Donald Trump promised to make America great again in 2016. He’s now intensely engaged in his re-election campaign, so let’s have a quick look at how great the US has been made since 2016.
I write this while violent riots are ripping through 20 US cities after yet another killing of a black man by white police officers, and in the week in which the COVID-19 death toll in the US passed the 100.000 mark. Yesterday, Trump delivered a10-minute attack on China, which he blames for everything that has gone wrong during the most recent part of his presidency, and a new episode in the US-China trade war seems inevitable. He concluded his rant by announcing, curiously, the withdrawal of the US from the World Health Organization – an institution perceived by Trump as being “China-centric”. Blaming others and declaring trade wars on a growing number of countries appears to be be core instruments for making America great again.
Let’s look at one indicator: public debt. I’m using the (usually quite reliable) statistics provided by Trading Economics and I’m using a ten-year window so as to allow us to take some distance from the current, highly exceptional COVID-19 crisis period.
Figure 1: US public debt, 10-year evolution.
What do we see? Well, clearly, America has been made great again, greater than under the Obama Administration. In the field of public debt, that is.
Another domain in which America has been made great again is unemployment. Here again, I use the data provided by Trading Economics, and I use a ten-year window.
Figure 2: US unemployment, ten-year evolution.
Yes, here, obviously, Trump can invoke poor luck: the enormous spike in unemployment in early 2020 is clearly provoked by the COVID-19 crisis. But – as Trump never fails to stress – the COVID-19 thing was a Chinese crisis exported to the rest of the globe. And it’s with China that Trump now picks his fights. So let’s compare the US unemployment figures to those of China (same source, same time window).
Figure 3: Unemployment in China, ten-year evolution
China suffers, obviously. But here too, America is far greater than China. So when a trade war needs to be fought, the armour of both parties appears to be in a different condition. COVID-19 has badly affected the GDP growth rate of both countries, as we can see below (same source and time window as before).
Figure 4: GDP evolution US, ten-year evolution.
Figure 5: GDP evolution China, ten-year evolution
But clearly, the average level of growth prior to the COVID-19 disaster was different in both countries (with much more modest levels of growth in the US than in China). And the political sensitivities of the social effects of the drop in GDP levels might be very different for president Xi – who can comfortably sit out the crisis – than for president Trump, who needs to be re-elected in November by a population, many of whom have become unemployed and poorer, while a U-turn in these developments prior to the elections is quite unlikely.
Finally, Trump’s US has become the greatest in the world in one domain: the number of COVID-19 victims. And it is fair to say that he, personally, has contributed significantly to that success. I provide the Statista figures of reported COVID-19 infection cases here.
As for casualties, the WHO 30 May report for the US provides a figure of 101.567. Truly an impressive achievement for president Trump.