President Trump has promised to add millions of “good jobs” to the US economy and to raise the gross domestic product by more than 4 percent annually, at one point asserting: “I think we can do better than that”—as much as 6 percent. “This is the most pro-growth, pro-jobs, pro-family plan put forth in the history of our country,” he proclaimed.
At the same time, the president has vowed to deport up to 3 million undocumented immigrants and to curtail future entries, branding immigrants as “gang members,” “drug dealers,” and “bad hombres.” After his January 27 travel ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries was blocked by the courts, Trump devised a toned-down version applied to six of them—even though his own Department of Homeland Security has concluded that “country of citizenship is unlikely to be a reliable indicator of potential terrorism.”
Trump’s economic promises verge on the delusional. Most economists think even his 4 percent boast is unrealistic, and any hopes for economic growth will be undercut by his deportation plans. In 2016, GDP grew by only 1.6 percent; since 2009, capital growth has increased by only 1.1 percent. We may get a temporary surge from tax cuts and infrastructure spending, but the Congressional Budget Office estimates in its January 2017 Budget and Economic Outlook report that from 2017 to 2027, GDP will grow at an average annual rate of only 1.9 percent. New York Times economics reporter Nelson Schwartz describes Trump’s 4 percent target as “audacious at best and fanciful at worst.”
Trump’s promise to restore good manufacturing jobs to the Rust Belt is also dubious. Because of globalization and automation, few such jobs will return. For example, Trump boasts that he saved 1,000 (actually, fewer than 800) jobs at the Carrier air-conditioning plant in Indiana, but in a few years automation will kill many of those jobs anyway. By 2011, the auto industry was producing just as many cars as before the Great Recession, but with 30 percent fewer workers because of the increased use of robots and computers. As the Times’s Eduardo Porter concludes, “No matter what [Trump] does, he cannot bring back the coal jobs of yore or the old labor-intensive manufacturing economy.”