President Trump’s secondprovided an opportunity for him to make his case to Congress and the country, halfway through his term.
But it also provided ample opportunity to offer statistics and claims that need to be checked. Here are some of the claims the commander-in-chief made Tuesday night as he addressed the country, and the facts surrounding those claims.
Stacey Abrams’ response
delivered a response to the president’s address.
ABRAMS’ CLAIM: Rather than bringing back jobs, plants are closing, layoffs are looming and wages struggle to keep pace with the actual cost of living.
FACTS: True. On wages, Pew Research has also found that although wages have risen in the past 40 years, they have not really kept pace with the spending power for Americans over time.
The liberal Economic Policy Institute suggests that workers need to see nominal wage increase of 3.5 to 4 percent — a range that “significantly” exceeds the Fed’s 2 percent inflation target — in order to feel the benefits of economic growth. At this point, the year-over-year growth for private employees is just short of that target rate, at 3.2 percent.
General Motors has begun a major round of layoffs that will cut about 4,000 salaried jobs in the next two weeks. Layoffs are hitting other sectors, too, affecting media companies like Vice, Buzzfeed and the Huffington Post. According to Forbes 10,400 Verizon employees have agreed to leave and more are likely to come.
– Clare Hymes
North Korea’s nuclear program
CLAIM: Our hostages have come home (from North Korea), nuclear testing has stopped, and there has not been a missile launch in 15 months.
FACTS: Mostly true – as far as we know, but there’s more context needed. Three hostages returned to the U.S. from North Korea with Mike Pompeo in May 2018.
It’s also true there have been no nuclear tests since September 2017. North Korea claims it has dismantled part of its program. Similarly, North Korea has not conducted a ballistic missile test since September 2017. North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un claimed in April that the North no longer needs to test nuclear weapons or long-range missiles.
However, the Defense Department assesses that the North still poses an “extraordinary threat” to U.S. national security. As for the lack of missile testing, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho told the U.N. General Assembly in October that there is “no way” North Korea would get rid of its nuclear arsenal because it does not trust Washington, a conclusion shared by DNI Dan Coats.
– Kathryn Krupnik and Camilo Montoya-Galvez
Unemployment rates for minorities and Americans with disabilities
CLAIM: Unemployment for Americans with disabilities have also reached an all-time low.
FACTS: Mostly True. According to the latest job report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for persons with a disability was 8.8 percent in January 2018, and has gone up to 9 percent as of January 2019. Overall, though, the unemployment rate for persons with disabilities has significantly decreased since 2011, when it reached 15 percent.
CLAIM: African-American, Hispanic-American and Asian-American unemployment have all reached their lowest levels ever.
FACTS: True. The most recent jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics puts black unemployment at 6.8 percent. The December rate was 6.6 percent. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the lowest ever was in May 2018 at 5.9 percent. For Hispanic-Americans, the unemployment rate hit 4.0 percent in January 2019, up from 4.3 percent in December 2018. For Asian Americans, the unemployment rate was 3.1 percent in January 2018, an increase from 2.1 percent in May 2018, the lowest on-record.
– Ellee Watson/Sara Cook
New York abortion law
CLAIM: Lawmakers in New York cheered with delight upon the passage of legislation that would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments before birth. These are living, feeling, beautiful, babies who will never get the chance to share their love and dreams with the world.
FACTS: New York’s Reproductive Health Act guarantees a women’s right to abortion through 24 weeks of pregnancy. After that an abortion is only allowed if a doctor decides the fetus is not viable, or to “protect the patient’s life or health.”
Drugs crossing the southern border
CLAIM: Tens of thousands of innocent Americans are killed by lethal drugs that cross our border and flood into our cities — including meth, heroin, cocaine and fentanyl.
FACTS: This is accurate. In 2017, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl contributed to nearly 30,000 deaths, and from 2016-2017, Mexican heroin production grew by 37 percent, according to the Justice Department. Mexican cartels, the Justice Department says, deliver cheap methamphetamine to the U.S. through the southern border.
