Many of Trump’s State of the Union claims don’t hold up
Washington – It’s just a fact: President Donald Trump gets a lot of his facts wrong, willfully or not. In his third State of the Union address, he made a number of erroneous or misleading claims.
We’ve fact-checked some of them.
Jobs and manufacturing
“Since my election, we have created 7 million new jobs,” Trump said, adding that such success was possible because he’d “reversed the failed economic policies” of the Obama administration.
Some 6.7 million new jobs were created during Trump’s first 35 months in office, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That compares with nearly 8 million created in the final 35 months of the Obama administration.
The nation has enjoyed 110 months of job growth, two-thirds of them under President Obama. So much for Trump reversing Obama’s “failed” policies.
“We are restoring our nation’s manufacturing might,” Trump also said, adding that 12,000 new factories have been started during his presidency.
The manufacturing sector actually has been in a recession; 12,000 such jobs were lost in December alone.
While 12,000 “factories” might suggest large plants with many workers, many of these so-called manufacturing establishments are small businesses that employ fewer than five people.
Mark Zandi of Moody’s Analytics said the nation has about 290,000 factories, a figure that hasn’t changed appreciably since 2013.
Trump hailed a 47% increase in wealth for the bottom half of American households. That news is not as good as it sounded.
It reflects Federal Reserve data showing that the bottom half’s share of total household wealth grew to just 1.6% in the third quarter of 2019 from 1.1% in the first quarter of 2017, when Trump took office. The 0.5-percentage-point difference is the 47% increase he was talking about.
For perspective, in that same time frame, the share of household wealth held by the top 1% reached more than 32%, the highest share in three decades.
Trump boasted of a “groundbreaking new agreement with China that will defend our workers, protect our intellectual property, bring billions and billions of dollars into our treasury, and open vast new markets for products made and grown right here in the U.S.A.”
The so-called Phase One trade agreement with China did not address America’s most critical concerns, including Beijing’s heavy government subsidies of its industries and policies that discriminate against foreign firms and appropriate their technologies and trade secrets.
The labor force
The president said more than 300,000 working-age people dropped out of the workforce during the Obama administration, while 3.5 million have joined in the three years since he took office.
On this and other economic claims, Trump put Obama’s record in the worst light by attributing to him the Great Recession that Obama inherited. The number of prime-wage workers has risen since hitting bottom in the spring of 2014.
Health, and preexisting conditions
“We will always protect patients with preexisting conditions,” Trump said, calling that “an ironclad pledge.” It is a claim he’s often made despite fact-checkers just as often calling it a lie.
His administration has undertaken several efforts to undermine or repeal the Affordable Care Act, including its guarantee of insurance coverage for patients with preexisting medical conditions.
After taking office, Trump pushed hard to repeal the law, cheering a Republican effort in Congress to pass a measure that would have eliminated both that guarantee and federal aid that has allowed millions of low- and moderate-income Americans to get insurance coverage.
The administration now is supporting a lawsuit by Texas and other Republican-led states to eliminate the law, often called Obamacare.
Trump made another claim: “A good life for American families also requires the most affordable, innovative and high-quality healthcare system on Earth.”
The president has yet to offer the alternative health plan he has promised since before his election, one that would provide better coverage at lower cost, as he’s put it. Instead, the administration has offered plans that are low-cost but have sharply limited coverage and aren’t available to people with preexisting conditions.
“The United States has become the No. 1 producer of oil and natural gas in the world, by far,” Trump said.
Production was rising steadily before he was elected, and the U.S. has been the leading producer of natural gas since 2009.
“To protect the environment,” Trump said, the nation would join the “One Trillion Trees Initiative,” a public-private initiative to plant trees around the world.
Environmental advocates are all for planting more trees, but most agree it’s not the most effective way to prevent the worst effects of climate change. Nor does the administration’s environmental record suggest it is likely to follow through.
Meanwhile, the administration has proposed weakening federal protections for the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, paving roads to allow more logging there.
Trump reiterated that he ordered the killing of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Suleimani on Jan. 3 because Suleimani “was actively planning new attacks.”
U.S. officials have not provided any evidence of that, and senior members of Trump’s national security team have said they never saw specific intelligence about planned attacks on four embassies, including in Baghdad, as Trump has claimed.
Trump also boasted about the CIA-led raid that left Islamic State founder Abu Bakr Baghdadi dead in Syria, claiming the U.S. operation last year gravely damaged the terrorist group.
Yet the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency and U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East, have concluded that Baghdadi’s death has not hindered Islamic State operations, according to a report this week by the Pentagon inspector general.
Trump’s border wall
The president claimed that by early next year, he will have built 500 miles of wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, fulfilling part of a key campaign pledge from 2016.
Among the first to fact-check him was Ann Coulter, the conservative pundit. She tweeted even as the president spoke, “Trump’s ‘500 miles’ of wall is really 498 miles of ‘replacement fencing.’”
–– Times correspondents Noam N. Levey, Anna M. Phillips and Tracy Wilkinson contributed to this report.