On the heels of an impeachment inquiry, President Trump’s State of the Union Address featured surprising reveals and a strong vision of American prosperity.
Trump drew a sharp contrast between himself and the Obama administration by claiming that isolationist policies and slashed regulations have brought America out of ruin to economic prosperity the likes of which has never been seen. Democrats were furious at Trump’s brazenness given the recent impeachment inquiry and the implementation of policies that they believe will hurt working class families. Pelosi ripped up her copy of the SOTU and several congresspeople and senators boycotted the debate.
Trump’s speech gave a strong vision of American prosperity in the future. His base has a strong dislike for Obama and has suffered from the recession and growing income inequality. According to recent Gallup polls, Trump enjoys a 63% approval of his handling the economy amongst republicans, so the president’s choice to focus his comments on the economy was a clever way to fire up his base as he looks towards this year’s election. Trump made references to low unemployment statistics and specifically pointed to how minorities and working class Americans were seeing economic uplift under the Trump administration. He claimed that African American youths, veterans, and workers without high school diplomas are all experiencing record-low levels of unemployment and that 7 million Americans have come off of food stamps.
In addition to saying the American economy is the best it has ever been, he spoke on “America First” approach to foreign policy, promised to route out terrorism and reduce American dependence on China. Finally, the president reaffirmed his commitment to core Republican values like Second Amendment protections and cracking down on sanctuary cities. Say what you will, but Trump policies have changed the economic and political landscape of the country and according to Gallup, 94% of Republicans are happy with how he’s doing.
One key point that Trump neglected to mention during his speech was that wages have remained virtually stagnant under the Trump administration. In comparison, wages went up 4.3% under both President Obama and President Bush and rose 6.4% under President Clinton. On the points that he did discuss, fact-checkers were quick to note that many of the trends he cited were already happening under President Obama, suggesting that the relative economic prosperity Americans are enjoying has little to do with Trump’s actual policies.
In addition, some of the comparisons Trump makes are misleading. For example, when he compares participation in the labor force under Obama (which is a statistic to the amount of people working and was influenced by Baby Boomers hitting retirement age in Obama’s second term) with job creation under Trump (which is a statistic linked to the number of jobs being created and is growing slightly slower than it was under President Obama). Furthermore, the 2.3% growth in the US economy last year falls short of the 3% the Trump administration projected and thus, by his own measure the economy is not doing well as it should. This coupled with the fact that the wealth gap is larger than it has ever been in the past 100 years means people outside of his base will not be swayed to his side by his points on the economy.
Trump made his reelection pitch to the American people with this address. While his statistics might have been misleading he represents a clear far-right conservative vision for the American future that will likely appeal to his base and alienate other voters. It remains to be seen whether Democrats will be able to galvanize their own voter base enough to get out and vote for the 2020 election.
GDP growth has stagnated to 2.3% and economists predict further economic slowing. Will GDP growth continue to shrink in the first quarter of 2020 despite Trump’s claims of a booming economy? Link
Trump claimed that NAFTA 2.0 will create “100,000 auto jobs” while an independent federal commission estimated growth at 28,000 over five years. Will we see an addition of at least 10,000 US auto jobs over the next year? Link
After steadily declining over the past 8 years unemployment has reached a 50 year low at 3.5%. Will the unemployment rate fall below 3% before the end of Trump’s first term? Link