President Donald Trump says and does a lot of baffling things. From the infamous Access Hollywood tape to the late-night tweets that never seem to stop, Trump always manages to dominate the news cycle. That domination, unfortunately, also comes with a garnish of controversy. Another big issue with the Trump administration is credibility.
When it comes to money and finances, you can look at a number of things Trump has said that are downright baffling — mostly because he is a billionaire and self-described successful businessman. You’d think if anyone knew about money, it would be him.
But week after week, we see headlines focused on Trump quotes that make us raise our eyebrows and wonder what he’s talking about. When it comes to money and finances, here are some of the most confusing, baffling, and downright alarming things the president has said.
1. Health insurance costs $1 per month
- Trump believes a 21-year-old American can get health insurance for $12 per year.
Perhaps the most confounding thing Trump has said lately — though it did fly under the radar given everything else that’s going on — was that he thought health insurance costs $1. He was referring to health plan costs for a 21-year-old during the attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare, but his claim made very little sense. Here’s the full quote:
“Because you are basically saying from the moment the insurance, you’re 21 years old, you start working and you’re paying $12 a year for insurance, and by the time you’re 70, you get a nice plan,” he said in an interview with The New York Times.
Trump’s sense of proportion seems to be “bigly” out of step with the rest of America, too.
2. $14 million amounts to a ‘small’ loan
- Trump’s “small loan” from his father would be worth $31 million today.
One of the many eye-opening things Trump said during the campaign in 2016 was that he had received a “small loan” from his father, amounting to $1 million. That, he said, was what he used to start his empire. It turns out he had actually received $14 million. Then, years later, his father pumped another $3.5 million into his casinos. The real issue, however, is Trump considers this amount of money to be “small.” Given that the average American earns around $1 million in a lifetime, this shows Trump is a bit out of touch.
The president also says he can make billions appear on his desk within minutes.
3. He can make $2 billion appear out of thin air
- “I want $2 billion. … I’d have checks on my desk in 10 minutes.”
By now, everyone knows Trump is rich. That’s really his main shtick. He’s a rich guy. But few, if any, believe he can seriously conjure up billions of dollars with the snap of a finger. Getting that kind of cash requires time. Transfers. Liquidation. But Trump believes he can make it happen in minutes.
According to Forbes, Trump said, “It’s very simple. I call five guys about Trump Tower, [and tell them] I want $2 billion. … I’d have checks on my desk in 10 minutes.”
Next, he look at Trump’s curious belief that population size determines economic pop.
4. Population size determines economic growth
- The White House forecasts GDP growth of 3% every year from 2021 to 2027.
The administration is counting on health care and tax reforms to spur economic growth. Experts, however, don’t see it happening. In fact, GDP growth has averaged less than 2% every year since 2001. It appears the president thinks population size and economic growth potential are linked though. This shone through in the leaked transcript of an interview with The Wall Street Journal. Trump, discussing China’s growth and population, indicated the U.S. should expect to see solid growth because America is also a large nation.
As Slate’s Jordan Weissman explains, “He apparently thought that when whoever he was listening to said ‘large,’ they were talking about population. Therefore, in his mind, if China grows at nearly 7 percent per year with its 1.4 billion people, the U.S. should be able to do it too.”
Next up, can the “dealmaker” identify an actual “deal”?
5. ‘Deals’ aren’t actually ‘deals’
- By backing out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Trump might hurt low-wage Americans the most.
The president has been incredibly critical of the “deals” America has struck in the past. Trade agreements, arms treaties, and alliances (NATO) have all come up, as have some “deals” that aren’t really “deals” at all. Specifically, the Paris climate accord — which Trump backed America out of — wasn’t really a “deal,” though the president was adamant that it was an agreement that was screwing Americans and helping everyone else.
The point is there are “deals” like you’d see in the business arena, and there are agreements, treaties, and even alliances — all of which are important to global stability. Not all exist solely to screw Americans.
Up next, freedom isn’t free. Neither are jobs.
5. American jobs are free
- Trump celebrated saving 1,100 jobs at an Indiana Carrier plant, but they’ve all since been outsourced.
The administration has made a big show of attracting business and jobs to struggling parts of the country. Examples include the Carrier plant in Indiana and more recently the announcement of a new Foxconn plant in Wisconsin. But these jobs come with a heavy price tag. Indiana had to give Carrier $7 million in tax breaks to keep the jobs from being outsourced. (They were anyway, amounting to little more than a corporate giveaway from Indiana taxpayers.) And for every new job at Wisconsin’s Foxconn plant, taxpayers will be on the hook for $230,700. Jobs are good, but they’re not free.
What about the stock market? That’s a good sign, right?
6. The stock market is an indicator of the average American’s plight
- Trump’s election has spurred one of the biggest stock market rallies in history, with the Dow recently topping 22,000 for the first time in history.
It’s true the stock market has been soaring since Trump was elected. That’s certainly not a bad thing, and Trump has brought it up as a bragging point on numerous occasions. The problem, though, is it’s not necessarily a good indicator for the average American — who doesn’t have the money to invest in the stock market. As FiveThirtyEight puts it, “The stock market is not the economy,” and we’d all do well to remember that. Remember 2007 and 2008, for example?
Stock market aside, how does one value their own name? In Trump’s case, highly — and with little reason.
7. The Trump name is worth $3.3 billion
- Trump has claimed his name alone is worth more than $3 billion.
