be considered "populist" and likely succeeded in converting some of the 2012 Obama voters who became Trump voters in 2016.[27]

President Trump's 2018 United States federal budget was a statement of his administration's economic priorities for the following decade and indicated a rightward shift relative to the January 2017 current law baseline:

  • Republican agenda elements: Nearly $2 trillion in healthcare spending reductions (primarily from Medicaid, a program for lower-income persons), about $1.5 trillion in non-defense discretionary spending cuts, and about $1 trillion in corporate and income tax cuts (mainly benefiting upper-income persons), representing a net deficit reduction of $2.5 trillion.
  • Democratic agenda elements: A net reduction in defense spending of $300 billion, and about $200 billion more for infrastructure, for a net deficit reduction of $100 billion.[29]

President Trump's efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) did not pass a Republican-controlled Senate during the summer of 2017, although they did pass the more conservative House of Representatives. The proposals were highly unpopular, as they were expected to reduce insurance coverage and increase insurance premium costs on the ACA exchanges.[30] However, a variety of efforts to hinder the implementation of the ACA were implemented through executive order or by other means.[31] These actions also were expected to reduce coverage and increase costs relative to the current law baseline.[32] These efforts were mainly an appeal to the conservative Republican base, which favors repealing and replacing the ACA.[30]

President Trump's comprehensive tax reform plan, the $1.5 trillion Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, was successfully passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump on December 22, 2017. The tax reform package included across-the-board tax cuts for both individuals and businesses. U.S. corporations and pass-through businesses received significant tax relief. The new law also repealed the individual mandate of the ACA that imposed taxes on individuals who did not purchase health insurance, indirectly reducing subsidies to lower-income persons by an estimated $330 billion over a decade. This indicated a further rightward shift towards capital (business owners) and away from labor (workers). The Tax Policy Center estimated that the bottom 80% of taxpayers would receive approximately 35% of the benefit from the law initially and none of the benefit after 2027,[33] indicating it would significantly worsen income and wealth inequality.[34] At the time of its passage, this legislation was among the most unpopular of any since the 1980s.[35]

Journalist Matthew Yglesias wrote in December 2017 that while Trump campaigned as a populist, much of his post-election economic agenda has been consistent with far-right economic policy: "His decision to refashion himself in office as a down-the-line exponent of hard-right policies has been the key strategic decision of the Trump presidency." Yglesias hypothesized this was a bargain to reduce Congressional oversight of the executive branch.[27]

Health care reform efforts

CBO estimated in May 2017 that under the proposed (but not enacted) Republican American Healthcare Act or AHCA, about 23 million fewer people would have health insurance in 2026, compared with current law.[36]
CBO estimated up to 13 million fewer people would have health insurance under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, relative to the prior law baseline.[28]

Health care coverage and cost results

Gallup reported in January 2018 that the percentage of uninsured rose from 10.9% in Q4 2016 to 12.2% by Q4 2017; the 1.3 percentage point increase represented 3.2 million more Americans without insurance.[21] Combining the Kaiser Family Foundation estimate of 28 million uninsured in 2016 with the 3.2 million increase in the Gallup poll would indicate there were about 31 million without insurance in Q4 2017.[37] The Washington Post cited research indicating that 3.2 million more uninsured represents 4,000 avoidable deaths.[38]

The New York Times reported in December 2017 that about 8.8 million persons signed up for ACA coverage via the marketplace exchanges for the 2018 policy period, roughly 96% of the 9.2 million who signed-up for the 2017 policy period. An estimated 2.4 million were new customers and 6.4 million returned. These figures represent the national exchanges in 39 states and not 11 states that operate their own exchanges and also reported strong enrollment. The enrollment numbers "essentially defied President Trump's assertion that 'Obamacare is imploding'".[39]

About 80% of persons who buy insurance through the marketplaces qualify for subsidies to help pay premiums. The Trump Administration reported in October 2017 that the average subsidy would rise to $555 per month in 2018, up 45% from 2017. This increase was due significantly to the actions it took to hinder ACA implementation.[39] Prior to Trump taking office, several insurance companies estimated there would be a 10% increase in premiums and related subsidies for 2017.[32]


President Trump advocated repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA or "Obamacare"). The Republican-controlled House passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA) in May 2017, handing it to the Senate, which decided to write its own version of the bill rather than voting on the AHCA.[40] The Senate bill, called the "Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017" (BCRA), failed on a vote of 45–55 in the Senate during July 2017. Other variations also failed to gather the required support, facing unanimous Democratic Party opposition and some Republican opposition.[41] The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the bills would increase the number of uninsured by over 20 million persons, while reducing the budget deficit marginally.[36]

Actions to hinder implementation of ACA

President Trump continued Republican attacks on the ACA while in office, according to the New York Times,[31] including steps such as:

  • Weakening the individual mandate through his first executive order, which resulted in limiting enforcement of mandate penalties by the IRS. For example, tax returns without indications of health insurance ("silent returns") will still be processed, overriding instructions from the Obama administration to the IRS to reject them.[42]
  • Reducing funding for advertising for the 2017 and 2018 exchange enrollment periods by up to 90%, with other reductions to support resources used to answer questions and help people sign-up for coverage. This action could reduce ACA enrollment.[43]
  • Cutting the enrollment period for 2018 by half, to 45 days. The NYT editorial board referred to this as part of a concerted "sabotage" effort.[44]
  • Issuing public statements that the exchanges are unstable or in a death spiral.[45] CBO reported in May 2017 that the exchanges would remain stable under current law (ACA), but would be less stable if the AHCA were passed.[36]

Several insurers and actuary groups cited uncertainty created by President Trump, specifically non-enforcement of the individual mandate and not funding cost sharing reduction subsidies, as contributing 20–30 percentage points to premium increases for the 2018 plan year on the ACA exchanges. In other words, absent Trump's actions against the ACA, premium increases would have averaged 10% or less, rather than the estimated 28–40% under the uncertainty his actions created.[32] The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) maintains a timeline of many "sabotage" efforts by the Trump Administration.[46]

Ending cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments

President Trump announced in October 2017 he would end the smaller of the two types of subsidies under the ACA, the cost-sharing reduction (CSR) subsidies. This controversial decision significantly raised premiums on the ACA exchanges (as much as 20 percentage points) along with the premium tax credit subsidies that rise with them, with the CBO estimating a $200 billion increase in the budget deficit over a decade.[47] CBO also estimated that initially up to one million fewer would have health insurance coverage, although more might have it in the long run as the subsidies expand. CBO expected the exchanges to remain stable (e.g., no "death spiral") as the premiums would increase and prices would stabilize at the higher (non-CSR) level.[48]

President Trump's argument that the CSR payments were a "bailout" for insurance companies and therefore should be stopped, actually results in the government paying more to insurance companies ($200B over a decade) due to increases in the premium tax credit subsidies. Journalist Sarah Kliff therefore described Trump's argument as "completely incoherent."[47]

Repeal of the ACA individual mandate

President Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act into law in December 2017, which included the repeal of the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This removed the requirement that all persons purchase health insurance or pay a penalty. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that up to 13 million fewer persons would be covered by health insurance by 2027 relative to prior law and insurance premiums on the exchanges would increase by about 10 percentage points. This is because removing the mandate encourages younger and typically healthier persons to opt out of health insurance on the ACA exchanges, increasing premiums for the remainder. The non-group insurance market (which includes the ACA exchanges) would continue to be stable (i.e., no "death spiral"). CBO estimated this would reduce government spending for healthcare subsidies to lower income persons by up to $338 billion in total during the 2018–2027 period compared to the prior law baseline.[49][50] Trump stated in an interview with The New York Times in December 2017: "I believe we can do health care in a bipartisan way, because we've essentially gutted and ended Obamacare."[51]

Federal budget deficit and debt

CBO current law baseline as of January 2017, showing forecast of deficit and debt by year. This is the baseline prior to any changes by President Trump. It is the financial position he "inherits" from President Obama.
The CBO April 2018 baseline for the 2018-2027 period includes a $1.6 trillion higher budget deficit projection than the June 2017 baseline. This is due to the 2017 Tax Act and other spending legislation. The effect from the legislation is partially offset by economic feedback and technical changes.[23]
Federal budget deficits from FY2016 through FY2018 estimates. The 2016 and 2017 amounts are actual results. The CBO estimate for 2018 is from their January 2017 baseline, which reflected laws in place when President Trump was inaugurated. The OMB estimate is from President Trump's 2019 budget.[52]
Congressional Budget Office (CBO) baseline scenario comparisons: June 2017 (essentially the deficit trajectory that President Trump inherited from President Obama), April 2018 (which reflects Trump's tax cuts and spending bills), and April 2018 alternate scenario (which assumes extension of the Trump tax cuts, among other current policy extensions).[23]

Trump and his economic advisers initially pledged to radically decrease federal spending in order to reduce the country's budget deficit. A first estimate of $10.5 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years was reported on January 19, 2017,[53] although cuts of this size did not appear in Trump's 2018 budget. However, the CBO forecast in the April 2018 baseline for the 2018-2027 period includes much larger annual deficits than the January 2017 baseline he inherited from President Obama, due to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and other spending bills.[23]

CBO baseline projections

In January 2017, the Congressional Budget Office reported its baseline budget projections for the 2017–2027 time periods, based on laws in place as of the end of the Obama administration. CBO forecasted that "debt held by the public" would increase from $14.2 trillion in 2016 to $24.9 trillion by 2027, an increase of $10.7 trillion. These increases are primarily driven by an aging population, which impacts the costs of Social Security and Medicare, along with interest on the debt.[54] As President Trump introduces his budgetary policies, the impact can be measured against this baseline.

CBO also estimated that if policies in place as of the end of the Obama administration continued over the following decade, real GDP would grow at approximately 2% per year, the unemployment rate would remain around 5%, inflation would remain around 2%, and interest rates would rise moderately.[54] President Trump's economic policies can also be measured against this baseline.

CBO scoring of the 2018 budget

The Congressional Budget Office reported its evaluation of President Trump's FY2018 budget on July 13, 2017, including its effects over the 2018–2027 period.

