Politics

State of the Union fact check: What President Donald Trump is claiming


President Donald Trump is delivering his second State of the Union address to Congress and the country after a record-setting, 35-day partial government shutdown.

This is his first time addressing the divided Congress, which now features a Democratic-controlled House and the Republican-controlled Senate.

Our team of journalists from ABC News is investigating some of his statements, looking for additional context, detail and information.

Here is ABC News’ fact check of the address:

Fact check No. 1 — The U.S. is the number one producer of oil and natural gas

President Donald Trump: “We have unleashed a revolution in American Energy — the United States is now the number one producer of oil and natural gas in the world. And now, for the first time in 65 years, we are a net exporter of energy.”

Rating: LACKING CONTEXT

Context: The United States is the world’s biggest producer of crude oil, producing close to 12 million barrels of crude oil per day (11.9 to be exact), according to the Energy Information Administration. Russia produced roughly 11.2 million barrels per day in December according to their Ministry of Energy, while Saudi Arabia produces 10.5 million barrels per day.

Patrick DeHaan, Head of Petroleum Analysis at GasBuddy points out that the process of sending in rigs and drilling test wells is a process that is measured in years. For several years now, new drilling techniques including shale production have been boosting production. A move under President Obama also provided a boost to production when in late 2015 Congress lifted the ban on exporting crude oil. That incentivized more production in the United States for sale overseas.

The EIA projects that, for the first time since the 1950s, the United States will export more energy than it imports by 2020, as increases in crude oil, natural gas, and natural gas plant liquids production outpace growth in U.S. energy consumption.

–Zunaira Zaki

Fact check No. 2 — Tax cuts

Trump: “We passed a massive tax cut for working families and doubled the child tax credit.”

Rating: LACKING CONTEXT

Context: The GOP tax plan reduces taxes on average for all income groups initially, including middle-class Americans.

The average household will see a tax cut of $1,610 in 2019 according to the Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan think tank. Overall, most Americans — eight in 10, according to the center — will pay lower taxes this year.

But multiple independent analyses concluded that wealthier Americans and corporations will receive the largest benefit over the long term.

“In general, higher-income households receive larger average tax cuts as a percentage of after-tax income,” the center found. “On average, in 2027 taxes would change little for lower- and middle-income groups and decrease for higher-income groups.” Most of the individual income tax provisions will expire after 2025, unless Congress acts. The corporate tax rate cuts are permanent.

–Katherine Faulders

PHOTO: President Donald Trump arrives to deliver the State of the Union address in the U.S. Capitol Building on Feb. 5, 2019, in Washington.Doug Mills/Pool via Getty Images
President Donald Trump arrives to deliver the State of the Union address in the U.S. Capitol Building on Feb. 5, 2019, in Washington.

Fact check No. 3 — Prescription drug prices

Trump: “Americans pay vastly more than people in other countries for the exact same drugs, often made in the exact same place.”

Rating: TRUE

Context: Last fall, the government released a study that found Medicare — the federally run health care program for seniors — paid more than other industrialized countries for physician-administered drugs. While the precise amount varied by product, the study found that prices charged by those manufacturers are 1.8 times higher in the U.S. than in other countries.

Trump has proposed that Medicare only agree to pay costs based on cheaper prices paid by other nations. It’s one of several proposals he’s made in recent months in a bid to drive down costs, although that proposal wouldn’t take place for another year or so.

The drug industry had criticized the approach, contending that the money paid goes toward ground breaking research that benefits Americans first. According to one industry group, Americans have access to cancer medicines on average two years earlier than in countries like the United Kingdom, Germany and France. Industry executives also say it’s not fair to compare what the U.S. pays for drugs compared to people in countries with socialized health care systems.

–Anne Flaherty

Fact check No. 4 — Americans are murdered by “illegal aliens”

Trump: “Year after year, countless Americans are murdered by criminal illegal aliens.”

