By Stephen Tuttle | Aug. 24, 2019
Numbers are funny things. They can illuminate or deceive, confirm or deny, prove or disprove. Often, they mean little without accompanying context, and these days, we all add our own context.
When President Trump, who often makes up his own numbers, ran for president, he emphasized his love for coal, his disdain for immigrants, and his ability to make deals. He once said he could eliminate trade deficits and budget deficits in four years and eliminate the national debt in 10. Let's see how's he doing, starting with coal.
Coal mining productivity since 2016: -0.9 percent
Number of people employed by coal mining industry in 2016: 53,000
Number of people employed by coal mining industry today: 53,000
Number of new coal mines opened since 2016: 0
Number of coal mines declaring bankruptcy in 2019: 4
Megawatts of power lost due to closed coal-fired power plants during Obama Administration: 14,900
Megawatts of power lost due to closed coal-fired power plants in first two years of Trump Administration: 23,400
OK, so things aren't so robust in a coal industry that was dying before Trump took office. But there was never any chance he could resurrect the industry because coal is the most expensive and filthy fossil fuel. “Clean, beautiful coal” is terminally ill and there's no miracle treatment to save it.
Let's try that “big, beautiful steel and concrete wall” we were promised.
Miles of physical barriers on border with Mexico in 2016: 654
Miles of physical barrier on border with Mexico now: 654
There is some debate as to whether that figure should be 654 miles or 712 miles, but either way, it isn't growing. Trump claims the refurbishing and/or improvements of existing barrier counts as new wall. But remodeling your house doesn't allow you to try and sell it as new. Trump also claims Congress wouldn't cooperate with his barrier building plans, which is true.
But even Trump's prosecution and deportation of illegal immigrants, despite all the rhetoric, doesn't quite measure up.
Number of illegal immigrants prosecuted for criminal offenses and deported during last two years of Obama Administration: 352,000
Number of illegal immigrants prosecuted for criminal offenses and deported during first two years of Trump Administration: 270,000.
Obama was derisively referred to as the “deporter-in-chief” by some on the left so those numbers shouldn't be a surprise. The economic numbers should be better. Let's see ...
Percentage increase in stock market during first two years of Obama Administration: 39
Percentage increase in stock market during first two years of Trump Administration: 26
The context here, Trump supporters will quickly point out, is the market had bottomed out when Obama took office and had much more room to grow. Exactly. The economy was a shambles when Obama took over. We seem to forget that.
According to the president, we are being taken advantage of by nearly every country with which we trade. He withdrew the U.S. from both NAFTA (a trade deal with Mexico and Canada) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (a 12-country agreement designed to combat China's trade power and promote American-made goods), variously calling them “awful”, “terrible” and “stupid.” He said he would negotiate better deals with everybody, including China. When that didn't work, he started slapping tariffs on all manner of imported goods from everywhere. He said that would help end the trade deficits and force countries to make deals with us. Hmm ...
U.S trade deficit in 2016: $502.3 billion
U.S. trade deficit in 2018: $621 billion
U.S. trade deficit with China in 2016: $347 billion
U.S. trade deficit with China in 2018: $418.6 billion
Projected U.S. trade deficit with China in 2019: $450 billion
Unfortunately, that plan to end federal budget deficits isn't working out so well, either.
Federal budget deficit in 2016: $587 billion
Projected federal budget deficit in 2019: $900 billion
There are other numbers, of course. Unemployment is down to 3.7 percent, a full point lower than when he took office. Personal income is up slightly, and he did get a tax cut passed, and our economy expanded for the 10thconsecutive year. (Trump keeps claiming it was the largest tax cut in history. It was actually the 12thlargest; even the George W. Bush cuts that Obama extended were bigger.)
The president even claims he deserves some credit for the fact we have the largest economy in the world. The numbers? The U.S. has had the world's largest economy every year since 1871. Seriously.
The numbers above, all derived from government sources, don't tell the whole story. They never quite do. But they are interesting and tell us enough to know the president has not done, and is not doing, what he promised and claims.