Fact check: Donald Trump’s State of the Union address analyzed

Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech continued Trump’s tradtion of telling tall tales. Let’s separate Trump’s fake news from the facts.

Tax cuts

We enacted the biggest tax cuts and reforms in American history. Our massive tax cuts provide tremendous relief for the middle class and small businesses.

A typical family of four making $75,000 will see their tax bill reduced by $2,000 – slashing their tax bill in half.

This April will be the last time you ever file under the old broken system – and millions of Americans will have more take-home pay starting next month.

The tax cut signed into law last month is not the largest in American history, but the eighth largest, at about 0.9% of the gross domestic product. In 1981, Ronald Reagan signed the largest cut, at 2.89% of GDP.

The $1.1tn tax cut will mean lower taxes for every income bracket in 2019, but it is misleading to suggest that those cuts will last for everyone.

Over time the cuts disproportionately save money for the wealthiest. Some of the tax cuts phase out in 2025, meaning that by 2027 Americans earning less than $75,000 will see tax increases. More than 75% of the savings will go to people who earn more than $200,000, according to Moody’s, or about 5% of taxpayers.

The top 1% of earners will save hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, through the cuts, according to the Tax Policy Center. The president’s family could save as much as $11m, according to an analysis by the New York Times. The tax plan also eliminated the estate tax, which only affected a few thousand families with extraordinary wealth.

The stock market

Small business confidence is at an all-time high. The stock market has smashed one record after another, gaining $8tn in value. That is great news for Americans’ 401k, retirement, pension, and college savings accounts.

It’s true that the stock market is booming: the Dow Jones surpassed a record 26,000 points and saw its fastest-ever 1,000-point gain during the last year.

The stock market is not the economy, however, and does not reflect marginal wage gains and growing inequality. A Federal Reserve report published last year, for instance, found that the wealthiest 1% of American families controlled 38.6% of the country’s wealth in 2016.

Coal, energy and cars

We have ended the war on American energy – and we have ended the war on clean coal. We are now an exporter of energy to the world.

Thanks to a natural gas boom over the last 15 years, the US has become a global energy power. This success of natural gas – cheaper, more accessible and cleaner than coal – has marginalized the coal industry, limiting Trump’s efforts to save the industry.

Coal jobs and production declined for decades, collapsing 33% from 2011 to 2016, according to studies by Columbia University and the Department of Energy, due to competition from natural gas, automation and a shift away from coal in Asia.

Trump has tried to resurrect coal’s fading fortunes. He rescinded a rule that tried to keep coal mining waste out of waterways; ordered a revocation of Obama’s Clean Power Plan; and lifted a ban on mining leases on federal land. In 2017, coal exports increased compared to 2016, according to the Energy Information Association. Still, there has only been about 1% growth in coal jobs over the last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The phrase “clean coal,” coined by the coal industry, is itself controversial. The term applies not to any coal itself but power plants that remove heavy metal pollutants in the burning process and bury carbon emissions in the earth. Even such “clean” coal-fired plants still emit large levels of pollutants.

Many car companies are now building and expanding plants in the United States – something we have not seen for decades. Chrysler is moving a major plant from Mexico to Michigan; Toyota and Mazda are opening up a plant in Alabama. Soon, plants will be opening up all over the country. This is all news Americans are unaccustomed to hearing – for many years, companies and jobs were only leaving us.

Chrysler is not moving any plant from Mexico; it is keeping the Mexican factory and investing in a Michigan one. Toyota-Mazda have planned for a $1.6bn factory in Alabama, to open in several years. Several of the plans Trump is touting have been in development for several years and the US has steadily increased jobs since 2010, according to the same Bureau of Labor Statistics figures the president earlier cited.

Read the complete article on The Guardian newspaper web site.

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Fact-checking Donald Trump’s first presidential address to Congress

Highlights from Donald Trump’s first speech to Congress.

Jobs, taxes and business

“Since my election, Ford, Fiat Chrysler, General Motors, Sprint, Softbank, Lockheed, Wal Mart, and many others have announced they will invest billions and billions of dollars in the United States and will create tens of thousands of new American jobs.”

