President Donald Trump's Economic Plan

President Donald Trump

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Republican Donald John Trump is the 45th president of the United States. His first term is from 2017 to 2021. Trump's economic plan focuses on "making America great again." He negotiated "the biggest deal of my life" with those voters who felt they had lost the American Dream. Trump's policies follow economic nationalism.

"America First" Energy Plan

On June 1, 2017, Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement. The 195 signatories had pledged to cut their greenhouse-gas emissions to a level that's 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2025. They agreed to ratchet emissions to zero by 2100. They committed $3 billion to the poorer countries who are most likely to suffer damage from rising sea levels and other consequences of climate change.

The accord's goal is to keep global warming from worsening to 2 C above pre-industrial levels. A 2018 study found that temperatures above that level would pass a tipping point. For example, the Arctic tundra would thaw, releasing 45,000 years' worth of trapped greenhouse gases. It would create catastrophic warming of 5 degrees Celsius or more. Melting glaciers would increase sea levels by 200 feet.

The United States is responsible for 20% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. The other signatories can't reach the accord's goal without U.S. participation.

Trump said he wanted to negotiate a better deal, but leaders from Germany, France, and Italy said the accord is non-negotiable. China and India joined the other leaders in stating they remain committed to the agreement. Some have argued that America's withdrawal from a leadership position creates a vacuum that China will readily fill.

Business leaders from Tesla, General Electric, and Goldman Sachs said Trump's action would give foreign competitors an edge in clean energy industries. U.S. companies will lose government support and subsidies in these industries.

It will take four years to withdraw formally, making it an issue in the 2020 presidential election. 

Trump also promised to eliminate the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of U.S. rule. He pledged to allow more drilling on federal lands of shale oil and natural gas.  

Trump's plan would worsen climate change. This is also not the right time to add to the U.S. oil supply. Many shale oil companies have gone out of business since 2014 when prices fell to a 13-year low. Prices have since rebounded but would fall again if Trump expands supply. Gas prices would return to the 2016 lows. That's good for consumers but bad for Trump's job creation record.

On October 9, 2017, the Trump administration announced it would repeal the Clean Power Plan. The repeal would withdraw Obama-era limits on carbon emissions at U.S. power plants. That was part of Trump's campaign promise to revive the coal industry while remaining committed to clean coal technology. Trump claimed this would raise wages by $30 billion over seven years. 

On August 2, 2018, the Trump administration announced it would allow automakers to keep fuel efficiency standards at 36.9 miles per gallon. It rescinds the Obama administration's deal with automakers to increase to 54 miles per gallon by 2025. It would also revoke states' rights to set their own, more stringent standards. It would increase U.S. oil consumption by half a million barrels per day, increasing greenhouse-gas emissions.

On September 10, 2018, the administration planned to allow oil drillers to emit more methane into the atmosphere. It also began opening up more federal land to oil drillers. But a federal judge blocked the auction because the administration did not take into account the impact on climate change.

In March 2019, House Democrats drafted a bill to require the United States to honor its commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement.

"Smart Trade, Not Stupid Trade"

Trump's trade policies promote mercantilism. He uses protectionism to defend U.S. industries from foreign competition. His goal is to reduce the U.S. trade deficit. In theory, the wealthier companies then generate higher taxes to fund military growth.

On September 2, 2017, Trump instructed aides to withdraw from the U.S. trade agreement with South Korea. He wants the country to import more U.S. goods.

On January 23, 2017, Trump signed an order to withdraw from further negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He promised to replace it with a series of bilateral agreements. As a result, Japan and the EU announced their own trade deal. On July 6, 2017, they agreed to increase Japanese auto exports to the EU and European food exports to Japan.

On August 16, 2017, the Trump administration began renegotiating NAFTA with Canada and Mexico. The North American Free Trade Agreement is the world's largest trade agreement. Trump had threatened to withdraw from NAFTA and hit Mexican imports with a 35% tariff

On January 22, 2018, Trump imposed tariffs and quotas on imported solar panels and washing machines. On March 1, 2018, he announced a 25% tariff on steel imports and a 10% tariff on aluminum. Steel users, like automakers, will see higher costs. They'll pass that onto consumers. The stock market fell, as analysts correctly forecast that Trump's actions might start a trade war.

On April 3, 2018, Trump announced 25% tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese imported electronics, aerospace, and machinery. The administration wants China to stop requiring U.S. companies to transfer their proprietary technology to Chinese firms. They must do this if they want to gain access to China's market. China retaliated hours later. It announced 25% tariffs on $50 billion of U.S. exports to China. 

