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Donald Trump made some eyebrow-raising statements about the US economy in his big speech at Davos — here are the facts behind five bold claims

Joseph Zeballos-Roig , Business Insider US
 Jan 22, 2020, 04:23 PM
  • Trump extolled a newly confident America with a series of bold statements about the country's economic performance throughout his presidency in his big speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Tuesday.
  • Many of those statements didn't match economic reality or were wildly misleading.
  • Here are the facts related to five of Trump's boldest claims.
  • For more stories go to the Business Insider South Africa homepage

President Trump touted a newly resurgent America in his big speech at the World Economic Forun in Davos, Switzerland, making a series of bold claims in an address that echoed some of his talking points on the 2020 campaign trail.

Many of those assertions, though, didn't match economic reality or were wildly misleading.

Trump said that the American economy was in "a dismal state" when he inherited it in 2017 and that US wealth inequality was tossed into the dustbin of history. He also asserted that he "saved" historically black colleges and universities and the US economy now is "the greatest" in US history.

Finally, he contended that the two trade deals he signed were "the biggest ever made."

Here are the facts about five of Trump's boldest claims made in Davos.


Claim: Trump said the American economy was in "a rather dismal state" when he took office.

Fact: Trump inherited a fairly strong economy from his predecessor, President Obama.

Under Obama, the economy underwent its longest sustained expansion on record, one that Trump is still overseeing.

In the first year of his presidency back in 2017, Trump added 2,188,000 jobs, according to the Bureau of Labour Statistics.

But the economy created more jobs in every year of Obama's second term than it did in Trump's first year, for example.

GDP growth early in Trump's presidency, though, did outpace that of the last year of Obama's presidency, partly the result of the 2017 tax cuts.


Claim: "For the first time in decades, we're no longer concentrating wealth in the hands of a few," Trump said.

Facts: American inequality is still worsening year after year.

The Census Bureau said in 2019 that the gap between the richest and poorest households in the US widened, as reported by Business Insider's Hillary Hoffower.

It's the largest it has ever been since the agency started keeping track of it a half-century ago.

Experts say inequality in the US stems from a range of factors that include stagnant wages for the middle class and tax policies favouring the richest households and corporations.


Claim: "I saved HBCUs. We saved them. They were going out and we saved them," Trump said.

Facts: That's a huge stretch.

Back in December, Trump signed a law that permanently restored funding for historically black colleges and universities that had dried up earlier in the year due to congressional gridlock. It totaled $255 million (R3 billion).

HBCUs at large, which constitute 3% of institutions in the higher education system, were not in existential danger before the law restored funding.

Still, they face many of the same challenges wracking other colleges and universities around the country, including rising price tags and budget cuts.

The Trump administration has taken steps to support higher education for minorities, including making available over $100 million (R1.4 billion) for scholarship funding and research last year.


Claim: "We have the greatest economy we've ever had in the history of our country."

Fact: Trump's economic record is far from the best one held by any American president.

Economists previously told Business Insider that the Trump economy has provided mixed results.

"There's nothing that says this economy is a disaster," conservative economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin said in September. "But I would be measured in my assessment of it."

Another economist noted at the time that growth in the late 1990s during the Bill Clinton presidency topped 4% for four years in a row.

Unemployment is at historic lows and wages have risen, but not everyone in the middle class is reaping the benefits.

GDP growth during the Trump presidency has mostly veered between 2% to 3% per quarter, though his 2017 tax cuts failed to lock in 3% growth.


Claim: "Just last week alone, the United States concluded two extraordinary trade deals — the agreement with China and the United States-Mexico-Canada agreement — the two biggest trade deals ever made."

Facts: Other trade deals signed have been larger.

Though the US-China trade agreement and the US-Mexico-Canada deal are both significant. Trade between the US and China amounted to $737 billion in 2018 compared to $1.4 trillion for the US and its two bordering neighbours.

But others outrank it.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership, for instance, would have included the US and 11 other nations around the Pacific and constituted 40% of the global GDP. Trump killed it shortly after taking office in 2017.

The trade talks that eventually led to the World Trade Organisation encompassed 123 countries making up 90% of global trade. The WTO now links 160 global economies together.

The European Union is itself a product of a decade-long integration project aimed at bolstering free trade, and it generated $4 trillion a year among its 27 member states in 2017.

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