  • Mandatory spending: The budget cuts mandatory spending by a net $2,033 billion (B) over the 2018–2027 period. This includes reduced spending of $1,891B for healthcare, mainly due to the proposed repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act (ACA/Obamacare); $238B in income security ("welfare"); and $100B in reduced subsidies for student loans. This savings would be partially offset by $200B in additional infrastructure investment.
  • Discretionary spending: The budget cuts discretionary spending by a net $1,851 billion over the 2018–2027 period. This includes reduced spending of $752 billion for overseas contingency operations (defense spending in Afghanistan and other foreign countries), which is partially offset by other increases in defense spending of $448B, for a net defense cut of $304B. Other discretionary spending (cabinet departments) would be reduced by $1,548B.
  • Revenues would be reduced by $1,000B, mainly by repealing the ACA, which had applied higher tax rates to the top 5% of income earners. Trump's budget proposal was not sufficiently specific to score other tax proposals; these were simply described as "deficit neutral" by the Administration.
  • Deficits: CBO estimated that based on the policies in place as of the start of the Trump administration, the debt increase over the 2018–2027 period would be $10,112B. If all of President Trump's proposals were implemented, CBO estimated that the sum of the deficits (debt increases) for the 2018–2027 period would be reduced by $3,276B, resulting in $6,836B in total debt added over the period.
  • CBO estimated that the debt held by the public, the major subset of the national debt, would rise from $14,168B (77.0% GDP) in 2016 to $22,337B (79.8% GDP) in 2027 under the President's budget, versus 91.2% GDP under the pre-Trump policy baseline.[29]

A budget document is a statement of goals and priorities, but requires separate legislation to achieve them. As of January 2018, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was the primary legislation passed that moved the budget closer to the priorities set by Trump.

Actual results FY2017

Fiscal year 2017 (FY2017) ran from October 1, 2016 to September 30, 2017; President Trump was inaugurated in January 2017, so he began office in the fourth month of the fiscal year, which was budgeted by President Obama. In FY2017, the actual budget deficit was $666 billion, $80 billion more than FY2016. FY2017 revenues were up $48 billion (1%) vs. FY2016, while spending was up $128 billion (3%). The deficit was $107 billion more than the CBO January 2017 baseline forecast of $559 billion. The deficit increased to 3.5% GDP, up from 3.2% GDP in 2016 and 2.4% GDP in 2015.[17]

Actual results FY2018 (partial year)

Fiscal year 2018 (FY 2018) runs from October 1, 2017 to September 30, 2018. It was the first fiscal year budgeted by President Trump. For the October 2017 to February 2018 period, the budget deficit rose from $351 billion in 2017 to $392 billion in 2018, an increase of $42 billion or 12%. Both receipts and spending were higher than the prior year. The deficit for February 2018 alone was $216 billion, $24 billion higher than the prior February. The budget deficit for January alone was $18 billion more than the prior January.[55]

Ten year forecasts 2018-2028

The CBO estimated the impact of Trump's tax cuts and separate spending legislation over the 2018-2028 period in their annual "Budget & Economic Outlook", released in April 2018:

  • CBO forecasts a stronger economy over the 2018-2019 periods than do many outside economists, blunting some of the deficit impact of the tax cuts and spending increases.
  • Real (inflation-adjusted) GDP, a key measure of economic growth, is expected to increase 3.3% in 2018 and 2.4% in 2019, versus 2.6% in 2017. It is projected to average 1.7% from 2020-2026 and 1.8% in 2027-2028. Over 2017-2027, real GDP is expected to grow 2.0% on average under the April 2018 baseline, versus 1.9% under the June 2017 baseline.
  • The non-farm employment level would be about 1.1 million higher on average over the 2018-2028 period, about 0.7% level higher than the June 2017 baseline.
  • The budget deficit in fiscal 2018 (which runs from October 1, 2017 to September 30, 2018, the first year budgeted by President Trump) is forecast to be $804 billion, an increase of $139 billion (21%) from the $665 billion in 2017 and up $242 billion (39%) over the previous baseline forecast (June 2017) of $580 billion for 2018. The June 2017 forecast was essentially the budget trajectory inherited from President Obama; it was prepared prior to the Tax Act and other spending increases under President Trump.
  • For the 2018-2027 period, CBO projects the sum of the annual deficits (i.e., debt increase) to be $11.7 trillion, an increase of $1.6 trillion (16%) over the previous baseline (June 2017) forecast of $10.1 trillion.
  • The $1.6 trillion debt increase includes three main elements: 1) $1.7 trillion less in revenues due to the tax cuts; 2) $1.0 trillion more in spending; and 3) Partially offsetting incremental revenue of $1.1 trillion due to higher economic growth than previously forecast.
  • Debt held by the public is expected to rise from 78% of GDP ($16 trillion) at the end of 2018 to 96% GDP ($29 trillion) by 2028. That would be the highest level since the end of World War Two.
  • CBO estimated under an alternative scenario (in which policies in place as of April 2018 are maintained beyond scheduled initiation or expiration) that deficits would be considerably higher, rising by $13.7 trillion over the 2018-2027 period, an increase of $3.6 trillion over the June 2017 baseline forecast. Maintaining current policies for example would include extending the individual Trump tax cuts past their scheduled expiration in 2025, among other changes.[23]

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) estimated that the legislation passed by the Donald Trump Administration would add significantly to the national debt over the 2018-2028 window, relative to a baseline without that legislation:

  • Debt held by the public in 2028 would increase from $27.0 trillion to $29.4 trillion, an increase of $2.4 trillion.
  • Debt held by the public as a percent of GDP in 2028 would increase from 93% GDP to 101% GDP.
  • Deficits would begin to exceed $1 trillion each year starting with 2019, reaching $1.7 trillion by 2028.
  • Deficits would rise from 3.5% GDP in 2017 to 5.3% GDP in 2019 and 5.7% GDP by 2028.
  • Under an alternate scenario where the Trump tax cuts for individuals are extended (among other assumptions), the debt would reach $33.0 trillion or 113% GDP in 2028.[25]


2017 proposal

Tax Policy Center estimate of the annual changes in GDP and budget deficit over the 2018–2027 period under the Senate version of the bill. The cumulative GDP increase of $961 billion is less than the deficit increase of $1,233 billion, including macroeconomic feedback effects.[56]
CBO and JCT estimate of the distribution of impact by income group (average dollars per taxpayer) under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. On average, taxpayers in the income groups highlighted in yellow will incur a net cost (shown as a positive figure as this reduces the budget deficit), mainly due to reduced healthcare subsidies. Higher income taxpayers receive a benefit via tax cuts (shown as a negative number as this increases the budget deficit). The percent of taxpayers in each income group is also shown for the 2023 period.[6][57]
Distribution of benefits during 2018 by income percentile under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (Conf. Cmte. version) based on data from the Tax Policy Center. The top 10% of taxpayers (incomes over $216,800) receive 52% of the benefit, while the bottom 60% (incomes under $86,100) receive 17% of the benefit. This excludes the impact of reduced ACA subsidies.[58]

In late September 2017, the Trump administration proposed a tax overhaul. The proposal would reduce the corporate tax rate to 20% (from 35%) and eliminate the estate tax. On individual tax returns it would change the number of tax brackets from seven to three, with tax rates of 12%, 25%, and 35%; apply a 25% tax rate to business income reported on a personal tax return; eliminate the alternative minimum tax; eliminate personal exemptions; double the standard deduction; and eliminate many itemized deductions (specifically retaining the deductions for mortgage interest and charitable contributions).[59][60] It is unclear from the details offered whether a middle-class couple with children would see tax increase or tax decrease.[61]

The House passed its version of the Trump tax plan on November 16, 2017, and the Senate passed its version on December 2, 2017. Important differences between the bills were reconciled by a conference committee on December 15, 2017.[62] The President signed the bill into law on December 22, 2017.[63]

Major elements of the new tax law include reducing tax rates for businesses and individuals; a personal tax simplification by increasing the standard deduction and family tax credits, but eliminating personal exemptions and making it less beneficial to itemize deductions; limiting deductions for state and local income taxes (SALT) and property taxes; further limiting the mortgage interest deduction; reducing the alternative minimum tax for individuals and eliminating it for corporations; reducing the number of estates impacted by the estate tax; and repealing the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).[64]

Impact on the economy, deficit and debt

The non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation of the U.S. Congress published its macroeconomic analysis of the Senate version of the Act, on November 30, 2017:

  • Gross domestic product would be 0.7% higher on average each year during the 2018–2027 period relative to the CBO baseline forecast, a cumulative total of $1,895 billion, due to an increase in labor supply and business investment. This is the level of GDP, not annual growth rate, so the economic impact is relatively minor.
  • The Act would increase the total budget deficits (debt) by about $1 trillion over 10 years including macro-economic feedback effects. The effect of the tax cuts is only partially offset by incremental revenue due to the higher GDP levels. The initial deficit increase estimate without feedback effects of $1,456 billion, less $385 billion in feedback effects, results in a $1,071 billion net debt increase over the 2018–2027 period. This increase is in addition to the $11 trillion debt increase already in the CBO current law baseline projected over the 2018–2027 period, and the approximately $20 trillion national debt that already exists.
  • Employment would be about 0.6% higher each year during the 2018–2027 period than otherwise. The lower marginal tax rate on labor would provide "strong incentives for an increase in labor supply."
  • Personal consumption, the largest component of GDP, would increase by 0.6%.[5]

CBO reported that the final version of the Act approved by the conference committee on December 15, 2017 would add an estimated $1.455 trillion to the national debt over 10 years.[65]

Distribution of benefits and costs

The distribution of impact from the final version of the Act by individual income group varies significantly based on the assumptions involved and point in time measured. In general, businesses and upper income groups will mostly benefit regardless, while lower income groups will see the initial benefits fade over time or be adversely impacted. CBO reported on December 21, 2017 that: "Overall, the combined effect of the change in net federal revenue and spending is to decrease deficits (primarily stemming from reductions in spending) allocated to lower-income tax filing units and to increase deficits (primarily stemming from reductions in taxes) allocated to higher-income tax filing units."[6] For example:

  • During 2019, incomes groups earning under $20,000 (about 23% of taxpayers) would contribute to deficit reduction (i.e., incur a cost), mainly by receiving fewer subsidies due to the repeal of the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act. Other groups would contribute to deficit increases (i.e., receive a benefit), mainly due to tax cuts.
  • During 2021, 2023, and 2025, income groups earning under $40,000 (about 43% of taxpayers) would contribute to deficit reduction, while income groups above $40,000 would contribute to deficit increases.
  • During 2027, income groups earning under $75,000 (about 76% of taxpayers) would contribute to deficit reduction, while income groups above $75,000 would contribute to deficit increases.[6]

The Tax Policy Center (TPC) reported its distributional estimates for the Act on December 18, 2017. This analysis excludes the impact from repealing the ACA individual mandate, which would apply significant costs primarily to income groups below $40,000. It also assumes the Act is deficit financed and thus excludes the impact of any spending cuts used to finance the Act, which also would fall disproportionally on lower income families as a percentage of their income.[58]

  • Compared to current law, 5% of taxpayers would pay more in 2018, 9% in 2025, and 53% in 2027.
  • The top 1% of taxpayers (income over $732,800) would receive 8% of the benefit in 2018, 25% in 2025, and 83% in 2027.
  • The top 5% (income over $307,900) would receive 43% of the benefit in 2018, 47% in 2025, and 99% in 2027.
  • The top 20% (income over $149,400) would receive 65% of the benefit in 2018, 66% in 2025 and all of the benefit in 2027.
  • The bottom 80% (income under $149,400) would receive 35% of the benefit in 2018, 34% in 2025 and none of the benefit in 2027, with some groups incurring costs.
  • The third quintile (taxpayers in the 40th to 60th percentile with income between $48,600 and $86,100, a proxy for the "middle class") would receive 11% of the benefit in 2018 and 2025, but would incur a net cost in 2027.