On April 6, 2018, Trump announced tariffs on $100 billion more of Chinese imports. It would cover just one-third of U.S. imports from China. If China retaliates, it would impose tariffs on all U.S. exports to China.  

On April 10, 2018, China said that trade negotiations had broken down. The United States demanded that China stop subsidizing the ten industries prioritized in its "Made in China 2025" plan.  Later that day, Chinese President Xi Jinping said he would reduce tariffs on imported vehicles. Although it allowed Trump to save face, it wouldn't affect trade very much. Most automakers find it is cheaper to build in China, regardless of tariffs. 

On May 8, 2018, Trump announced he would withdraw the United States from the Iran nuclear deal.  

On May 15, 2018, China agreed to remove tariffs on U.S. pork imports. It will also allow Qualcomm to acquire NXP. In exchange, the United States will remove tariffs on Chinese telecom company ZTE. Many countries see Trump's removal of tariffs on ZTE as a weakness they could exploit. They will redouble efforts to find exceptions to Trump's tariffs. Many European countries want to avoid U.S. sanctions on companies that do business with Iran. They may threaten tariffs on U.S. imports as a bargaining tool.

The Great Depression showed that protectionism doesn't work. Other countries retaliate and international trade declines. Instead of boosting U.S. exports, it will reduce them and increase prices on imports. Even the National Association of Manufacturing wants to expand, not end, free trade agreements.

"Repeal and Replace Obamacare"

The Trump administration has weakened Obamacare even without repealing and replacing it. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act repeals the Affordable Care Act's tax penalties for those who don't get insurance. On January 11, 2018, it allowed states to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients. It shortened the enrollment period and closed the federal exchanges during peak times during enrollment. 

Trump stopped reimbursing insurance companies for costs they incur helping low-income customers. As a result of Trump's threat, many companies forced states to allow premium increases in exchange for remaining on the exchanges for 2018. 

"Reduce the Debt"

Trump said he would reduce the national debt by eliminating waste in federal spending. He demonstrated this ability in his campaign by using Twitter instead of an expensive PR campaign. He emphasized cost containment in his book "The Art of the Deal." But his debt reduction plan adds $5.3 trillion to the nation's debt.

Trump said that cutting taxes will increase growth enough to offset the loss of revenue. The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act cut income taxes and lowered the corporate tax rate to 21%. But Trump's tax cuts will cost the government by increasing the debt. Trump's reliance on supply-side economic theory won't work. The Laffer curve says that tax rates must be in the prohibitive zone, above 50%, to work.

Trump promised to grow the economy by 6% annually to increase tax revenues. That would be too fast for healthy economic growth. It would create inflation, a boom-bust cycle, and then a crash. His tax plan forecasts a 3% growth rate.

He also said he could continue to "borrow knowing that if the economy crashed, you could make a deal. The U.S. will never default because you can print the money." These are the most dangerous statements Trump has ever uttered. The first one is a blatant falsehood. If the economy collapsed, there would be no one to make a deal with. It would send the dollar into a collapse. That would send the entire world into another Great Depression. Printing money would send the dollar back into decline. Interest rates would rise as creditors lost faith in U.S. Treasurys. That would create a recession.

"Send Illegal Immigrants Back"

Trump's immigration policies focus on blocking illegal immigration. He promised to deport the 2 million to 3 million immigrants in the United States illegally who have criminal records. On October 8, 2017, he asked Congress to withhold federal funds from "sanctuary cities." 

A crucial part of Trump's plan is to build a wall along the 2,000-mile U.S. border with Mexico. He estimated the cost at $10 billion to $20 billion. But Congress did not include funding in the Fiscal Year 2017 budget. It only added $1.6 billion to the FY 2018 budget. That's because Trump promised he would force Mexico to pay for the wall. It refused. He threatened to change a rule under the USA Patriot Act. That would confiscate Western Union money transfers to Mexico from immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally

Trump wants to ensure that open jobs are offered to American workers first. CEOs in Silicon Valley worry that he might restrict the H-1B visa program. It allows 315,000 foreign workers to fill many Silicon Valley jobs. In 2014, 65% of all these visas were for computer-related jobs. If the H-1B visa program were threatened, these companies could lose market share and valuable employees. 

"Cut the Red Tape"

During Trump's first 100 days, he asked federal departments for a list of wasteful regulations to be eliminated. He also canceled all prior executive orders. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce reported the Trump administration had issued 29 deregulatory executive actions. Federal agencies promptly issued 100 more directives. Congress introduced 50 pieces of legislation. It also repealed 14 Obama regulations. That includes a Consumer Finance Protection Bureau regulation that allowed consumers to sue credit card companies. The most critical are efforts to rescind Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act rules.

