‘Why I’m Voting for Donald Trump in 2020’ Twitter Meme

Claim

President Donald Trump achieved "4 million+ new jobs, 400 miles of Wall Built, 450,000 new manufactuing [sic] jobs," and other achievements.

Rating

Not True

Reporting

On June 18 2019, Twitter user @johncatsjr shared the following tweet (“why I’m voting for Donald Trump in 2020”), a missive picked up by innumerable other users — along with an original misspelling:

In that first version, the user spelled “manufacturing” as “manufactuing,” an error present in reposts of the same cut-and-pasted content:

In the comments of one iteration, a number of users indicated that the repeated spelling error and identical text was possible Twitter bot activity:

Bots can’t vote.

Bot, using a template I’ve seen 3 times now, the same list of “alternative facts”

This is the same, exact post I’ve seen making the rounds, under different usernames. Definite bot bullshit.

This about the 3rd or 4th time I’ve seen this, it’s a cut and paste bot acct.

Despite being spread by various accounts across Twitter at a high rate, none of the iterations we located included citations for any of the six claims made about the accomplishments of United States President Donald Trump, which we will examine individually:

  • President Trump added over four million new jobs;
  • 400 miles of border wall had been built during Trump’s administration;
  • 450,000 manufacturing jobs were added during his tenure;
  • President Trump introduced the biggest tax cuts in history;
  • President Trump introduced the highest median household income ever in the United States;
  • Nearly four million American households no longer needed food stamps under President Trump.

4 million+ new jobs

Claims that President Trump has created more than four million new jobs are perhaps among the most contested in this meme. A May 2019 MarketWatch article claimed that more than five million jobs had been created, but began by stating that whether Trump had a hand in the economic growth was questionable:

There’s a debate whether jobs growth is continuing because of President Donald Trump or in spite of him. But what is clear is that the U.S. economy is adding jobs at a solid clip nearly a decade into what’s already the second-longest post-war economic expansion on record.

At around the same time, a different MarketWatch article maintained that any added jobs were part of a long-established trajectory:

There’s a debate whether jobs growth is continuing because of President Donald Trump or in spite of him. But what is clear is that the U.S. economy is adding jobs at a solid clip nearly a decade into what’s already the second-longest post-war economic expansion on record.

[…]

So please, let’s dispense with the notion that job growth has accelerated, that wage growth is skyrocketing or that the rate of decline in the unemployment rate has picked up. None of these is true.

All that has happened is that trends that were firmly in place by 2014 are still playing out.

As the contrast between two efforts from the same news outlet illustrates, numbers mean little without context pinning them to comparative data. Wholesale addition of jobs is a metric that relies in part on the trends of previous administrations and overall economic conditions. Other news organizations have contrasted the rate of growth for jobs with related concerns, such as the effects of various tariffs.

An April 2019 FactCheck.org item examined job growth among other metrics, stating:

The average monthly gain under Trump so far is 197,000 — compared with an average monthly gain of 217,000 during Obama’s second term.

Trump will have to pick up the pace if he is to fulfill his campaign boast that he will be “the greatest jobs president that God ever created.”

As of June 2019, President Trump has been in office for roughly two years and five months, or 29 months. Using the figure of average monthly job growth provided by FactCheck.org (197,000 jobs per month) produces the same figure referenced in the first MarketWatch piece — 5.7 million jobs added during the presidency of Donald Trump.

But FactCheck notes that President Obama added an average of 217,000 jobs per month in his second term. That would produce a figure of 6.3 million jobs added in the same length of time. In contrast with President Obama, job growth under President Trump would have slowed down, not picked up.

A May 2019 ProPublica article drilled down even more on Trump’s job growth numbers, finding that many of the numerical jobs were either “opportunities for retraining and continuing education, not necessarily new jobs,” or “indirect jobs [inferred by] helping American companies sell goods to the Chinese market on its platforms.” Ultimately, the investigative outlet deemed that only “797 jobs are attributable to Trump, according to the companies that did the hiring.”

By most accounts, the “five million jobs added” figure was in fact a net loss in job growth compared to Trump’s predecessor, and nearly a million fewer jobs were created based on month-to-month statistics.

400 miles of Wall Built

The claim that 400 miles of border wall have been built since President Trump’s inauguration is also a sticky one, considering that sections of border wall already existed and continue to exist — pre-dating his administration by several years. In January 2019, the New York Times reported:

As of January [2019], no new miles of barriers had been built so far under President Trump, though some construction is expected to begin [that] month.

The Twitter meme specifically cited 400 miles of wall having been built, numbers nowhere near figures presented in the January 2019 piece:

Of the approved barriers, 40 miles of replacement barriers have been built or started. Officials expect to break ground on an additional 61 miles in 2019.