The TPC also estimated the amount of the tax cut each group would receive, measured in 2017 dollars:

  • Taxpayers in the second quintile (incomes between $25,000 and $48,600, the 20th to 40th percentile) would receive a tax cut averaging $380 in 2018 and $390 in 2025, but a tax increase averaging $40 in 2027.
  • Taxpayers in the third quintile (incomes between $48,600 and $86,100, the 40th to 60th percentile) would receive a tax cut averaging $930 in 2018, $910 in 2025, but a tax increase of $20 in 2027.
  • Taxpayers in the fourth quintile (incomes between $86,100 and $149,400, the 60th to 80th percentile) would receive a tax cut averaging $1,810 in 2018, $1,680 in 2025, and $30 in 2027.
  • Taxpayers in the top 1% (income over $732,800) would receive a tax cut of $51,140 in 2018, $61,090 in 2025, and $20,660 in 2027.[58]

If the tax cuts are paid for

Tax Policy Center analysis of the impact of the Senate version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, assuming it is paid for by spending cuts that are borne evenly by all taxpayers. For example, those in quintile 3 earning $49,600 to $87,400, would incur a net cost of $370 on average, with tax cuts more than offset by spending cuts that adversely impact them.[66]

The scoring by the organizations above assumes the tax cuts are deficit-financed, meaning that over ten years the deficit rises by $1.4 trillion relative to the current law baseline; or $1.0 trillion after economic feedback effects. However, if one assumes the tax cuts are paid for by spending cuts, the distribution is much more unfavorable to lower- and middle-income persons, as most government spending is directed to them; the higher income taxpayers tend to get tax breaks, not direct payments. According to the Tax Policy Center, if the Senate bill were financed by a $1,210 per household cut in government spending per year (a more likely scenario than focusing cuts proportionally by income or income taxes paid), then during 2019:

  • The bottom 72% would be worse off than current law, meaning benefits from tax cuts would be more than offset by reduced spending on their behalf.
  • The bottom 60% of taxpayers would have lower after-tax income, paying a higher average federal tax rate.
  • The benefits to the 60th to 80th percentiles would be minimal, a $350 net benefit on average or 0.3% lower effective tax rate.
  • Significant tax benefits would only accrue to the top 20% of taxpayers.[66]

Republican politicians such as Paul Ryan have advocated for spending cuts to help finance the tax cuts, while the President Trump's 2018 budget includes $2.1 trillion in spending cuts over ten years to Medicaid, Affordable Care Act subsidies, food stamps, Social Security disability insurance, Supplemental security income, and cash welfare (TANF).[66]


A FiveThirtyEight average of November 2017 surveys showed that 32% of voters approved of the legislation while 46% opposed it.[67] This made the 2017 tax plan less popular than any tax proposal since 1981.[67] Trump has claimed the tax cuts on the wealthy and corporations would be "paid for by growth", although 37 economists polled by the University of Chicago unanimously rejected the claim.[68] The Washington Post's fact-checker has found that Trump's claims that his economic proposal and tax plan would not benefit wealthy persons like himself are provably false.[69] The elimination of the estate tax (which only applies to inherited wealth greater than $11 million for a married couple) benefits only the heirs of the very rich (such as Trump's children), and there is a reduced tax rate for people who report business income on their individual returns (as Trump does).[70][61][71] If Trump's tax plan had been in place in 2005 (the one recent year in which his tax returns were leaked), he would have saved $31 million in taxes from the alternative minimum tax cut alone.[61] If the most recent estimate of the value of Trump's assets is correct, the repeal of the estate tax could save his family about $1.1 billion.[72]

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin argued that the corporate income tax cut will benefit workers the most; however, the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation and Congressional Budget Office estimate that owners of capital benefit vastly more than workers.[73]

Economist Paul Krugman summarized what he called ten lies modern Republicans and conservatives tell about their tax plans, many of which have been deployed in this case: "But the selling of tax cuts under Trump has taken things to a whole new level, both in terms of the brazenness of the lies and their sheer number." These range from "America is the most highly taxed country in the world" (the OECD reported the U.S. is in fact one of the lowest-taxed in the OECD) to "Cutting [corporate] profits taxes really benefits workers" (corporate tax cuts mainly benefit wealthy stockholders) to "Tax cuts won't increase the deficit" (they significantly increase the deficit). Krugman referred to a Tax Policy Center estimate that by 2027, the majority of the tax cut would go to the top 1%; but only 12% to the middle class.[74]

Economist and former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers referred to the analysis provided by the Trump administration of its tax proposal as "...some combination of dishonest, incompetent, and absurd." Summers continued that "...there is no peer-reviewed support for [the Administration's] central claim that cutting the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent would raise wages by $4,000 per worker. The claim is absurd on its face."[75][76]


U.S. total nonfarm payroll job creation by year from 2007–2017 (in thousands), from the Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED).[14]

While job creation (non-farm payrolls) in 2017 was below 2013–2016 levels, other labor market variables continued to improve as the economy approached full employment:

  • Job creation of 2.17 million (181,000 per month on average) during 2017 was below 2016 levels of 2.34 million (195,000 per month).[14]
  • The unemployment rate fell from 4.8% in January 2017 to 4.1% in December 2017.[15]
  • The labor force participation rate among prime-aged workers (aged 25–54) rose from 81.4% in January 2017 to 81.8% in December 2017.[16]
  • The number of persons working part-time for economic reasons (i.e., would prefer to work full-time) declined from 5.8 million in January 2017 to 5.0 million in January 2018.[77]

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the number of jobs added or lost by industry group in 2017, some of which included: Professional and business services added 527,000 jobs (+2.6%), Education and Health Services added 438,000 (+1.9%), Construction added 210,000 (+3.1%), Manufacturing added 196,000 (+1.6%) and Mining and Logging added 59,000 (+8.8%).[78] The additions in Mining and Logging were primarily in "support activities for mining" while coal mining jobs, a focus during the Trump campaign, were essentially unchanged.[79]


In nominal terms, average hourly earnings of all employees in the private sector increased by 2.60% in 2016 and 2.53% in 2017.[80] In real terms (adjusted for inflation) they increased 2.14% in 2015, 1.30% in 2016, and 0.40% in 2017.[81]

Labor protection

Prior to election, Trump proposed "Seven actions to protect American workers" in his first 100 days through his Contract with the American Voter. As of April 2017 (after 100 days) he had fulfilled three of seven.[82] One other was partially fulfilled thereafter:

  1. Renegotiate NAFTA: Unfulfilled as of April 2018.
  2. Withdraw from Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP): Fulfilled by April 2017.
  3. Label China a currency manipulator: Unfulfilled as of April 2018.
  4. Direct study to identify foreign trading abuses: Fulfilled by April 2017 (study begun).
  5. Lift restrictions on $50 trillion worth of energy reserves: Unfulfilled as of April 2017. However, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will open additional land for development. In early January 2017, the Trump Administration also reversed an Obama ban on offshore drilling in a significant portion of U.S. coastal waters.[83]
  6. Lift restrictions on infrastructure projects (Keystone pipeline): Fulfilled by April 2017.
  7. Cancel payments to U.N. for climate change programs: Unfulfilled as of April 2017.[82] While the overall U.N. budget was cut for 2018–2019, this is routine and it was unclear how much the U.S. contribution would be reduced as of December 2017, despite confusing press releases from the Trump Administration.[84]

As part of the Contract with the American Voter, Trump also pledged to impose tariffs to discourage companies from laying off workers or relocating to other countries, through an "End the Offshoring Act". This was also unfulfilled as of December 2017.[82]

Economic growth

Economic growth measured by real (inflation-adjusted) gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 2.3% in 2017, versus 1.5% in 2016.[13] Real GDP per capita increased from $51,916 in Q4 2016 to $52,836 in Q4 2017, an increase of $920 or 1.8%. It increased from $51,381 in Q4 2015 to $51,966 in Q4 2016, an increase of $585 or 1.1%.[85]


On January 24, 2017, President Trump signed presidential memoranda to revive both the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. The memorandum is designed to expedite the environmental review process.[86]

On February 12, 2018, President Trump released his $1.5 trillion federal infrastructure plan during a meeting with several governors and mayors at The White House.[87]


The U.S. Current Account or Trade Deficit represents imports greater than exports. The U.S. has a trade deficit in goods partially offset by a trade surplus in services. The trade deficit with China was $367 billion in 2015.

