The New York Times: 2018 State of the Union Fact-Check


Reporters from The New York Times checked the facts, falsehoods and statements in need of context from President Trump’s first State of the Union address. Watch a replay along with real time analysis here, and read an annotated transcript of the speech.

ECONOMY

“Since the election, we have created 2.4 million new jobs, including 200,000 new jobs in manufacturing alone.”

The math is correct, but context matters.

The economy has added about 169,000 jobs a month since the 2016 election, but that is somewhat less than the 185,000 jobs per month that the economy added over the previous seven years.

— Binyamin Appelbaum

ECONOMY

“African-American unemployment stands at the lowest rate ever recorded.”

True, but needs context.

It’s true that the black unemployment rate in December, 6.8 percent, was the lowest recorded, but that is also the culmination of a longer-term trend. Moreover, it’s an open question how much credit a president, especially in his first year, can take for the economy.

— Linda Qiu

ECONOMY

“After years of wage stagnation, we are finally seeing rising wages.”

False.

Wages are, in fact, rising — but at a slower rate than they were at the end of President Obama’s second term.

— Jim Tankersley

HEALTH CARE

“We eliminated an especially cruel tax that fell mostly on Americans making less than $50,000 a year — forcing them to pay tremendous penalties simply because they couldn’t afford government-ordered health plans. We repealed the core of disastrous Obamacare — the individual mandate is now gone.’’

True, but needs context.

In the newly passed tax law, Congress eliminated penalties for people who go without health insurance, starting in 2019. An estimated 4.5 percent of taxpayers paid the penalty in 2015, and nearly 60 percent of those who did earned less than $50,000 in 2015 — though the Kaiser Family Foundation found that a sizable amount of low-income Americans paying the penalty could find coverage for less.

People could, in many cases, obtain exemptions from the penalties that were indeed a major element of the Affordable Care Act. Other elements of the health care law remain intact.

— Robert Pear

ECONOMY

“Apple has just announced its plans to invest a total of $350 billion in America, and hire another 20,000 workers.”

This needs context.

The technology giant Apple did, indeed, say after the tax cut passed that it would “invest” $350 billion domestically over the next five years. But at least $275 billion of that was simply continuing the company’s past spending trends. The actual amount of new investment appears to be roughly $37 billion.

— Jim Tankersley

ECONOMY

“Many car companies are now building and expanding plants in the United States — something we have not seen for decades.”

This is an exaggeration.

Yes, some car companies have announced new or expanded plants under Trump, but that’s hardly new or unseen “for decades.” Toyota, for example, opened a plant in Mississippi in 2011.

There has been no surge in automotive employment under his tenure — it’s actually down from a year ago.

— Jim Tankersley

HEALTH CARE

“Last year, the F.D.A. approved more new and generic drugs and medical devices than ever before in our history.’’

True.

The Food and Drug Administration approved 1,027 generic drugs in the 2017 fiscal year, the highest annual total in the agency’s history. Scott Gottlieb, the F.D.A. commissioner, also said that the agency approved 95 novel medical devices last year, another record.

— Robert Pear

ENERGY

“We have ended the war on American energy — and we have ended the war on beautiful, clean coal. We are now very proudly an exporter of energy to the world.”

This is misleading.

Over all, the United States is a net energy importer, although it is projected to be a net energy exporter sometime in the 2020s.

A government analysis found that the United States became a net exporter of natural gas in 2017 for the first time since 1957, and it remains a net exporter of coal. But it is still a net importer of oil.

While it is accurate that Mr. Trump has ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to roll back regulations on the burning of coal, it has done almost nothing to revive the industry, which, economists note, was already in decline because of competition from cheaper sources like natural gas.

— Coral Davenport

ECONOMY

“Chrysler is moving a major plant from Mexico to Michigan.”

Sort of.

Chrysler announced that it would move production of heavy-duty pickup trucks from Saltillo, Mexico, to a plant in Michigan. But a truck plant in Saltillo will remain open and be “repurposed to produce future commercial vehicles for global distribution,” according to the automaker. Other plants in Mexico will also continue operations.

— Linda Qiu

HEALTH CARE

“One of my greatest priorities is to reduce the price of prescription drugs. In many other countries, these drugs cost far less than what we pay in the United States, and it’s very, very unfair.’’

True.

Prices for brand-name prescription drugs are typically higher in the United States than in other developed countries, which regulate prices or set them through negotiations with drug manufacturers. Drug makers have strenuously opposed regulation of prices in this country. Cancer drugs and other new medicines sometimes enter the U.S. market with prices exceeding $50,000 a year. And a handful of companies have driven up the prices of some decades-old drugs whose patents expired years ago.

— Robert Pear

INFRASTRUCTURE

“We built the Empire State Building in just one year — isn’t it a disgrace that it can now take 10 years just to get a permit approved for a simple road?”

Partially true, and needs context.

The Empire State Building was built in just over a year. But construction time shouldn’t be compared with the time needed to get a permit (the design for the Empire State Building changed at least 15 times during planning and construction). The requirements for construction and permits are also different between roads and buildings, two different pieces of infrastructure.