Rating: LACKING CONTEXT

Context: According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement data, over the past two years, there were nearly 4,000 arrests made for people both convicted of — and simply charged with — homicide among immigrants released into ICE custody for deportation — but the homicides could’ve been committed over any number of years.

More generally, the president’s speech referenced 266,000 arrests of undocumented immigrants with criminal records over the past two years, a number that mainly includes immigrants who were convicted of crimes in the past, and perhaps served jail time before they were released into ICE custody.

–Cheyenne Haslett

Fact check No. 5 — Drug price decline

Trump: “As a result of my administration’s efforts, in 2018 drug prices experienced their single largest decline in 46 years.”

Rating: MOSTLY SPIN

Context: According to the Consumer Price Index, that dip is .62 percent, looking at data collected on Dec. 2017 to data from Dec. 2018. Last fall, an Associated Press analysis examined the list prices for some 26,000 brand-name drugs and found 96 price hikes for every one price cut.

What Trump can point to in favor of consumers is an aggressive push by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration during his administration to approve generic drugs. White House advisers in an Oct. 2018 report estimated that the recent approval of generic drugs has resulted in $26 billion in savings for consumers that would have otherwise had to choose brand name drugs. Among those approved under Trump was the first generic version of EpiPen, the lifesaving auto injector used to treat emergency reactions. EpiPen injectors went from costing $100 in 2009 to $600 in 2016.

And while out-of-pocket spending for prescription drugs remained mostly flat in 2017 — Trump’s first year in office — out-of-pocket physician and hospital costs increased.

Many of Trump’s ideas to drive down drug costs haven’t taken effect yet and are still winding their way through the rulemaking process. One proposal would upend the usual system of drug rebates when people buy prescription drugs through Medicare or Medicaid. The plan would prohibit drug makers from offering discounts or rebates to “pharmacy benefit managers” that administer drug plans. Instead, the manufacturers would be encouraged to provide rebates directly to consumers. Democrats pushed back, insisting they think the plan will raise costs for consumers.

Another proposal, announced last fall, is to limit what it pays for certain drugs for Medicare recipients by tying the price for some drugs to prices paid overseas. The measure, which would be phased in over several years, would only apply to certain types of drugs via Medicare that are administered by a physician. The drug industry fought back and said the administration was discouraging innovation.

–Anne Flaherty

Fact check No. 6 — Limiting legal immigration

Trump: “I want people to come into our country in the largest numbers ever, but they have to come in legally.”

Rating: FALSE

Context: Last fall Trump set the lowest cap in the history of the refugee admission program — permitting just 30,000 a year. In former President Barack Obama’s last year in office he proposed a cap of 110,000 amid the height of the crisis in Syria. In fiscal year 2017, the Trump administration allowed the second fewest refugees ever.

Trump also won a battle in the Supreme Court to restrict all forms of travel and immigration from seven countries, five of which have Muslim majority populations. Just last week, the administration began selectively enforcing a new policy at the southern border that requires migrants seeking asylum to wait in Mexico while their applications are processed. He has also called for the elimination of the diversity visa program, which typically awards up to 50,000 immigration visas each year.

–Justin Fishel and Avery Miller

Fact check No. 7 — New jobs and manufacturing

Trump: “We have created 5.3 million new jobs and importantly added 600,000 new manufacturing jobs.”

Rating: LACKING CONTEXT

Context: Nearly 4.9 million jobs have been created since Feb. 2017, including 454,000 manufacturing jobs. The unemployment rate at 4 percent is at levels last seen in late 1999 and 2000. The uptick in the unemployment rate in the most recent jobs report was likely because of the government shutdown. The unemployment rate in Nov. 2018 was 3.7 percent which was a level last seen in 1969, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

African American unemployment is at historic lows at 6.8 percent — but it has ticked up in recent months after hitting an all-time low of 6 percent toward the end of last year. Similarly, the Hispanic unemployment rate at 4.9 percent has ticked up from recent lows of 4.4 percent toward the end of last year.

–Zunaira Zaki

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.



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