President Donald Trump likes to boast about the records he has achieved, but there’s at least one mark the White House tries to downplay – the president has amassed an unprecedented number of inaccurate statements. The Los Angeles Times’ staff analyzed the State of the Union address on Tuesday to try to separate truths from falsehoods. Here are some of the highlights:
TAX CUTS: The tax cuts enacted last month are not the biggest in American history, despite what Trump asserted in his speech Tuesday night.
“Just as I promised the American people from this podium 11 months ago, we enacted the biggest tax cuts and reform in American history,” Trump said.
The nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimated in October that the tax cuts as a percentage of total economic output – also known as gross domestic product – would be the 12th largest since 1918.
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When adjusting for inflation, the Trump tax cuts would be the fourth largest since 1940, the group said.
AFRICAN-AMERICAN AND LATINO EMPLOYMENT NUMBERS: “Something I’m very proud of, African-American unemployment stands at the lowest rate ever recorded. And Hispanic American unemployment has also reached the lowest levels in history,” Trump said.
He’s right on black unemployment, but not quite right on the rate for Latinos.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last month that the unemployment rate for blacks dropped to 6.8 percent in December, the lowest since the government began tracking the figure in 1972.
The sharp decline began eight years ago. The rate peaked in 2010 at 16.8 percent, which was the highest since 1984 in the aftermath of the Great Recession.
Trump has presided over a continuation of a trend in which the rate has declined about 1 percentage point a year.
The unemployment rate for Latinos, which the bureau has tracked since 1973, was 4.9 percent in December. The record low is 4.8 percent, reached in 2007 and in 2006.
ENERGY EXPORTATION: Was the president correct when he said in his speech that the U.S. is “now an exporter of energy to the world”?
Trump has said this before, and exactly what he means is unclear, but nearly all the possible meanings are untrue.
The statement could mean that the U.S. has just now begun exporting energy. That’s obviously wrong – the U.S. has exported petroleum products, for example, for more than a century.
Or he could mean that the U.S. now exports more than it imports – in other words, that the U.S. now is a net exporter of energy. That may happen within the decade, but hasn’t happened yet, according to the administration’s own figures.
The Energy Department releases an annual assessment of U.S. energy production, exports and imports. In its latest assessment, the department estimates that under current trends, the U.S. would become a net exporter by 2026. Under some scenarios, that could happen earlier.
Or perhaps Trump meant that the U.S. has started exporting crude oil. That is a relatively new development, but it took place under the Obama administration.
For decades, U.S. law banned most crude oil exports. Congress repealed the ban in 2015, and President Barack Obama signed the repeal into law, although he had opposed it. Exports began two years ago – long before Trump’s election.
Trump also might have meant the U.S. is now a net exporter of natural gas. That may be true – the Energy Department had projected that U.S. exports of gas should surpass imports once the numbers from 2017 are all tallied – but, if so, that would have little to do with Trump administration policies: The trend toward greater gas exports has been building for years.
TAX-CUT BONUSES: “Since we passed tax cuts, roughly 3 million workers have already gotten tax cut bonuses – many of them thousands of dollars per worker,” Trump said.
The number of workers appears to be correct but most are not getting thousands of dollars apiece.
The conservative Americans for Tax Reform has kept a running list of announcements by businesses of bonuses or raises they have given to their employees because of the tax cuts.
As of Tuesday, the group said those commitments translate to at least 3 million Americans receiving “special tax reform bonuses.”
Apple is giving $2,500 bonuses in restricted stock. But few of the announced bonuses are for more than $1,000 per employee.
So many companies are giving exactly $1,000 that some analysts have suggested the bonuses were coordinated.
In all, Americans for Tax Reform listed 285 companies that have announced bonuses or other changes to benefit workers, including wage and salary increases or larger matching funds for 401(k) retirement plans.
A USA Today analysis of companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index estimated that more than 1.3 million workers would receive cash or stock-based bonuses totaling at least $1.7 billion in corporate announcements that cited the tax law.
Credit Suisse estimated the tax bill would save S&P 500 companies $75 billion to $100 billion in taxes in 2018 compared with the previous year, USA Today noted.
Trump said that Americans’ paychecks have at last turned the corner.
“After years and years of stagnation, we are finally seeing rising wages,” he declared.
But wage gains, in fact, have barely budged for the typical American worker.
Over the last two years, through December, the average hourly earnings for all private-sector workers have consistently risen at an annual pace of about 2.5 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some months it’s been a little more, some a little less, but it hasn’t hit 3 percent since March 2009.
Now with unemployment having fallen to about 4 percent and employers increasingly struggling to fill jobs, many analysts do expect worker pay increases to accelerate. But so far, they are more wishes than reality.
(Times staff writers Don Lee, David Lauter, Jim Puzzanghera and Alexandra Zavis contributed to this report.)