Drug seizures at the border increased from 8,900 pounds in 2010 to nearly 82,000 pounds in the months of 2018 leading up to November 2018. But Border Patrol agents seize the majority of drugs at legal ports of entry.
Murders committed by illegal immigrants
CLAIM: Year after year, countless Americans are murdered by criminal illegal aliens.
FACTS: Studies say that undocumented immigrants are less likely to commit violent crimes than American-born citizens. A study conducted by the libertarian Cato Institute found that in Texas the murder arrest rate for native-born Americans was “about 46 percent higher than the illegal immigrant homicide rate,” according to a June 2018 research note. Another study, by researchers at the University of Wisconsin, found that “increased concentrations of undocumented immigrants are associated with statistically significant decreases in violent crime.”
– Kate Smith
CLAIM: Unemployment has reached the lowest rate in half a century.
FACT CHECK: This is inaccurate now, but it was true at one point. The unemployment rate dropped to 3.7 percent in September 2018, the lowest rate since December 1969. However, it has since edged back up to 4 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
– Sara Cook
Companies coming back to the U.S.
CLAIM: Companies are coming back to our country in large numbers thanks to our historic reductions in taxes and regulations.
FACTS: This is difficult to judge. Here’s some context. Bureau of Economic Analysis data shows companies did indeed bring back to the U.S. nearly $500 billion in foreign profits in the first half of 2018. But it’s harder to say if companies themselves came back, since that activity is not tracked by the government. An estimated $2.5 trillion in U.S. corporate profits are still sitting in foreign bank accounts.
– Clare Hymes/Irina Ivanova/Glenn Coleman/Sarah Min
Assaults on female migrants
CLAIM: One in three women migrants is sexually assaulted on the journey north.
FACTS: This is challenging to judge, and there may not be enough data to fully represent the facts. “The percentage of women who have been sexually abused or assaulted is all over the place, since there is no single representative sample of all the women who cross Mexico to reach the United States,” Nestor P. Rodriguez, a sociology professor and a research associate of the Population Research Center at the University of Texas, told PolitiFact in January about this particular claim.
There is a report, however, that gives a “snapshot in time” of a select population of people, and it does appear to reflect what the president is likely talking about. A 2017 Doctors Without Borders report found “nearly one third” of women had been sexually abused during their journeys, and that was based on a review of the 2015 medical data of of more than 400 migrants in facilities where migrants seek assistance. Doctors Without Borders did not use the term sexual assault, but sexual abuse, to describe various types of violence against women and men.
The report is careful to point out in its methodology that its data demonstrates the “harrowing realities faced by many people on the route north,” but “these interviews are not necessarily representative” of the entire migrant population traveling through Mexico.
– Katiana Krawchenko
CLAIM: We are also getting other nations to pay their fair share. For years, the United States was being treated very unfairly by NATO — but now we have secured a $100 billion dollar increase in defense spending from NATO allies.
FACTS: This is accurate. North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said President Trump’s tough talk has ultimately strengthened the 70-year-old alliance by leading member nations to contribute tens of billions of additional dollars to ensure their own security.
In all, Stoltenberg continued, “by the end of next year, NATO allies will add hundred – 100 billion extra U.S. dollars toward defense. So we see some real money and some real results. And we see that the clear message from President Donald Trump is having an impact.”
– Kate Rydell
CLAIM: We recently imposed tariffs on $250 billion dollars of Chinese goods — and now our Treasury is receiving billions of dollars.
FACTS: This is somewhat misleading. Treasury is taking in billions, but China isn’t paying the tariffs: the duties are paid by importers that either swallow the cost or pass it along to consumers. In other words, it’s often U.S. consumers who have been footing the bill for tariffs.
