Donald Trump’s first campaign TV ad in Colorado aims to convince voters that his vision for America will lead to a better economy than Hillary Clinton’s.
Whether Trump’s arguments make sense to you depends on what you believe about how the economy works.
The 30-second spot begins by painting a grim picture of what the country would look like if Clinton became president.
CLAIM: Under Hillary Clinton, the middle class gets crushed
The Trump campaign can’t prove this dire prediction would come true, but this ad doesn’t even attempt to justify this claim with an analysis of Clinton’s policies.
Instead, the ad bases this claim on data from presidencies past (both Republican and Democratic) to make this argument.
The ad makers reference a study on-screen by the Pew Research Center, which describes how the number of households in the middle class shrank from 2000 to 2014.
But the study never references Clinton’s economic proposals or President Barack Obama’s policies—and it includes the eight years of George W. Bush’s presidency, which saw the beginning of the Great Recession.
In fact, Pew points out this has been a trend even longer in the making, noting a longer study that shows the decline of what it defines as the middle class from 61 percent in 1971 to 50 percent in 2014.
Pew’s conclusions, however, are dreary.
“New economic research suggests that a struggling middle class could be holding back the potential for future economic growth,” according to the report. “The national trend is clear—the middle class is losing ground as a share of the population, and its share of aggregate U.S. household income is also declining.”
CLAIM: (Under Clinton) spending goes up
Unlike the previous claim, this one is rooted in analysis of Clinton’s own economic proposals.
But he could have used the candidate’s own words.
Clinton’s says she’d like to provide universal pre-K, free in-state college tuition to kids whose families earn less than $125,000, 12 weeks of paid family leave following the birth of a child and $2 billion annually for Alzheimer’s research.
The question for voters is whether they think these are worthwhile investments and whether they agree with how Clinton proposes to pay for them.
CLAIM: (Under Clinton) taxes go up
VERDICT: Needs context
The ad implies that taxes would rise across-the-board under a President Hillary Clinton, but the Democratic nominee has been specific about who would see increases.
Clinton proposed raising taxes on people who earn more than $200,000 a year and couples who earn more than $250,000, which would be in the upper end of U.S. incomes.
She also wants to cap the number of itemized deductions people can claim and place a 4 percent surtax on people with incomes above $5 million.
Clinton says this would restore “basic fairness” to our tax code, but Trump argues it would be devastating to our economy, echoing historic claims by GOP candidates that tax increases on the wealthy will hamper job creation.
CLAIM: (Under Clinton) hundreds of thousands of jobs disappear
This claim is one of the places where voters have to decide what they believe about the economy.
Trump uses a conservative group’s analysis to claim that Clinton’s tax increases on the wealthy would slow America’s growth and cost the country 311,000 jobs.
Clinton and liberal leaning economists disagree.
In any event, attempting to predict future job growth or decline as it relates to who controls the White House is an inherently troubled exercise. The availability of jobs can be effected by a great number of factors beyond a President’s control, from global market trends to technological advances that make some jobs obsolete.
The ad then pivots, and Trump lays out his vision for America.
CLAIM: Working families get tax relief
The ad justifies this claim by pointing to House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wisconsin) tax plan, which Trump has embraced.
If passed, the plan would increase the child and dependent tax credit, as well as raise the standard deduction.
The plan would also end the estate tax, which is only charged on multimillion-dollar estates.
CLAIM: Millions of new jobs created and wages go up
Trump relies on an analysis by the right-leaning Tax Foundation of the tax plan House Republicans released this spring, but it’s only one side’s argument about what Trump’s policy proposals (if enacted) might do.
“According to the Tax Foundation’s Taxes and Growth Model, the plan would significantly reduce marginal tax rates and the cost of capital, which would lead to 9.1 percent higher GDP over the long term, 7.7 percent higher wages, and an additional 1.7 million full-time equivalent jobs.”
Trump’s first Colorado television ad paints a picture of what he says America would look like if he’s elected, but believing in that future depends on what you already believe about economics.
And even if Trump’s predictions are true, it’s unlikely either scenario would play out exactly as depicted because presidents have limited authority to implement all their ideas without congressional support, which would be a challenge for either President Clinton or President Trump.