Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Fact-checking the State of the Union address

President Trump's State of the Union speech last night was "once again was chock-full of stretched facts and dubious figures. Many of these claims have been fact-checked repeatedly, yet the president persists in using them," Glenn Kessler, Salvador Rizzo, and Meg Kelly write for The Washington Post's Fact Checker column. The three fact-check nearly 30 of the president's statements last night. Here are a few:

"Wages are rising at the fastest pace in decades." Wages rose 3.1 percent from December 2017 to December 2018, not accounting for inflation, which is the biggest such increase since the December 2007 to December 2008 time period, not decades. When adjusted for inflation, wages grew 1.3 percent in the past year, making it the largest increase since August 2016. "It’s worth noting that although real wage gains were higher in 2015 and 2016, that was a period of almost no inflation. So Trump can claim some credit for decent real wage growth now with inflation back at about 2 percent," Kessler, Rizzo and Kelly write.

"We virtually ended the estate, or death, tax on small businesses, ranchers and family farms." The fact checkers call this "an enormous stretch. Trump often claims he saved family farms and small businesses by gradually reducing the federal estate tax," Kessler, Rizzo and Kelly write. "Reducing the estate tax primarily benefits the wealthy. The estate tax rarely falls on farms or small businesses, since only those leaving behind more than $5 million pay it. According to the Tax Policy Center, nearly 5,500 estates in 2017 — out of nearly 3 million — were subject to the tax. Of those, only 80 taxable estates would be farms and small businesses."

"We recently imposed tariffs on 250 billion dollars of Chinese goods — and now our Treasury is receiving billions of dollars." Treasury data show an increase of $6.7 billion in customs duties collected in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, and that could be mostly because of tariffs. "But the exporters do not pay the tariffs; it is the importer, who in turn passes it on to consumers. A study by the Council on Foreign Relations estimated that 115 percent of the money raised from tariffs is being used by the administration to aid farmers hurt by the tariffs, so it’s a net loser," Kessler, Rizzo and Kelly write.

Fact-checkers also disputed some of the assertions made by Democrat Stacey Abrams in her televised response to the president. She "presented a distorted picture of the U.S. economy since the Republican-backed tax bill became law," D'Angelo Gore writes for, which allows free publication of its work, with attribution.

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