The Labor Department has delayed the fiduciary rule to July 1, 2019. It may allow some financial products, such as annuities and individual retirement account rollovers, to be exempt. Financial planners would not have to keep their customers' interest first in those products. In these small ways, Trump has chipped away at regulations without involving Congress.

In 2018, President Trump signed the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act. It eased regulations on banks with assets from $100 billion to $250 billion. The Act weakened the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protect Act of 2010

The rollback means the Fed can't designate these banks as too big to fail. They no longer have to hold as much in assets to protect against a cash crunch. They also may not be subject to the Fed's "stress tests." In addition, these smaller banks no longer have to comply with the Volcker Rule. Now banks with less than $10 billion in assets can, once again, use depositors' funds for risky investments.

The National Association of Manufacturers said that industry regulations cost the economy $2 trillion a year. Its studies show that U.S. manufacturing costs are 20% higher than in other countries. Reducing regulations would help Trump bring back some American jobs.

"Cut Government Spending" 

Trump promised to cut waste. He has reduced the number of federal employees with a hiring freeze and promised budget reductions. Many appointed positions remain unfilled.

On the other hand, Trump increased FY 2018 budget to $4.094 trillion. That's more than $4.037 trillion budgeted for FY 2017. He plans to reduce the deficit by bringing in more revenue. The administration estimates it will receive $3.654 trillion, more than the $3.460 trillion estimated for FY 2017.

That creates a $440 billion deficit. That lives up to Trump's promise to reduce the deficit. The FY 2017 budget enacted by Congress estimated a $577 billion deficit. That can't all be blamed on Obama, even though it was his last budget. Congress ignored Obama's budget and Trump's budget amendment. It created a budget that added $38.8 billion to Obama's original budget proposal. Congress' enacted budget was also $4 billion more than Trump's budget amendment.

Trump promised to eliminate the Department of Education and the Environmental Protection Administration. Instead, Trump cut funding for the Education Department by $10.4 billion. He cut the Energy Department budget by $2.2 billion. But cutting these small departments won't do much to reduce government spending

Trump pledged to update medical technology. That's already happened though. It's one of the three largely unknown benefits of Obamacare.

Trump also promised to keep existing Medicare and Social Security benefits intact. These benefits were created by prior Acts of Congress and cannot be changed by a president. Social Security is self-funded until 2035. Medicare is only 53% self-funded. These two programs cost $1.587 trillion, or 39% of total federal spending

"Be the Greatest Job-Producing President in U.S. History"

Trump would have to create more than 18.6 million jobs to take that title. That's how many jobs President Bill Clinton created. To create the most jobs percentage-wise, Trump would have to beat President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He increased jobs by 21.5%. Trump would have to create at least 32.7 million jobs to beat FDR's record

"Spend $1 trillion to rebuild U.S. infrastructure." In January 2018, the administration is planning to release a 70-page infrastructure plan. It will provide the details lacking in the June 8, 2017, "Rebuild America" plan. It outlined $200 billion in spending over 10 years to leverage $800 billion in business spending. It would reduce permit process time by eight years. It would create 1 million apprentices in two years. Trump's infrastructure plan needs to specify how it would leverage private spending. It also must pass Congress. 

Trump's plan would boost growth. Construction is the most efficient use of federal dollars to create jobs. A University of Massachusetts/Amherst study found that 1 billion dollars spent on public works created 19,795 jobs. That's better than defense spending, which created 8,555 for the same cost. 

"Create jobs by eliminating outsourcing and bringing jobs back from Japan, China, and Mexico." Trump is correct about the problem. The U.S. lost 34% of its manufacturing jobs between 1998 and 2010. Many were outsourced by U.S. companies to save money. Others were eliminated by new technology, including robotics, artificial intelligence, and bio-engineering.

Government-sponsored training for these specialties might create more jobs for U.S. workers than would Trump's trade war. 

"Keep the minimum wage where it is so U.S. companies can compete." The U.S. minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. Many states with higher costs-of-living mandated higher wages. Ireland, the United Kingdom, Australia, and six European Union countries have a higher minimum wage than the United States.

"Make the U.S. Military So Strong No One Will Mess With Us"

Trump promised to increase the Department of Defense budget by 10%. He added that 3% of GNP for military spending is too low, it should be 6.5%. Trump budgeted $574.5 billion for the DoD. That's exactly 10% more than the $526.1 billion in the FY 2017 enacted budget. U.S. military spending, including Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs, was $812 billion in FY 2017. It's more than any other government expenditure except Social Security at $967 billion. It's difficult to cut the deficit while adding to defense. 

