Economic policy of Donald Trump

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Donald Trump's signature economic policies, sometimes referred to as Trumponomics,[1] include the raising of tariffs, across-the-board tax cuts, the dismantling of the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, and the repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare").[2] Trump's economic plan was released in August 2016 and was widely described as light on details,[3][4][5][6] with Trump insisting "In the coming weeks, we will be offering more detail on all of these policies".[2]


Trump's signature economic policies are the raising of tariffs, across-the-board tax cuts, the dismantling of the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and the repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare"). Trump unveiled his economic plan on August 8, 2016, with a revised tax proposal.[2]

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).[7][8] 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).[7][8] Trump has also called for the repeal of the federal estate tax and gift taxes and for capping the deductibility of business interest expenses.[7][8]

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.[7][9] 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)."[10]

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.[8] CTJ determined that 37% of Trump's proposed tax cuts would benefit the top 1%.[10]

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."[11] 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.[12] Prominent anti-tax activist Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform called Trump's tax proposal a "pro-growth, Reaganite plan";[13] as of May 2016, Trump has not signed Norquist's no-new-taxes pledge, but has indicated that he will in the future.[14]

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."[15] 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.”[16] 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."[10]

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."[17][18]

Trump has vowed "tremendous cutting" of budgets for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Education if elected.[19] 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.[20]

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.[14][21] Trump's has frequently throughout his presidential campaign changed his view as to whether the wealthy should see tax cuts or increases.[22]

Economic growth

File:Trump economic variables- v1.png
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.[23]

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.[24] 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.[23][25][26]

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.[26]
  • 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.[27] In the absence of Trump's policies, the U.S. economy would be $430 billion larger after five years.[27] 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.[27] 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.[27]
  • 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.[28] 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.[28] 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.[29]
  • 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.[30] 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.[30]
  • 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).[31] 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).[32] 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.[33] According to the Financial Times, "most mainstream economists view his economic policies as dangerous quackery."[34]
  • 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.[35] 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.”[35]
  • 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.[36]
  • 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."[37]

Budget deficit and debt

File:CBO 2017 Current Law Baseline -v1.png
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.

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.[38] 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.[39]
  • 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.[40] The $1.5 trillion gap is because the Trump campaign has not clarified some aspects of the tax plan and have provided contradictory explanations.[40] While the tax plan would reduce taxes across the spectrum, it does so the most for the richest Americans.[40]

Trump and his economic advisers have 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.[41]

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.[42] 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.[42] President Trump's economic policies can also be measured against this baseline.

Fiscal policy (taxes, spending, and budget)


On August 8, 2016, Trump outlined a new economic plan that involved significant income tax cuts at all levels of income.[2] The day before, Trump removed his previous tax plan from his website.[43] Trump stated that he would flesh out these ideas in more detail in the ensuing days.[2]

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%.[2] He proposed to cut the corporate tax rate from 35% to 15%.[2] 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.[2] 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.[2][4][44][45] Trump also said he would eliminate the carried interest loophole.[2] 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."[46]

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,[47][48] The Associated Press noted that the individual tax burden in the U.S. is one of the lowest in the OECD economies.[47] According to the Tax Foundation, the U.S. general corporate tax rate amounts to 39%, the third highest in the world.[49] 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.[50]

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.[51][52] According to the Tax Policy Center, Trump's economic plan would raise taxes on many families.[53] 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.[53] The Tax Center's analysis was based on a static model rather than a "dynamic scoring" model.[54] Another study by the Wharton School of Business found 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.[54] 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.[55] 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.[55][56][57][58]

Before Trump declared his candidacy for president in 2015, he regularly shamed and criticized others for not paying their fair share of taxes.[59] However, in the September 2016 presidential debate, Trump said that using loopholes to avoid paying income taxes in the 1970s "makes me smart."[60] 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.[60][61] 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.[60][62][63] Trump also chastised Mitt Romney in 2012 for delaying on releasing his tax returns.[59] Trump has, however, not released his tax returns.[60]

National debt

File:Debt to GDP Ratio under Mr. Trump's Policies.png
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.[17]

In 1999 Trump proposed a massive one-time "net worth tax" on the rich to wipe out the national debt.[64] Elizabeth Warren and Paul Krugman initially agreed with Trump's early positions on taxing the wealthy,[65][66] 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."[67] In 2011 Trump called for a balanced budget amendment,[68] but it was not part of his campaign website policies.[24]

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.[23] 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.[17]

In two interviews in May 2016, Trump suggested that he would "refinance" the U.S. federal debt as a means to relieve the debt.[69][70] Trump said that he would not seek to renegotiate the bonds,[69] but rather would seek to buy the bonds back at a discount.[69][71][72] Economists and other experts variously described Trump's debt proposal as incoherent,[69] fanciful,[71] and reckless,[72] 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."[72] 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."[72] 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."[73]

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.[74]

Unlike his rivals in the 2016 Republican primary race, Trump opposes cuts in Social Security and Medicare benefits.[75][76] 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.[76] 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.[76]

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.[77][78][79]

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,[77] and at other times said that the Federal Reserve has created a "very false economy" and that interest rates should change.[80] 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."[81] Trump has at other times accused Yellen of being "highly political" and of doing President Obama's bidding,[77] 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.[78] 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.[82]

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."[83][84] 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.[84]

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.[85] Trump called Dodd-Frank "a very negative force."[85] Trump told Reuters that he will release his own financial regulation plan in the beginning of June 2016.[86]

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.[2][87] 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."[87] In October 2016, Trump proposed to eliminate as many as 70 percent of federal agency regulations.[88]

Trade policy

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.[91][92]

File:U.S. Trade Deficit 2011.png
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.

