State of the Union fact check: What Donald Trump got right and wronghttps://indianexpress.com/article/world/state-of-the-union-fact-check-what-donald-trump-got-right-and-wrong-5571379/

State of the Union fact check: What Donald Trump got right and wrong

Donald Trump returned to a theme that dominated the second year of his presidency — a quest for a border wall with Mexico to cope with what he said is a crisis of crime and drugs in the United States caused by illegal immigration.

State of the Union fact check: What Donald Trump got right and wrong
President Donald Trump delivered the State of the Union address, with Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, at the Capitol in Washington, DC on February 5, 2019. Doug Mills/Pool via REUTERS

Written by Michael Tackett And Eileen Sullivan

President Donald Trump leaned hard on the strength of the US economy during his second State of the Union address on Tuesday, but with a blend of precise statistics and gauzy superlatives that are much more difficult to measure. He also returned to a theme that dominated the second year of his presidency — a quest for a border wall with Mexico to cope with what he said is a crisis of crime and drugs in the United States caused by illegal immigration.

The two issues dominated his address, which in tone was more measured than his biting Twitter feed but in substance contained numerous claims that were false or misleading.

Here’s what Trump said and how it stacks up against the facts.

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Trump said that scientific breakthroughs had made it possible to ‘eliminate the HIV epidemic in the United States within 10 years.’

This is true.

Many scientists agree that this goal is achievable, with medicines that greatly reduce the chances that people will transmit the virus or become infected. The Trump administration says it will seek additional funds in the president’s budget, but it is not clear whether they will be enough.

Highlights: Donald Trump’s State of the Union address 

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Trump said Americans pay vastly more than people in other countries for the exact same drugs.

This is true.

Prices for brand-name prescription drugs are often much lower in foreign countries than in the United States. But Trump did not say why: Health officials in other countries often negotiate prices with drug manufacturers. Trump embraced that idea as a candidate but has dropped it as president.

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Trump said the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which replaces NAFTA, will bring back manufacturing jobs, expand US agriculture and enable more cars to be built in the United States.

This is exaggerated.

The revised trade deal with Canada and Mexico does include provisions that are intended to bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States — including minimum wage provisions for some auto manufacturing. But some economists have said those provisions could ultimately push more manufacturing — and jobs — outside of North America. The deal does allow US farmers to sell more dairy products to Canada. But the trade pact has yet to be approved by Congress, and both Democrats and Republicans say that is unlikely to happen without significant changes.

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Trump said, ‘I want people to come into our country in the largest numbers ever, but they have to come in legally.’

This is misleading.

Many of the recent changes to immigration policy introduced by the White House have targeted people who are trying to enter the country legally, such as people who are seeking asylum. The changes in asylum policy have limited the number of people who can apply for asylum each day and restricted the places where they can apply.

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Trump said that 1 migrant woman in 3 is sexually assaulted on the long journey north toward the US border.

There is no evidence.

This figure does not reflect current statistics, and while experts agree is it a serious problem, there is no definitive data available to establish how often sexual assaults against migrant women occurs. The statistic appears to come from a 2010 report that used data from a book that had been written more than a decade earlier, according to The Washington Post.

State of the Union fact check: What Donald Trump got right and wrong
Women members of Congress cheer after President Donald Trump acknowledges more women in Congress during his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington(AP/PTI Photo)

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Trump said ‘we recently imposed tariffs on $250 billion of Chinese goods — and now our Treasury is receiving billions and billions of dollars.’

This is true.

Since Trump imposed tariffs on certain imports from China — and imported steel and aluminum from around the world — federal tariff revenues have increased. Revenues from customs duties, which include tariffs, rose by $13 billion in the third quarter of 2018 compared with a year earlier, the Commerce Department reported. Technically, that money is paid by Americans who bring the goods across the border, and it is often passed on to US consumers in the form of higher prices.

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Trump said the United States was making it clear to China that it can no longer steal jobs and intellectual property from US companies.

This is true.

Trump has placed punishing tariffs on Chinese goods and imposed other restrictions in an effort to force Beijing to change its trade practices. The trade war has pushed China to the negotiating table, and the two countries are trying to reach a trade deal by March 2.

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Trump said that a border barrier in San Diego ‘almost completely ended illegal crossings.’