Trump made other specific DoD promises:

  • Get more equipment. 
  • Bomb the Islamic State group and send troops to Syria. Use Russia as an ally in Syria.
  • Engage in military force against terrorists' families.
  • Add to U.S. Navy ships and the Air Force.
  • Develop a state-of-the-art missile system to defend from Iran and North Korea.
  • End the defense sequester. 

At first, Trump approved of waterboarding. Trump said he no longer supports waterboarding. He based his change of heart on a conversation with retired Marine Corps General James Mattis. (Source: "Donald Trump on War & Peace," "Donald Trump on Homeland Security," "Donald Trump and the Defense Budget," National, December 30, 2015.)

On May 11, 2017, Trump fulfilled a campaign pledge to ask the Defense Department to develop a plan to protect the nation's infrastructure from cyber-attacks. He signed an executive order to review the federal government's online vulnerabilities and adopt upgraded security practices. 

Trump promised to reform the Department of Veteran's Affairs. He said he would increase funding for battle-related mental and chronic illness. On January 9, 2018, Trump signed an executive order that expands mental health care for veterans returning to private life. Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said suicide among veterans is his chief priority. Each day, 20 veterans take their own lives. 

Trump also promised many specific changes to the VA:

  • Give veterans vouchers to use either with the VA or their doctor. That competition would give the VA an incentive to improve service. 
  • The VA would provide transitional benefits, such as business loans, job training, and placement services, to help veterans find employment.
  • Add OBGYN and other women's health services to every VA hospital.
  • Fire corrupt VA executives.
  • Change the culture of the VA to reduce inefficiencies.

These programs would work and are necessary. The VA budget of $75.1 billion is only 10% of total military spending. Many vets with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder don't receive the care they need. As a result, 10% of the homeless population are veterans who suffer from PTSD or other war-related injuries. 

Trump Discarded These Economic Policies

After meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on April 7, 2017, Trump dropped the claim that China was a currency manipulator. He had said that China artificially undervalued its currency, the yuan, by 15% to 40%. Part of China's cost advantage is its cheaper standard of living that allows lower wages. Trump ignores that. The yuan has a fixed exchange rate that's pegged to the dollar. In 2000, the yuan was undervalued by 30%. But a lot has changed since then.

First, former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson convinced the People's Bank of China to increase the yuan's value against the dollar. It increased by 2%-3% between 2000 and 2013.

Second, the dollar strengthened by 25% in 2014, taking the Chinese yuan with it. As a result, China's products cost that much more than its Southeast Asian competitors’. In August 2015, the PBOC tried letting the yuan/dollar exchange rate float in the free market. Right away, the yuan plummeted. If the yuan were undervalued, as Trump claims, it would have risen instead. Many economists think the yuan exchange rate to the dollar is overvalued, not undervalued as Trump claims. 

Trump made some health care promises on the campaign trail that have been dropped. He promised to:

  • Allow health insurance companies to operate across state lines.
  • Expand Medicaid to all states by making it a block grant program.
  • Allow consumers to purchase drugs overseas.

At one point Trump suggested a "universal" market-based plan similar to the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. He has not mentioned it since being elected. The universal plan is what Obama proposed and Congress rejected. 

Other Presidents' Economic Policies

Article Sources

  1. The Washington Post. "Trump Withdrew from the Paris Climate Deal a Year Ago. Here’s What Has Changed," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  2. National Geographic. "Climate Change Impacts Worse than Expected, Global Report Warns," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

    Ars Technica. "Researchers Suggest We Could Tip Into a Hothouse Earth—Here’s What That Means," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  3. Vox. "Melting Permafrost in the Arctic is Unlocking Diseases and Warping the Landscape," Accessed Dec. 16, 2019.

  4. Think Progress. "We’re Getting Dangerously Close to a Climate Death Spiral, New Study Warns," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  5. Whitehouse. "Presidential Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  6. CNBC. "Trump Administration to Replace Obama’s Clean Power Plan with Weaker Greenhouse Gas Rules for Power Plants," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  7. The Wall Street Journal. "EPA to Withdraw Power Plant Rules," Accessed Dec. 16, 2019.