Trans-Pacific partnership

President Trump abandoned the bi-partisan, 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) during his first week in office through an executive order. This decision was a component of his "America First" strategy and signaled a change from long-term Republican orthodoxy, that expanding global trade was good for America and the world. The TPP was to create complex trade rules between 12 countries, to create an economic competitor to a rising China. The move was criticized as an opportunity for China to expand its influence in Asia.[88]

On April 13 2018 US President Donald Trump said the United States may Rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership.[89] [90][91][92]

Value of the dollar

The trade weighted dollar index measures the value of the dollar vs. several major foreign currencies. The dollar value fell from an index value of 127.25 on January 18, 2017 to 119.24 on November 29, 2017, a roughly 7% decline. However, as of December 2017 the dollar was still up about 25% over the January 2013 level, as a rebounding U.S. economy and expectations of higher interest rates caused the dollar to strengthen significantly from 2014 to early 2017.[93][94]

Trade deficit

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the trade deficit during 2016 was $505 billion, with a $753 billion deficit in goods partially offset by a $248 billion surplus in services. The 2017 trade deficit was $566 billion, an increase of $61 billion or 11%, with a $810 billion deficit in goods partially offset by a $244 billion surplus in services.[95][18]

Trump's tax plan was criticized as likely increasing the trade deficit (i.e., imports greater than exports). In one sense, a trade deficit is a subtraction from GDP, so in theory a larger trade deficit offsets economic growth and reduces the number of jobs. However, increasing the budget deficit (as the tax bill does per CBO and JCT estimates) means increasing the trade deficit, other things equal, under the sectoral balance framework. One inconsistent argument made by the Administration for the tax cuts is that they would bring in a sizable amount of foreign capital (increasing the capital surplus and its mathematical offset, the trade deficit), which would be invested by corporations and drive increases in GDP. However, this inflow of capital would drive up the price of the dollar, hurting exports and thus raising the trade deficit and thus reducing GDP.[96]

Economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis explained that a trade deficit is not necessarily bad for an economy. On the positive side, a trade deficit can mean: 1) Foreigners are net investors in your country's economy and production capacity; and 2) The economy is doing sufficiently well such that your citizens are importing more from abroad than they are exporting because local demand cannot meet supply.[97] On the negative side, if the inflow of foreign capital is used instead to bid up housing and financial asset prices (as was the case during the United States housing bubble that contributed to the Great Recession) then a trade deficit can be detrimental. In other words, it depends on how the inflow of foreign capital is used.[98]


In January 2018, news outlets announced that Trump had imposed tariffs on solar panels produced outside the United States.[99][100] China is currently the world leader in solar panel manufacture, and the Chinese nation has decried the tariffs.[101] Environmentalists and animal rights advocates have expressed concern that the new tariffs will hurt the growth of sustainable energy and the species which are on the endangered list due to climate change.[102]

On March 1, 2018, Trump announced plans to impose import tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum during March 2018, although implementation dates and details were yet to be announced. His authority to impose these tariffs derived from a Commerce Department investigation that found imported metal threatened national security by "degrading the American industrial base." These tariffs would impact China, but would fall most heavily upon steel producing allies such as Brazil, Canada, Germany, Mexico and South Korea, and aluminum producers Canada, Russia and the United Arab Emirates. In response, Canada, the European Union and other exporters indicated they might be forced to retaliate in response. Trump explained via Twitter than when the U.S. has a trade deficit with another country, "trade wars are good, and easy to win". Stocks of American automakers, which use these metals to construct its cars, went down, as theoretically the price of these inputs post-tariff would rise.[103] The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 500 points, about 2%, in response to the announcement. Large steel consumers, such as U.S. car manufacturers, Ford, Chrysler and General Motors saw even larger drops in share prices.[104]

On March 22, 2018 Trump announced trade actions regarding China, including tariffs in the $50 billion range, initiation of a WTO dispute and investment restrictions.[105] The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell more than 700 points that day, nearly 3%, on concerns of a trade war.[106]


On March 12, 2018, over 40 economists polled by the University of Chicago's IGM Forum unanimously either disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement that: "Imposing new US tariffs on steel and aluminum will improve Americans’ welfare."[107]

Paul Krugman wrote on March 15, 2018: "What we need is a renewed commitment to universal health care, much more investment in infrastructure, policies to help families and a return to policies that empower unions, especially in the service sector. Defining trade as the problem is just a way to duck real solutions."[108]


Deregulation refers to either removing or limiting government regulations of a market. President Trump and other Republicans believe that some U.S. markets are over-regulated. However, the U.S. ranks high on the world scale of regulatory freedom, ranking 17th (mostly free) out of 169 countries on the 2017 Heritage Foundation freedom index[109] and sixth out of 143 countries on the 2016 Cato Institute freedom index[110], meaning the U.S. markets are relatively unregulated compared to other countries. It is arguable whether additional deregulation would be beneficial.[110] For example, regulations or anti-trust action that address monopoly or oligopoly conditions can improve competition in a market, lowering prices and expanding output and employment.[111]

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) analyzed “major” federal regulations (those with $100 million or more in economic impact) between 2006 and 2016, a period that includes all of Obama’s administration. According to OMB calculations, the overall benefits far outweighed the costs, with aggregate benefits ranging from $219 to $695 billion, while aggregate costs ranged from $59 to $88 billion. Journalist David Roberts wrote in Vox in March 2018 that: "According to OMB — and to the federal agencies upon whose data OMB mostly relied — the core of the Trumpian case against Obama regulations, arguably the organizing principle of Trump’s administration, is false." Rolling back Obama-era regulations can cost money, rather than save it, and there was no discernable job impact.[112]


President Trump began a "high-profile" regulatory roll-back during 2017. The Administration adopted a more lenient approach to pollution relative to both the Bush and Obama Administrations, with less stringent enforcement by the Environmental Protection Agency.[113]

Climate change

Trump announced the U.S. would leave the Paris Agreement on June 1, 2017. Under the Agreement, each country determines, plans and regularly reports its own contribution and targets for mitigating global warming. There is no mechanism to force a country to set a specific target by a specific date, but each target should go beyond previously set targets. As of November 2017, 195 UNFCCC members have signed the agreement, and 170 have become party to it.

The New York Times Editorial Board wrote on June 1, 2017: "Mr. Trump’s policies—the latest of which was his decision to withdraw from the 2015 Paris agreement on climate change—have dismayed America’s allies, defied the wishes of much of the American business community he pretends to help, threatened America’s competitiveness as well as job growth in crucial industries and squandered what was left of America’s claim to leadership on an issue of global importance." The Editorial Board referred to Trump's argument that an agreement to fight climate change would hurt the U.S. economy as "bogus."[114]

Banking and consumer protection

President Trump began efforts to loosen regulations imposed on financial institutions under the Dodd-Frank Act, which was implemented following the 2007–2008 subprime mortgage crisis. The president also installed budget director Mick Mulvaney to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau established by Dodd-Frank. Mr. Mulvaney had been a "staunch opponent" of the Agency's past history of broad regulations. President Trump tweeted on November 25, 2017 that "Financial institutions have been devastated and unable to properly serve the public" even though commercial banks generated a record level of profit of $157 billion in 2016, lending activity was robust, and bank stocks were in record territory.[115]

Net neutrality

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to repeal net neutrality regulations (the Open Internet Order) on December 14, 2017. This is expected to reduce the regulation of broadband (telecom) companies (such as AT&T and Comcast) that connect consumers' homes to the internet, essentially no longer regulating them as utilities. These providers tend to have little competition in a geographic area. Advocates and critics argued whether the move would help or hurt consumers and how it would shift market power between broadband providers and content providers (e.g., Netflix). This reversed a 2015 decision by the FCC.[116]

Household financial position

Stock market

The stock market, as measured by the S&P 500, increased 20% in 2017 through December 27, 2017. Global stock markets increased 21%. During President Obama's first year in office, the stock market increased 37%.[28] Results in recent years included: 2013 +30%; 2014 +11%; 2015 -1%; and 2016 +10%.[19]

In March 2017, NPR summarized the distribution of U.S. stock market ownership (direct and indirect through mutual funds) in the U.S., which is highly concentrated among the wealthiest families:

  • 52% of U.S. adults owned stock in 2016. Ownership peaked at 65% in 2007 and fell significantly due to the Great Recession.
  • As of 2013, the top 1% of households owned 38% of stock market wealth.
  • As of 2013, the top 10% own 81% of stock market wealth, the next 10% (80th to 90th percentile) own 11% and the bottom 80% own 8%.[117]

NPR reported that when politicians reference the stock market as a measure of economic success, that success is not relevant to nearly half of Americans. Further, more than one-third of Americans who work full-time have no access to pensions or retirement accounts such as 401(k)s that derive their value from financial assets like stocks and bonds.[117] The NYT reported that the percentage of workers covered by generous defined-benefit pension plans has declined from 62% in 1983 to 17% by 2016.[118] While some economists consider an increase in the stock market to have a "wealth effect" that increases economic growth, economists like Former Dallas Federal Reserve Bank President Richard Fisher believe those effects are limited.[117]

Household net worth

Household net worth is the sum of financial, real estate, and business assets (non-corporate), less liabilities. It reached a record $96.9 trillion in Q3 2017, up 8% from a record $89.7 trillion in Q3 2016. The measure has been setting records since Q1 2013.[20] This was primarily driven by stock market increases, although housing price increases also contributed.[119]

Corporate profits

Corporate profits after tax rose from $1,655 billion in 2016 (average of Q1-Q3) to $1,815 billion in 2017, an increase of $160 billion or 9.7%.[120] The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is expected to increase corporate after-tax profits significantly beginning in 2018, when the corporate tax rate falls from 35% to 21%.

Income and wealth inequality

Four charts that describe trends in income inequality in the United States.

