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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Groundhog Friday

On his so-called “victory tour,” President-elect Donald Trump has been repeating some inaccurate talking points that we’ve flagged before. So, as we did during the campaign, we’ll highlight these repeats in our “Groundhog Friday” feature.

Follow the links to our original stories on these claims for more information.

Groundhog2On jobs at Carrier, Dec. 6 in North Carolina: “We were very proud of saving 1,100 jobs in Indiana with the help of Mike Pence …”

That’s an exaggerated figure, as we noted when Trump and Vice President-elect Pence stopped at a Carrier plant in Indianapolis on Dec. 1 to announce a deal with the company to save jobs that were scheduled to be moved to Mexico.

The company told us that the agreement — which reportedly includes $7 million in tax breaks over 10 years — prevents 800 factory jobs from going to Mexico. Another 300 jobs in “headquarters and engineering” at the plant were never going to be shifted to Mexico, but instead were slated to move to another facility in Indiana, the company representative said.

When a union official correctly pointed out Trump’s inflated figure, the president-elect fired off two tweets criticizing the union official, saying the man had “done a terrible job representing workers” and that if the local union “was any good, they would have kept those jobs in Indiana.”

While the deal negotiated by Trump keeps 800 of the factory jobs in Indianapolis, another 600 factory jobs will still move to Mexico. And Carrier’s parent company, United Technologies Electronic Controls, will still close its manufacturing plant in Huntington, Indiana, shifting another 700 factory jobs to Mexico — for a net loss of 1,300 jobs.

“Trump’s Campaign-Style Exaggerations,” Dec. 2


On the trade deficit, Dec. 6 in North Carolina: “On trade, our trade deficit now nearly $800 billion a year. We have a deficit — think of it — of almost $800 billion a year.”

We heard this one a lot on the campaign trail, and it ended up in our “Groundhog Friday” reports a few times. It’s still an incomplete picture of trade.

The U.S. trade deficit was $531.5 billion in 2015. Trump’s “nearly $800 billion” number involves a generous rounding-up and pertains to the trade deficit for goods only, which was $758.9 billion in 2015. But the U.S. has a trade surplus in services, such as travel, education and intellectual property, resulting in a trade deficit of $531.5 billion for goods and services.

FactChecking the 11th GOP Debate,” March 4


On support from African American and Hispanic voters, Dec. 6 in North Carolina: “We did so well, so much better with African American communities, with Hispanic communities than anybody ever anticipated. … So much better, better than has taken place in years back, in years back. So I want to thank the African American communities. I want to thank the Hispanic communities.”

It depends on what Trump meant by “in years back.”

As we wrote when Trump claimed his percentage of the black vote was “higher than all of the Republican candidates for years,” that’s true when compared with Republicans who ran against Barack Obama, the first black president. But Trump did about the same or worse, as a percentage, than every other previous Republican since 1968.

According to exit polls, Trump garnered 8 percent of the black vote, while Clinton got 88 percent. That’s better than what Republican nominees Mitt Romney (6 percent in 2012) and John McCain (4 percent in 2008) got when they squared off against Obama. But it’s a little less than George W. Bush got in 2004 (11 percent), and about the same as Bush got in 2000 (8 percent). But prior to that, you’d have to go back nine presidential elections, to Barry Goldwater (6 percent) in 1964, to find a Republican presidential candidate who won a smaller percentage of support from black voters than Trump.

As for the Hispanic vote, exit polls show Trump got 29 percent – which was better than only four of the last 11 Republican nominees dating to 1972. Trump did better than Mitt Romney (27 percent in 2012), Bob Dole (21 percent in 1996), George H.W. Bush (25 percent in 1992) and Gerald Ford (24 percent in 1976). But the president-elect did worse among Hispanics compared with John McCain (31 percent in 2008), George W. Bush (35 percent in 2000 and 44 percent in 2004), George H.W. Bush (30 percent in 1988), Ronald Reagan (37 percent in both 1980 and 1984), and Richard Nixon (34 percent in 1972).

“Trump’s Campaign-Style Exaggerations,” Dec. 2


On unemployment, Dec. 8 in Iowa: “Got to get the jobs. Got 96 million people out there. We got to get them going, and they want to work. They gave up looking for jobs.”