  8. The Washington Post. "Trump Administration to Freeze Fuel-Efficiency Requirements in Move Likely to Spur Legal Battle With States," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  9. The New York Times. "Trump Administration Wants to Make It Easier to Release Methane Into Air," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  10. Grist. "Oil and Gas Leasing Rejected in Wyoming Because, Well, Climate Change," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  11. Politico. "Dems Demand Trump Abide by Paris Climate Deal," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  12. The Washington Post. "Trump Preparing Withdrawal from South Korea Trade Deal, a Move Opposed by Top Aides," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  13. The New York Times. "The E.U.-Japan Trade Deal: What’s In It and Why It Matters," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  14. The Wall Street Journal. "U.S. Imposes New Tariffs, Ramping Up ‘America First’ Trade Policy," Accessed Dec. 16, 2019.

  15. The Wall Street Journal. "Trump to Impose Steep Aluminum and Steel Tariffs," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  16. The Washington Post. "Trump Administration Targets $50 Billion in Chinese Electronics, Aerospace and Machinery Goods with Tariffs," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  17. The Wall Street Journal. "Trump Weighs Tariffs on $100 Billion More of Chinese Goods," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  18. Bloomberg. "China Talks Stalled Over Trump’s Demands on High-Tech Industries, Source Says," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  19. Bloomberg. "How ‘Made in China 2025’ Frames Trump's Trade Threats," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  20. Bloomberg. "Xi's Warmed-Up Trade Leftovers." Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  21. The Washington Post. "The Finance 202: Trump Caved to China on ZTE. Now Other Countries are Sensing Weakness," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  22. The Washington Post. "Trump Administration Opens Door to States Imposing Medicaid Work Requirements,' Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  23. The New York Times. "How to Repair the Health Law (It’s Tricky but Not Impossible)," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  24. The Wall Street Journal. "Donald Trump’s Campaign Blueprint: His Own Book," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  25. CNN. "Trump: U.S. Will Never Default 'Because You Print the Money'," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  26. The Atlantic. "Donald Trump's Economic Plans Would Destroy the U.S. Economy," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  27. The White House. "Law & Justice," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  28. The Washington Post. "Trump Reveals How He Would Force Mexico to Pay for Border Wall," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  29. The Verge. "Donald Trump’s Anti-Immigration Stance Threatens the Heart of American Innovation," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  30. The Wall Street Journal. "The Trump Deregulatory Juggernaut Is Rolling," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  31. The Wall Street Journal. "Donald Trump Signs Order Rolling Back Obama’s Climate-Change Rules," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  32. The Wall Street Journal. "Labor Department Seeks 18-Month Delay in Fiduciary Rule," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  33. United States Congress. "S.2155 - Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  34. The Washington Post. "The Finance 202: Trump-era Rollback of Dodd-Frank Leaps Forward," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  35. CBS. "Dodd-Frank Rollback: 5 Things to Know About Bill to Cut Banking Regs," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  36. Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. "Dodd-Frank Act Stress Tests," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  37. National Association of Manufacturers. "The Cost of Federal Regulation to the U.S. Economy, Manufacturing and Small Business," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  38. CBS News. "Trump Has Cut Federal Payroll by 24,000 Jobs," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  39. The Examiner. "Trump Administration Set to Unveil $1 Trillion Infrastructure Proposal in 2018," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  40. White House. "President Trump’s Plan to Rebuild America’s Infrastructure," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  41. The Washington Post. "Trump Keeps Pretending His Infrastructure Plan is Real. It’s Not," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  42. Bloomberg. "Trump’s $500 Billion Infrastructure Promise Drives Metals Rally," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  43. The University of Massachusettes Amherst. "The U.S. Employment Effects of Military and Domestic Spending Priorities: 2011 Update." Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  44. White House. "National Security & Defense," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  45. OntheIssues. "Donald Trump on Homeland Security," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  46. White House. "Foreign Policy," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  47. The National Interest. "Donald Trump, the Defense Budget and National Security," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  48. OntheIssues. "Donald Trump on Homeland Security," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  49. The New York Times. "Trump, in Interview, Moderates Views but Defies Conventions," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  50. OntheIssues. "Donald Trump on War & Peace," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

    OntehIssues. "Donald Trump on Homeland Security," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  51. National Interest. "Donald Trump and the Defense Budget," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  52. Politico. "Trump Signs Long-Awaited Cyber Order, Launching Hacking Defense Review," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  53. "Veterans Administration Reforms That Will Make America Great Again," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  54. The Washington Post. "Trump Seeks to Reduce Suicide Among Recent Veterans With New Executive Order," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  55. "Healthcare Reform," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.

  56. OntheIssues. "Donald Trump on Health Care," Accessed Dec. 19, 2019.