Some of these corporations announced jobs and investment before the election, though Ford credited the president with its decision to create 700 jobs and make a $700m investment in Michigan. General Motors had committed $2.9bn and Walmart announced an expansion before any votes were cast, on the other hand, and several companies, including Chrysler, had previously agreed to create jobs.

“Ninety-four million Americans are out of the labor force.”

This is a grossly exaggerated claim that seems to rely on the roughly 94 million civilians who are 16 or older and not in the labor force: a figure that includes retired people, high school and college students, people with a disability, etc. The unemployment rate in January was 4.8%, or about 7.5 million people who are looking for work but can’t find it.

“Over 43 million people are now living in poverty, and over 43 million Americans are on food stamps.”

Trump is correct that about 43 million Americans are classified as living in poverty, according to the Census Bureau, after a small decline last year. He is also correct about 43 million people using food stamps, according to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. That number reached as high as 47.6 million people in 2013, during the slow recovery.

“We will create massive tax relief for the middle class.”

Trump’s tax plan cuts taxes for all Americans but, by a wide margin, disproportionately helps the wealthiest Americans. According to a conservative thinktank, the Tax Foundation, his plan would save wealthy Americans millions of dollars and add $5.3tn to the national debt. Half of Trump’s tax cuts would go to the top 1% of earners, the thinktank estimates, and most families below the top 20% of earners would have income gains of less than 1%.

“We’ve lost more than one-fourth of our manufacturing jobs since Nafta was approved, and we’ve lost 60,000 factories since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.”

According to a study by Ball State University’s Center for Business and Economic Research, slightly more than 10% of the manufacturing jobs lost since the 1970s were due to trade deals such as Nafta. The study estimated that 88% of factory jobs lost since the 1970s were eliminated by automation.

Economists still debate the effect of Nafta on jobs. In 2015, the Congressional Research Service wrote that the “net overall effect” was “relatively modest”. “Nafta did not cause the huge job losses feared by the critics or the large economic gains predicted by supporters.” A 2012 report by the OECD found that manufacturing jobs did flee the US after the deal was signed, but also noted the broader shift toward a service economy.

Trump is correct that China has benefited from trade deals, such as the “most favored nation” status that Bill Clinton renewed for the country. But it too has started to feel the changes of robots replacing humans in the workforce.

“Right now, American companies are taxed at one of the highest rates anywhere in the world.”

The US is not even in the top 30 highest-taxed nations in the world, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The OECD’s most recent data ranks the US 31st of 34 industrialized nations for tax revenue as a percentage of GDP – far behind Denmark, Britain, Germany and Luxembourg. The US ranks 17th for corporate tax revenue, and 19th for tax revenue per capita.

“We have the worst financial recovery in 65 years.”

This claim is true only because the 2008 financial crisis was the worst economic collapse in American history except for the Great Depression, when people starved to death and moved constantly in search of work. In 1933 25% of all workers and 37% of all non-farm workers were out of work. After the 2008 financial crisis, the US lost 8.7m jobs – in October 2010, unemployment reached a peak of 10%. The recession itself lasted 18 months, officially.

“In the last eight years, the past Administration has put on more new debt than nearly all other Presidents combined.”

Trump mostly has this right, except that he ignores key context: Barack Obama inherited the Oval Office while the economy was in freefall, and after his predecessor had signed a huge stimulus bill. Obama continued the recovery efforts of George W Bush, with Republican support from Congress, which ultimately controls the purse strings of government.

“Our trade deficit in goods with the world last year was nearly $800bn.”

Trump has it almost correct that the trade deficit in goods alone neared $800bn; but he ignores the surplus in services, which reduces the deficit to about $502.3 bn, according to the Census Bureau. Economists say investment, something that Trump has welcomed, also contributes to a larger deficit.

Healthcare

“Obamacare is collapsing.”

The Affordable Care Act’s healthcare program does have problems, but it is not “collapsing” or in the much warned “death spiral” in which rising costs push healthy people out of the market, ever increasing fees and then pushing companies out as well. But healthcare premiums are increasing at varying rates around the country, on average by 22%, making an unstable market state-to-state. Rates were increasing before the law was enacted, however, and about 30 million people are enrolled in the program.