The New York Times editorial board explained the tax bill as both consequence and cause of income and wealth inequality: "Most Americans know that the Republican tax bill will widen economic inequality by lavishing breaks on corporations and the wealthy while taking benefits away from the poor and the middle class. What many may not realize is that growing inequality helped create the bill in the first place. As a smaller and smaller group of people cornered an ever-larger share of the nation's wealth, so too did they gain an ever-larger share of political power. They became, in effect, kingmakers; the tax bill is a natural consequence of their long effort to bend American politics to serve their interests." The corporate tax rate was 48% in the 1970s and is 21% under the Act. The top individual rate was 70% in the 1970s and is 37% under the Act. Despite these large cuts, incomes for the working class have stagnated and workers now pay a larger share of the pre-tax income in payroll taxes.[121]

The share of income going to the top 1% has doubled, from 10% to 20%, since the pre-1980 period, while the share of wealth owned by the top 1% has risen from around 25% to 42%.[122][123] Despite President Trump promising to address those left behind, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act would make inequality far worse:

  • The Tax Policy Center estimated that the bottom 80% of taxpayers (income under $149,400) would receive 35% of the benefit in 2018, 34% in 2025 and none of the benefit in 2027, with some groups incurring costs.[58]
  • Sizable corporate tax cuts would flow mostly to wealthy executives and shareholders;
  • In 2019, a person in the bottom 10% would average a $50 tax cut, while a person in the top 1% gets a $34,000 tax cut;
  • Up to 13 million persons losing health insurance or subsidies are overwhelmingly in the bottom 30% of the income distribution;
  • The top 1% receives approximately 70% of the pass-through income, which will be subject to much lower taxes;
  • Rolling back the estate tax, which only impacted the top 0.2% of estates in 2016, is a $150 billion benefit [Note: The final version of the tax law reduced this to $83 billion] to the ultra-rich over 10 years.[34]
  • The top 1% of households own 40% of stocks; the bottom 80% just 7%, even when including indirect ownership through mutual funds.[124]

In 2027, if the tax cuts are matched by spending cuts borne evenly by all families, after-tax income would be 3.0% higher for the top 0.1%, 1.5% higher for the top 10%, -0.6% for the middle 40% (30th to 70th percentile) and -2.0% for the bottom 50%.[125]

Views and proposals prior to election

Several major U.S. economic variables had recovered from the 2007–2009 Subprime mortgage crisis and Great Recession by the 2013–2014 time period.

Early economic plan

On the federal personal income tax, Trump has proposed collapsing the current seven brackets (which range from 10% to 39.6%) to three brackets of 10%, 20%, and 25%; increasing the standard deduction; taxing dividends and capital gains at a maximum rate of 20%; repealing the alternative minimum tax; and taxing carried interest income as ordinary business income (as opposed to existing law, which provides for preferential treatment of such income).[126][127] With respect to business taxes, Trump has proposed reducing the corporate tax rate to 15%; limiting the top individual income tax rate on pass-through businesses such as partnerships to no more than 15%; repealing most business tax breaks as well as the corporate alternative minimum tax; imposing a "deemed repatriation tax" of up to 10% of accumulated profits of foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies on the effective date of the proposal, payable over 10 years; and taxing future profits of foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies each year as the profits are earned (i.e., ending the deferral of income taxes on corporate income earned in other countries).[126][127] Trump has also called for the repeal of the federal estate tax and gift taxes and for capping the deductibility of business interest expenses.[126][127]

Detailed analyses by both two nonpartisan tax research organizations, the conservative Tax Foundation and centrist Tax Policy Center, concluded that Trump's tax plan would "boost the after-tax incomes of the wealthiest households by an average of more than $1.3 million a year" and significantly lower taxes for the wealthy.[126][128] The Tax Policy Center "calculated the average tax cuts for the rich and the very rich" under Trump's plan as "$275,000 or 17.5 percent of after-tax income for the top 1 percent, and $1.3 million or nearly 19 percent for the top 0.1 percent (those making over $3.7 million)."[129]

An analysis by Citizens for Tax Justice found that under Trump's plan, the poorest 20% of Americans would see a tax cut averaging $250, middle-income Americans would see a tax cut averaging just over $2,500, and the best-off 1% of Americans would see a tax cut averaging over $227,000.[127] CTJ determined that 37% of Trump's proposed tax cuts would benefit the top 1%.[129]

Trump's claims that his tax plan would be "revenue neutral" have been rated "false" by PolitiFact, which found that "Free market-oriented and liberal groups alike say Trump's tax plan would lead to a $10 trillion revenue loss, even if it did create economic growth."[130] An analysis by the Tax Foundation indicated that Trump's tax proposal would increase economic growth by 11% and wages by 6.5%, and create 5.3 million jobs, while decreasing revenue by $10 trillion over a decade.[131] Prominent anti-tax activist Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform called Trump's tax proposal a "pro-growth, Reaganite plan";[132] as of May 2016, Trump has not signed Norquist's no-new-taxes pledge, but has indicated that he will in the future.[133]

Trump has pledged to balance the budget in ten years; not cut Social Security or Medicare; increase defense spending; and enact tax cuts that would lose $9.5 trillion of revenues over the next decade. Economist Jared Bernstein notes that it is mathematically impossible to fulfill all of these pledges, writing: "Trump would need to cut spending outside the Social Security, Medicare, and defense by 114 percent to make his budget balance, which is, of course, impossible."[134] Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, stated a proposal “loses probably something in the neighborhood of $5 trillion in revenue over 10 years with regressive tax cuts that exacerbate the inequalities that already exist in our economy.”[135] The fact-checking website PolitiFact similarly concluded: "Trump's tax plan means either unprecedented spending cuts or increased federal borrowing. But Trump has released no details about the gap, all the while vowing to protect Social Security and Medicare, two of the largest line items on the federal budget."[129]

An analysis of Trump's campaign proposals by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) showed that Trump's key proposals would increase the debt by between $11.7 and $15.1 trillion to the U.S. national debt over the next 10 years, with the U.S.'s debt-to-GDP ratio rising from 115% to 140% of GDP. The CRFB analysis showed that "growth would have to be roughly 5 times as large as projected, and twice as high as the fastest growth period in the last 60 years (which was between 1959 and 1968)" in order to balance the budget under Trump's plan, which is "practically impossible."[136][137]

Trump has vowed "tremendous cutting" of budgets for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Education if elected.[138] However, Trump has "proposed large spending increases in certain areas," which the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities states would mean "even deeper cuts to other programs" if such spending increases are to be offset.[139]

On May 9, 2016, Trump said on Meet the Press: "The thing I'm going to do is make sure the middle class gets good tax breaks. For the wealthy, I think, frankly, it's going to go up. And you know what, it really should go up." The following day, Trump backtracked on his comment on taxation of the wealthy, "saying he had been referring to potential adjustments to his own tax policy proposal" and did not support an increase in taxes of the wealthy from current levels.[133][140] Trump's has frequently throughout his presidential campaign changed his view as to whether the wealthy should see tax cuts or increases.[141]

Economic growth

Economic forecast scenarios from 2016–2026, based on a modified version of Trump's stated campaign policies as of June 2016 (orange line) are compared to the current law baseline (green line). The orange line is a scenario referred to as “Trump Lite” by Moody's Analytics, in which more moderate versions of Trump’s policies are hypothetically implemented.[142]

Trump's campaign claimed that the combination of income tax cuts, deregulation, trade protectionism, and additional spending for defense and infrastructure would significantly increase economic growth and job creation.[143] This claim has proved to be mostly correct. During Trump's first 100 days as president, the national debt decreased by over $100 billion.[144] Additionally, the labor market added 222,000 new jobs, which marked an increase from 2016's growth and exceeded Wall Street economists original predictions.[145][146] However, several organizations have reported that the results may not be so positive. For example:

  • According to a report by Moody's Analytics, released in June 2016, the implementation of Trump's stated economic policies would make the U.S. economy "significantly weaker" following an initial boost:

Under the scenario in which all his stated policies become law in the manner proposed, the economy suffers a lengthy recession and is smaller at the end of his four-year term than when he took office (see Chart). By the end of his presidency, there are close to 3.5 million fewer jobs and the unemployment rate rises to as high as 7%, compared with below 5% today. During Mr. Trump's presidency, the average American household's after-inflation income will stagnate, and stock prices and real house values will decline. Under the scenarios in which Congress significantly waters down his policy proposals, the economy will not suffer as much, but would still be diminished compared with what it would have been with no change in economic policies.[142][147][148]

The Trump campaign disputed Moody's analysis, arguing that the report was based on flawed assumptions about proposals that have not been fully fleshed out and that Trump's tax cuts and deregulation proposals would help stimulate the economy. A Trump adviser also asserted that the costs of Trump's trade and immigration proposals had been overweighted in the analysis by not factoring in how current policies have depressed the wages of U.S. workers.[148]
  • According to an analysis by the British research firm Oxford Economics, U.S. economic growth would slow to about 0.3 percent annually - the worst pace since the end of the recession - after two years of Trump's stated policies.[149] In the absence of Trump's policies, the U.S. economy would be $430 billion larger after five years.[149] Global economic growth would decline to about 2.2 percent annually, compared to a forecast of 2.9 percent if Trump's policies were not implemented.[149] The Oxford Economics analysis diverges from the Moody's analysis in that the former assumes that the Federal Reserve would help to mitigate the ramifications of Trump's policies by keeping interest rates close to zero.[149]
  • According to an analysis by the Peterson Institute for International Economics, Trump's proposed tariff increases on China and Mexico could, if China and Mexico retaliate with their own tariff increases, push the U.S. into recession and cost 5 million U.S. jobs.[150] Even more limited retaliation by China and Mexico, or an aborted trade war (the Trump administration backs down from its tariff increases one year into them) would hit the U.S. economy hard.[150] Gary Clyde Hufbauer, senior fellow at PIIE, notes that there is ample precedent and scope for a U.S. president to unilaterally raise tariffs as Trump has vowed to do, and that efforts to block Trump's actions through the courts, or by amending the authorizing statutes in Congress, would be difficult and time-consuming.[151]
  • According to an analysis by University of Michigan economist Justin Wolfers of stock market movements during the first Presidential Debate, the market performs far more poorly when Trump's chances of becoming President are higher.[152] The analysis shows that Wall Street traders expect the profitability of America’s largest businesses to be about 10 to 12 percent lower on average in the event of Trump presidency.[152]
  • According to a Financial Times survey of economists, just under 14% of the economists polled between July 28–29 said a Trump victory in November would be positive for U.S. economic growth (compared with roughly 70% for Clinton).[153] According to a survey of National Association for Business Economics (NABE) members, 14% of business economists feel that Trump would do the best job as president of managing the U.S. economy (with 55% choosing Clinton, 15% choosing Gary Johnson, and 15% saying that they did not know or did not have an opinion).[154] According to a survey by The Wall Street Journal, none of the 45 former members of the White House Council of Economic Advisers—spanning eight presidents—openly support Mr. Trump.[155] According to the Financial Times, "most mainstream economists view his economic policies as dangerous quackery."[156]
  • 370 prominent economists, including 8 Nobel laureates, have signed a letter warning against the election of Donald Trump, calling him a “dangerous, destructive choice” for the country.[157] The letter said that he had not proposed credible solutions to reduce budget deficits, that he has promoted misleading claims about trade and tax policy, chided him for failing to “listen to credible experts” and for promoting “magical thinking and conspiracy theories over sober assessments of feasible economic policy options.”[157]
  • According to a November 2016 survey of leading economists, not a single respondent believed that Trump’s 100-day plan (“Seven actions to protect American workers”) was likely to benefit middle-class Americans, and only one economist believed that it was likely to improve the lives of low-skilled Americans.[158]
  • Former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers wrote in June 2017 that: "We may have our first post-rational president. Trump has rejected the view of modern science on global climate change, embraced economic forecasts and trade theories outside the range of reputable opinion, and relied on the idea of 'alternative facts' rather than evidence-based truth."[159]


