(AP) – In his first visit to U.S. troops in a conflict zone, President Donald Trump drew cheers when he told troops he won them their first raise in 10 years and suggested it was a whopping one. Neither is true.
“You just got one of the biggest pay raises you ever received,” Trump said to cheers Wednesday at al-Asad Air Base in Iraq. “Unless you don’t want it. Does anybody here? Is anybody here willing to give up the big pay raise you just got? I don’t see too many hands. Ah, OK. don’t give it up. It’s great. You know what? Nobody deserves it more. You haven’t gotten one in more than 10 years. More than 10 years. And we got you a big one. I got you a big one.”
Trump was wrong about there being no pay increase for service members in more than 10 years and about their raise being especially large.
U.S. military members have received a pay raise every year for decades. And several in the past 10 years have been larger than service members are getting now: 2.4 percent this year and 2.6 percent in 2019. Raises in 2008, 2009 and 2010, for example, were all 3.4 percent or more.
Pay increases shrank during the following years as the administration struggled with congressionally mandated budget caps.
Trump, aided by congressional action, did reverse the subsequent six-year trend that began in 2011 of pay raises that hovered between 1 and 2 percent. In 2017, service members got a 2.1 percent raise.
Trump has repeatedly told service members that they’re getting the biggest or only pay raise that they have received in 10 years or more. In May, for example, he told graduates of the United States Naval Academy: “We just got you a big pay raise. First time in 10 years.”
That was also incorrect.
On Wednesday at al-Asad base he added: “You had plenty of people, they came up, they said, you know we could make it smaller. We could make it 3 percent, we could make it 2 percent, we could make it 4 percent. I said, ‘No, make it 10 percent — make it more than 10 percent.’”
Whatever Trump or plenty of people might have said at the time, the 2.6 percent for 2019 obviously falls far short of the 10 percent or more he claimed.