Immigration

“By finally enforcing our immigration laws, we will raise wages, help the unemployed, save billions of dollars, and make our communities safer for everyone.”

The economic benefit of Trump’s immigration plans is uncertain. The disappearance of undocumented workers could push Americans into agriculture and construction jobs over the long term, for instance, but it could also sow chaos in those industries in the short term. A fair amount of research suggests that immigration is good for the economy, and some US industries rely heavily on employees with visas (such as tech) or undocumented workers (such as agriculture).

If enacted, Trump’s plans would have also cost taxpayers billions. Trump’s promised wall would cost Americans about $21.6bn – Mexico has flatly refused to pay for it; aggressive deportation plans could cost billions more, especially if Trump greatly expands the number of federal border agents and the number of private prison contractors.

“We’ve defended the borders of other nations while leaving our own border wide open for anyone to cross and for drugs to pour in and at a now unprecedented rate.”

The US’s borders are not “wide open for anyone to cross”, with sections of wall and fencing along the southern border, 21,000 Customs and Border Patrol agents, and a recent history of aggressive deportation. Barack Obama has deported a record more than 2.5 million people, including a record 438,421 people in 2013. The US also has extremely strict vetting for visa applicants and refugees, forcing people to go through multiple rounds of interviews, background checks and medical screenings.

“Where proper vetting cannot occur … we cannot allow a beachhead of terrorism to establish itself in America.”

Trump’s suggestion that the US’s vetting methods cannot account for the systems of countries abroad has flipped the procedure of vetting on its head. The system, among the most intensive screening process in the world for refugees, relies on US agencies to vet applicants, and not those of countries abroad. Refugees must pass multiple background checks and interviews with several agencies, as well as medical checks, fingerprint and photo screenings. The process takes 18-24 months.

Foreign policy

“We’ve spent trillions and trillions of dollars overseas while our infrastructure at home has so badly crumbled.”
“America has spent approximately $6tn in the Middle East, all this while our infrastructure at home is crumbling. With this $6tn we could have rebuilt our country – twice.”

Trump does not specify what spending he’s referring to – though the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have cost an estimated $4.79tn, according to a study by Brown University researchers.

Trump is correct that US infrastructure, in general, is in dire need of repair and reconstruction. In 2013, the American Society of Civil Engineers reported that the government needs to spend roughly $1.4 tn over the next decade, or $3.6tn by 2020, to overcome the shortfall in infrastructure funding.

Trump’s claim of $6tn is misleading: it includes estimates of future spending, including veterans care for decades in the future.

Crime

“Jamiel’s 17-year-old son was viciously murdered by an illegal immigrant gang member, who had just been released from prison.”

Trump’s anecdote suggests a link between immigrants and crime, but anecdotes about individuals do not paint an accurate picture of about 11 million people, most of whom are not violent offenders or aggravated felons.

On the contrary, presidential commissions and recent academic research has in general found no links between immigrants and crime or lower rates of crime correlated to cities with more immigrants compared to those with fewer immigrants.

“The murder rate in 2015 experienced its largest single-year increase in nearly half a century. In Chicago, more than 4,000 people were shot last year alone — and the murder rate so far this year has been even higher.”

Trump has accurately stated a statistic he often distorts. Last September, the FBI reported that murders and non-negligent manslaughter rose in the US by 10.8% in 2015, the largest single-year increase since 1971. That is not the same as saying there are more murders in the US than at any point since 1971: 15,696 murders were reported in 2015, down from 1991 high of 24,703. The murder rate declined 42% from 1993 to 2014, even though the population increased by a quarter.

Trump correctly cites Chicago’s number of shooting victims; the city has suffered a significant increase in gun violence in the last two years, though it has yet to reach the highs of the mid-1990s. This year has started even more violently than 2016 did, with at least 513 people shot so far in 2017. But fewer people have been killed compared with the same period in 2016, according to the Chicago Tribune, and police do not trust a few months’ worth of data to estimate a trend.

Also worth reading: An annotated guide to Trump’s first address to Congress.
Source for this fact-checking post: The Guardian newspaper article.

