WASHINGTON — Boasting about his tax cuts, President Donald Trump inflated his role in boosting the economy to mythical proportions, claiming full credit for U.S. growth that was already in the making and ignoring the reality of a mounting deficit. On immigration, he and administration officials repeatedly spread questionable alarms by linking weak border enforcement to pervasive crime and a “surge” in MS-13 gangs.
His statements capped a week of head-spinning assertion, fabricated history and dubious claims.
They included a contradictory tweet about his support for legislation to end family separations, a claim that Russia didn’t meddle in the 2016 election, a mangled account of Wisconsin politics and declarations of campaign promises fulfilled on an Obama-era law and veterans’ health care that don’t hold up.
A look at the claims:
TAX CUTS AND DEFICIT
TRUMP: “Six months ago, we unleashed an economic miracle by signing the biggest tax cuts and reforms …the biggest tax cuts in American history.” — remarks at tax bill event Friday.
THE FACTS: He’s exaggerating.
Rather than achieving a miracle, his tax cuts have helped stoke additional growth in an economic expansion that was already approaching its 10th year. The additional growth is largely fueled by government borrowing, as the federal deficit rises because of the tax cut. The pace of growth is expected to taper off after next year, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the Federal Reserve and outside analysts.
And while the $1.5 trillion worth of tax reductions over the next decade are substantial, they’re far from the largest in U.S. history as a share of the overall economy. The Trump tax cut ranks behind Ronald Reagan’s in the early 1980s, post-World War II tax cuts and at least several more, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, which advocates for deficit reduction.
Trump listed economic achievements that build on the progress begun under President Barack Obama. The 3.8 percent unemployment rate and the historically low level of requests for jobless aid are both the result of a steady and gradual recovery from the worst economic meltdown since 1929.
Several hundred companies responded to the tax cuts by paying workers bonuses or hiking hourly wages, but any significant income growth has yet to surface in the overall economy.
The tax cuts have added on average $17 a month to people’s incomes, according to an analysis by Ernie Tedeschi, head of fiscal policy analysis at the investment firm Evercore ISI and a former Treasury Department economist. The analysis is based off consumer spending, income and inflation data released Friday.
That $17 monthly gain is helpful, but it’s far from miraculous.
WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISER LARRY KUDLOW: “As the economy gears up, more people working, better jobs and careers, those revenues come rolling in, and the deficit, which is one of the other criticisms, is coming down, and it’s coming down rapidly.” — interview Friday on Fox Business Network.
THE FACTS: No, the deficit is not falling.
Since the fiscal year started in October, Treasury Department reports show the federal government has recorded a $385.4 billion deficit, a 12 percent jump from the same period in the previous year.
The Congressional Budget Office was even more blunt in a long-term assessment released Tuesday.
It estimates that the national debt — the sum of yearly deficits — will be $2.2 trillion higher in 2027 than it had previously forecast, largely a consequence of Trump’s 10-year, $1.5 trillion tax cut. The size of the debt could be even higher if provisions of the tax cut that are set to expire are, instead, renewed.
TRUMP: “The Liberal Left, also known as the Democrats, want to get rid of ICE, who do a fantastic job, and want Open Borders. Crime would be rampant and uncontrollable! Make America Great Again.” — tweet Sunday.
TRUMP: “Crime, crime, crime happens automatically when you have those open borders. The Democrats want to let the country be overrun. Just take a look at what’s going on, everybody comes in including the vile gang MS-13.” — remarks Wednesday in Fargo, North Dakota.
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT: “Without this action by Congress, lawlessness at the border will continue, which will only lead to predictable results — more heroin and fentanyl pushed by Mexican cartels plaguing our communities, a surge in MS-13 gang members, and an increase in the number of human trafficking prosecutions.” — statement Wednesday arguing for legislation to address border enforcement.
THE FACTS: It’s inaccurate for Trump and his administration to assert that weak immigration enforcement is leading to “rampant” crime, including from the “vile gang MS-13.” Nor is there evidence of a “surge” in MS-13.
The group is unquestionably violent but its overall numbers are somewhat limited. The Justice Department has said there are about 10,000 MS-13 members in the U.S., the same number as more than a decade ago. MS-13 accounts for less than 1 percent of total U.S. gang membership.
Formed in Los Angeles in the 1980s by El Salvador refugees and more recently expanded in Central America, the group is indeed linked to a high number of homicides in certain parts of the U.S. Even so, an FBI report put the group well behind other gangs for crimes on the southwest border — seventh of 12 — with the Surenos, Barrio Azteca and Tango Blast ranked in the top three.
Trump suggests that weak border enforcement is contributing to crime committed by MS-13. But the gang actually has many U.S.-born members at this point — people who by virtue of U.S. citizenship can’t be denied entry based on their nationality, or deported. The government has not said recently how many members it thinks are citizens and immigrants. In notable raids on MS-13 in 2015 and 2016, most of the people caught were found to be U.S. citizens.
More broadly, Trump overgeneralizes about people who arrive illegally in the U.S. Several studies have shown that immigration does not lead to increased crime.
TRUMP: “I never pushed the Republicans in the House to vote for the Immigration Bill, either GOODLATTE 1 or 2, because it could never have gotten enough Democrats as long as there is the 60 vote threshold. I released many prior to the vote knowing we need more Republicans to win in Nov.” — tweet Saturday.
THE FACTS: Trump is contradicting himself, again, as to whether the Republican-controlled Congress should seek to pass legislation to end family separations. He tweeted just three days prior that House Republicans should approve the “STRONG BUT FAIR” bill even though Democrats wouldn’t allow it to pass the Senate.
