Fact check on Donald Trump's inaugural speech
, photo: AP/Andrew Harnik
1 year ago
WASHINGTON — Donald Trump's inaugural address held familiar echoes of the campaign speeches that led to his presidential win: downbeat about the state of the nation, to the point of hyperbole. A look at some of his assertions Friday: TRUMP: "The jobs left, and the factories closed ... the wealth, strength and confidence of our country has disappeared over the horizon." THE FACTS: The American economy is a lot healthier than the wreck Trump describes. Jobs have increased for a record 75 straight months. The U.S. unemployment rate was 4.7 percent in December, close to a nine-year low and to what economists consider full employment. From July through September, the economy expanded at a 3.5 percent annual pace — fastest in two years. The Federal Reserve is so confident in the resiliency of the economy that it raised interest rates last month for only the second time in a decade. Still, Trump's talk of "rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation" rings true in communities that lost factories to low-wage competition from China and Mexico. And the jobless rate is low partly because so many Americans have stopped looking for work and are no longer counted as unemployed. Wage growth has been sluggish since the Great Recession ended in mid-2009. But declining unemployment and steady job growth are starting to force businesses to offer higher pay to find and attract new workers. And in 2015, the income for a typical household jumped 5.2 percent to an inflation-adjusted $56,516, the largest annual growth in nearly five decades, according to the Census Bureau. Average hourly pay rose last year at the fastest pace in more than seven years. TRUMP: "We've defended other nation's borders while refusing to defend our own." THE FACTS: Hardly. Since 2001, the U.S. has more than doubled the ranks of the Border Patrol, which now has nearly 20,000 agents. The vast majority of those are stationed along the Mexican border, where about 408,000 people were apprehended during the budget year that ended in September. TRUMP: The U.S. has "subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military." THE FACTS: The U.S. military may have shortcomings, but it remains the world's most advanced, expensive and far-flung fighting force. American military spending is nearly three times that of second-place China, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. The Pentagon says it does have additional needs, including more ships, a replenished air fleet and bigger training budgets to prepare for large-scale combat. TRUMP: "We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones, and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth." THE FACTS: Quelling radical Islamic terrorism worldwide is a heavy lift in which the U.S. has been engaged for years, and Trump has offered no plan for how he will deliver on this promise. A U.S.-led coalition began battling Islamic extremism even before 9/11. In Afghanistan alone, the coalition has fought for more than 15 years to prevent al-Qaida and other radical groups from regaining a safe harbor there. Getting the help of NATO allies might prove diplomatically challenging since Trump has called NATO "obsolete" and says European members aren't paying their fair share. The threat is only growing. The Islamic State has a global reach, and attacks linked to radical extremism have occurred in the United States, France, Belgium, Turkey and countries throughout northern Africa.
PAUL WISEMAN CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER