Fact check: Verifying President Donald Trump's alleged failures in office

Chelsey Cox

The claim: America can't take four more years of President Donald Trump's "winning"

On June 12, the Facebook page Ridin' With Biden stated, "We can't take 4 more years of Trump's 'winning,'" then listed some of President Donald Trump's "accomplishments" while in office:

  • Added $5.2 trillion to the debt
  • The 10 biggest Dow drops in history
  • Highest unemployment since The Great Depression
  • Lowest approval rating of any president in modern history
  • Ended President Obama's Bull Market

"Not to mention 110,000 deaths and America becoming the epicenter of a pandemic and the laughingstock of the world,” read the caption.

The page did not respond to a request for comment from USA TODAY.

Are these statements true? 

Did Trump add $5.2 trillion to the debt?

The $5.2 trillion in additional debt was reported by Newsweek on May 14. The report referenced data released by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, a nonpartisan fiscal watchdog firm that charts government spending. 

The national debt rose from more than $19.9 trillion from Trump's inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017, to more than $25.2 trillion in May, Newsweek reported. The Peterson Foundation cited a gross federal debt of $23.7 trillion at the end of March in a June 5 report. By June 9, gross federal debt surpassed $26 trillion, according to the foundation.

USA TODAY confirmed a total national debt over $19.9 trillion on inauguration day and $25.2 trillion on May 14 was recorded by the Treasury Department.

The total national debt is comprised of accumulated deficits — the difference in tax revenue and congressional spending — and off-budget surpluses. The sale of Treasury bills, notes, bonds and savings bonds to the public is also factored into the debt, according to the Treasury Department.

The Peterson Foundation attributed an accumulation of $1 trillion in gross federal debt in just a month to the coronavirus pandemic. In early March, policymakers passed $8.3 billion in emergency funding for public health agencies and vaccine research, the foundation reported.

Most of the national debt is owned by the public, according to The Wall Street Journal. Foreign countries, including China, Japan and the U.K., own nearly 30% of U.S. debt. The Federal Reserve owns almost 12%, which is mostly attributed to Treasury securities bought by the agency to stabilize interest rates during the 2008 financial crisis, the WSJ reported.

The statement that $5.2 trillion has been added to the debt is true.

Has the Dow experienced the 10 biggest drops in history during the Trump administration?

Fox Business Network reported that 10 of the Dow's biggest single-day losses have occurred under the Trump administration. The Dow's worst day since "Black Monday" in 1987 happened on March 16, when the Dow lost 2,997 points. Historical losses were also charted this year on March 5, 9 and 12; June 11; Feb. 24 and 27;  and in 2018 on Feb. 5 and 8, and Oct. 10,  according to Fox Business Network

However, eight of the biggest point gains have also happened within the last two years, Fox Business Network reported.

By percentage rather than point loss, none of the top 10 biggest losses occurred during the Trump administration, according to financial advisory news outlet InvestmentNews.

Is the nation experiencing the highest unemployment since the Great Depression under the Trump administration?

The unemployment rate fell to 13% in May from 14.4% in April, The Pew Research Center reported. But it is still up by 9.8 percentage points from February, according to a report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number of unemployed people reached 15.2 million between April and May, a reflection of efforts to contain the COVID-19 epidemic, according to the BLS.

Prior to the epidemic, the United States experienced one of the lowest unemployment rates (3.8%) since the post-World War II era, Pew reported. The research firm also stated that unemployment during the "COVID-19 recession" is comparable to rates during the Great Depression of the 1930s, when the unemployment rate reached 25%.

It is true that the nation is at its highest unemployment since the Great Depression.

Does Trump have the lowest approval rating of any president in modern history?

Presidents Harry S. Truman and George W. Bush had the lowest Gallup presidential job approval ratings of any president in the post-World War II era, Gallup reported in 2019. Truman's historically low rating dropped to 22% in early 1952. Bush bested Truman by 3%; his lowest approval rating was 25% in late 2008, according to Gallup.

The most recent job approval rating recorded for Trump from May 24-June 8 is 39%, according to a report released by Gallup. It is lower than the average recorded for U.S. presidents from 1938-2020. At 32% and 37% respectively, Presidents Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush had lower job approval ratings than Trump in June of their fourth year in office, Gallup reported.

So it is false to say Trump has the lowest approval rating of any president in modern history.

Did Trump end Obama's bull market?

In 2018, Business Insider called the ongoing bull market, which began a few months after Obama's inauguration, "the longest ever." March 6, 2009, marked the end of the stock market decline during the Great Recession of 2007. The S&P 500 gained about 306% since the March 2009 low, Business Insider reported. 

The Dow experienced an all-time closing high of 29,551 points this February, Forbes reported, but fell by 20.3% the following month, "officially ending the bull market," according to Forbes.

Forbes' Chuck Jones said the Dow and S&P 500 lost over half their gain under Trump. "The Dow entering Bear territory is the second fastest in history, after the one day decline in October 1987 of 23%," Jones wrote.

Jones also reported that the Dow and S&P 500 both rose 28% since Trump's election. However, with Obama, the Dow increased 35% from his election and 64% from the February 2009 low, and the S&P 500 rose 36% from his election and 103% from the low point in March 2009.

The bull market that began during Obama's presidency did end while Trump was in office.

Has America become the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic?

In May, Politico Magazine reported that usage of the term "epicenter" does not reflect the nature of a viral spread. 

“I think the problem with ‘epicenter’ is a connotation that there is a singular location that is seeding cases to the rest of the world,” Alison Galvani, a professor of epidemiology at Yale University, told Politico. 

“It is particularly problematic if it leads to a sense that control measures are only necessary at the ‘epicenter.’ The entire country should be exercising caution and limiting interaction as far as possible,” Galvani said.

Moreover, recent reports suggest that Latin America has claimed the "epicenter" mantle due to a shortage of tests and inadequate government response, CNN reported in May.

"This is the new epicenter," Dr. Marcos Espinal, director of communicable diseases at the Pan American Health Organization, told CNN in May.

The BBC reported that, though they are fewer confirmed cases of COVID-19 cases in Latin America than the U.S. or Europe, testing for the disease is not as widespread and deaths from the disease may be underreported.

The U.S. has 2.5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, more than any other country in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University. Over 125,000 Americans have died of the disease; about 68,000 more than Brazil, the country with the second-highest death count.

Our rating: Partly false

We rate this claim PARTLY FALSE because some of it was not supported by our research. It is misleading to claim the 10 biggest Dow drops in history occurred during the Trump administration and that Trump has the lowest job approval rating of any president in modern history. However, the end of the bull market,  the highest unemployment since the Great Depression and an additional $5.2 trillion in national debt occurred during Trump's presidency. The United States also has the highest reported COVID-19 prevalence and mortality count in the world, to date.

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