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Fact-Checking the State of the Union Address

Taylor Talcott, Opinion Editor

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President Trump gave his first State of the Union address on January 30th, and for most listeners, it seemed to drag on for many eternities. However, with a running time of an hour and twenty minutes, Trump’s speech was only the third-longest in the last 50 years (though Trump did stop 115 times for an applause break). His speech received mixed reception, especially among the Democrats present, and it was mainly focused on commending himself for the work he has done in the past year or taking credit for work done by the previous administration. The end of the speech was focused on future plans for his administration, but many of Trump’s comments led to some intense speculation of their validity. Here’s a breakdown of some of the highlights and their accuracy:

 

“Just as I promised the American people from this podium 11 months ago, we enacted the biggest tax cuts and reforms in American history.”

This statement is purely false. The biggest tax cut in history was in 1981 under the Reagan administration: 2.9% of our GDP. Trump’s cuts rank at seventh largest in American history instead.

“Since the election, we have created 2.4 million new jobs, including 200,000 new jobs in manufacturing alone. Tremendous number. After years and years of wage stagnation, we are finally seeing rising wages.”

This statement is mainly false. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there has been an increase of 2.4 million jobs since October 2016. The gain has only been 1.84 million in the time Trump has been in office. Job growth has actually slowed by 12% while Trump has been in office. Additionally, wages have been on the rise since the 1990’s, so there is really no credit to be taken by Trump, even though they are still on the rise simply because they are following a trend.

“Our massive tax cuts provide tremendous relief for the middle class and small businesses.”

This statement is technically half-true with some caveats. There has been a tax cut for these income brackets, though “tremendous” is rather debatable. The tax cuts still disproportionately favor the rich as they will receive a little more than 65% of the benefits. The tax bill is also set to expire in 2027 as well, so many will see an immediate cut but fail to receive long-term benefits.

“Since we passed tax cuts, over 3 million workers have gotten tax cut bonuses — many of them thousands and thousands of dollars.”

This statement is pretty much true. Companies have given roughly 3 million workers tax cuts as a result of this bill. However, these only ensure a short-term reward; there is no long-term guarantee of a job or increase in technology.  

“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 American people.”

This statement is largely untrue. The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program does choose 50,000 immigrants annually at random, but they are still subject to a stringent set of regulations. Applicants must have 2 years of high school or at least work experience as well as undergo a strict and thorough background check in order to vet them for a visa.

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

This statement is incorrect. No legal citizen of the United States, natural-born or otherwise, can petition for a distant relative to become a citizen. Immigrants who are legal citizens can petition for immediate family members, but the waiting list is about 13 years. Additionally, they still have to go through all the legal checkpoints as any other immigrant. Green cards are awarded for spouses and unmarried children only, so “unlimited” is a misrepresentation of immigrant rights.

“Many car companies are now building and expanding plants in the United States — something we haven’t seen for decades. Chrysler is moving a major plant from Mexico to Michigan. Toyota and Mazda are opening up a plant in Alabama — a big one. And we haven’t seen this in a long time. It’s all coming back.”

This statement is also mainly misinformation. Firstly, auto plants have been building and expanding within the United States well within the last decade with Volkswagen opening a plant in Tennessee in 2008, Volvo adding its first US plant in 2015, and BMW expanding in the US in 2016 along with many more. Also, Chrysler is not moving a plant from Mexico to Michigan; they are moving the production of heavy-duty trucks to Michigan, but both plants are still scheduled to be fully functioning. Toyota and Mazda are opening a plant in Alabama, but this process has been in the works since May 2015.

“U.S. does more than any other country — anywhere in the world — to help the needy, the struggling, and the underprivileged all over the world.”

This statement is strictly manipulation of data. The US contributes the most money for development as a flat fee, but considering the proportion of the money compared to the gross national income (GNI), the United States is firmly ranked at 22nd. The UN’s goal for developmental aid is about 0.7 % of the GNI while the US only contributes 0.18 %.

“As we rebuild America’s strength and confidence at home, we are also restoring our strength and standing abroad.”

This statement is blatantly false with one exception: during Trump’s presidency, the worldwide approval of the United States has dropped to a new low of 30% as released by Gallup Poll. Approval dropped significantly in Mexico by 36 percentage points and still quite measurably in Germany and Canada by 22 percentage points. However, Russia was the only country whose approval rating rose (and it rose by 26 points, meaning 41% of Russians view the US favorably).

“African-American unemployment stands at the lowest rate ever recorded, and Hispanic American unemployment has also reached the lowest levels in history.”

This statement is technically true but intentionally misleading. The rate of black unemployment in December was 6.8%, the lowest it has ever been, but it has been steadily decreasing since 2009. The actual unemployment gap between white people and black people remained relatively unchanged from the previous year with white unemployment being 46% that of black people’s. The Hispanic unemployment rate also dropped to 4.8%, but it has been on a similar steady decline since 2010.  

 

Trump’s State of the Union address also went on to cover terrorist policies abroad, additional economic statistics, and his future plans for his administration, mainly concerning immigration. These are some of his highlights as well as most flagrant violations of the truth, but there are many other statements he made that were of equal validity. Politicians rarely tell the whole truth, especially when commending themselves, but the sheer number of blatantly untrue statements serves as a reminder to gather information from multiple sources. To use a term preferred by our current president, always double-check your sources and be wary of “FAKE NEWS.”

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Fact-Checking the State of the Union Address