“Passage will show that we want strong borders & security while the Dems want open borders = crime. Win!” he wrote in all caps on Wednesday.
His back and forth statements came in the aftermath of highly publicized images and cries from young immigrant children being separated from their parents at the southern border. Trump has sought to blame Democrats for failure to pass legislation, but he also previously urged Republicans to stop wasting their time on the bill until after the congressional elections in November.
The GOP-led House soundly rejected a wide-ranging immigration bill last week despite Trump’s endorsement, a vote that followed the defeat on a harder-right package that garnered more conservative support.
TRUMP: “Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election! Where is the DNC Server, and why didn’t Shady James Comey and the now disgraced FBI agents take and closely examine it? Why isn’t Hillary/Russia being looked at? So many questions, so much corruption!” — tweet Thursday.
TRUMP: “When is Bob Mueller going to list his Conflicts of Interest? Why has it taken so long? Will they be listed at the top of his $22,000,000 Report…And what about the 13 Angry Democrats, will they list their conflicts with Crooked H?” — tweet Thursday.
THE FACTS: Trump repeats Russia’s denial that it had meddled in the 2016 election, even though the U.S. intelligence community determined that Russia had indeed intervened to help Trump. Many Republicans and Democrats have said they accept the findings of that intelligence assessment, including Trump’s own Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has warned that Russia will likely try to interfere in the 2018 midterm elections.
The Senate intelligence committee said in May it had uncovered no reason to dispute the conclusions of the intelligence assessment released in 2017. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., chairman of the committee, said his staff spent 14 months “reviewing the sources, tradecraft and analytic work” conducted by the intelligence agencies in accepting its conclusion.
Trump also refers to special counsel Robert Mueller’s team as “13 angry Democrats,” but Mueller is a Republican and some others on his team owe their jobs largely to Republican presidents. Some have indeed given money to Democratic candidates over the years. But Mueller could not have barred them from serving on that basis because regulations prohibit the consideration of political affiliation for personnel actions involving career attorneys. Mueller reports to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, a Trump appointee.
TRUMP: “When we won the state of Wisconsin, it hadn’t been won by a Republican since Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952. Did you know that? And I won Wisconsin … And Ronald Reagan, remember, Wisconsin was the state that Ronald Reagan did not win.” — remarks Thursday in Mt. Pleasant, Wisconsin.
THE FACTS: He’s wrong. Eisenhower won the Badger State, in 1952 as well as 1956, but so did Reagan in the 1980 and 1984 presidential elections. Wisconsin also helped elect Republican Richard Nixon to the White House in 1968 and 1972, and gave him its backing as well in 1960, when Democrat John F. Kennedy won the presidency.
TRUMP: “We’ve eliminated horrible policies that burdened young Americans. You were burdened by things that were really, in some cases, insurmountable, including the individual mandate in Obamacare. A disaster. That’s where you pay a lot of money for the privilege of not buying health insurance. Right? One of the worst things. It’s gone.” — remarks Wednesday to college students at the White House.
TRUMP: “Obamacare is largely gone now.” — remarks Thursday in Mt. Pleasant, Wisconsin.
THE FACTS: Trump’s suggestion that the sweeping Obama-era health law has wholly burdened young Americans is misleading.
Federal studies have found the Affordable Care Act’s popular provision requiring employers and insurers to keep young adults on parental coverage until age 26 has helped millions of young people transitioning from school to work, or trying to start a career. Previously, the age at which insurance companies often forced children from their parents’ plans was 19.
Since 2010, when the new provision went into effect, the number of those 19-25 who were uninsured fell by more than half, to 4.5 million last year.
Regarding the individual mandate, while Congress did repeal the requirement that most Americans carry insurance or risk a tax penalty, that doesn’t take effect until next year. People who go without insurance this year are still subject to fines.
Other major parts of the Obama-era overhaul remain in place, including its Medicaid expansion, protections for people with pre-existing conditions, guaranteed “essential” health benefits, and subsidized private health insurance for people with modest incomes.
TRUMP, on reducing wait times for veterans seeking medical care: “The vets would be in line for 13 days, 18 days, 3 weeks, 7 days and they’d start off and they wouldn’t be in bad shape. And sometimes it would take so long before seeing a doctor that they would be terminally ill….Why don’t they just go to a doctor — local — that’s looking for the business? …We got it done. I signed it.” — remarks at Wednesday’s rally in Fargo, North Dakota.
THE FACTS: No, fulfilling his campaign promise of reducing wait times by giving veterans access to private-sector care is not done.
Trump signed into law last month a bill that would ease restrictions on private care. But its success in significantly reducing wait times for appointments depends in large part on an overhaul of VA’s electronic medical records to allow for a seamless sharing of records with private physicians. That overhaul will take at least 10 years to be complete.
Currently, only veterans who endure waits of at least 30 days — not “13 days, 18 days, 3 weeks, 7 days” — for an appointment at a VA facility are eligible to receive care from private doctors at government expense. Under a newly expanded Choice program that will take at least a year to implement, veterans will still have to meet certain criteria before they can see a private physician.
A recent Government Accountability Report found that despite the Choice program’s guarantee of providing an appointment within 30 days, veterans waited an average of 51 to 64 days. Pressed at his confirmation hearing Wednesday, VA secretary nominee Robert Wilkie declined to commit the VA to meeting the 30-day standard. He pledged to push interim fixes and better training for VA schedulers to help speed appointments.
Associated Press writers Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Ken Thomas in Washington contributed to this report.