Trump delivered his second State of the Union last night. In his speech, he touted his single-handed rescue of the American economy (with false statements) and boasted how tax cuts passed by the Republican Congress helped the middle class (they didn’t).
Out of the several other things President Trump said, some of the most salient were his disingenuous calls for unity between the two parties in Congress, “Millions of our fellow citizens are watching us, gathered in this great chamber, hoping we will govern not as two parties, but as one nation.”
But besides these out-of-character calls for rallying behind the flag, Trump did his best to live up to his image as a man unbound by facts, data, and self-reflection.
Some lies that stood out to me
1) The United States is the hottest economy in the world
The idea that we are the “hottest economy anywhere in the world” is just blatantly false. Recent data from the World Bank shows our GDP growth rate was 2.27% in 2017. India and China had higher GDP annual growth rates, with 6.68% and 6.9% respectively in those same years.
GDP growth for the 3rd quarter of 2018 in the U.S. did rise to 3.4%. But that was a slowdown compared to the 2nd quarter of 2018, which was 4.2%. Both numbers are still lower than China’s, at 6.5% GDP growth.
The reason why it is important to highlight this lie is that there are major aspects of the American economy that need to be reformed. Income inequality is still a significant problem made worse by the Trump Administration. The cost of living in many parts of the country is becoming unaffordable for average Americans. The future of work is in question, with rising levels of automation in manufacturing displacing American workers.
When Trump says the U.S. is the hottest economy in the world, he significantly downplays these other issues that need to be addressed.
2) Wages are increasing at the fastest rate in decades
As the Washington Post pointed out during its live fact-check of the State of the Union, the President’s statement on wage growth needs significant clarification.
Before adjusting for inflation, wage growth from December 2017 to December 2018 was 3.1%. That increase is the largest “since the year that ended in December 2008,” according to the Post’s analysis. The largest wage increase in decades is clearly an exaggeration.
On top of that, when you adjust for inflation, wage growth increased by 1.3%, making that percentage only the largest since August 2016. Wages are virtually stagnate, no matter how much Trump wishes these facts away.
3) Tax cuts helped the middle class
Trump’s corporate tax cuts, the Republicans ‘signature’ piece of legislation, did not benefit working-class Americans, especially when compared to the benefits seen by corporations.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, those in the top fifth income group saw 70% of the benefits from cutting corporate taxes. In that same income group, the top 1% saw 34% of the total benefits.
These tax cuts did not lead to explosive increases in worker pay or help people get ahead. It showed that when large corporations get a tax cut as they did from the Republicans, they will use it on the one thing they love more than tax cuts, buying back their stock.
Disingenuous calls for unity
Trump is not the person someone thinks of when they conjure up an image of solidarity. That is why I could not take a single thing he said seriously when I listened to him read words off a teleprompter calling for unity between the two parties.
He is the farthest thing from a unifying force in America. No one can, should, or ever will take him seriously when he calls for both sides to come together. I’m sure by tonight he will have insulted the entire Democratic Party on Twitter for not praising his State of the Union last night, that is if he hasn’t done so already.
The State of the Union was a waste of time
While I watched the State of the Union, listened to all of these false statements and lazy calls for us to be “one nation,” the thought that kept running through my head was what a complete waste of everyone’s time this speech was. Trump was blatantly lying, making up facts, or stretching the truth to bolster the narrative that he is a gifted leader and negotiator.
There were also no new policy proposals. And even if there had been we could expect no real initiative on the part of the White House to spearhead them.
I hope for Trump’s State of the Union next year he just sends out a series of tweets like any other day. At least that way it will be more authentic than an unconvincing speech thrown together with bad writing, lies, and hypocritical calls for unity.