Friday, January 20, 2017

Fact-checking President Trump's inaugural address

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"Generally, inaugural addresses are not designed to be fact-checked. But President Trump’s address was nothing if not unique, presenting a portrait of the United States that often was at variance with reality," write Glenn Kessler and Michelle Ye Hee Lee of "The Fact Checker" column of The Washington Post.

Trump said, “For many decades, we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry; subsidized the armies of other countries, while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military.” The fact-checkers write, "Trump mixes up several things here. He seems to be referring to free-trade agreements [but] ignores the fact that many U.S. industries also benefit and grow when they are able to sell products overseas. . . . Trump appears to be referring to military bases that the United States has overseas. . . . Given a defense budget of more than $500 billion, the cost of maintaining these bases is a mere pittance." And the final phrase "is hyper-exaggeration. One can argue about whether the military budget should be boosted, but there is no question that the U.S. military is stronger and more capable than any other nation’s."

Trump also said the U.S. has “spent trillions and trillions of dollars overseas while America’s infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay. We’ve made other countries rich, while the wealth, strength and confidence of our country has dissipated over the horizon.” The fact-checkers write, "Trump appears to be referring to U.S. involvement in military adventures, such as the 2003 Iraq invasion he supported, and possibly foreign aid. Foreign aid amounts to less than 1 percent of the U.S. budget, with about $18 billion going to economic and development aid and $8 billion for security assistance. So Trump only gets to 'trillions and trillions of dollars' by including wars. . . . But we doubt Iraqis would say the war made the country 'rich.' Contrary to Trump’s rhetoric, the United States is far wealthier than other nations."

On trade, his signature issue, Trump said “One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores, with not even a thought about the millions and millions of American workers that were left behind. The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed all across the world.” The fact-checkers write, "Trump again engages in hyperbole, attributing all of the decline in manufacturing to foreign trade. . . . Some analysts calculate that between 1 million and 2 million U.S. jobs were lost after China was admitted to the World Trade Organization in 2000. But economists believe the biggest factor in the decline in manufacturing is automation, not jobs going overseas. Another factor is decreased consumer spending on manufactured goods." (Read more)

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