President Donald Trump offered a rosy assessment of American life in his first State of the Union address — but several of his points were factually flawed.
“This is our new American moment,” Trump said. “There has never been a better time to start living the American Dream.”
The economy took center stage in Trump’s speech, with mixed accuracy. Trump touted record lows for unemployment levels, middle class relief from the passage of a $1.5 trillion tax cut, and loyalty to his campaign promise to cut red tape. He also exaggerated victories on immigration and ISIS.
Trump’s statements cycled through every Truth-O-Meter rating, except for Pants on Fire. We tallied two False statements, three Mostly False, one Half True, three Mostly True, and one True.
Here’s our rundown of the president’s address, along with notes on his claims’ overall accuracy and additional context. (This story will be updated as we do more fact-checking.)
“Just as I promised the American people from this podium 11 months ago, we enacted the biggest tax cuts and reforms in American history.”
It is False that the tax-cut package passed in December is the largest cut ever, as Trump has repeatedly claimed.
In inflation-adjusted dollars, the recent tax bill is the fourth-largest since 1940. And as a percentage of GDP, it ranks seventh.
“After years of wage stagnation, we are finally seeing rising wages.”
We rated Trump’s claim Mostly False. By the most common measure, wages did go up for the first three quarters of Trump’s presidency, but they fell in the fourth, wiping out all the gains on his watch and then some.
His assertion also ignores that wages — by two different measurements — began their climb during the final years of Obama’s presidency.
“Our massive tax cuts provide tremendous relief for the middle class and small businesses.”
The tax bill does benefit Americans with modest incomes initially, but the wealthy take a disproportionate share.
Every income group will pay less in taxes in 2019. But the benefits of the tax bill would flow disproportionately to wealthier taxpayers.
As some tax breaks expire, lower- or middle-income taxpayers stand to see their gains from the bill evaporate. In all but the top income group, many more taxpayers will see a cut in 2018 than will see one in 2027.
“Since we passed tax cuts, over 3 million workers have gotten tax cut bonuses — many of them thousands and thousands of dollars.”
We rated that claim Mostly True. Americans for Tax Reform, a group that supported the tax reform bill, found that at least 3 million Americans are receiving bonuses that the companies said were related to passage of the tax bill, based on company press releases and news reports.
However, bonuses are a short-term response to the tax bill, which is less important than potential long-term changes, such as whether corporations will build new factories or purchase more machinery.
Economists and labor experts say it will take years to fully assess the economic impact of the tax bill. In this tight labor market, it’s possible that some businesses were already planning to give out bonuses or other financial incentives to retain workers.
“We have eliminated more regulations in our first year than any administration in the history of our country.”
Trump has a point here, but it’s not the whole story. Trump’s use of the Congressional Review Act to roll back regulations did set a record in his first year. Trump had signed 15 Congressional Review Act measures compared with one previously. But experts have told us that other presidents signed laws that cut more rules than Trump.
Examples include the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980, and the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995, as well as President Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan’s deregulation of such previously heavily regulated industries as air travel, trucking, banking and telecommunications.
“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?”
We rated Trump’s claim Half True. The Empire State Building was constructed in one year and 45 days, a little longer than Trump said. He’s off base when he said that permitting takes 10 years. Recent government studies say the permit approval time ranges from 4.6 to 6.6 years. The only study we found that claims a 10-year approval is common comes from an anti-regulation group, which raises questions about its reliability.
“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.”
We rated Trump’s claim False. While lottery applicants are randomly selected, they must meet education and work experience requirements. They must also be vetted by the United States government before being allowed to come to the United States.