Fact Check on State of the Union Address

WASHINGTON (AP) — The “great American comeback” President Trump claimed in his State of the Union speech drew on falsehoods about U.S. energy supremacy, health care and the economy as well as distortions about his predecessor’s record.

In arguing that he has made America great again, Trump took credit for an energy boom that began under President Barack Obama, in an assertion Trump recycled from his previous State of the Union address. He inflated manufacturing gains, misrepresented policy on immigrant detention and distorted a rate of economic growth that has yet to reach the scale he promised.

Here is a look at some of his statements Tuesday night and how they compare with the facts:

Immigration
TRUMP: “Before I came into office, if you showed up illegally on our southern border and were arrested, you were simply released and allowed into our country, never to be seen again. My administration has ended catch-and-release. If you come illegally, you will now be promptly removed.”

President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

THE FACTS: That’s not true. Under previous administrations, Mexicans were quickly sent back to Mexico, while others, such as Central Americans, were held in detention until they were deported. Some people from other countries were released into the interior of the United States to wait out their immigration cases.

Despite Trump’s claims that all immigrants are now “promptly” removed, there is a backlog of 1 million cases in immigration courts, which means many people wait up to three years  before a hearing before a judge who will determine whether they are deported. And after a judge orders a person deported, travel papers must be obtained, which often leads to further delays.

As for ending “catch and release,” Trump actually expanded that policy last year during a surge in immigration, releasing thousands of people from crammed shelters along the border. The surge has passed, so fewer people are being held and fewer would need to be released. But an effort by immigration officials to detain children indefinitely was blocked by a judge, so children are still released into the country.

Oil and Gas
TRUMP: “Thanks to our bold regulatory reduction campaign, the United States has become the number one producer of oil and natural gas, anywhere in the world, by far.”

THE FACTS: Trump is taking credit for a U.S. oil and gas production boom that started under Obama. The U.S. Energy Information Administration says the United States has been the world’s top natural gas producer since 2009, top petroleum hydrocarbon producer since 2013, and top crude oil producer since 2018.

That’s owing to a shale boom that has driven up U.S. production since 2011, not to deregulation or any other new effort by the Trump administration.

Jobs and economy
TRUMP: “In eight years under the last administration, over 300,000 working-age people dropped out of the workforce. In just three years of my administration, 3.5 million working-age people have joined the workforce.”

Wage growth for production and nonsupervisory workers since 1969.

THE FACTS: Trump is being misleading with numbers to tarnish his predecessor’s record. It’s not clear what he means by “working-age,” but the size of the U.S. labor force shows that Trump is just wrong.

During the eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency, the labor force rose by 5.06 million, according to the Labor Department. The improvement reflected a rebounding economy from the Great Recession and population growth.

As the unemployment rate has fallen, more people are finding it attractive to work and join the labor force. This has enabled the labor force to climb by an impressive 4.86 million in three years under Trump.

TRUMP: “The USMCA will create nearly 100,000 new high-paying American auto jobs, and massively boost exports for our farmers, ranchers and factory workers.”

THE FACTS: That’s an exaggeration.

The U.S. International Trade Commission examined the deal with Canada and Mexico in an April 2019 report. It estimated that the deal would add 28,000 auto industry jobs six years after the deal is implemented. Government officials are quoted in the report saying they believe the sector would add 76,000 jobs based on their methodology.

It’s still not the 100,000 jobs claimed by Trump.

TRUMP: “From the instant I took office, I moved rapidly to revive the U.S. economy — slashing a record number of job killing-regulations, enacting historic and record-setting tax cuts, and fighting for fair and reciprocal trade agreements.

THE FACTS: The U.S. economy indeed is healthy, but it’s had plenty of hiccups during the Trump administration.

Trump never quite managed to achieve the liftoff he promised during the 2016 election. Instead, gains have largely followed along the same lines of an expansion that started more than a decade ago under Obama.

Total economic growth last year was 2.3%. That is roughly in line with the average gains achieved after the Great Recession — and a far cry from growth of as much 3%, 4% or more that Trump told voters he could deliver.

The tax cuts did temporarily boost growth in 2018 as deficit spending increased. But the administration claimed its tax plan would increase business investment in way that could fuel lasting growth. For the past three quarters, business investment has declined.

It’s too soon to judge the impact of the updated trade agreement with Mexico and Canada or the pact with China. But Trump premised his economic policy on wiping out the trade gap. Instead, the trade deficit has worsened under Trump.

Drug prices
TRUMP: “For the first time in 51 years, the cost of prescription drugs actually went down.”

THE FACTS: Prices for prescription drugs have edged down, but that is driven by for generics. Prices for brand-name medications are still going up, although more moderately.

Nonpartisan government experts at the Department of Health and Human Services reported last year that prices for pharmacy prescriptions went down by 1% in 2018, the first such price drop in 45 years.

The department said the last time retail prescription drug prices declined was in 1973, when they went down by 0.2%.

Manufacturing
TRUMP: “We are restoring our nation’s manufacturing might, even though predictions were that this could never be done. After losing 60,000 factories under the previous two administrations, America has now gained 12,000 new factories under my administration.”

THE FACTS: Not really.

Manufacturing has slumped in the past year, after having advanced in the previous two years. Trump’s tariffs regime and slower growth worldwide hurt the sector in ways that suggest that his policies robbed it of some of its previous strength.

Factory output fell by 1.3% over the past 12 months, according to the Federal Reserve. Manufacturing job gains decreased from more than 260,000 at the end of 2018 to a paltry 46,000 for the 12 months ended in December, according to the Labor Department. Manufacturers lost jobs last year in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — the older industrial states where Trump has promised revival.

Health care
TRUMP: “We will always protect patients with preexisting conditions.”

THE FACTS: That’s a promise, not a guarantee.

The Trump administration is backing a lawsuit by right-wing states that would overturn the entire Affordable Care Act, including its guarantees that people cannot be turned down or charged more for health insurance because of preexisting medical problems.

Trump and congressional Republicans have vowed they will protect people with preexisting conditions, but they have not said how they would do that.

Estimates of how many people could be affected if Obamacare’s protections for preexisting conditions are eliminated range from about 54 million working-age adults, in a study last year from the Kaiser Family Foundation, to as many as 133 million people in a 2017 government study that included children.

Social Security and Medicare
TRUMP: “We will always protect your Medicare and your Social Security.”

THE FACTS: In a recent television interview, Trump suggested that he’s willing to consider entitlement cuts.

During the CNBC interview, Trump was asked if tackling entitlements would ever be on his agenda. “At some point they will be,” he responded.

As a candidate in 2016, Trump vowed not to cut benefit programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

In the CNBC interview, Trump said dealing with entitlements would be “the easiest of all things” and suggested higher economic growth would make it easier to reduce spending on the programs.

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