Who says there are no manufacturing jobs left in America? Why, President Trump himself is the nation’s chief manufacturer — of tall stories, obfuscations, and outright lies. You might say he’s a one-man Alternative Factory.
Just as Professor Henry Hill did in “Music Man,” Trump traveled to Iowa this week and brought with him a carpetbag full of snake oil so sweet-smelling, it could sweep a love-struck librarian off her feet. Giddy from Republican victories in Tuesday’s special congressional elections in Georgia and South Carolina, Trump faced an adoring crowd in Cedar Rapids, and lashed out against his favorite targets: Democrats and the media.
Ripping the “fake news” media (everyone but Fox) gave Trump the cheers he needed and set the crowd up for the aforementioned snake oil he was about to pitch. And pitch he did, on a range of subjects from Trumpcare to climate change, tax rates to coal industry jobs, and relations with Cuba to arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
But just like Professor Hill, Trump’s pitch was anything but perfect. When the fact-checkers checked, they found at least a dozen distortions of that which seems to elude the President at every turn — the truth.
The New York Times provides a list of Trump’s falsehoods at the Iowa rally:
He falsely said insurance companies “have all fled the state of Iowa.”
This talking point is no longer true. Medica, the state’s last company in the individual health insurance market, threatened to pull out in early May. Then it said earlier this month that it would stay in the state but that it would charge much higher premiums. And the Trump administration itself may be responsible for part of the uncertainty and volatility by suggesting it may not fund cost-sharing subsidies, as the company’s chief executive suggested to CNBC.
He exaggerated his legislative accomplishments.
Mr. Trump has signed nearly 40 bills into law, but it’s hard to argue, as he did, that any were “really big.”
The 14 bills rolling back Obama-era rules did signal a significant shift in regulatory policy, but are not considered major pieces of legislation. Three others named federal buildings, four made symbolic gestures toward women and veterans, three appointed Smithsonian Institution regents, two set minor rules for federal employees, one affirmed NASA’s mission, one improved weather forecasting, and one aided Minnesota’s bid for a world’s fair in 2023.
He falsely claimed the United States is “the highest-taxed nation in the world.”
In 2015, the United States ranked in the middle or near the bottom compared among 35 advanced economies in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development by the typical metrics: No. 28 for total tax revenue as a percentage of gross domestic product, No. 22 for corporate tax revenue as a percentage of G.D.P. and No. 13 for tax revenue per capita.
He misrepresented the trend in home building.
Contrary to Mr. Trump’s claim that “homebuilders are starting to build again,” construction hit an eight-month low in May and was 2.4 percent lower compared with May of last year. The number of units authorized by permits, too, have fallen since January and declined by 0.8 percent compared to the same time last year.
He falsely claimed that an Obama-era rule applied to “a little puddle in the middle of their field.”
Mr. Trump rolled back a rule that limits pollution in the country’s waters. But that rule explicitly excludes puddles and most ditches, and it really only applies to streams and rivers that drain into major bodies of water.
He falsely claimed Gary Cohn paid “$200 million in taxes” to serve as his economic adviser.
Mr. Cohn, the former president of Goldman Sachs, was required to divest company shares under ethics laws, and sold about $220 million worth of Goldman stock. He also received a cash payout of about $65 million. The nearly $300 million payout is, of course, eventually subject to taxation but characterizing it as money paid to the I.R.S. is not accurate.
He exaggerated the increase in military spending as “historic.”
Mr. Trump proposed to add $52.8 billion to the Pentagon’s budget, which amounts to nearly a 10 percent increase. There have been at least 10 larger increases to the base defense budget since the 1977 fiscal year and four since 2002.
Factoring in war spending, Mr. Trump’s claim is even less credible. There have been 27 years since 1940 in which the military spending was as high or higher than the proposed increase. As a percentage of gross domestic product, there have been roughly 35 years in which military spending matched or surpassed Mr. Trump’s request.
He took undue credit for a new coal mine in Pennsylvania and the creation of 33,000 coal-mining jobs.
Corsa Coal Corporation held a grand opening for a new coal mine in southeastern Pennsylvania in early June, but the plans for the mine preceded Mr. Trump’s election by months. The company made its decision in August 2016 and showcased the project to investors in October.
He repeated inaccurate claims about the Paris agreement.
Mr. Trump misleadingly pointed to China’s compliance pledge to argue that the climate deal “puts us at a permanent economic disadvantage.”
Though China says it expects emissions to peak by 2030, that doesn’t mean the country is planning to ignore the pledge until then nor can it meet its goal overnight in 2029. It is already on track to beat that target and also pledged to get 20 percent of energy from non-fossil-fuel sources by 2030.
And despite Mr. Trump’s protest “like hell it’s nonbinding,” there are no serious legal restraints or penalties for falling short of declared targets in the deal.
He exaggerated his actions toward Cuba as “canceling the prior administration’s completely one-sided deal.”
The new directive prohibits self-directed trips to Cuba and business transactions with firms controlled by the Cuban military, but many Obama-era policies were unaltered. Embassies in Washington and Havana will remain open, commercial planes will keep flying between the two countries, and Cuban-Americans can still send money and visit family in Cuba. Mr. Trump also declined to restore an immigration policy eliminated by Mr. Obama that allowed Cubans come to the United States without a visa to remain.
He said he would bar immigrants from receiving welfare benefits for five years, but they already are prohibited.
The requirements sought by Mr. Trump have largely been in place for two decades since the passage of welfare reform or the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996.
Legal permanent residents who haven’t worked in the United States for 10 years are not eligible for food assistance or Medicaid within the first five years of entering the country. States have the option of waiving the Medicaid rule for pregnant immigrants and children.
Refugees, asylees and victims of trafficking can collect some benefits, and immigrants who’ve served in the military are eligible without a time requirement.
He prematurely touted “hundreds of billions of dollars” of deals made in Saudi Arabia.
This figure is puffed up. The United States offered Saudi Arabia defense abilities valued at $110 billion, a fifth of which occurred under the Obama administration. It also remains to be seen how much the kingdom will purchase. Several United States companies also announced commercial deals, but the vast majority of these announcements were memorandums of understanding or letters of intent — not finalized, formal business contracts.
WHEW. Tired of winning?