President Donald Trump repeated some misleading claims this week as he made the rounds on conservative radio talk shows, delivered a speech to a conservative group and held a press conference with the Senate Republican leader.
So, we decided for this week to bring back “Groundhog Friday” — a weekly staple of the 2016 campaign that highlighted claims that continue to be repeated even after we have debunked them.
Trump on his proposed border wall with Mexico, Oct. 16 press conference: “Drugs are pouring across our border. We’re stopping it, but we need a wall to really stop it.”
Trump has made this a talking point. But, in fact, the Mexican cartels “transport the bulk of their drugs” undetected through legal ports of entry, such as border vehicle checkpoints, the Drug Enforcement Administration said in a 2015 report.
“The drugs are typically secreted in hidden compartments when transported in passenger vehicles or comingled with legitimate goods when transported in tractor trailers,” the report said.
The DEA report adds that drugs are also transported in cargo trains, small boats, ultralight aircraft and “occasionally … through subterranean tunnels.”
In August, Vanda Felbab-Brown, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, wrote an essay that said “a barrier in the form of a wall is increasingly irrelevant to the drug trade as it is now practiced because most of the drugs smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico no longer arrive on the backs of those who cross illegally.”
“The wall won’t stop the flow of drugs into the United States,” Felbab-Brown told us in an email when we wrote about this in August.
“Will Trump’s Wall Stop Drug Smuggling?” Aug. 30, 2017
Trump on who benefits from his proposed tax cuts, Oct. 17 on SiriusXM Patriot 125: “The big beneficiaries are the middle class. I call it the working people, but the big beneficiaries are the middle class.”
Trump is referring to the Republican tax plan that was negotiated between the White House and GOP congressional leaders and released on Sept. 27. But the Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan think tank, found that most of the benefits of the tax cut go to the top 1 percent.
The GOP plan would eliminate or reduce taxes that largely benefit the wealthy. It would, among other things, cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent; abolish the alternative minimum tax, which is designed to ensure that the most wealthy taxpayers pay a minimum tax; collapse the seven income tax brackets, ranging from 10 percent to 39.6 percent, to three (12 percent, 25 percent and 35 percent); and eliminate the estate tax.
In a “preliminary analysis” of the GOP framework, the TPC found that 80 percent of the benefit of the tax cuts would go to the top 1 percent of income-earners by 2027. Howard Gleckman, a senior fellow with TPC, called it “a major tax cut for businesses and the very highest income Americans and only a small tax cut for middle-income households.”
Individually, middle-income taxpayers — the middle of five income groups, when ranked from poorest to wealthiest — would see mixed results.
“In 2018, the framework would cut taxes for moderate-income households by an average of $660, or 1.2 percent of their after-tax income,” Gleckman wrote. “But not everyone would win. In 2018, about one in seven middle income households would pay an average of $1,000 more in taxes under this plan. By 2027, more than one of every four middle-income families would pay more in taxes.”
For the highest earners — those in the top 1 percent and top 0.1 percent — nearly all would see lower taxes. Ninety percent of the top 1 percent — those earning about $900,000 and above in 2027 — would get a tax cut, averaging $234,050.
Trump made similar remarks in a speech in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on Oct. 11, in an interview with Mike Huckabee on Trinity Broadcasting Network on Oct. 7, and an interview on Fox Radio with Brian Kilmeade on Oct. 17.
“A Tax Hike or Benefit for the ‘Middle Class?’” Oct. 12, 2017.
Trump on economic growth in second quarter of 2017, Oct. 17 in a speech at the Heritage Foundation: “GDP growth reached more than 3.2 percent last quarter, and people said it would take years to get there.”
Trump misrepresents the facts when he claims that “people said it would take years” for the nation’s real gross domestic product to reach 3.2 percent for a quarter.
First, it was 3.1 percent in the last quarter, not 3.2 percent, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. But, more importantly, it is not unusual or surprising for the U.S. economy to experience quarterly growth of 3.1 percent.
The real GDP grew by 3.1 percent or better eight times in eight years under President Obama, most recently at 3.2 percent in the first quarter of 2015. During that time, it reached a high of 5.2 percent in the second quarter of 2014.
In August, when we first wrote about this, Trump boasted about the second quarter advance estimate, which was 2.6 percent at the time. It has since been revised up to 3.1 percent. At that time, Trump described the 2.6 percent estimate as an “unbelievable number” and “a number that nobody thought they’d see for a long period of time.”
“Trump’s GDP Puffery,” Aug. 1, 2017
“FactChecking Trump’s Tax Speech,” Aug. 31, 2017