Trump stretches truth at his campaign kickoff
President Donald Trump boasted with abandon in launching his 2020 re-election campaign, overreached in excoriating his critics and promised progress on his border wall and health care that is improbable at best.
In those respects, his campaign rally was much like any other by the president. Here’s a look at his rhetoric from Orlando, Fla. before 20,000 fans on Tuesday night versus realities.
TRUMP: “Almost 160 million people are working. That’s more than ever before.”
THE FACTS: Yes, but that’s not a feather in a president’s cap. More people are working primarily because there are more people. Population growth drives this phenomenon.
Other than during recessions, employment growth has been trending upward since 1939, when the Labor Department began counting.
Another measure is the proportion of Americans with jobs, and that is still below record highs.
According to Labor Department data, 60.6 percent of people in the United States 16 years and older were working in May. That’s below the all-time high of 64.7 percent in April 2000 during Bill Clinton’s administration.
TRUMP: “Women’s unemployment is now the lowest it’s been in 74 years.”
THE FACTS: The jobless rate for women was 3.1% in April, the lowest in 66 years – not Trump’s 74 years. It ticked up in May to 3.2%.
TRUMP: “It’s soaring to incredible new heights. Perhaps the greatest economy we’ve had in the history of our country.”
THE FACTS: The economy is not one of the best in the country’s history.
The economy expanded at an annual rate of 3.2 percent in the first quarter of this year. That growth was the highest in just four years for the first quarter.
In the late 1990s, growth topped 4 percent for four straight years, a level it has not yet reached on an annual basis under Trump. Growth even reached 7.2 percent in 1984.
While the economy has shown strength, it grew 2.9 percent in 2018 – the same pace it reached in 2015 under President Barack Obama.
TRUMP: “We’re going to have over 400 miles of wall built by the end of next year. It’s moving very rapidly.”
THE FACTS: That’s highly unlikely, and even if so, the great majority of the wall he’s talking about would be replacement barrier, not new miles of construction. Trump has added strikingly little length to barriers along the Mexico border despite his pre-eminent 2016 campaign promise to get a wall done.
Even to reach 400 miles, he would have to prevail in legal challenges to his declaration of a national emergency or get Congress to find more money to get anywhere close.
So far, the administration has awarded contracts for 247 miles of wall construction, but that initiative has been constrained by court cases that are playing out.
TRUMP: “We’ve done so much ... with the biggest tax cut in history.”
THE FACTS: His tax cuts are nowhere close to the biggest in U.S. history.
It’s a $1.5 trillion tax cut over 10 years. As a share of the total economy, a tax cut of that size ranks 12th, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. President Ronald Reagan’s 1981 cut is the biggest, followed by the 1945 rollback of taxes that financed World War II.
TRUMP: “Our air and water are the cleanest they’ve ever been by far.”
THE FACTS: Not true about air quality, which hasn’t gotten better under the Trump administration.
U.S. drinking water is among the best by one leading measure.
After decades of improvement, progress in air quality has stagnated. Over the last two years the U.S. had more polluted air days than just a few years earlier, federal data show.
The Obama administration, in fact, set records for the fewest air polluted days, in 2016.
TRUMP on his tariffs: “We are taking in billions and billions of dollars into our treasury. ... We had never taken 10 cents from China.”
THE FACTS: Tariff money coming into the treasury is mainly from U.S. businesses and consumers, not from China. Tariffs are primarily if not entirely a tax paid domestically.
A study in March by economists from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Columbia University and Princeton University, before Trump raised tariffs even more, found that the public and U.S. companies were paying $3 billion a month in higher taxes from the trade dispute with China, suffering $1.4 billion a month in lost efficiency and absorbing the entire impact.