President Donald Trump’s latest campaign-style rally was in Youngstown, Ohio, where the president made some false and misleading claims about military spending, immigrants and job creation:
- Trump claimed to have “achieved a historic increase in defense spending.” But larger annual increases occurred under Presidents George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, and total defense spending was higher under President Barack Obama in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
- Trump boasted that “more than 1 million jobs” have been added “since my election.” But that takes credit for jobs created under Obama. The growth rate under Trump is actually lower than it was for the same time period in 2016.
- Trump said that the U.S. doesn’t want “people that come into our country and immediately go on welfare and stay there for the rest of their lives.” But most immigrants cannot “immediately go on welfare,” as a federal law bars new immigrants, with some exceptions, from receiving federal benefits for five years.
Trump, who has been in office for a little more than six months, has already started to run for reelection. He has started fundraising, running TV ads and holding rallies. On July 25, the president spoke in Youngstown, Ohio — in a swing state that was a key to his 2016 victory.
No ‘Historic’ Increase for Military
In Ohio, the president boasted of his accomplishments to date, but he stretched or distorted the facts in some cases — including on military spending.
Trump, July 25: We’ve achieved a historic increase in defense spending to get our troops the support they so richly deserve.
It’s true that Trump secured some additional funding for the current fiscal year, and he has proposed a modest increase for next fiscal year. But he has not “achieved a historic increase.”
In an analysis released earlier this month of the president’s budget, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the president’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2018 would increase defense spending by 5 percent.
“For defense discretionary programs in 2018, the President proposes appropriations of $668 billion, which would be $34 billion (or 5 percent) more than the amount provided in 2017,” CBO said.
The $668 billion includes $603 billion in base defense spending and $65 billion for overseas contingency operations, or OCO, which fund ongoing military operations in the Middle East. CBO said base defense spending would rise 9 percent, but OCO spending would decline by 22 percent under Trump’s budget.
In March, the White House first disclosed that it would propose $603 billion in base defense spending — which the president called “a historic increase in defense spending.” We wrote at that time that the 9 percent increase in base defense spending was not historic; in fact, there were double-digit percentage increases under Presidents George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter. The White House did not disclose in March how much it planned to spend on overseas contingency operations, so we did not know at the time how much it would propose in total defense spending.
We now know that the total increase in discretionary defense funding is a more modest 5 percent, based on the CBO analysis.
Even with that increase, Trump’s proposed $668 billion defense budget would be less than the amounts spent in 2012 ($670.5 billion), 2011 ($699.4 billion) and 2010 ($688.9 billion) under President Barack Obama, according to the CBO.
Now, Trump did secure more defense funding in a bill that he signed in May. That bill — the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017 — provided funding for the remainder of fiscal year 2017, including an additional $21 billion for the military.
But even with the increased funding, the fiscal 2017 defense spending was below the funding levels of earlier this decade, and spending would remain below those levels under Trump’s proposed budget for fiscal 2018. So the president hasn’t “achieved a historic increase in defense spending” this fiscal year, and his proposed budget will not in the next fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, either.
Trump’s Job Creation Boast
Trump said that “since my election we’ve added much more than 1 million jobs,” taking credit for jobs created under his predecessor.
Between November and June, the nation added 1.2 million jobs, according to the most recent figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But, of course, Obama was president until Jan. 20, when Trump took the oath of office. Since January, the country has added 863,000 jobs.
During the same time period last year, the country added 955,000 jobs. So while the economy continues to grow, the rate of job growth was higher in 2016.
As we’ve noted before, the job-creation trend didn’t begin with Trump’s election in November or inauguration in January. There have now been 81 straight months of job growth, dating back to October 2010.
Under Obama, the country added more than 250,000 new jobs a month in 20 of his 96 months in office. It’s very early in the Trump presidency, but his monthly job numbers haven’t hit that milestone so far.
Welfare and Immigrants
On the topic of immigration, Trump said, “We also believe that those seeking to immigrate into our country should be able to support themselves financially, and should not be able to use welfare for themselves or their household for a period of at least five years.”
He later added, “We don’t want people that come into our country and immediately go on welfare and stay there for the rest of their lives.”
However, most immigrants cannot “immediately go on welfare” after coming to the United States. In fact, federal law already bars new immigrants, with some exceptions, from receiving welfare for five years, as we noted when Trump proposed legislation to that effect in June.
The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, signed into law in 1996 by then-President Bill Clinton, states that immigrants are “not eligible for any Federal means-tested public benefit for a period of 5 years beginning on the date of the alien’s entry into the United States.” That includes benefits like food stamps, Medicaid and Social Security.
There are some exceptions in the law for those admitted as refugees and asylees, as well as those with a military connection. States can choose to make children and pregnant women who are legal permanent residents eligible for food stamps and Medicaid within their first five years in the country.
It’s possible that Trump will toughen the restrictions, or eliminate some of those exceptions. For example, Trump’s proposed FY 2018 budget notes that refugees are exempt from the five-year waiting period, and stresses the need to control the cost of benefits paid to immigrant-headed households. But the budget offered no details on how that would be accomplished beyond reducing the number of refugees, curbing illegal immigration and increasing merit-based legal immigration.