Trump often boasts that he has benefited the economy as much as his campaign promised he would. While the economic state of America is arguably Trump’s greatest accomplishment of his presidency, the country is beginning to slow into a recession. It is natural and unavoidable for recession to come in cycles; there are some factors outside the president's control—such as global economic slowdown and the relative strength of the United States dollar—that lead to a slowing economy, but the following are 15 of Trump’s economic failures that could have been lessened or avoided.


15. Trump is failing the swing states that helped him win the election.

Sluggishness in manufacturing and agriculture is hitting particularly hard in several important battleground states. The annual growth rate in manufacturing employment is slowing in three states the president narrowly won in 2016—Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Manufacturing employment growth in Wisconsin and Michigan has fallen below the 2015 rate, and Pennsylvania is dangerously close.

14. Stiff tariffs on Chinese goods slowed China’s economy, hurting American exports.

The trade deficit is the difference between how much a country sells to its trading partners and how much it buys. It generally includes both goods and services, though Trump has focused almost exclusively on the deficit in goods. He has long boasted that his trade policies would reduce that gap, which he views as a measure of whether partners like China and the European Union are taking advantage of the United States—a diagnosis few economists share. 

Instead, in a year in which Mr. Trump imposed tariffs on steel, aluminum, washing machines, solar panels and a variety of Chinese goods, the overall trade deficit grew 12.5 from nearly $70 billion in 2017, to $621 billion. Although the United States recorded a trade surplus in services, the trade deficit in goods with the European Union and Mexico grew more than 10 percent as imports rose faster than exports.

13. Corporate profits have soared, and their wealth has not been shared. 

In 2018, U.S. unemployment was as low as it’s been in nearly two decades (3.9% as of July 2018) and the nation’s private-sector employers have been adding jobs for over 100 straight months. But despite the strong labor market, wage growth has lagged economists’ expectations. And what wage gains there have been have mostly flowed to corporations and the highest-paid tier of workers.

12. Corporate tax cuts were not used in a way that benefited the average worker.

The Trump administration said that corporations would invest their savings from tax cuts. Instead, corporations spent more money buying back shares of their own stock in 2018 rather than invest in new equipment or facilities. These stock buybacks provide no real benefit for the economy, but boost executive bonuses and payouts for wealthy investors. In addition, these companies have used the growing U.S. debt to threaten cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

11. The stock market is not thriving as much as the average American thinks it is.

Last year, the stock market had its worst year since the 2008 financial crisis. The stock market is one of the economic aspects Trump touts the most, but he causes it to be incredibly erratic and volatile. It has taken countless plummets since Trump has been elected.

10. It is too late for Trump to turn things around in time for the end of his term.

Even if the president announced an official end to the trade war tomorrow, it would be months before farmers and businesses could be confident that he was serious. After that, there would be yet more delays before prices and equipment orders rebounded, and still more before a rise in manufacturing employment. Trump would reach the end of his term long before the effects of the trade war wear off.

9. Oil prices have dropped.

Weaker national economies are a drag on oil prices. September 2019 attacks in Saudi Arabia have given prices a bit of a boost recently, but weak global demand has weighed on them since the summer. Low oil prices lead to slower investment in fracking in the U.S., which in turn leads to lower demand for manufactured equipment.

8. The “swamp” is still teeming with lobbyists. 

One of the president’s most popular mantras throughout his 2016 campaign was his promise to “drain the swamp!” of Washington lobbyists. Lobbyists argue for specific legislative decisions every day to bodies such as U.S. Congress, and their broader impacts are often unclear and self-serving. At least, that is what Trump spent months claiming in 2016. But Trump hasn’t gotten rid of them; he's put them in charge of health, safety, and environmental protections—which has endangered most Americans while increasing corporate profits even further. Political operatives and lobbyists continue to take spins through the so-called “revolving door” between government and the private sector, despite Trump’s pledge to “drain the swamp.”

7. The economic state has pushed companies to move production to foreign countries.

Trump promised to keep jobs in America and crack down on companies that ship jobs overseas. Instead, his tax law has created financial incentives for corporations to expand their operations abroad. Trump's trade wars have also encouraged companies to move production overseas.  Harley Davidson, for example, responded to retaliatory European Union tariffs by raising its own tariffs on imported U.S. bikes to 31% from 6% on June 22, 2018. This means each motorcycle will cost an average of $2,200 extra. That’s expected to add up to a burden of $90 million to $100 million annually, which Harley-Davidson will absorb rather than pass the extra costs on to customers. In the meantime, it planned to increase production in international plants into 2019.

6. America’s trade deficit is at an all-time high.

Trump promised to bring down America's trade deficit “as fast as possible.” Instead, the trade deficit has risen to its highest level in history last year. America is now purchasing more goods and services from the rest of the world than we sell abroad than at any time in history.  Last year the United States imported a record number of products, widening the deficit to $891.3 billion. 

5. Trump’s tax cuts have raised the trade deficit.

The relative strength of the United States economy is a large factor in the widening deficit, and the $1.5 trillion tax cut Mr. Trump signed in 2017—which has been largely financed by government borrowing—accelerated growth last year. Money from the tax cuts helped Americans buy more imported goods than ever in 2018. And to finance the tax cuts, the government needed to borrow more dollars, some of which came from foreign investors. Foreigners primarily get those dollars by selling more goods and services to Americans, which will, in turn, widen the trade gap.