On the eve of the 2016 election, Donald Trump told business leaders in New York that the U.S. economy would grow a robust 3.5% per year if he were elected president and that the nation would add 25 million new jobs in a decade.
On Wednesday, Mr. Trump said in a speech from the White House streamed online by economic clubs around the country that the economy was the strongest on record before the coronavirus pandemic, again promising vigorous economic growth if he is given another four years in office. He also sought to stir up fear about what a victory by Joe Biden and other Democrats would mean for the U.S.
"The policies of the left would unleash an economic disaster of epic proportions," Mr. Trump said, claiming that a Democratic win would lead to sharply higher taxes and "destroy our country."
"We will go into depression," the president said.
Less growth than advertised
Economists do not echo Mr. Trump's prediction of doom. Last month, an economic forecast from Moody's predicted that Biden's economic plan would result in "more jobs, a stronger economy and higher incomes for the middle class" than Trump's.
In fact,has fallen short of what he promised four years ago. Instead of rising 3.5% annually, the country's gross domestic product in the first three years of his term has risen by an average of 2.6%. Battered by the fallout from COVID-19, employers also have cut 10.5 million jobs in the past six months. Even before the pandemic, however, annual job growth never reached 2.5 million and dropped by nearly 200,000 in 2019.
On Wednesday Mr. Trump said that the economy was recovering jobs lost during the lockdowns 23 times faster than in the recovery that followed the Great Recession. He also predicted the economy would add 10 million jobs in the first six months of 2021. That pace of hiring would lift employment roughly back to where it was pre-pandemic by the middle next year.
Mr. Trump also touted his success on trade, saying he had replaced the North American Free Trade Agreement, ended the Transpacific Partnership and negotiated better trade terms with China.
"If I don't get elected … China will own the United States," Mr. Trump said.
No word on stimulus checks or jobless aid
Notably absent from Mr. Trump's speech was any mention of another round of fiscal stimulus. Mr. Trump has flip-flopped on the need for more government spending to help speed the recovery.
In a response to a question after the speech, Mr. Trump said he favors more stimulus money for certain industries, like the airlines. But he said nothing about another round of cash payments to Americans or restarting enhanced unemployment benefits.
Last week, Mr. Trump called off talks over a spending bill with Democrats, butfor significant stimulus spending, urging Congress to "go big or go home."