This is misleading.

Border apprehensions decreased by 91 percent in the San Diego sector from the 1994 fiscal year, right after the original border fencing was completed, to the 2018 fiscal year. But according to the Congressional Research Service, that fence alone “did not have a discernible impact” on the number of immigrants crossing the border into the United States illegally. Instead, a combination of additional staffing and new technology is what proved effective — in addition to the fencing. Overall, border crossings have been declining for nearly two decades even in areas without barriers.

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Trump said large, organized caravans of Central Americans are on the march to the United States.

This is exaggerated.

At the end of January, a new caravan of thousands of migrants from Central America was headed north, and some of the travelers said they intended to try to cross into the United States. But many in the caravan have said they plan to remain in Mexico, thanks in part to policies put in place by the new Mexican government.

State of the Union fact check: What Donald Trump got right and wrong
President Donald Trump shakes Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s hand (The New York Times: Doug Mills)

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Trump described illegal border crossings as an ‘urgent national crisis.’

This is false.

The number of illegal border crossings has been declining for two decades. Customs and Border Protection arrested more than 50,000 people trying to illegally cross the southwestern border each month in October, November and December. While that is an uptick from the monthly average in the fiscal year that ended in September 2017, the numbers pale in comparison to the early 2000s, when border arrests averaged about 100,000 per month.

A record number of families have tried to cross the border in recent months, overwhelming officials at the border and creating a new kind of humanitarian crisis.

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Trump said that the economy added almost 600,000 manufacturing jobs, and that ‘almost everyone’ said this was impossible.

This is false.

The economy has added 454,000 jobs manufacturing jobs since January 2017. That is closely comparable to the pace of job creation during some two-year periods during the Obama administration, and significantly slower than the pace of job creation in manufacturing in the 1990s.

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Trump said ‘We have created 5.3 million new jobs.’

This is false.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that since January 2017, when Trump took office, the economy has added 4.9 million jobs.

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Trump said, ‘Already, as a result of my administration’s efforts, in 2018 drug prices experienced their single largest decline in 46 years.’

This is misleading.

Under pressure from the White House, many drug companies delayed or rolled back price increases last year. But dozens of drug manufacturers raised prices on hundreds of medicines, in defiance of the president’s wishes. New cancer drugs, for instance, cost on average more than $100,000 a year.

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Trump said that no president has cut more regulations.

This is false.

The Trump administration has slowed the pace of adopting new rules, and it has moved to roll back some existing or proposed federal regulations, particularly in the area of environmental protection. The White House claimed that as of October 2018, a total of $33 billion worth of future regulator costs had been eliminated. But experts say that the scale of the rollbacks in the Trump era still does not exceed massive cuts in federal rules during the Carter and Reagan administrations, when rules governing airline, truck and rail transportation were wiped off the books, among other changes.

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Trump said the US economy is considered ‘far and away the hottest economy anywhere in the world.’

This is false.

The US economy expanded at an annual rate of 3.5 percent in the third quarter of 2018, the most recent available data. Growth in Latvia and Poland was almost twice as fast. The same was true for China and India. Even the troubled Greek economy posted stronger growth. And a wide range of economic analysts estimate that the growth of the US economy slowed in the fourth quarter, and slowed even further in the first month of 2019.

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After Trump finished his speech, the Democratic response was given by Stacey Abrams, the candidate for Georgia governor last year who excited many Democrats with her campaign.

Delivering the Democratic response, Abrams said, “The Republican tax bill rigged the system against working people. Rather than bringing back jobs, plants are closing, layoffs are looming, and wages struggle to keep pace with the actual cost of living.”

This is misleading.

It is true that some plants are closing in the United States, but the country has added manufacturing jobs since the passage of Trump’s signature tax bill. Wage growth is not a strong as it has been in past periods of low unemployment, but it has increased, and in recent months is outpacing inflation by more than 1 percentage point.

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Abrams mentioned that Republican state attorneys general have sued to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

This is true.

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A coalition of Republican attorneys general has on several occasions filed lawsuits in federal court to try to block provisions of the Obama administration’s health care program, including a February 2018 lawsuit. A Texas judge in December 2018 struck down the entire Affordable Care Act based on this lawsuit. But that decision has not been applied nationwide while it is appealed.