Trump’s State of the Union speech was just what we’ve come to expect from him. He was emphatic, boastful, and partisan. Unfortunately, it was saturated with false and misleading statements.
Donald Trump said: “Year after year, countless Americans are murdered by criminal illegal aliens.” Trump has consistently tried to turn migrants into villains in his narrative of fear. We mentioned the study by the libertarian Cato Institute that contradicts this narrative in a previous blog entry. The study looked at criminal conviction statistics from the Texas Department of Public Safety and determined that immigrants are less likely than native-born Americans to be convicted of a crime. The study says:
In 2015, Texas police made 815,689 arrests of native-born Americans, 37,776 arrests of illegal immigrants, and 20,323 arrests of legal immigrants. For every 100,000 people in each subgroup, there were 3,578 arrests of natives, 2,149 arrests of illegal immigrants, and 698 arrests of legal immigrants. The arrest rate for illegal immigrants was 40 percent below that of native-born Americans. The arrest rate for all immigrants and legal immigrants was 65 percent and 81 percent below that of native-born Americans, respectively. The homicide arrest rate for native-born Americans was about 5.4 per 100,000 natives, about 46 percent higher than the illegal immigrant homicide arrest rate of 3.7 per 100,000.
Trump continues to rally his base by acting as if immigrants are inherently criminal.
Trump touted the barrier at El Paso, Texas by saying: “The border city of El Paso, Texas, used to have extremely high rates of violent crime — one of the highest in the country, and considered one of our nation’s most dangerous cities. Now, with a powerful barrier in place, El Paso is one of our safest cities.”
CNN fact-checked this statement and it came up short:
According to an analysis of FBI crimes data and city law enforcement data analyzed by the El Paso Times, violent crime in El Paso peaked in 1993. Border fence construction didn’t begin until 2008, and was completed in 2009. But violent crime fell long before the wall was built in El Paso, with violent crime falling 34% between 1993 and 2006 in the city.
And according to the El Paso Times, from 2006 to 2011, violent crime in El Paso actually increased by 17 percent.
Why does Trump insist on making false statements to advance his agenda?
Trump also said: “Wages are rising at the fastest pace in decades and growing for blue collar workers, who I promised to fight for. They’re growing faster than anyone else thought possible.”
In fact, wages are not growing “at their fastest pace in decades” according to Danielle Kurtzleben with NPR. Kurtzleben acknowledges an hourly wage hike of 3.4 percent from last year for nonsupervisory employees, but median hourly wage growth is not at pre-recession levels and growth is far lower than it was before the 2001 recession.
It seems apparent that Trump has a fundamental misunderstanding of how tariffs work. He seems to think tariffs are paid by the country they are imposed upon. Money from tariffs comes from businesses in America and consumers who pay higher prices as a result of those tariffs. China didn’t send money or a check to the US.
Trump also said: “All Americans can be proud that we have more women in the workforce than ever before.”
This is wrong. It’s also not very meaningful: Just counting the number of women (or men, or both) who are in working, or are in the labor force, is driven by the size of the population, which is typically growing over time.
A better measure is the civilian labor force participation rate for women, which refers to the percentage of women who are either working or looking for work. The rate has been rising since late 2015, but the level for that today — 57.5 percent — is below what it was from about 1995 to the Great Recession, when it was typically in the 59 percent to 60 percent range.
Looking at sheer numbers, both the number of women who are employed and the number of women who are in the labor force (meaning they’re working or looking for work) dropped modestly during the most recent month for which data is available — December 2018 to January 2019. Women’s employment fell from 73.9 million to 73.6 million, while women in the labor force fell from 76.8 million to 76.7 million.
Trump said 5 million people were taken off of food stamps when the number is actually around 3,895,000.
He also claimed his administration “unleashed a revolution in American energy.” This is not an “accomplishment” unique to the Trump administration. The US was the leading producer of oil and gas in the middle of the Obama administration as well.
In many areas, the truth is worse than fiction. This is the state of our union.