FACT CHECK: Trump's address echoed familiar, dubious themes

2017-01-21 14:30
US President Donald Trump signs a document  in the Oval Office of the White House. (Jim Watson, AFP)

US President Donald Trump signs a document in the Oval Office of the White House. (Jim Watson, AFP)

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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:


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 US unemployment rate was 4.7% 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% 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% 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 US 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 US has "subsidised the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military".

THE FACTS: The US 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 civilised 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 US has been engaged for years, and Trump has offered no plan for how he will deliver on this promise.

A US-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-Qaeda and other radical groups from regaining a safe harbour 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 ISIS has a global reach, and attacks linked to radical extremism have occurred in the United States, France, Belgium, Turkey and countries throughout northern Africa.

Read more on:    donald trump  |  us  |  us 2016 elections

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