Roughly 250 miles of wall was slated for the future as of May 2019. Much of the work done on wall-related matters since Trump’s inauguration in January 2017 included the replacement or repair of existing fencing, not a wall.

There is no evidence that President Trump has presided over “400 miles of new wall.”

450,000 new manufactuing [sic] jobs

The claim President Trump added 450,000 manufacturing jobs was one that appeared to stem from legitimate sources. A February 2019 NBC News fact check examined a claim that Trump had added 600,000 manufacturing jobs, adjusting the number down:

Trump’s figure is close. The U.S. has added 454,000 manufacturing jobs since Trump took office in January 2017, some of the biggest gains in twenty years, according to jobs data. Trump’s numbers mark an acceleration of a trend that began in 2010.

But once again, a comparison with trends steadily in place before Trump took office show that the slow growth trajectory in that sector after 2008’s global economic crash began during U.S. President Barack Obama’s first term in 2010, and remained relatively stable with a slight upward trend throughout the rest of his presidency:

trump-450000-new-manufactuing-jobs

Manufacturing jobs have been slowly increasing since 2010, prior to Trump’s election in 2016.

Biggest tax cuts in history

Claims about the “biggest tax cuts in history” made in the Twitter meme implied a question — tax cuts for whom? In particular, the meme’s author was almost certainly referencing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

When that legislation was introduced, the Trump administration boasted that “President Donald J. Trump Achieved the Biggest Tax Cuts and Reforms in American History” with a briefing. But that claim was almost immediately fact checked and found to be false (or “unsupported“):

The Reagan cuts lowered the top rate to 28 percent from 70 percent. That was an impressive 60 percent drop.

But the huge tax cuts of President Warren Harding and President Calvin Coolidge, both Republicans, take the prize. In 1922, the top tax rate was 73 percent. By 1925, it was only 25 percent, almost a 66 percent decline. Coolidge alone was responsible for a 57 percent cut in taxes.

Under President John Kennedy and President Lyndon Johnson, both Democrats, the tax cuts of 1964 and 1965 cut the top rate to 70 percent from 91 percent, a decline of 23 percent.

CNN ranked the tax cut eighth, while adding context about its impact:

Tax analysts have been unequivocal that Trump’s claim is not true.

“While it is not the largest tax cut ever, it is the most poorly timed giant tax cut in history,” said Leonard Burman, institute fellow at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. “The economy is near full employment and the national debt is at a postwar record and rising fast.”
An analysis by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget found that Trump’s cut is the eighth largest since 1918.

We were unable to find any source supporting the White House’s “biggest tax cut in history” claim. Well before Americans began to feel the effects of the new tax legislation, analysts pointed out that many in lower brackets would be paying more:

However, at least early on, there will be far more winners than losers in every income group. For all but the top 1 percent of earners, no income group studied by the Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center has more than 7.6 percent of its members losing ground under the tax bill in 2018.

Over time, these broad-based tax cuts dissipate, however, due to the sunsetting of some key tax credits and a change in how inflation is calculated.

By 2027, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation, every income group below $75,000 will actually see a tax increase. Only those income ranges above $75,000 will still see a cut by 2027. And according to the Tax Policy Center, only taxpayers higher than the 90th percentile — that is, those earning about $225,000 and above — will have better-than-even odds of getting a tax cut in 2027.

By all estimates, Trump’s legislation was not even in the top five of historical tax cuts, and its provisions left many taxpayers worse off than they were previously.

Median household income highest ever

Once again, median household income is a figure for which the truth is dependent on a number of ancillary metrics. Inflation is a primary consideration due to its relevance to the value of dollars earned, as well as the factors behind an overall boost in income.

In September 2018, PBS NewsHour reported:

The median household income in 2017, adjusted for inflation, rose for the third straight year to $61,372, according to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Wednesday. It marked a 1.8 percent increase, up from $60,309 in 2016.

The increase is due largely to part-time workers becoming full-time. When solely looking at full-time workers’ average earnings, they actually dropped 1.1 percent.

Other income gaps, including those between white workers and minorities, as well as between men and women, remained largely unchanged.

That same month, CNN reported on then-new figures relating to median household income in the United States. In that report, they noted that the uptick in household income began in President Obama’s second term:

Median household income rose to $61,400 in 2017, up 1.8% from a year earlier, according to data released by the US Census Bureau on Wednesday.

The report is the first look at the nation’s fortunes under the Trump administration. The increase continues a streak of strong income growth that began in 2015 during President Barack Obama’s second term. Median income grew 3.2% in 2016 and 5.2% the year before.

Median income is now statistically tied with where it was in 2007 and in 1999, according to Census officials. (The agency changed its methodology so dollar figures prior to 2013 aren’t comparable to current numbers.)

