Donald Trump State of the Union fact-checked: claims tested

Donald Trump State of the Union fact-checked: claims tested

Donald Trump made a number of loft claims in his anticipated State of the Union address, from the cost of medications to wage growth.

The president’s remarks have been fact-checked to see how many hold up as true, not true or grey. Here’s the verdict.

DRUG PRICING

What he said: “Already, as a result of my administration’s efforts, in 2018 drug prices experienced their single largest decline in 46 years.”

The facts: Mr Trump is selectively citing statistics to exaggerate what seems to be a slowdown in prices. A broader look at the data shows that drug prices are still rising, but more moderately.

Some independent experts say criticism from Trump and congressional Democrats may be causing pharmaceutical companies to show restraint.

New cancer drugs, for example, cost more than $US100,000 a year on average.

The Consumer Price Index for prescription drugs shows a 0.6 per cent reduction in prices in December 2018 when compared with December 2017, the biggest drop in nearly 50 years.

The government index tracks a set of medications including brand drugs and generics.

However, that same index showed a 1.6 per cent increase when comparing the full 12 months of 2018 with the entire previous year.

WAGE GROWTH

What he said: “Wages are rising at the fastest pace in decades, and growing for blue collar workers, who I promised to fight for, they’re growing faster than anyone else thought possible.”

The facts: This is an unsupported statement because the data on hourly wages for private workers only go back to 2006, not decades.

But data on wages for production workers date back to 1939 — and Trump’s claim appears to be unfounded.

Average hourly earnings for production and non-supervisory workers are up 3.4 per cent over the past year, according to the Labour Department. Those wage gains were higher as recently as early 2009.

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And they were averaging roughly four per cent before the start of the Great Recession in late 2007.

Adjusted for inflation, median weekly wages rose just 0.6 per cent in 2018. The gains in weekly wages were 2.1 per cent in 2015.

MINORITY UNEMPLOYMENT

What he said: “African-American, Hispanic-American and Asian-American unemployment have all reached their lowest levels ever recorded.”

The facts: What he’s not saying is that the unemployment rates for all three groups have gone up since reaching record low levels.

Black unemployment reached a record low, 5.9 per cent, in May, but rose to 6.8 per cent in January.

Latino unemployment fell to 4.4 per cent, its lowest ever, last October, and Asian unemployment fell to a record low of 2.2 per cent in May.

But Latino and Asian unemployment also have increased, in part because of the government shutdown, which elevated unemployment last month.

HUMAN TRAFFICKING

What he said: “Human traffickers and sex traffickers take advantage of the wide open areas between our ports of entry to smuggle thousands of young girls and women into the United States and to sell them into prostitution and modern-day slavery.”

The facts: His administration has not supplied evidence that women and girls are smuggled by the “thousands” across remote areas of the border for these purposes.

What has been established is nearly 80 per cent of international trafficking victims cross through legal ports of entry, a flow that would not be stopped by a border wall.

Mr Trump also claimed that one in three migrant women is sexually assaulted on the long journey north toward the American border.

But while this is a serious problem, there is no definitive data available to coincide with that figure.

According to The Washington Post, the statistic may have came from a 2010 report that used data from a book written more than a decade prior.

THE ECONOMY

What he said: “In just over two years since the election, we have launched an unprecedented economic boom — a boom that has rarely been seen before. There’s been nothing like it. … An economic miracle is taking place in the United States.”

He also said the American economy is considered “far and away the hottest economy anywhere in the world”.

The facts: The president is vastly exaggerating what has been a mild improvement in growth and hiring. The economy is healthy but not nearly one of the best in US history.

The economy expanded at an annual rate of 3.8 per cent last year — a solid pace — but it was just the fastest in four years.

In the late 1990s, growth topped four per cent for four straight years, a level it has not yet reached under Trump. And growth even reached 7.2 per cent in 1984.

Almost all independent economists expect slower growth this year as the effect of the president’s tax cuts fade, as trade tensions and slower global growth hold back exports, and higher interest rates make it more expensive to borrow to buy cars and homes.

It’s also untrue that America’s economy is the fastest-growing in the world. Growth in Latvia, Poland, China and India occurred almost twice as fast as America’s over the third quarter of 2018.

And, as The New York Times notes, numerous economic analysts have estimated the American economy’s growth slowed even further in the fourth quarter, and even further than that in the first month of 2019.

WOMEN IN WORKFORCE

What he said in prepared excerpts: “All Americans can be proud that we have more women in the workforce than ever before.”

The facts: Of course, there are more women working than ever before. But that’s due to population growth — and not something that Trump can credit to any his policies.

The big question is whether a greater percentage of women is working or searching for a job than at any point in history.

And on this count, women have enjoyed better times.

Women’s labour force participation rate right now is 57.5 per cent, according to the Labour Department. The rate has ticked up recently, but it was higher in 2012 and peaked in 2000 at roughly 60 per cent.

ENERGY

What he said: “We have unleashed a revolution in American energy — the United States is now the number one producer of oil and natural gas in the world.”

The facts: True, if “we” means Mr Trump and his recent predecessors. It’s not all to Mr Trump’s credit.

The government says the US became the world’s top natural gas producer in 2013, under Barack Obama’s administration.

The US now leads the world in oil production, too, under Mr Trump. That’s largely because of a boom in production from shale oil, which also began under Mr Obama.

— with AP

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