Donald Trump: The unauthorized database of false things

 Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Reno. Photograph: Mike Segar/Reuters

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Reno. Photograph: Mike Segar/Reuters

The Star’s Washington Bureau Chief, Daniel Dale, has been following Donald Trump’s campaign for months. He has fact checked thousands of statements and found hundreds of falsehoods. Below are a few of the hundreds of lies by Donald Trump checked by Daniel Dale. Click the link at end of this article for the complete list of Trump lies.

1. The electoral system is rigged

“There is tremendous voter fraud.” — Oct. 17

After plummeting in the polls after the first two debates, Trump began to repeatedly question the fairness of the election. “Rigged” became his catchword.

He claimed Hillary Clinton campaign workers hired “thugs” to cause violence at his rallies, twisting the evidence from an undercover video to unfairly disparage Clinton. He claimed there was widespread voter fraud in Philadelphia, Chicago and St. Louis — cities with large black populations that heavily favour Democrats.

In Greeley, Colo., Trump told his supporters if they don’t trust mail-in ballots, they should vote again in person. So, one did. Trump supporter Terri Lynn Rote, a 55-year-old from Iowa, was charged by police for suspicion of voting twice.

2. Inner cities are dangerous hellholes

“You get shot walking to the store. They have no education. They have no jobs.” — Oct. 19

African Americans do not like Trump. A summer poll showed Trump’s support among blacks in swing states Ohio and Pennsylvania was 0 per cent. So, in an apparent effort to broaden his appeal, Trump vowed to rebuild America’s inner cities.

Trump made many of those promises in speeches to practically all-white audiences. And his broad generalizations were seen by many blacks as insulting and racist. Economic data show that many U.S. inner cities are enjoying a resurgence — and that many black Americans are educated and live in the suburbs.

Trump also regularly stated that America’s murder rate is the highest in 45 years. Actually, the U.S. murder rate is among the lowest it has been in 45 years. It did rise 10 per cent from 2014 to 2015, but the rate is still historically low at 4.9 out of every 100,000 people. In 1970, it was 7.9 out of every 100,000 people.

In sum, his statements about blacks and inner cities seem directed at white fears, not black need.

3. Hillary Clinton created Daesh

“She gave us ISIS as sure as you are sitting there.” — Oct. 19

Clinton served as Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013, at a time when the U.S. was following up on Republican president George W. Bush’s pledge to pull troops out of Iraq. That move left a power vacuum in northern Iraq that was filled by Daesh, also known as ISIS and ISIL.

Perhaps that’s why Trump repeatedly stated Clinton and Barack Obama “founded” the terror group.

But that claim is ridiculous: Daesh was already active and notorious by 2004, when it was known as Al Qaeda in Iraq. And it adopted the “Islamic State” moniker in 2006, while Bush was still president and Clinton was a senator representing New York.

Trump has also falsely disparaged the U.S.-led fight against Daesh, calling the offensive to retake Mosul in Iraq “a total disaster,” without providing evidence.

With terrorism fears front of mind for many Americans, Trump’s false claims seem aimed at making Clinton a scapegoat for the U.S.’s failings in Iraq and Syria.

4. Muslims are risky

“Hundreds of thousands of people (are) coming in from Syria when we know nothing about them.” — Oct. 9

This is another of Trump’s direct appeals to the xenophobic vote.

At the beginning of the campaign he notoriously promised to erect a wall on the southern border to keep out Mexican “rapists” and drug dealers. He built on that pledge by vowing to bar Muslims them from the United States. He later mused about listing all Muslims in a government database, a move reminiscent of what Adolf Hitler did to Jews in Nazi Germany.

His claims that Syrian refugees — 99 per cent are Muslim — are terrorists plays to the fears of the “other,” even though they are extensively vetted and are predominantly women and children. And their numbers is nowhere near Trump’s claims — about 13,000 have been admitted to the United States in 2016.

Still, Trump’s stance has endeared him to fringe, racist groups. This week, a newspaper affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan formally endorsed him.

To view the almost 500 lies fact-checked by Toronto Star Washington Bureau Chief Daniel Dale click here.