In 2016, Donald Trump vowed to champion forgotten Americans and take on the entrenched interests that he blamed for hollowing out the middle class. He categorically promised “no cuts to Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid,” and he said he would stop Wall Street from “getting away with murder”; end the outsourcing of American jobs; insure everyone with lower health care costs; and close tax loopholes for people like himself and to focus tax relief on the middle class. Trump promised to “drain the swamp” in Washington.
In office, however, President Trump’s administration has broken each of these promises, betraying the people he said he would fight for. In virtually every policy sphere, his administration has favored powerful corporations and the wealthy at the expense of middle- and working-class Americans. Trump’s broken promises have had real-life consequences for American families: less economic security; lower wages; more expensive health care; greater threats to Social Security and Medicare; and a widening gap between working Americans and the wealthy and powerful.
As President Trump prepares to give his third State of the Union address, here are seven ways his administration has broken his core economic promises and how they have let down ordinary Americans.
1. The Trump administration has tried to take away health care after promising to fix it
Trump promised to cover everyone and make health care affordable. Instead, his administration has waged a relentless assault on Americans’ health care, driving up costs and leaving more people uninsured. After coming up one vote short of repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in Congress, the administration has sought to repeal the law through the courts, throwing the federal government’s weight behind a lawsuit seeking to strike down the entire ACA. The lawsuit has been called “absurd” and “ludicrous” by diverse legal experts, but in December 2018, a Trump-appointed district judge agreed with it. His ruling was stayed, but the lawsuit continues and will likely be resolved by the end of the year.
If the Trump administration were to prevail in repealing the ACA:
- Nearly 20 million Americans would lose health insurance coverage, resulting in a 65 percent jump in the number of uninsured.
- Some 130 million Americans with preexisting conditions would lose critical protections.
- The demand for uncompensated care—or the unreimbursed services provided by hospitals and health care providers that are paid for by federal, state, or local government programs or by health care providers—would increase each year by $50 billion, putting intense strain on rural hospitals and other providers.
- 12 million seniors would be forced to pay more for prescription drugs.
- People under the age of 26 would no longer be entitled to stay on their parents’ plan.
- Preventative services for women, such as breast cancer screenings, domestic violence counseling, and pregnancy check-ins, could lose their status as “free of cost sharing” and become additional financial burdens for women.
Trump also said he would “get drug prices so far lower than they are right now,” specifically promising to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices. But in office, he has threatened to veto a House-passed bill that could lower the cost of 250 of the most expensive drugs.
2. The Trump administration pushed through a tax plan favoring the wealthy and corporations after promising to help the middle class
In 2016, President Trump said that under his tax plan, “No one will gain more from tax cuts than low- and middle-income Americans.” He promised to close tax loopholes for people like him, claiming that his tax bill would “cost me a fortune.” Likewise, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin promised “no absolute tax cut for the upper class.”
However, the Trump administration proceeded to ram through Congress a nearly $2 trillion tax giveaway heavily favoring corporations and the wealthy. Corporate tax revenue subsequently plummeted—with 91 Fortune 500 companies paying no federal income taxes at all in 2018—and Trump himself has likely seen his annual tax burden reduced by hundreds of millions of dollars.
Moreover, the promised trickle-down effects have not materialized: Business investment, which the Trump administration claimed was the key to increasing productivity and workers’ wages, has declined.
3. The Trump administration has targeted Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid after promising never to touch them
In 2016, Trump categorically promised no cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. But his budgets have targeted all three programs, and in a recent interview, President Trump said that he is now contemplating what could be much deeper cuts to Social Security and Medicare after 2020.
The president’s most recent budget cuts $10 billion from Social Security Disability Insurance—a core component of Social Security and only a fraction of the $84 billion in proposed cuts to programs that support people with disabilities—and the administration is seeking to impose new obstacles for people claiming disability benefits. The Trump budget also proposes cutting roughly $600 billion from Medicare, and it would eviscerate Medicaid, cutting the program by more than one-third.