Throughout the presidential campaign, Trump argued that the “real” unemployment rate was higher than the official one, because he said it did not include those so frustrated by the labor market that they simply gave up looking for work. But as we wrote last February, Trump’s wildly inflated unemployment rates revealed a misunderstanding of the way unemployment statistics are tallied.

According to the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 95 million people “not in the labor force.” But Trump is wrong to say “they want to work.” In fact, according to BLS, only 5.5 million of them “currently want a job.” Those not looking for a job include millions of retirees, teenagers and stay-at-home parents. For example, there are 18.2 million people age 75 and older who were not in the work force in November, BLS says.

“Trump Wildly Inflates Unemployment,” Feb. 10


On his tax plan, Dec. 6 in North Carolina: “And massive tax cuts, by the way, for middle-class workers, massive.”

And Dec. 8 in Iowa: “First on taxes, we’re going to undertake one of the great tax reforms and simplifications in American history. It’s going to be simpler. Too much work, too complicated. And the center of the plan is massive tax relief for the American middle class has been forgotten … forgotten.”

We don’t know what Trump may do as president, but the tax plan he proposed during the campaign does include an average tax cut for middle-income earners. Whether that’s the “center of the plan” or “massive,” however, is debatable. The average percentage change is larger for upper-income earners. The middle quintile would see a 1.8 percent average increase in after-tax income in 2017, according to an analysis by the Tax Policy Center. The fourth quintile would see a larger average increase — 2.2 percent — and the top quintile would get an even larger average increase in after-tax income — 6.6 percent. The top 0.1 percent would get an average increase of 14.2 percent.

“His proposal would cut taxes at all income levels, although the largest benefits, in dollar and percentage terms, would go to the highest-income households,” the TPC wrote in its Oct. 18 analysis.

The pro-business Tax Foundation found the same type of outcomes, with those in middle-income groups seeing a less than 2 percent average increase in after-tax income, and those in the top 10 percent of income earners getting a 5.4 percent to 8.3 percent average increase on a static basis.

Whether these changes are “massive” for the “middle-class” is a matter of opinion. It’s a vague statement, unlike the specific — and misleading — figures Trump touted near the end of the campaign. It’s worth noting that these are average estimates — some would see a larger increase in after-tax income and some would see less. In fact, some families, particularly some of those headed by single parents, would see an increase in their tax bills under the plan Trump has proposed. “About 20 percent of households and more than half of single parents would pay more in taxes,” Lily Batchelder, a visiting fellow at the Tax Policy Center and a professor at the New York University School of Law, calculated in an Oct. 28 paper.

“Trump’s Tax Cut Claims,” Nov. 4


On crime, Dec. 6 in North Carolina: “On crime, the murder rate has experienced its largest increase in 45 years. We are going to support the incredible men and women of law enforcement, and we are going to bring this terrible crime wave to an end. Highest in 45 years, the murder rate.”

Trump was accurate in saying that the murder rate “has experienced its largest increase in 45 years,” but then went on to repeat the false claim that the murder rate was the “highest in 45 years,” a bogus statement he made repeatedly in the final weeks of the presidential campaign. (He got the statistic right in his speech in Iowa this week.) And Trump gave a misleading impression of the big picture on crime in claiming that he would bring “this terrible crime wave to an end.”

The rate for 2015 for murder and nonnegligent manslaughter was 4.9 per 100,000 inhabitants, according to FBI data. That’s lower than the rate in 1970, 45 years earlier, which was 7.9 per 100,000 inhabitants. Last year’s figure is also less than half the peak murder rate of 10.2 per 100,000 inhabitants in 1980. However, 2015’s rate is the highest since 2009, when it was 5 per 100,000 people. That makes it the highest in six years, not 45 years.

But, the 2015 murder rate was 10 percent higher than it was in 2014. That’s the highest one-year increase “in nearly half a century,” according to the New York Times

Does that one-year jump mean the U.S. is in the midst of a “terrible crime wave”? The Times quoted Richard Rosenfeld, a criminology professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, saying: “It’s too early to call this an end to the crime drop, but we are facing a one-year rise in murders that is quite substantial — the largest in about half a century.”

As the chart here shows, the murder rate has dropped substantially since its peak in 1980 and similarly high levels in the early 1990s.

“Trump Wrong on Murder Rate,” Oct. 28