Another contemporaneous report from The American Prospect explained that although median income was higher in 2017, the overall rate of growth had slowed from 2015 and 2016:

While the Census Bureau’s 2017 data on poverty, income, and health insurance coverage does highlight a modest uptick in median income, that uptick looks far less impressive when adjusted for inflation.

“It’s true that the median income level … is the highest on record—but that’s not as unique an achievement as it sounds. That claim could be made in 13 or 14 previous [annual] reports,” Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), said in a call with reporters. It’s also not as if median income is the highest it’s ever been in real terms. Adjusted for inflation (and for the redesign of the census survey), we are finally at pre-recession income levels—in other words, people are making about as much as they did in 2007 and 2000 (and actually, a bit less). Plus, median income rose much slower in 2017 than it had been growing in recent years. Median income grew 5.1 percent and 3.1 percent in 2015 and 2016, respectively.

In August 2018, Payscale.com evaluated the data on wage growth. The agency determined that gains made by well-paid, high-earning workers obscured a lack of growth experienced by the majority of Americans:

When we examine average or mean earnings, stagnant wages for the majority of workers are obscured by the significant growth for top earners. The gains at the top have been so large that they more than balance out the lower earners’ numbers. With unequal wage growth skewed towards high earners, we have the appearance of real wage growth “on average,” but the average American still struggles to make ends meet.

[…]

However, recent research shows that wage growth increases as you move up the earnings distribution, so these statistics actually under-represent how severely skewed wage growth is towards higher earners.

Payscale’s data tracked with September 2018 numbers compiled by Pew Research, which reflected gains seen primarily by high earners. Wealth gaps between those groups were the highest ever seen:

A recent Pew Research Center analysis also found that the wealth gaps between upper-income families and lower- and middle-income families in 2016 were at the highest levels recorded. Although the wealth of upper-income families has more than recovered from the losses experienced during the Great Recession, the wealth of lower- and middle-income families in 2016 was comparable to 1989 levels. Thus, even as the American middle class appears not to be shrinking (for now), it continues to fall further behind upper-income households financially, mirroring the long-running rise in income inequality in the U.S. overall.

Rising household income is a pre-Trump trend, due in part to inflation. When the real rates of growth are examined, middle-earners consistently fall behind and wealth gaps continue to increase.

3.9 million Americans off food stamps

The sixth and final claim held that nearly four million Americans were able to discontinue reliance on “food stamps,” the commonly-used terminology for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. Presumably, the claim hinted at newfound stability for millions of Americans formerly reliant on SNAP to stay fed.

This claim was popularized after Trump’s February 2019 State of the Union address. Fact checkers looked into the claim at that time and found that many of the reductions in SNAP recipients came before the Trump administration:

Government data show there were 44.2 million people participating in the Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program in 2016, before Trump took office. In 2018, there were 40.3 million people participating in SNAP. That’s a decline of 3.9 million, not the 5 million that Trump talked about.

The number of people participating in the SNAP program peaked in 2013 and has been going down since that time.

An earlier version of the claim circulated in 2018, and fact checkers at that time determined that the claims were based on decreases prior to Trump’s inauguration:

There are two things wrong with the claim: It credits Trump with the entire decrease in fiscal year 2017, even though he wasn’t in office for a third of the fiscal year, and it ignores a years-long trend in the reduction of food stamp recipients. If anything, the rate of the decrease in people receiving food stamps has slowed under Trump.

According to raw government data [PDF], the number of SNAP recipients peaked in 2013, with 47,636,000 Americans relying on the program. That number fell to 46,664,000 in 2014, 45,767,000 in 2015, and 44,219,000 in 2016:

TWO-MILLION-Leave-Food-Stamp-Rolls-in-Trump’s-First-Year-—-Saving-Country-3-Billion-Annually

As indicated on the chart above, a decrease in SNAP usage began between 2013 and 2014, decreasing by a million per year. FactCheck.org said of the original claim:

Enrollment went down by 1.35 million from January 2017, when Trump took office, to December 2017, according to the most recent monthly figures from the USDA, which administers SNAP. By comparison, enrollment declined by 1.88 million over the same time period in 2016 when Obama was president, from 44,852,347 in January 2016 to 42,969,079 in December 2016.

SNAP recipients began declining by the millions during President Obama’s second term in 2014. The trend continued under President Trump.

Conclusion

A widely-spread Twitter meme starting with “why I’m voting for Donald Trump in 2020” listed off a number of purported accomplishments attributed to the administration as of June 2019. Under individual examination, none of the six claims presented bore out. Contextual information about various economic metrics presented in the meme revealed a number of static numbers or misrepresented statistics, and the claims were either false or misleading.