Taxation 2016 campaign

On August 8, 2016, Trump outlined a new economic plan that promised significant income tax cuts at all levels of income.[4] The day before, Trump removed his previous tax plan from his website.[160] Trump stated that he would flesh out these ideas in more detail in the ensuing days.[4]

He proposed to reduce the number of tax brackets from seven to three, and replace the rates ranging from 10% to 39.6% with 12%, 25% and 33%.[4] He proposed to cut the corporate tax rate from 35% to 15%.[4] The Washington Post notes that a 15% corporate tax rate would be put the United States near the bottom of the "major industrialized nations", where the average is about 25 percent.[4] He proposed to repeal the estate tax, which applies to inheritance for estates valued at $5.45 million for individuals and $10.9 million for couples, or roughly the wealthiest 0.2 percent of Americans.[4][161] Trump also said he would eliminate the carried interest loophole.[4] Trump's plan would also "eliminate the alternative minimum tax and the 3.8 percent net investment income tax, which was levied on high-income households to help fund Medicare expansion under the Affordable Care Act."[162]

Trump has repeatedly stated that the United States is the "highest-taxed nation in the world". His statement has been fully dismissed as false by the Associated Press and PolitiFact,[163][164] The Associated Press noted that the individual tax burden in the U.S. is one of the lowest in the OECD economies.[163] According to the Tax Foundation, the U.S. general corporate tax rate amounts to 39%, the third highest in the world.[165] The nominal corporate tax rate of 35% is higher than any other OECD nation; however, many companies pay far below this amount by taking advantage of loopholes. The average company in the S&P 500 paid 26.9% in federal, state, local and foreign taxes each year from 2007–2015.[166]

An analysis by Lily L. Batchelder of New York University School of Law estimated that Trump's new tax plan would cost more than $5 trillion over ten years and would raise taxes for lower and middle income families with children. The research found that the plan would result in gains on standard deduction, but losses on individual deduction.[167][168] According to the Tax Policy Center, Trump's economic plan would raise taxes on many families.[169] For instance, families with head-of-household filing status making between $20,000 and $200,000, including many single parents, would pay more under Trump’s plan than under current tax law.[169] Another study by the Wharton School of Business estimated that Trump's tax plan would create economic growth of 1.12% above the baseline and create 1.7 million jobs in 2018, although there would be a much larger loss of jobs and economic growth by 2027 and further by 2040.[170] The Wharton study results were based on a controversial "dynamic scoring model, rather than a standard static model used by the Tax Center.[170] The Tax Foundation assessed that by 2025 the Trump tax plan would increase the long-run size of the economy by 6.9% to 8.2%, but by adding $2.6 trillion and $3.9 trillion to federal debt.[171] This growth would lead to an increase in wages of 5.4% to 6.3%, an increase in capital stock of 20.1% to 23.9%, and the creation of 1.8 to 2.2 million jobs.[171][172][173][174]

Before Trump declared his candidacy for president in 2015, he regularly shamed and criticized others for not paying their fair share of taxes.[175] However, in the September 2016 presidential debate, Trump said that using loopholes to avoid paying income taxes in the 1970s "makes me smart."[176] In October 2016, the New York Times reported that Trump declared a $916 million loss on his 1995 income tax returns, a tax deduction so substantial it could have allowed him to legally avoid paying any federal income taxes for up to 18 years.[176][177] The Trump campaign did not challenge the accuracy of the tax returns or correct the claim that Trump might not have paid income taxes for 18 years.[176][178][179] Trump also chastised Mitt Romney in 2012 for delaying on releasing his tax returns.[175] Trump has, however, not released his tax returns.[176]

In September 2016, Trump advisors Wilbur Ross and Peter Navarro asserted that the increased economic growth stimulated by Trump's proposed income tax cuts and additional military and infrastructure spending would offset much or all of the increased budget deficits caused by these tax cuts and spending increases.[180] However, several organizations have reported that such actions would significantly increase the budget deficit and national debt relative to a 2016 policy baseline. For example:

  • According to a September 2016 report by the independent and non-partisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, Trump's economic policies would increase the national debt by $5.3 trillion over 10 years, on top of the significant debt increase already in the current law baseline.[181]
  • According to a September 2016 analysis by the conservative Tax Foundation, Trump's tax plan would reduce federal revenue by around $4.4 to $5.9 trillion over 10 years.[182] The $1.5 trillion gap is because the Trump campaign has not clarified some aspects of the tax plan and have provided contradictory explanations.[182] While the tax plan would reduce taxes across the spectrum, it does so the most for the richest Americans.[182]

National debt

Projected effect of Trump's plans on the debt-to-GDP ratio over ten years, as calculated Moody's Analytics (light blue line) and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (orange line). The black line is the projection under current policy (as calculated by the Congressional Budget Office), which is similar to the CRFB's projection for the policies of Trump's rival, Clinton.[136]

In 1999 Trump proposed a massive one-time "net worth tax" on the rich to wipe out the national debt.[183] Elizabeth Warren and Paul Krugman initially agreed with Trump's early positions on taxing the wealthy,[184][185] but not his published positions going into the election, which dramatically reduced taxes for the wealthy. Paul Krugman wrote in May 2016: "Last fall Mr. Trump suggested that he would break with Republican orthodoxy by raising taxes on the wealthy. But then he unveiled a tax plan that would, in fact, lavish huge tax cuts on the rich. And it would also, according to non-partisan analyses, cause deficits to explode, adding around $10 trillion to the national debt over a decade."[186] In 2011 Trump called for a balanced budget amendment,[187] but it was not part of his campaign website policies.[143]

Economist Mark Zandi estimated that if Trump's tax cuts and spending increases were fully implemented as proposed, the national debt trajectory would worsen considerably, with debt held by the public rising from 76% GDP in 2016 to 135% GDP in 2026, considerably above a current policy baseline that rises to 86% GDP in 2026. If only some of Trump's policies were implemented under an alternative scenario of more moderate changes, the debt figure would rise to 111% GDP by 2026.[142] In May 2016, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget placed the 2026 debt figure under Trump's policies between 111% GDP and 141% GDP, versus 86% under the current policy baseline.[136]

In two interviews in May 2016, Trump suggested that he would "refinance" the U.S. federal debt as a means to relieve the debt.[188][189] Trump said that he would not seek to renegotiate the bonds,[188] but rather would seek to buy the bonds back at a discount.[188][190][191] Economists and other experts variously described Trump's debt proposal as incoherent,[188] fanciful,[190] and reckless,[191] stating that the proposal, if carried into effect, "would send interest rates soaring, derail economic growth and undermine confidence in the world's most trusted financial asset."[191] Tony Fratto, a former U.S. Treasury Department who served under George W. Bush, termed Trump's suggestion to refinance the U.S. debt "an insane idea" that "would cause creditors to rightly question the 'full faith' commitment we make."[191] The New York Times reported that: "Repurchasing debt is a fairly common tactic in the corporate world, but it only works if the debt is trading at a discount. If creditors think they are going to get 80 cents for every dollar they are owed, they may be overjoyed to get 90 cents. Mr. Trump's companies had sometimes been able to retire debt at a discount because creditors feared they might default... However, the United States simply cannot pursue a similar strategy. The government runs an annual deficit, so it must borrow to retire existing debt. Any measures that would reduce the value of the existing debt, making it cheaper to repurchase, would increase the cost of issuing new debt. Such a threat also could undermine the stability of global financial markets."[192]

Social Security and Medicare

Trump has called for allowing Medicare to negotiate directly with prescription-drug companies to get lower prices for the Medicare Part D prescription-drug benefit, something currently prohibited by law. Trump has claimed on several occasions that this proposal would save $300 billion a year. Glenn Kessler, the fact-checker for the Washington Post, gave this statement a "four Pinocchios" rating, writing that this was a "truly absurd" and "nonsense figure" because it was four times the entire cost of the Medicare prescription-drug system.[193]

Unlike his rivals in the 2016 Republican primary race, Trump opposes cuts in Social Security and Medicare benefits.[194][195] This is a departure from Trump's earlier views; in his book published in 2000, Trump called Social Security a "Ponzi scheme" and said it should be privatized.[195] Trump previously proposed raising the Social Security retirement age to 70 from 67, but he backed away from this stance in 2015, instead claiming that Social Security should be funded by canceling foreign aid to anti-American countries.[195]

Monetary policy

Federal Reserve

Trump supports proposals that would grant Congress the ability to audit the Federal Reserve's decisionmaking and take power away from the Federal Reserve.[196][197][198]

Trump has at times said that he favors the monetary policy currently followed by Janet Yellen, Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System,[196] and at other times said that the Federal Reserve has created a "very false economy" and that interest rates should change.[199] Trump said in September 2016 that Yellen should be "ashamed" of herself for keeping interest rates low, but earlier that year Trump said that low interest rates were "the best thing we have going for us" and that any increase could be "scary."[200] Trump has at other times accused Yellen of being "highly political" and of doing President Obama's bidding,[196] and at other times complimented her on having "done a serviceable job" though he "would be more inclined to put other people in" the Federal Reserve.[197] He reiterated the critique of the Federal Reserve as an arm of the Democratic Party at the September 2016 Presidential Debate, an accusation which The New York Times found to be "extraordinary", "backed by no evidence" and "plows across a bipartisan line". The accusation is rejected both by Federal Reserve officials and independent expert observers.[201]