— Irina Ivanova/Carrie Rabin
Arrests by ICE
CLAIM: In the last two years, our brave ICE officers made 266,000 arrests of criminal aliens, including those charged or convicted of nearly 100,000 assaults, 30,000 sex crimes, and 4,000 killings.
FACTS: Mostly true — the sex crimes figure stated is a few thousand higher than what ICE records show. During the Trump administration, ICE has made 274,231 criminal arrests, according to ICE’s year-end statistics. Over the course of fiscal years 2017 and 2018, ICE has arrested 99,207 individuals charged with assault, 24,020 charged with sex crimes, and 3,914 homicide charges.
– Ellee Watson
CLAIM: In just over two years since the election, we have launched an unprecedented economic boom — a boom that has rarely been seen before. We have created 5.3 million new jobs and importantly added 600,000 new manufacturing jobs –something which almost everyone said was impossible to do, but the fact is, we are just getting started.
FACTS: Partially true. On jobs — in 2017 and 2018, the U.S. economy added 4.8 million jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Counting the months after the election, but before Mr. Trump took office, the figures do add up to 5.3 million. Because jobs figures are very late to respond to economic data, most economists don’t give a particular administration credit for job creation until a month or two into the term.
MANUFACTURING JOBS: A little short of true. Between January 2017 when Mr. Trump took office and January 2019, at least according to preliminary numbers for January 2019, the number of manufacturing jobs increased by 454,000. That is slightly lower than the president’s figure. It is accurate that under President Obama’s administration, the number of manufacturing jobs decreased by roughly 200,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
– Irina Ivanova and Katiana Krawchenko
CLAIM: Americans pay vastly more than people in other countries for the exact same drugs, often made in the exact same place.
FACTS: This is true. According to the National Institutes of Health, per capita prescription drug spending in the U.S. does exceed that of all other countries. This is largely driven by brand-name drug price increases that far surpass the consumer price index. Per capita spending in 2013 was $858 in the U.S., compared with an average of $400 for 19 other industrialized countries. And according to U.S. Health and Human Services, prices charged by drug manufacturers to wholesalers for Medicare Part B drugs are 1.8 times higher in the U.S. than in other countries for the top drugs.
– Elizabeth Campbell
Women in the workforce
CLAIM: America has more women in the workforce than ever before.
FACTS: True, but more context is needed. The number of women working was 73.6 million as of January — higher than ever before. But the portion of women who are employed is lower than it was in the two previous economic expansions.
Today, 55.2 percent of women have a job. In September 2007, that figure was 56.8 percent. And in April 2000, 58 percent of women were employed, which is still the record high, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
— Irina Ivanova
CLAIM: Wages are rising at the fastest pace in decades, and growing for blue collar workers, who I promised to fight for, faster than anyone else.
FACTS: This is mostly true. Through January, average hourly wages grew 3.2 percent from a year ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They rose an even stronger 3.4 percent for non-managers, who represent the large majority of the U.S. workforce. That represents the fastest rate of wage growth in nearly a decade (not “in decades”), and is a sign that the economic expansion is finally reaching lower-paid and lower-skilled workers. But it’s far lower than the pay growth seen in prior economic recoveries. At the peak of the previous two economic expansions, in 2000 and 2007, average workers’ wages grew between 4 and 4.5 percent annually.
— Irina Ivanova/Carrie Rabin
CLAIM: The United States is now the #1 producer of oil and natural gas in the world.
FACTS: This is accurate. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Short-Term Energy Outlook from September, the United States became the number one crude oil producer in the world last year. U.S. crude oil production exceeded that of Saudi Arabia for the first time in more than two decades in February 2018, and surpassed Russia in June and August 2018 for the first time since February 1999. The U.S. surpassed Saudi Arabia to become the top petroleum producer in 2013, and has continued to hold to that trend. The United States has been the number one producer of natural gas since 2009, when it surpassed Russia to claim the top rank.
— Sara Cook