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Many remember how strong the economy was under Trump, but his record was also full of hype and debt.

WASHINGTON– It was a time of fear and chaos four years ago.

The number of deaths increased as COVID-19 spread. The financial markets were panicked. Oil prices briefly turned negative. The Federal Reserve lowered its benchmark interest rates to combat the sudden recession. And the U.S. government has embarked on a historic borrowing spree — adding trillions to the national debt — to keep families and businesses afloat.

But as Donald Trump recalled at a recent rally, the former president exuded pride.

“We had the greatest economy in history,” the Republican told his Wisconsin audience. “The 30-year mortgage rate was at an all-time low, the lowest it’s ever been…2.65%, that’s what your mortgage rates were.”

The question of who will best lead the U.S. economy could be a deciding factor in who wins November’s presidential election. Although an April Gallup poll found that Americans were most likely to view immigration as the nation’s top problem, the overall economy and inflation were also high on the list.

Trump may have an edge over President Joe Biden on key economic concerns, according to an April poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs. The survey found that Americans were more likely to say that as president, Trump helped the country with job creation and the cost of living. Nearly 6 in 10 Americans said Biden’s presidency has hurt the country in terms of the cost of living.

But the economic numbers reveal a much more complex reality during Trump’s time in the White House. His tax cuts never produced the promised growth. Its budget deficits increased and then remained relatively high under Biden. His tariffs and trade deals never brought back all the lost factory jobs.

And there was the pandemic, an event that caused historic job losses for which Trump accepts no responsibility, as well as low inflation – for which Trump takes all the credit.

On the contrary, the economy under Trump’s presidency has never lived up to its own hype.

Trump assured the public in 2017 that the U.S. economy, thanks to his tax cuts, would grow “3 percent,” but added, “I think it could get to 4, 5, and maybe even 6%, eventually. »

Excluding the 2020 pandemic, after-inflation growth averaged 2.67% under Trump, according to figures from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. If you include the pandemic-induced recession, that average drops to an anemic 1.45%.

In contrast, during President Barack Obama’s second term, growth averaged 2.33%. So far under Biden, annual growth has averaged 3.4%.

Trump also assured the public that his tax cuts would pay for themselves through stronger growth. The cuts were significant, but disproportionately favored corporations and the extremely wealthy.

The tax cuts enacted in 2017 never delivered on Trump’s deficit reduction promises.

According to the Office of Management and Budget, the deficit worsened to $779 billion in 2018. The Congressional Budget Office had projected a deficit of $563 billion before the tax cuts, meaning that the tax cuts increased borrowing by $216 billion in the first year. In 2019, the deficit was $984 billion, almost $300 billion more than the CBO had projected.

Then the pandemic hit, and thanks to a wave of government aid, the resulting deficit topped $3.1 trillion. These loans allowed the government to make direct payments to individuals and small businesses while the economy was in lockdown, often boosting bank accounts and making many feel better even though the economy was in recession.

Deficits have also been high under Biden, as he signed into law a third round of pandemic aid and other initiatives aimed at combating climate change, building infrastructure and investing in manufacturing American. Its budget deficits: $2.8 trillion (2021), $1.38 trillion (2022) and $1.7 trillion (2023).

The CBO estimates in a report released Wednesday that extending part of the Trump tax cuts that expire after 2025 would add another $4.6 trillion to the national debt through 2034.

Inflation was much lower under Trump, never reaching an annual rate of 2.4%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The annual rate reached 8% in 2022 under Biden and currently stands at 3.4%.

There are three big reasons why inflation was low during Trump’s presidency: the legacy of the 2008 financial crisis, the Federal Reserve’s actions, and the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump entered the White House with inflation already low, largely because of the slow recovery from the Great Recession, when financial markets collapsed and millions lost their homes to foreclosures.

The inflation rate barely exceeded 1% on average during Obama’s second term as the Fed struggled to stimulate growth. However, the economy grew without overheating.

But in the first three years of the Trump presidency, inflation averaged 2.1%, roughly the Fed’s target. The Fed has nonetheless begun raising its own benchmark rate to keep inflation low, at its 2% target. Trump has repeatedly criticized the Fed for wanting to boost growth despite the risks of rising prices.

Then the pandemic hit.

Inflation fell and the Fed cut rates to support the economy during the lockdowns.

When Trump celebrates historically low mortgage rates, he does so because the economy has been weakened by the pandemic. Similarly, gasoline prices fell below an average of $2 per gallon because no one was driving in April 2020 as the pandemic spread.

The United States lost 2.7 million jobs under Trump’s presidency, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Excluding the pandemic months, it created 6.7 million jobs.

In contrast, 15.4 million jobs were created under Biden’s presidency. That’s 5.1 million more jobs than the CBO expected to create before its coronavirus relief measures and other policies were enacted — a sign of how much it has boosted the job market .

Both candidates have repeatedly promised to restore factory jobs. Between 2017 and mid-2019, Trump created 461,000 manufacturing jobs. But the gains began to stall, then turned to layoffs during the pandemic, with the Republican posting a loss of 178,000 jobs.

The U.S. economy has added 773,000 manufacturing jobs so far under Biden’s presidency.

ABC News

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