Other than Trump, virtually no one was doing better four years ago

By Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post, March 24, 2024.


As Biden recently recalled: “In 2020, before I took office, the prior administration oversaw the largest increase in murders ever recorded.” By contrast, an FBI data report last week shows, as NBC News noted, “the new fourth-quarter numbers showed a 13% decline in murder in 2023 from 2022, a 6% decline in reported violent crime and a 4% decline in reported property crime.” Analysts suspect that “the biggest factor behind the drop in crime,” the NBC report said, “may simply be the resumption of anti-crime initiatives by local governments and courts that had stopped during the pandemic.” In large part, the American Rescue Plan made that possible with a massive $15 billion infusion to keep police on payroll and to fund a raft of safety initiatives.

“In May 2021, the Justice Department launched our violent crime reduction strategy aimed at addressing the spike in violent crime that occurred during the pandemic,” Attorney General Merrick Garland pointed out in a statement last week. He argued that the department worked “in close partnership with police departments and communities across the country to go after the recidivists and gangs that are responsible for the greatest violence; to seize illegal guns and deadly drugs; to make critical investments in hiring more law enforcement officers; and to fund evidence-based, community violence intervention initiatives.”

Trump’s “migrant crime” claim has been debunked repeatedly. In New York, for example, “police data indicate that there has been no surge in crime since April 2022, when Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas started sending buses of migrants to New York to protest the federal government’s border policy,” the New York Times reported last month. And “many major categories of crime — including rape, murder and shootings — have decreased, according to an analysis of the New York Police Department’s month-by-month statistics since April 2022.”

Nationwide, “the most common finding across all these different kinds of studies is that immigration to an area is either not associated with crime in that area, or is negatively associated with crime in that area,” criminologist Charis Kubrin told CNN last month. “Meaning more immigration equals less crime.”

Health care

If the comparison regarding crime is unfavorable for Trump, the comparison on health care is simply devastating. A couple of headlines from four years ago this month as a reminder: “At least 80% of Americans are under stay-at-home orders” (CNN, March 31, 2020); “Trump declares national emergency over coronavirus” (CNBC, March 13, 2020). In spring 2020, New York already had 200,000 reported cases. The Johns Hopkins covid-19 dashboard reported at the end of 2020: “There have been 19,228,424 confirmed covid-19 cases in the United States since the beginning of the pandemic, and 334,116 deaths.” (Biden’s 2024 campaign has cut an ad recalling a few of Trump’s self-congratulatory comments during the crisis.)

By the time Trump left office in January 2021, KFF reported, “the number of deaths from covid-19 increased so rapidly that it has clearly become the number one cause of death in the U.S., with an average of more than 3,000 people per day dying of covid-19.”

Meanwhile, Trump attempted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, a move that would have deprived 32 million Americans of coverage by 2026, according to the Congressional Budget Office, and allowed insurance companies to resume exclusion of preexisting conditions. Now, he periodically talks about cutting Medicare, only to later reverse himself when criticized.

By contrast, Biden revived ACA outreach, lowered the cost of coverage under the exchanges and thereby reached a record high of Americans with insurance coverage. In August, the Department of Health and Human Services reported that “the national uninsured rate reached an all-time low of 7.7 percent in early 2023. Approximately 6.3 million people have now gained coverage since 2020.”

In addition, the Inflation Reduction Act capped insulin prices for 4 million older Americans at $35 per month. The IRA also empowered HHS to negotiate drug prices for an expanding list of medications under Medicare, a measure that will save approximately $98.5 billion over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.


In comparing economic records, one could look back four years, at the single month of March 2020. (“Total nonfarm employment fell by 1.4 million jobs in March 2020 and a staggering 20.5 million jobs in April, creating a 22 million jobs deficit since the start of the recession and largely erasing the gains from a decade of job growth,” the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noted last month.) All those jobs have been restored and millions of others created.

Alternatively, consider the dramatic contrast between economic conditions when Trump left office (unemployment at 6.3 percent, with a 3.5 percent decrease in gross domestic product for 2020) and the current economy (unemployment at 3.9 percent in February 2023; a 2.5 percent increase in GDP for 2023). Biden comes out ahead as well on the manufacturing industry (more than 420,000 manufacturing jobs added since Biden took office) and the stock market, with all-time highs recently for both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500. “The U.S. stock market’s strong start to the year has boosted its overall gain under President Biden, with the S&P 500 benchmark now up 34% since his inauguration in 2021,” MarketWatch reported last week, compared with only a 6 percent increase under Trump at this stage in his term. Biden also did what Trump never could: pass a massive infrastructure package and help shore up supply lines and chip manufacturing.

Inflation is a different story. Inflation spiked from a 1.4 percent annualized rate when Biden took office to more than 6 percent, but has settled back to 3.2 percent. And that shortcoming comes with a caveat: Real wages (those adjusted for inflation) are up, with particular gains at the low end of the income scale.

Certainly, American voters could consider other factors when assessing whether they’re better off today than they were during the Trump administration. The Trump-installed radical conservative Supreme Court majority inflicted incalculable harm on women and the entire medical field by overturning Roe v. Wade. Trump also incited violence at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021; politicized the Justice Department; damaged U.S. alliances; and conducted a nonstop assault on objective truth and civility, while fostering a surge in hate speech and social media toxicity.

Put simply, Trump loses by every important measure in comparison with the president. Biden should be delighted to stack his record against Trump’s.