Gold standard

Trump favors returning to the gold standard, saying "Bringing back the gold standard would be very hard to do, but, boy, would it be wonderful. We'd have a standard on which to base our money."[202][203] Few economists support a return to the gold standard; Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research notes that the proposal is considered a fringe idea among economists.[203]

Financial regulation and other regulations

In May 2016, Trump said that if elected president he would dismantle "nearly all" of the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, a financial regulation package enacted after the financial crisis.[204] Trump called Dodd-Frank "a very negative force."[204] Trump told Reuters that he will release his own financial regulation plan in the beginning of June 2016.[205]

Trump promised to roll back existing regulations and impose a moratorium on new regulations, with a specific focus on undoing environmental rules that he said curtail job creation.[4][206] The Wall Street Journal noted that, "It isn’t clear how such a moratorium would apply to financial regulators, whose agencies enjoy greater independence from the executive branch" and that he "made no mention of past calls to repeal or replace parts of the Dodd-Frank financial-regulatory overhaul."[206] In October 2016, Trump proposed to eliminate as many as 70 percent of federal agency regulations.[207]

Trade policy

Peter Navarro, Director of the White House National Trade Council, addresses President Donald Trump's promises to American people, workers, and domestic manufacturers (Declaring American Economic Independence on 6/28/2016) in the Oval Office with Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross before President Trump signs Executive Orders regarding trade in March 2017[208][209]

When announcing his candidacy in June 2015, Trump said that his experience as a negotiator in private business would enhance his ability to negotiate better international trade deals as President.[210][211] Trump identifies himself as a "free trader,"[212] but has been widely described as a "protectionist".[213][214][215][216][217] Trump has described supporters of international trade as “blood suckers.”[218] According to the New York Times, since at least the 1980s, Trump has advanced mercantilist views, "describing trade as a zero-sum game in which countries lose by paying for imports."[219] On the campaign trail in 2015 and 2016, Trump has decried the U.S.-China trade imbalance—calling it "the greatest theft in the history of the world"—and regularly advocates tariffs.[219] Economists dispute the idea that a trade deficit amounts to a loss or "theft", as a trade deficit is simply the difference between what the United States imports and what it exports to a country.[220][221] Trump shares some views on trade with Bernie Sanders, at least in the sense that they both are skeptical of free trade.[211] When asked why the clothes in the Donald J. Trump collection were not made in the United States, Trump answered that "They don't even make this stuff here," a claim found to be false by[222]

Trump's views on trade have upended the traditional Republican policies favoring free trade.[213][223] Binyamin Appelbaum, reporting for the New York Times, has summarized Trump's proposals as breaking with 200 years of economics orthodoxy.[219][224]

A number of economists and free-market proponents at groups such as the Institute of Economic Affairs, American Enterprise Institute, Peterson Institute for International Economics, Adam Smith Institute, Cato Institute, Center for Strategic and International Studies, and Club for Growth have been harshly critical of Trump's views on trade, viewing them as likely to start trade wars and harm consumers.[224][225][226][227][228][229][230][231][232][233] According to economists consulted by the Los Angeles Times, recent U.S. experience with imposing tariffs on goods has had little to no positive impact on the protected industries and harmed consumers through higher prices.[234]

Research shows that the mere threat of tariffs adversely affects international trade flows by creating policy uncertainty, so even if Trump never ends up enacting his proposed tariffs, the threat alone "is likely already discouraging potential exporters around the world from attempting to enter the US market."[235]

On March 6, 2018, Trump's director of the National Economic Council and former chairman of Goldman Sachs, Gary Cohn, announced his intention to resign. The announcement followed the president's proposal to impose import tariffs on steel and aluminum and Trump's cancellation of a meeting with end-users of steel and aluminum that Cohn had arranged in an attempt to dissuade the president from the planned tariffs.[236] Later that day, Cohn did resign his White House position, effective immediately.[237]


In a 60 Minutes interview in September 2015, Trump condemned the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), saying that if elected president, "We will either renegotiate it, or we will break it."[238][239] A range of trade experts have said that pulling out of NAFTA as Trump proposed would have a range of unintended consequences for the U.S., including reduced access to the U.S.'s biggest export markets, a reduction in economic growth, and increased prices for gasoline, cars, fruits, and vegetables.[240] The Washington Post fact-checker furthermore noted that a Congressional Research Service review of the academic literature on NAFTA concluded that the "net overall effect of NAFTA on the U.S. economy appears to have been relatively modest, primarily because trade with Canada and Mexico accounts for a small percentage of U.S. GDP."[221]

Trade with China

U.S. manufacturing and construction employment.

In January 2016, Trump proposed a 45 percent tariff on Chinese exports to the United States to give "American workers a level playing field."[212][219] According to an analysis by Capital Economics, Trump's proposed tariff may hurt U.S. consumers by driving U.S. retail price of Chinese made goods up 10 percent, because of few alternative suppliers in key product classes that China sells to the U.S.[241] The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) reported in December 2014 that "Growth in the U.S. goods trade deficit with China between 2001 and 2013 eliminated or displaced 3.2 million U.S. jobs, 2.4 million (three-fourths) of which were in manufacturing." EPI reported these losses were distributed across all 50 states.[242]

Trump has vowed to label China as a currency manipulator on his first day in office.[223] Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler, citing experts such as C. Fred Bergsten, found that "Trump's complaints about currency manipulation are woefully out of date," noting that "China has not manipulated its currency for at least two years."[243]

Trump has pledged "swift, robust and unequivocal" action against Chinese piracy, counterfeit American goods, and theft of U.S. trade secrets and intellectual property; and has condemned China's "illegal export subsidies and lax labor and environmental standards."[223] When asked about potential Chinese retaliation to the implementation of tariffs, such as sales of U.S. bonds, Trump deemed the Chinese unlikely to retaliate, "They will crash their economy... They will have a depression, the likes of which you have never seen if they ever did that."[244] In a May 2016 speech, Trump responded to concerns regarding a potential trade war with "We're losing $500 billion in trade with China. Who the hell cares if there's a trade war?"[245]

Trade with Mexico

Trump has vowed to impose tariffs—in the range of 15 to 35 percent—on companies that move their operations to Mexico.[246] He has specifically criticized the Ford Motor Co.,[219] Carrier Corporation,[219] and Mondelez International.[219][246][247] Trump has pledged a 35% tariff on "every car, every truck and every part manufactured in Ford's Mexico plant that comes across the border."[224] Tariffs at that level would be far higher than the international norms (which are around 2.67 percent for the U.S. and most other advanced economies and under 10 percent for most developing countries).[226] In August 2015, in response to Oreo maker Mondelez International's announcement that it would move manufacturing to Mexico, Trump said that he would boycott Oreos.[247]

According to economic experts canvassed by PolitiFact, the tariffs could help create new manufacturing jobs and lead to some concessions from the U.S.'s foreign trading partners, but consumer costs and production costs would almost certainly rise, the stock market would fall, interest rates could rise, and trade wars could occur.[248] PolitiFact noted that lower-income consumers in the United States would be hurt the most.[248]

Trans-Pacific Partnership

Trump opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership, saying "The deal is insanity. That deal should not be supported and it should not be allowed to happen ... We are giving away what ultimately is going to be a back door for China."[249] Trump has asserted that the TPP will "be even worse than... NAFTA... We will lose jobs, we will lose employment, we will lose taxes, we will lose everything. We will lose our country."[250] In September 2016, Trump said that he would only support TPP as President if it were "phenomenal" for the U.S.[251]

World Trade Organization

Trump has called the World Trade Organization (WTO) a "disaster".[252] When informed that tariffs in the range of 15 to 35 percent would be contrary to the rules of the WTO, he answered "even better. Then we're going to renegotiate or we're going to pull out."[246]

Income inequality

Share of income of the top 1% for selected developed countries, 1975 to 2015.
Four charts that describe trends in income inequality in the United States.

In September 2016, Trump said: "We reject the pessimism that says our standard of living can no longer rise, and that all that's left to do is divide up and redistribute our shrinking resources."[253] However, U.S. household and non-profit net worth has approximately doubled from 2000 to 2016, from $44 trillion to $89 trillion, a record level, according to the Federal Reserve.[254] In addition, the Congressional Budget Office reported in June 2016 that federal income taxes are progressive, which reduces after-tax income inequality. For example, the top 1% received approximately 15% of before-tax income but 12% of after-tax income during 2013.[255] Economist Mark Zandi wrote in June 2016 that due to the sizable income tax cuts, "[t]he tax code under Mr. Trump's plan will thus be much less progressive than the current tax code."[142]

Economic history

In October 2016, after it was revealed that Trump reported $916 million losses during the 1990s, Trump asserted that the 1990s were "one of the most brutal economic downturns in our country's history", "an economic depression" and that the only period coming close it was the Great Depression.[256] Those assertions are false, the Associated Press claimed in a fact check.[256] For instance, the Great Recession, which began in 2007, had lasted far longer and had far worse economic consequences than the recession of the early 1990s, the check reported.[256]

Trump has repeatedly claimed to have predicted the Great Recession.[257] However, Trump in the years preceding the Great Recession said precisely the opposite, namely that “the economy continues to be fairly robust,” “real estate is good all over,” “the real estate market is going to be very strong for a long time to come,” “I’ve been hearing about this bubble for so many years … but I haven’t seen it,” and “this boom is going to continue”, according to a separate check published by Politico Magazine.[257]

Student loans

During the 2016 Republican National Convention Trump said, "We’re going to work with all of our students who are drowning in debt to take the pressure off these young people just starting out their adult lives".[258] The Trump campaign did not put forth an official higher education plan, reported NASFAA.[259] However, In May 2016 Trump's campaign co-chair, Sam Clovis stated that the ideas being prepared by the campaign included getting government out of student lending; requiring colleges to share in risk of loans; discouraging borrowing by liberal arts majors; and moving the Office of Civil Rights from the Education Department to Justice Department.[260] In an October 2016 speech, Trump said that he favored having student loans repayment capped at 12.5 percent of borrowers' income, with forgiveness of any remaining debt after fifteen years of payments.[259][261]

Trump has criticized the federal government for earning a profit from federal student loans.[262] Trump's campaign stated that all colleges should have "skin in the game" and share the risk associated with student loans. The campaign opposed Hillary Clinton's proposal for debt-free public higher education, Bernie Sanders's plan for free public higher education and President Obama's proposals for a state-federal partnership to make community college free for new high school graduates, citing federal budget concerns.[260]


