Opinion: The Trump economic miracle that wasn’t

Economic Miracle that wasn't. Trump and Biden on the economy. Photo of Capitol.

By Lynn Strauss, Bob Leipold

May 15, 2024

In this op-ed, Pennsylvania residents Lynn Strauss and Bob Leipold compare the economy under Trump and Biden presidencies.

John is Not a Cat

Disinformation can come in the obvious forms of deception, falsehood, and propaganda; all artfully mixed with half-truths.

How does that work? Cats have green eyes. John has green eyes. John must be a cat. Cats, of course, can have blue, green, orange, gold, copper, or even a combination of eye colors. And why do these series of statements mean John is a cat? Using almost every measure, the United States economy is doing very well, historically well! Job growth, stock market, and the GDP are all rocking. However, we currently have an inflation rate of 3.2%. That is a little higher than the 2% rate that most economists agree is ideal. Inflation as a single measure, like eye color, does not tell the whole story.

Pro Trump ‘alternative facts’ spreaders understand that voters must believe that the United States is in decline under Biden and was rising under Trump. MAGA extremist alone cannot win a general election. We must all be told, and learn to believe, America was – but is not now – great. That Biden is the problem, and the Church of Trump is our only salvation. Is that true?

Voters have been manipulated by right wing extremist media to be wistful for the “Trump economy”, but that wistfulness is based on unfounded claims and unreasonable comparisons. The pre-pandemic Trump economy largely maintained, but did not dramatically improve upon, the economy Trump inherited from Obama. The Biden economy, compared to the Trump economy, is terrific. Let’s look at each of those comparisons.

Trump inherited a growing economy with unemployment trending down.

During Trump’s first three years in office the unemployment rate declined from 4.7 percent to 3.5 percent. But when Trump’s term ended in January 2021, the unemployment rate was 6.3%. The former president claimed he would be the “greatest jobs producer that God ever created”. But actually Trump was the first president to oversee a net loss of jobs since Herbert Hoover during the Great Depression over 80 years ago.

The US economy lost 4.7 million jobs while Trump was office. It is the highest loss of jobs in United States history. The current president has a much better record. Biden has overseen a consistent 3.5% unemployment rate — the lowest in 50 years. Biden’s economy added more than 14 million jobs. The job’s number is now nearly 4.9 million higher than before the pandemic.

There have been 39 straight months of job growth. For example, Biden added 943k jobs in July 2021 alone, more jobs in a single month than Trump netted during his ENTIRE FOUR YEAR TERM.

One of the most used economic indicators is GDP (gross domestic product). GDP gauges our economy’s overall size and health. It measures the total market value (gross) of all U.S. goods and services produced each year. GDP tells us whether the economy is expanding by producing more goods and services or contracting due to less output. Total GDP growth under Trump averaged +1.45% GDP growth per year.

Trump’s best year was +3% growth in 2018 and his worst was -2.2% in 2020. Trump said his tax cuts would “rocket fuel for our economy…. 4, 5, and maybe even 6%, ultimately.” I guess the rocket never took off under Trump. Let’s see how Biden did. Biden averaged +3.4 GDP growth per year over his term to date. Biden’s best year was +5.8% growth in 2021 and his worst was +1.9% in 2022.

Does the stock market show the superiority of the Trump economy? The market did well under Trump, and it is doing well under Biden. When Trump started his term the S&P 500 was around 2,200 and 4 years later, it was around 3,800 when he lost the 2020 election.

A nice gain. When Biden began his term the S&P 500 was around 3,800 and now, after 3 ¼ years it is around 5,200. A nice gain. As of March 2024, the S&P 500 is up 34% from when Biden was inaugurated. You probably shouldn’t take investment advice from Donald Trump. He said the market would crash if Biden won. Hopefully you didn’t take your money out because the stock market hit its highest point ever under President Biden, higher than at any point during the Trump administration.

But that is not surprising. As Wharton Professor Jeremy Siegel told Forbes in July 2020, “Stock markets do perform better under Democrats than under Republicans. That’s a well-known fact…”

Now let’s turn to the current economy. By any objective measure, it is in good shape. Stock market indices have reached record highs, the unemployment rate has been below 4% for the past two years, inflation-adjusted earnings are higher than they were under Trump (ignoring the pandemic spike), and it appears the economy will avoid slipping into a recession.

The biggest problem of the past few years has been inflation, but Trump and Republicans trying to pin the blame on Biden have two problems. First, if inflation was caused by Biden, why was it such a widespread problem? The Pew Research Center reported that 37 of 44 advanced economies saw at least a doubling of their average annual inflation rate from the first quarter of 2020 to the first quarter of 2022.

Second, if Republicans believe they’d have done a better job of controlling inflation than Biden did, how do they explain that the UK, which has been led by conservatives since 2010, had higher inflation rates than we did in the US?

Claims that there was inflation under Biden but not under Trump are self-evidently true, but meaningless. Circumstances were not the same during the two administrations. The only meaningful claim Trump could make is that he’d have dealt with inflationary pressures better than Biden did, but as described above, there is nothing in the record to suggest that Trump is an economic miracle worker. The best that can be said is that he didn’t profoundly screw up the solid, steadily improving economy he inherited from the Obama administration.

So, was the economy better under Trump than Biden? No. It is better under Biden. Much better. And to everyone wondering, both Joe Biden and Donald Trump have blue eyes. And neither Joe, Donald nor John are cats.

Related: Biden talks economic and tax plans in Scranton


  • Lynn Strauss

    Lynn Strauss is a recently retired small business owner. From 2010 thru 2024 she was the owner operator of an interior landscaping business in the five county Philadelphia area and northern Delaware. She is married and the mother of three adult children. Lynn became politically active after the 2016 election. She is currently a member of Chester County Marching Forward and a member of Women for Biden Harris.

  • Bob Leipold

    Bob Leipold is a retired Ph.D. chemical engineer who previously worked in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries.



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