Trump’s net worth is a mystery. He claims to be worth billions — more than $10 billion specifically — but no one can actually verify it. He still hasn’t released his tax returns, so we can’t rely on those. And a big part of that worth is due to the Trump name being worth $3.3 billion. What is that estimate based on, you ask? Nobody knows. But most experts disagree with Trump’s own valuations. One writer pegged his net worth at somewhere between $150 million and $250 million — and Trump sued him for it.
From estimates about his own name to cost estimates about a border wall, Trump can’t seem to hit the target.
8. A 2,000-mile border wall will cost $4 billion
- Estimates put the actual cost for the border wall near $70 billion.
One of Trump’s key campaign promises was to build a wall along the Mexican border. The wall’s purpose would be to stop illegal immigration. At first, Trump floated the idea with a price tag of $4 billion. He then revised that number up to $6 billion to $7 billion. Then, earlier this year, he changed it again to $10 billion. He evidently has no idea how much a wall would cost, as the Department of Homeland Security put a price tag of $20 billion on the project. But the biggest and perhaps most realistic projection put the price at $70 billion. And that’s not including land acquisition costs and annual maintenance.
But this was one of the more innocent math errors the administration has made.
9. $2 trillion math errors are acceptable
- The president’s budget proposal included $2 trillion in mystery money.
The administration released a budget proposal earlier in 2017, which contained an inexplicable math error of $2 trillion. Basically, the proposal assumes tax cuts would create $2 trillion in economic activity — enough to pay for the cuts. When called on it, the White House stood its ground. Experts, however, weren’t impressed.
“This is a mistake no serious business person would make,” said former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers in a column from the Financial Times. “It appears to be the most egregious accounting error in a presidential budget in the nearly 40 years I have been tracking them.”
Next up, we consider the president’s belief that new taxes somehow won’t hurt American consumers.
10. An import tax won’t hurt American consumers
- Trump said a 20% import tax on Mexican goods would pay for the wall.
Jumping off of “the wall” and into how to pay for it, Trump has floated an idea to make Mexico cough up funding: a border tax. It’s a 20% import tax, specifically. The problem, however, is this isn’t actually a tax on Mexico. American consumers end up paying the tax and thus paying for the wall. It’s unclear whether he understands this. But if the idea is enacted, the only ones who would suffer are American consumers.
But what about the president’s solution to the budget crisis? Print more money.
11. You can ‘print money’ to avoid default
- The national debt is quickly reaching $20 trillion.
We’ve been dealing with a debt crisis for a while now. Conservatives have threatened to let the U.S. default on its payments and possibly create a global economic crisis, rather than continue to raise the debt ceiling. Trump has an interesting take on the whole thing, insisting that he’d never let the U.S. default because we “print the money” — nevermind that that’s not really how it works.
And then there’s the lesson the White House can learn from Kansas.
12. Big tax cuts will lead to an economic windfall
- Only around one-third of Americans support the White House’s tax plan.
Republicans really, really want to cut taxes — for rich people specifically. And interestingly enough, we’ve seen this in action in Kansas.
It didn’t go well. In fact, it did more harm than good, and lawmakers had to override the governor to implement tax increases. That governor, Sam Brownback, was recently given a life raft by the White House and nominated to be the head of the Office of International Religious Freedom, whatever that is. But that’s how it goes in Trump’s America — you screw up an entire state, and you’re rewarded with a (made up) post in the State Department.
And how does Trump feel about “poor” people working on economic policy?
13. ‘Poor’ people can’t work on the economy
- Education, not economic status, was the bigger factor in determining whether someone voted for Trump over Hillary Clinton.
Trump “loves the uneducated” but apparently isn’t all that fond of the poor. He said he wouldn’t want a poor person working in his Cabinet. Of course, if someone were to be given one of those posts, they probably wouldn’t be poor, but Trump seems to equate money with ability — the logic being that rich people know better.
“Somebody said, ‘Why’d you appoint a rich person to be in charge of the economy,'” Trump said, according to CNN. “I said, ‘Because that’s the kind of thinking we want.'”
Another baffling Trumpism? His misunderstanding of trade deficits.
14. ‘Trade deficits’ are giveaways to other countries
- America’s trade deficit, through June, was 13% bigger than it was in 2016.
Trump has had a great many things to say about trade and trade deficits. But like with many other aspects of the economy, they’ve been confusing. For example, Trump has cited America’s trade deficits with several countries as something to be alarmed about.
“We’re losing a tremendous amount of money, according to many stats, $800 billion a year on trade,” he told The New York Times. “So we are spending a fortune on military in order to lose $800 billion. That doesn’t sound like it’s smart to me.”
But that’s not how it works. Trade deficits aren’t giveaways to other countries. It has more to do with economic principles, such as opportunity costs and comparative advantage, than anything. There’s a reason they stitch T-shirts together in Bangladesh and not San Francisco, after all.
One final area that has Trump concerned? Immigration.
15. Slowing immigration would help the economy
The administration has been very hostile toward immigration so far and plans to cut legal immigration levels by as much as 50%. This, it seems to think, would help the economy grow. But that’s the opposite of what most economists think. America depends on immigrants — and will, well into the future. Without an influx of immigrants, many jobs will go unfilled, and a host of problems will surface. That’s not to say we shouldn’t have a streamlined, efficient system in place. But Trump’s idea to curtail immigration looks like it’ll do more harm than good.