Trump supports investment in American infrastructure to help create jobs.[263][264][265][266] He wrote in his 2015 book Crippled America that "Our airports, bridges, water tunnels, power grids, rail systems—our nation's entire infrastructure is crumbling, and we aren't doing anything about it." Trump noted that infrastructure improvements would stimulate economic growth while acknowledging "on the federal level, this is going to be an expensive investment, no question about that."[265][266] In an October 2015 interview with the Guardian, Trump stated: "We have to spend money on mass transit. We have to fix our airports, fix our roads also in addition to mass transit, but we have to spend a lot of money."[267] In a Republican primary debate in December 2015, Trump said: "We've spent $4 trillion trying to topple various people. If we could've spent that $4 trillion in the United States to fix our roads, our bridges and all of the other problems—our airports and all of the other problems we've had—we would've been a lot better off."[265]

On the campaign trail, Trump has decried "our airports, our roads, our bridges," likening their state to that of "a Third World country."[268][269] Trump has on some occasions overstated the proportion of U.S. bridges that are structurally deficient.[268] Unlike many of his Republican opponents,[267] Trump has expressed support for high-speed rail, calling the U.S.'s current rail network inferior to foreign countries' systems.[264][267]

Trump proposes he would spend $800 to a trillion dollars to repair and improve the nation's infrastructure. His plan to raise said capital, is to create an infrastructure fund that would be supported by government bonds that investors and citizens could purchase, similar to Build America Bonds.[270] This approach aims at harnessing private capital to leverage government spending on infrastructure at federal, state and local level, thus relying on the notion of “infrastructure as an asset class” for private investors initially developed in Northern Europe, Canada and Australia[271][272]

When Trump was asked on Fox & Friends about supporting Russia's idea on a Bering Strait tunnel project, he replied: "I wouldn't be opposed to any idea that can create jobs."[273][274]


U.S. total nonfarm payroll job creation, monthly average in thousands for 2013 to 2017 (thru November), from the Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED).[14]
CBO explanation for shortfall in employment of 2.5 million relative to a theoretical full employment level.[275]

In a survey conducted by DHI Group in January 2017, a majority of employers don’t expect any near-term change in hiring plans due to the recent U.S. Presidential election. Around 12 percent anticipated an increase in hiring due to the incoming Trump administration proposed initiatives to accelerate the economy such as corporate tax reform.[276]

During an economic speech on September 15, 2016, Trump proposed tax cuts, infrastructure investment, reduced regulations, and revised trade agreements which he claimed would create 25 million jobs over ten years. Trump also stated: "Right now, 92 million Americans are on the sidelines, outside the workforce, and not part of our economy. It's a silent nation of jobless Americans."[253] However, the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the U.S. was approximately 2.5 million jobs below full employment as of December 2015, primarily as a result of a labor force participation rate among prime working-aged persons (aged 25–54 years) that remains moderately below pre-crisis (2007) levels. The overall labor force participation rate has been falling since 2000, as the country ages.[275]

In December 2015, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the reasons why persons aged 16+ were outside the labor force, using the 2014 figure of 87.4 million: 1) Retired – 38.5 million or 44%; 2) Disabled or Illness – 16.3 million or 19%; 3) Attending school – 16.0 million or 18%; 4) Home responsibilities – 13.5 million or 15%; and 4) Other Reasons – 3.1 million or 5%.[277] As of November 2016, BLS estimated that 90 million of the 95 million people outside the labor force indicated they "do not want a job now."[278]

Trump has repeatedly questioned official employment numbers, suggesting at different times that the actual unemployment rate could be as high as 18–20%, 24% or 42%.[279][280] Fact-checkers note that these claims are false; the Washington Post fact-checker called them "absurd" and gave them "Four Pinocchios," its lowest rating for truthfulness, while PolitiFact gave the statement its "Pants on Fire" rating, noting that even the broadest measure of unemployment and underemployment was far below Trump's claimed figures.[280][281] As of August 2016, the unemployment rate (U-3) was 4.7%. A wider measure of unemployment (U-6) that includes those working part-time for economic reasons and marginally attached workers, was 9.7%. The December 2007 (pre-crisis) levels were 5.0% and 8.8% for these two measures, respectively.[282]

Minimum wage

Trump's comments about the minimum wage have been inconsistent.[283][284]

In August 2015, in a televised interview, Trump said "Having a low minimum wage is not a bad thing for this country."[285] On November 10, 2015, speaking at a Republican debate, Trump said he opposed increasing the U.S. minimum wage, saying that doing so would hurt America's economic competitiveness.[286][287] At the same debate, Trump said in response to a question about the minimum wage and the economy as a whole: "...taxes too high, wages too high, we’re not going to be able to compete against the world. I hate to say it, but we have to leave it the way it is."[288]

On May 5, 2016, two days after becoming the presumptive Republican nominee, Trump said in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer that he was "actually looking at" raising the minimum wage, saying, "I'm very different from most Republicans."[289] Three days later, in an interview on This Week with George Stephanopoulos: "... I haven't decided in terms of numbers. But I think people have to get more." He acknowledged his shift in position since November, saying "Well, sure it's a change. I'm allowed to change. You need flexibility ..."[290][291]

Later on May 8, on Meet the Press, he said "I would like to see an increase of some magnitude. But I'd rather leave it to the states. Let the states decide."[292][293] Asked if the federal government should set a floor (a national minimum wage), Trump replied: "No, I’d rather have the states go out and do what they have to do."[294]

On July 26, 2016, Trump said "There doesn't have to be [a federal minimum wage]," but that "I would leave it and raise it somewhat. You need to help people." Host Bill O'Reilly then asked "Ten bucks?" Trump agreed: "I would say 10. I would say 10." He added "But with the understanding that somebody like me is going to bring back jobs. I don't want people to be in that $10 category for very long. But the thing is, Bill, let the states make the deal."[295]

Unions and right-to-work laws

In February 2016, Trump said on a radio program: "My position on unions is fine, but I like right to work. My position on right to work is 100 percent."[296]

Trump has frequently spoken in favor of deregulation, and is viewed as likely to oversee an Occupational Safety and Health Administration that conducts "less enforcement and practically no rulemaking" on issues of workplace safety and health.[297]

Other economic topics

Bank bailout

Trump supported the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), a $700 billion emergency bailout fund that rescued banks after the subprime mortgage crisis. On September 30, 2008, days before the bailout bill passed, Trump told CNN's Kiran Chetry that he supported the legislation, saying that while the situation was "more complicated than sending rockets to the moon" and nobody was sure what the result would be, it was "worth a shot" and a "probable positive."[298] The following year, when asked by Larry King what he viewed of the Obama administration, Trump stated: "I do agree with what they're doing with the banks. Whether they fund them or nationalize them, it doesn't matter, but you have to keep the banks going."[298]

Corporate Bankruptcy

In February 2009, Trump appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman, and spoke about the automotive industry crisis of 2008–10. He said that "instead of asking for money", General Motors "should go into bankruptcy and work that stuff out in a deal."[299]

Child care

Trump first addressed childcare costs in August 2016,[300] when he proposed allowing parents to "fully deduct the average cost of childcare spending from their taxes."[4] At the time of the announcement, it was unclear "how such a tax break might be structured, how it would complement existing credits and whether it would be available to tens of millions of families that don't pay income taxes because they have lower incomes."[206] A tax deduction of the kind that Trump proposes (as opposed to a tax credit) would primarily benefit high-income people; families who pay no federal income taxes—the families most likely to be unable to afford child care—would not benefit from this plan.[4][301][302][303][304][305][306]

In September 2016, Trump presented additional details regarding his proposal, which was influenced by his daughter Ivanka Trump.[307] Under Trump's plan, taxpayers who earn up to $250,000 individually or $500,000 as couples would be able to deduct the cost of childcare up to the average cost of childcare in their state, while lower-income families would receive spending rebates up to $1,200 annually through the Earned Income Tax Credit. Under the plan, mothers whose employers don't offer paid maternity leave would receive six weeks of partially paid maternity leave, to be paid for through unemployment insurance. Trump also proposes a new dependent-care savings account, which would be tax-deductible for savings up to $2,000 annually; lower-income families that contribute up to $1,000 would receive a match up to $500 from the federal government.[308]

Trump's plan applies to mothers only, and would not allow families to transfer the benefit from mothers to fathers.[307] Legal scholar Ilya Somin argues that providing maternity leave but not paternity leave would be unconstitutional under Craig v. Boren, in which the Supreme Court held that laws discriminating on the basis of sex are presumptively invalid.[309]


Trump released a list of his campaign's official economic advisers in August 2016,[310][311][312] which was significantly anti-establishment[313] and therefore included few people with any governmental experience,[314] yet at the same time aimed to include some of the elites of business and finance,[310] primarily people with well-known names. Although most of the names were new, existing Trump advisers David Malpass, Peter Navarro, Stephen Moore, and Dan DiMicco were also on the list, formally led by Stephen Miller, the national policy director, and directly led by deputy policy director Dan Kowalski. The Trump'16 finance director Steven Mnuchin was also listed, and played a role in helping coordinate the group.

Many of the names on the original list, or on the subsequent expansions thereof,[315] received media attention as potential cabinet-level appointees, for instance to the presidential Council of Economic Advisers, or in other Trump administration roles. After the election, Trump became president-elect, and in addition to nominating and appointing advisors to formal statutory roles within the Trump administration, also began working on efforts to directly communicate with business leaders, including those in the tech industry, in the broader business world, and in the agricultural sector.

Trump's cabinet will have no economists after his decision in February 2017 to not include the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers in his cabinet. Obama had elevated the chairman position to a cabinet rank during his administration.[316][317]

Business Advisory Council

In December 2016, Trump put together a group, the 'President’s Strategic and Policy Forum', of business leaders to "frequently" advise him on economic matters around policies to encourage job growth and improve productivity. The group is chaired by Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman, who recruited its members including CEOs of General Motors, JPMorgan, and Walmart. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, was originally part of the group but resigned a day prior to its first meeting in response to pressure from his employees and customers in the wake of Trump's executive order on immigration.[318][319]


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