Among other things, Donald Trump promised to build a wall along the Mexican border--and that Mexico would pay for it.
Evan Vucci—AP
By Brad Tuttle
November 16, 2016

We’ve heard again and again that Donald Trump is not a politician. It’s been a huge part of why many voters found him so appealing.

One of the biggest problems with politicians, the consensus holds, is that the promises they make on the campaign trail are pretty much worthless. In a 2014 Rasmussen poll, only 4% of likely voters believed that most politicians kept their campaign promises, while 83% said most politicians don’t keep them and 13% were undecided. The picture such data paints is one in which voters believe that politicians will say and do anything to get elected—and then conveniently forget about those commitments once they’re in office.

Presumably, the thinking among Trump voters goes, he will be more likely to live up to his promises than a typical politician because, well, he’s not a politician. Presumably, the President-elect’s supporters disagree with the assessment voiced by his fellow billionaire Mark Cuban that Trump is the political version of “the guy at the bar who will say anything to get laid”—i.e., convince a voter to check his name on Election Day.

It will soon be time to see if Trump is indeed different from the usual politicians by keeping the many pledges he made during the 2016 presidential campaign. And it will be up to Trump supporters and critics alike to hold him accountable for living up to his words, particularly for all the promises to Make America Great Again in the financial sense. After all, Trump’s wealth and experience in the business world was core to why voters thought he was the best bet to improve the economy.

With that in mind, here’s a catalog of money-related promises Donald Trump made while campaigning, and where the issues stand right now. America collectively needs to call him out—just as we hopefully would with a “real” politician—if and when the promises fade into the background or are overtly disregarded. Among other things, the presidential candidate Donald Trump has promised:

He Will Build a Border Wall and Get Mexico to Pay for It

Starting on the day he announced his candidacy, Donald Trump not only promised to “build a great, great wall on our southern border,” but that he “will have Mexico pay for that wall.” He continually pledged to build “a great and beautiful wall” month after month in the campaign, while insisting that Mexico would pick up the bill—something that Mexico president Enrique Peña Nieto says will never happen.

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In the days after his election victory, Trump has focused more on deportations of illegal immigrants as the key part of his immigration policy. Recently on “60 Minutes,” the president-elect said that he still planned on building a border wall, though it might be scaled back and not particularly big or great. “There could be some fencing,” he admitted. Previously, Trump promised that the 1,900 miles along the Mexico border would be lined with a wall 30 to 55 feet high—one that was “impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful,” most likely made of concrete, and certainly not limited to mere fencing.

As for who is going to pay for whatever barrier is built, that too already seems to be up in the air. “He’ll spend a lot of time controlling the border,” Trump ally Newt Gingrich said two days after the election. “He may not spend very much time trying to get Mexico to pay for it, but it was a great campaign device.”

He Will Create a Health Care System That’s Cheaper and Better

Before being sworn in, Trump seems to be “waffling” on his pledge to repeal Obamacare, as the Washington Post put it. Specifically, Trump said he would like to keep some provisions in the Affordable Care Act, such as the prohibition against insurers denying coverage to people with preexisting conditions.

“Either Obamacare will be amended, or repealed and replaced,” Trump said to the Wall Street Journal last week. Above all, he has steadfastly promised that the changes he makes to the system will result in “great health care for much less money” than we now pay as individuals and as a country. How this might be accomplished remains to be seen.

He Will Double Economic Growth

Trump says that his policies as president will boost GDP growth to 4%, which is about double the average seen in this century. In some speeches, Trump said his plans would result in even higher GDP growth, perhaps as strong as 5% or 6%.

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In fact, even 4% GDP growth is rare in American history, and it’s especially rare in recent decades. “Since 1947, the U.S. economy has grown at a 4 percent or higher quarterly rate 104 out of 277 quarters, or 37.6 percent of the time,” CNBC reported. “It has reached that threshold in only 26 of 106 quarters, or 25 percent of the time, since 1990.”

In an August survey, 55% of economists picked Hillary Clinton as the presidential nominee who would do the best job for the economy, compared to only 15% who favored Trump. Some economists have even forecast that Trump’s economic policies could decrease GDP by 5%.

He Will Create 25 Million New Jobs

Perhaps no promise was more critical to Trump’s ability to win over voters than the one guaranteeing he would be “the greatest jobs president God ever created.” The Trump campaign pledged that his policies would create 25 million jobs over the next decade, mostly as a result of tax cuts, deregulation, and new trade deals.

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During President Barack Obama’s eight years in office, somewhere between 9 and 14 million jobs were created, compared to 5.7 million under George W. Bush and 21 million under Bill Clinton. America’s official unemployment rate has dropped steadily since 2010, and has remained below 5% in 2016. The last time unemployment was consistently this low was before the Great Recession.

American Companies Will Bring Manufacturing Back to the U.S.

A decade ago, Donald Trump said that he took “the unpopular stance that it is not always a terrible thing” to outsource jobs to other countries where labor is cheaper, in order for American companies to be more competitive globally. “Losing jobs is never a good thing, but we have to look at the bigger picture,” Trump wrote in a 2005 essay.

While running for president, however, Trump bashed companies like Ford that have taken exactly the kinds of actions described above. His promises to bring back manufacturing jobs lost to China, Mexico, and elsewhere were particularly effective in winning over blue-collar voters in Michigan and the Rust Belt, where American factories have disappeared. Critics say these jobs are never coming back, but Trump has promised otherwise.

Tax Cuts for Everyone

Trump has promised tax cuts “across the board,” including simplified brackets and lower federal taxes for Americans at all income levels, as well as dramatically lower tax rates for business owners. His plans also call for tax deductions for childcare, though the benefits only apply to “traditional” families, with no implications for men or same-sex couples.

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Critics estimate that all the tax breaks will cost the country some $6 to $7 trillion, and that the wealthy Americans (like Trump) will benefit the most by far from the changed tax structure. A Tax Policy Center’s analysis shows that the average tax bill would decrease by $2,940 in 2017, while the richest 0.1% of earners (making $3.7 million or more) would enjoy a windfall of roughly $1.1 million.

He Will Release His Tax Returns

In March 2016, Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican candidate for president, made a monumental speech pleading with his party to avoid choosing Donald Trump at the top of the ticket. “Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. He’s playing the American public for suckers: He gets a free ride to the White House and all we get is a lousy hat,” Romney said.

He also asked to Trump to release his tax returns, which presidential nominees have done for decades, but assumed Trump never would. “I predict that despite his promise to do so, first made over a year ago, he will never ever release his tax returns,” Romney said.

Romney’s prediction has held up through Election Day, and beyond. On “60 Minutes” this past weekend, Trump again said that he would release his tax returns, despite his failure to live up to this promise for at least 18 months. As usual, Trump said that he couldn’t release his returns just yet because he is under routine IRS audit, even though the IRS says Trump is totally free to release his tax returns, audit or no audit.

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Trump has more or less admitted to paying no federal taxes for nearly two decades by declaring a loss of nearly $1 billion on his Atlantic City casino investments. Nonetheless, he still hasn’t released his tax returns, leading many to speculate what else they could reveal.

Trump has also said that he’s not bothering to release his tax returns because people aren’t really interested anyway. Polls indicating that 62% of Republicans and 74% of all voters said that he should release them indicate otherwise.

So… we’re interested. And we’re still waiting.


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