Mr. Trump is also overstating the process for building roads. While some bigger projects can take around 10 years to receive permits, small projects, like repaving a road, can take little to no time at all. Average wait times have ranged from three to six years over the past two decades, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

— Emily Cochrane

IMMIGRATION

“The second pillar fully secures the border. That means building a wall on the Southern border, and it means hiring more heroes like C.J. to keep our communities safe.”

The wall’s impact is unclear.

Homeland Security officials say a border wall would slow the influx of illegal immigrants and drug smugglers and help Border Patrol agents stop them. But it, alone, would not fully stop immigration or the flow of drugs; nor would it make the border fully secure. A majority of border crossings occurred in places where fencing or walls already exist. Just 30 percent of known illegal entries took place in areas without border fencing.

— Ron Nixon

IMMIGRATION

“The third pillar ends the visa lottery — a program that randomly hands out green cards without any regard for skill, merit or the safety of our people.”

False.

The visa lottery program provides 50,000 immigrant visas to people from countries with low immigration rates to the United States.

An 18-page guide from the State Department says applicants must have a high school education or two years of work experience in the past five years that requires “two years of training or experience.”

The applicant must undergo a medical exam and cannot have a criminal record. Visa winners are then subjected to a lengthy background check that can last for months.

— Ron Nixon

IMMIGRATION

“Under the current broken system, a single immigrant can bring in virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives.”

This claim is misleading.

Immigrants who obtain green cards or citizenship can petition to bring in their relatives. But that doesn’t automatically allow entry into the United States. Anyone applying for residency must undergo national security and criminal background checks.

The federal government also places annual caps on the number of immigrants’ married children and adult siblings who can sponsor for a visa. The system is badly backlogged; as of Nov. 1, more than 3.9 million people were waiting in line. Some siblings of immigrants who in 2004 petitioned for a visa to come to the United States were just this month starting to have their claims processed.

— Ron Nixon

NATIONAL SECURITY

“The coalition to defeat ISIS has liberated almost 100 percent of the territory once held by these killers in Iraq and Syria.”

True, but needs context.

Mr. Trump is correct that the Islamic State has been forced from most of its previously held territory — 98 percent — in Iraq and Syria. But he is reaping the advantage of a strategy begun in the Obama administration.

American-led forces had already wrested more than 13,000 square miles of territory from the group by the time Mr. Trump was elected in November 2016. Things accelerated after he gave American commanders more authority to order airstrikes and make battlefield decisions. But the defeat of the caliphate does not mean the end of the Islamic State, or ISIS, as a movement or ideology.

— Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt

ECONOMY

“The stock market has smashed one record after another.”

True.

The United States stock market has indeed surged since Mr. Trump took office, with the S. & P. 500 stock index rising 24.7 percent and notching a series of record highs. By comparison, the same index was up 26.3 percent at the same point during President Barack Obama’s administration in 2009 and early 2010.

Back then, level of the stock market was significantly lower, reflecting the impact of the financial crisis in the United States and the deep recession that followed. Under Mr. Obama, stocks continued to recover and also notched a series of record highs, starting in 2013.

— Matt Phillips

TRADE

“America has also finally turned the page on decades of unfair trade deals that sacrificed our prosperity and shipped away our companies, our jobs, and our nation’s wealth.”

This needs context.

Economists say the loss of manufacturing jobs has more to do with automation and globalization than specific trade deals.

Research suggests that the North American Free Trade Agreement has had a negligible effect on American jobs. And China’s entry into the World Trade Organization in 2001 seems to have had a more pronounced impact on factory jobs. While Mr. Trump has abandoned the trans-Pacific Partnership, negotiations to revamp Nafta are ongoing.

— Natalie Kitroeff

ECONOMY

“Since we passed tax cuts, roughly three million workers have already gotten tax cut bonuses — many of them thousands of dollars per worker.”

True.

The statistic comes from a list of tax-related corporate announcements compiled by Americans for Tax Reform, an enthusiastic booster of Mr. Trump’s tax cuts. His wording is carefully phrased. Mr. Trump notes “many” of the announced bonuses amount to thousands of dollars, a number that is vague enough to be defensible. (He also could have said “many of them hundreds of dollars per worker” and been correct, as well.)

— Jim Tankersley

READ MOREThe Times is tracking companies that have made announcements about bonuses and other employment benefits because of the tax law.

TAXES

“We enacted the biggest tax cuts and reform in American history.”

False.

Mr. Trump won’t stop making this claim, even though zero evidence supports it. Tax cuts signed by President Ronald Reagan were larger as a share of the economy and in terms of their effects on federal revenues. The recently passed tax bill appears to rank 12th in American history, as a share of the economy.

— Jim Tankersley

The Democratic Rebuttal

Without uttering the president’s name, Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III chastised the Trump administration Tuesday nightCredit Brian Snyder/Reuters

Joseph P. Kennedy III delivered the Democratic response to the State of the Union. Below is a fact-check of his remarks.

ECONOMY

“Top C.E.O.s making 300 times the average worker is not right.”

True, but misleading.

Mr. Kennedy is most likely referring to a 2014 study from the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. It said that pay for chief executives at the top 350 American firms were about 300 times more than their employees.

But that sample represents a small fraction of all American businesses, and not a very representative one. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, chief executives made an average salary of $194,000 in 2016, about four times what the average worker made.

— Linda Qiu