Kush Desai and Emily Larsen, DCNF
President Donald Trump made several claims about tax reform, energy independence and the War on Terror during his first State of the Union address.
Here are five checks on Trump’s remarks to Congress.
Claim 1: “I’m proud to report that the coalition to defeat ISIS has liberated almost 100 percent of the territory once held by these killers in Iraq and Syria.”
Operation Inherent Resolve, the military operation dedicated to fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria, reported in January that ISIS has lost nearly all the territory it once controlled.
“During 2017 over 61,500km² of territory was liberated from Daesh across Iraq and Syria, meaning more than 98% of the land once claimed by the terrorist group has been returned to the people,” Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk II said in a press release.
Some argue that Trump doesn’t deserve credit for ISIS’s decline, saying he largely continued the strategy of former President Barack Obama. Trump did, however, loosen some restrictions put in place to prevent civilian casualties.
In 2017 alone, ISIS territory shrank by 60 percent from January to October. The RAND Corporation estimates that ISIS held more than 100,000 square kilometers in Iraq and Syria at its peak in late 2014.
Claim 2: “Since we passed tax cuts, roughly 3 million workers have already gotten tax cut bonuses – many of them thousands of dollars per worker.”
Trump’s figure likely comes from Americans for Tax Reform, a conservative organization that tracks which companies have publicly credited the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) with their decision to offer employee bonuses and raises.
It reported that 3 million employees from at least 287 companies will receive bonuses, salary increases, company stock or health insurance due to tax reform. AT&T, for instance, paid $1,000 bonuses to more than 200,000 employees.
USA Today, which conducted its own independent analysis, found that over 2.5 million employees will receive bonuses.
Some say that many of these companies would have provided the extra pay regardless of whether the tax reform bill passed. “Companies are struggling to find new employees and they’re struggling to hold on to existing ones, so they have to raise wages,” Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, toldNBC News.
Claim 3: “We enacted the biggest tax cuts and reform in American history.”
According to the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), the tax law will amount to a $1.5 trillion tax cut over the next decade, or about $150 billion a year.
A study by the Treasury Department indicates that three previous tax bills provided greater annual tax relief in 2012 dollars: the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (enacted in 2013) at $321 billion a year; the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 at $210 billion a year and the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 at $208 billion a year.
The TCJA will provide a combination of business and individual income tax cuts over the next decade. Estimates of how much economic growth the tax bill will produce vary, although JCT estimated that the bill will result in a net increase to the federal deficit.
Claim 4: “America is a nation of builders. We built the Empire State Building in just 1 year.”
Groundbreaking of the Empire State Building commenced on March 17, 1930 and construction finished just over a year later on March 31, 1931. President Herbert Hoover dedicated the building only one month after that.
The building’s planning phase was similarly fast. Architects designed the Empire State Building in just two weeks, in part because they modeled it after the Reynolds Building in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The Empire State Building’s staff even sends an annual Father’s Day card to the Reynolds Building to honor its history.
Claim 5: “We have ended the war on American energy – and we have ended the war on clean coal. We are now an exporter of energy to the world.”
Total coal exports have declined every year since 2012. Data for coal exports in 2017 have not been released yet, but in just the first six months of 2017, the U.S. exported over 70 percent of the coal it exported in all of 2016, largely due to demand from Europe and Asia.
U.S. natural gas production has continued to rise, and the U.S. became a net exporter of natural gas in 2017 (on an annual basis) for the first time since 1957. The U.S. still imports oil, but daily exports have also spiked dramatically in recent years.
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