Trump identifies himself as a "free trader,"[93] but has been widely described as a "protectionist".[94][95][96][97][98] Trump has described supporters of international trade as “blood suckers.”[99] 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."[100] 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.[100] 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.[101][102] Trump shares some views on trade with Bernie Sanders, at least in the sense that they both are skeptical of free trade.[92] 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[103]

Trump's views on trade have upended the traditional Republican policies favoring free trade.[94][104] Binyamin Appelbaum, reporting for the New York Times, has summarized Trump's proposals as breaking with 200 years of economics orthodoxy.[100][105] American economic writer Bruce Bartlett writes that Trump's protectionist views have roots in American history.[106] Likewise the Canadian writer Lawrence Solomon describes Trump's position on trade as similar to that as of pre-Reagan Republican presidents, such as Herbert Hoover (who signed the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act) and Richard Nixon (who ran on a protectionist platform).[107]

Some 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.[105][108][109][110][111][112][113][114][115][116] 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.[117]

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."[118]


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."[119][120] 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.[121] 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."[102]

Trade with China

File:U.S. Manufacturing and Construction Employment.png
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."[93][100] 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.[122] The goods trade deficit with China in 2015 was $367.2 billion.[123] 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.[124]

Trump has vowed to label China as a currency manipulator on his first day in office.[104] 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."[125]

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."[104] 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."[126] 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?"[127]

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.[128] He has specifically criticized the Ford Motor Co.,[100] Carrier Corporation,[100] and Mondelez International.[100][128][129] 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."[105] 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).[109] 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.[129]

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.[130] PolitiFact noted that lower-income consumers in the United States would be hurt the most.[130]

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."[131] 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."[132] In September 2016, Trump said that he would only support TPP as President if it were "phenomenal" for the U.S.[133]

World Trade Organization

Trump has called the World Trade Organization (WTO) a "disaster".[134] 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."[128]

Income inequality

File:Income inequality - share of income earned by top 1% 1975 to 2015.png
Share of income of the top 1% for selected developed countries, 1975 to 2015.
File:Income inequality panel - v1.png
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."[135] 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.[136] 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.[137] 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."[23]

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.[138] Those assertions are false.[138] 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.[138]

Trump has repeatedly claimed to have predicted the Great Recession.[139] 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.”[139]

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".[140] The Trump's Campaign has not put forth an official higher education plan.[141] 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.[142] 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.[141][143]

Trump has criticized the federal government for earning a profit from federal student loans.[144] Trump's campaign stated that all colleges should have "skin in the game" and share the risk associated with student loans. The campaign opposes 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.[142]


Trump supports investment in American infrastructure to help create jobs.[145][146][147][148] 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."[147][148] 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."[149] 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."[147]

On the campaign trail, Trump has decried "our airports, our roads, our bridges," likening their state to that of "a Third World country."[150][151] Trump has on some occasions overstated the proportion of U.S. bridges that are structurally deficient.[150] Unlike many of his Republican opponents,[149] Trump has expressed support for high-speed rail, calling the U.S.'s current rail network inferior to foreign countries' systems.[146][149]

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.[152] 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."[153][154]


File:CBO - Employment Shortfall - v1.png
CBO explanation for shortfall in employment of 2.5 million relative to a theoretical full employment level.[155]

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.[156]

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."[135] 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.[155]

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%.[157] 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."[158]

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%.[159][160] 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.[160][161] 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.[162]

Minimum wage

Trump's comments about the minimum wage have been inconsistent.[163][164]

In August 2015, in a televised interview, Trump said "Having a low minimum wage is not a bad thing for this country."[165] 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.[166][167] 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."[168]

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."[169] 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 ..."[170][171]

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."[172][173] 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."[174]

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."[175]

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."[176]

Trump has frequently spoken in favor of deregulation, and if elected president 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.[177]

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."[178] 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."[178]

Child care

Trump first addressed childcare costs in August 2016,[179] when he proposed allowing parents to "fully deduct the average cost of childcare spending from their taxes."[2] 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."[87] 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.[2][3][180][181][182][183][184]

In September 2016, Trump presented additional details regarding his proposal, which was influenced by his daughter Ivanka Trump.[185] 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.[186]

Trump's plan applies to mothers only, and would not allow families to transfer the benefit from mothers to fathers.[185] 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.[187]


Trump released a list of his campaign's official economic advisers in August 2016,[188][189][190] which was significantly anti-establishment[191] and therefore included few people with any governmental experience,[192] yet at the same time aimed to include some of the elites of business and finance,[188] 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,[193] 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.[194][195]

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.[196][197]

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