Donald Trump’s prospects for a second presidential term may well rest on whether voters accept his proposition that facts no longer matter. A case in point is his narrative that the economy was stronger during his presidency than under President Joe Biden. With few reality checks from the economic media, most of the public apparently agrees: One recent survey found that voters prefer Trump over Biden on the economy by 59 percent to 37 percent.
As Trump closes in on his third GOP presidential nomination, it’s time to set the record straight: By virtually every measure, that narrative is patently false.
From growth and jobs to investment and business creation, the economy has performed substantially better under Biden than it did under Trump. Biden’s superior record holds even if we set aside the pandemic’s impact in 2020. The exception, of course, is inflation. But just as the COVID-19 pandemic led to the collapse in GDP and employment during Trump’s last year in office, it was also the main reason prices rose so much for a time here and globally, according to new analysis from the Federal Reserve.
The most basic measure of the economy is how much it grows. The official data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) are clear: After inflation, real GDP has grown at a 3.4 average annual rate since Biden became president, while Trump trails badly at an average 1.8 percent growth. Trump allies aren’t wrong when they complain that the 2020 downturn wasn’t his fault, so we’ll give him a pass for the year. The result still shows more robust growth under Biden: From 2017 to 2019, the economy grew an average of 2.8 percent per year, a rate still 18 percent slower than under Biden.
Biden’s stronger growth wasn’t by happenstance: He and congressional Democrats actively promoted it with the American Rescue Plan, the March 2021 stimulus enacted over united Republican opposition, and the November 2021 infrastructure act that Trump talked about but never delivered.
Biden beats Trump not just in overall growth: Based on investment rates, American business has preferred Biden’s economy: Since January 2021, real fixed business investment has increased at a 5.4 percent annual rate, twice the 2.7 percent average rate under Trump. And here, too, Trump lags Biden even with his pandemic pass for 2020: Real business investment increased on average by 5.0 percent per year from 2017 to 2019, compared to Biden’s 5.4 percent annual rate.
By Bill Davis
February 2, 2024