4. Trump’s erratic actions on trade and tariffs have only hurt workers and communities
In April 2016, Trump promised, “We will keep our jobs and bring in new ones. There will be consequences for the companies that leave the United States only to exploit it later.”
Yet the Trump administration has made only a modest update to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and has achieved almost none of the United States’ main objectives with regard to China, most importantly leveling the playing field for American workers. Meanwhile, American businesses and consumers are bearing the financial brunt of the Trump administration’s directionless trade war; this administration’s policies have actually caused a recession in U.S. manufacturing. Jobless rates are rising, and layoffs have continued and even accelerated in some Midwestern states. Farmers, too, are hurting from the trade war, with family farm bankruptcies rising 24 percent in 2019.
5. The Trump administration has sold out to Wall Street despite promises to the contrary
In 2016, Trump said he would take on Wall Street: “Wall Street has caused tremendous problems for us. We’re going to tax Wall Street.” He promised to stop wealthy investment fund managers from “getting away with murder” by closing the infamous carried interest tax loophole.
But nearly immediately after his election, President Trump began filling his inner circle with Wall Street bankers. His administration has since begun to dismantle the regulations and safeguards on banking that Congress implemented in the wake of the crisis of 2008. By undermining Obama-era rules, the Trump administration has left retirees and investors more vulnerable to rip-offs. Meanwhile, the six biggest U.S. banks—Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, and Morgan Stanley—for the first time saw more than $100 billion in profits in 2018 after already received a staggering $32 billion in tax cuts from the tax law signed by President Trump in 2017. The Trump administration also bowed to lobbyists on the carried interest loophole, which is still being exploited by wealthy fund managers to avoid taxes.
6. The Trump administration has allowed America’s infrastructure to deteriorate
President Trump promised to “rebuild our roads, bridges, tunnels, highways, airports, schools, and hospitals.” He tweeted, “The only one to fix the infrastructure of our country is me – roads, airports, bridges. I know how to build, pols [politicians] only know how to talk!”
But those words have not translated into action. Despite bipartisan support for infrastructure, Trump’s administration failed to put forward a real plan to address American’s crumbling roads and bridges, which by some estimates will cost the United States $4 trillion in lost output between 2016 and 2025. Meanwhile, each passing day only compounds the need to repair and update the country’s infrastructure, which will soon cost some $4.5 trillion.
7. The Trump administration has brought in record numbers of corporate and industry lobbyists at the expense of the American people
After famously promising to “drain the swamp,” President Trump brought in “staggering” numbers of corporate lobbyists and tapped them to oversee the very industries from which they came. Turning over the reins of government to corporate lobbyists has resulted in serious consequences for the American people. Among many other special interest giveaways, the Trump administration has:
- Undermined wage theft enforcement, making it more difficult to prosecute against employers who steal from employees—a problem that costs workers more than $50 billion annually.
- Let companies force workers into mandatory arbitration agreements, which has left 60 million workers unable to bring class-action lawsuits to workplace disputes.
- Allowed companies to classify certain workers as “independent contractors” to exclude them from federal labor law protections.
- Began to dismantle environmental protections that keep air, water, and the environment clean while undermining communities’ input on projects in their backyards.
- Propped up for-profit colleges, where students are four times more likely than students who attend not-for-profit colleges to default on loans and where 88 percent of borrows have debt upon graduation—a rate higher than both public and nonprofit schools.
President Trump has broken his promises to American workers, seniors, consumers, and families time after time—and he will continue to do so. The fundamental fact underlying Trump’s presidency is his consistent betrayal of working Americans, despite promises to the contrary. Trump will no doubt try to use the State of the Union address to gloss over the economic insecurities felt by most Americans, but it is becoming increasingly clear that his administration is looking out for corporations and the wealthy at the expense of ordinary Americans.
Ryan Zamarripa is the associate director of Economic Policy at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Seth Hanlon is a senior fellow at the Action Fund.