President Donald Trump on Thursday took inflated credit for economic milestones that have occurred during his first term and complained that Democrats have not sufficiently celebrated his (overstated) achievements.
“Perhaps they would rather see us not do well than see our country do great,” Trump said of Democrats, speaking to an annual retreat of Republican lawmakers at the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia.
Trump claimed that Democrats “sat there, stone cold, no smile, no applause” on Tuesday during his first State of the Union address when he announced that African American and Hispanic unemployment rates are at record lows.
However, he was incorrect to suggest that the low rates are wholly his administration’s doing. Unemployment numbers for African Americans and Hispanics peaked in 2010 and have fallen steadily since, and — as NPR noted of Trump’s boast — “their declines don’t appear to have picked up speed” since he took office.
Trump’s boast on Thursday that “since the election, we have created 2.4 million jobs” — a number he claimed was “unthinkable” — was similarly exaggerated.
As NBC News noted, only 2.1 million jobs have been added to the economy during Trump’s presidency. The rest were created between the 2016 election and Trump’s inauguration and are therefore jobs for which Trump can claim little credit, even before accounting for the thin connection between presidents and job growth. And compared to job growth under former President Barack Obama’s administration, Trump’s first year numbers actually constitute the slowest such increase in six years, according to the same NBC News fact check.
Later in his remarks, Trump highlighted the impact of the Republican tax bill he signed into law in December. Republicans announced at the time that the bill would increase Americans’ yearly incomes. Trump repeated that claim on Thursday.
“The changes to our business tax alone are expected to raise average household income by $4,000,” he said.
While Trump has cited worker bonuses as proof that the legislation is fulfilling Republican lawmakers’ pledges, few companies have granted workers the permanent pay raises that Trump and congressional Republicans promised, and it is difficult to verify whether those benefits can be credited to Trump or the tightening labor market that dates back to Obama’s first term.
Walmart, one of a few companies that announced it will raise its minimum wage in 2018, did the same in 2015 — and has also closed dozens of its Sam’s Club locations and laid off thousands of employees nationwide.
Trump on Thursday targeted House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for calling the trade-off in the tax legislation — massive corporate tax cuts in exchange for one-time bonuses — “crumbs.”
“That could be like ‘deplorable,’ does that make sense? ‘Deplorable’ and ‘crumbs?’” he said, referring to a remark Hillary Clinton made during the 2016 election. “Those two words seem to have a resemblance. I hope it has the same meaning. But she called it crumbs, when people are getting $2,000 and $3,000 and $1,000. That’s not crumbs. That’s a lot of money.”
He also trotted out now-familiar boasts about corporate investment, saying Apple had promised to invest $350 billion in the United States and create 20,000 new American jobs, and citing ExxonMobil’s similar announcement of a $50 billion investment.
Trump claimed that Apple’s decision was “because of our tax cuts,” and added later: “And this would have never happened without us and the work you’ve done.”
Neither company, however, cited the Republican tax bill as the primary motivation behind their decisions.
Apple CEO Tim Cook said of the company’s announcement: “There are large parts of this that are results of the tax reform, and there are large parts of this that we would have done in any situation.”
While Apple said in a press release that it is making a “direct contribution to the US economy” of 350 billion, the company did not specify whether it made that decision due to the tax cut. The wording used in Apple’s press release to describe the $350 billion — “direct contribution” rather than “investment” — is also very unclear.
Meanwhile, according to a press release, ExxonMobil’s announced $50 billion investment was only “enhanced” by the tax bill. According to the Wall Street Journal, that figure also includes $15 billion in previously announced projects.
Characteristic exaggerations aside, some of Trump’s remarks on Thursday skipped right out of left field and into the bleachers, such as when he claimed that his visit to the World Economic forum in January would net the United States “hundreds of billions of dollars.”
“A lot of you folks, you saw Davos the other day,” he said. “They’re coming back. I believe I brought hundreds of billions of dollars with me back from Europe, back from Switzerland when I went there the other day to make a speech.”
Strong as the President’s personality may be, such a claim defies fact-checking.