While many pundits suggested that U.S. President Donald Trump’s speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday was an attempt to change the “tone” of the opening months of his presidency, he clearly was unable to veer from delivering a near-constant barrage of lies and half-truths.
Many news organizations offered live fact-checking of Trump’s first major address to Congress and the Center for American Progress — a pro-Clinton Democratic think-tank — claimed that Trump “told a whopping 51 lies in his 61-minute address.”
We sifted through the pile to pick out some of Trump’s biggest whoppers.
1. “American companies are taxed at one of the highest rates anywhere in the world.”
According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the U.S. is near the bottom of the 34 industrialized nations for tax revenue as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product. The OECD ranks the U.S. 31st, well behind Germany, the U.K., and Denmark. The global accounting firm KPMG even ranks the U.S. as the 6th “tax friendliest” country in the world.
2. “We will create massive tax relief for the middle class.”
Trump’s tax plan — which includes cuts to estate and gift taxes — will largely benefit the top income bracket, saving the richest in the U.S. millions of dollars a year. According to the conservative think-tank the Tax Foundation, most families below the top 20 percent of the income bracket will get less than 1 percent in tax savings. The foundation estimates that at least half of Trump’s tax cuts benefit the top 1 percent of the income bracket, and overall the cuts will add almost US$5 trillion to the national debt by reducing government revenues.
3. “We’ve defended the borders of other nations while leaving our own borders wide open.”
In the past 14 years, the U.S. illegally invaded and occupied Iraq and Afghanistan, and launched or supported illegal military operations in Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, Syria and Libya, among others.
On its own border with Mexico, according to the Department of Homeland Security itself, the past 10 years have seen a 90 percent drop in unauthorized border crossings, largely due to a vicious crackdown on migrants led by the Obama administration. The U.S. allowed in almost a million fewer immigrants in 2015 than it did in 1991, and remains under its maximum cap of 70,000 for asylum seekers and refugees.
Those migrants and asylum seekers who are allowed into the U.S. have to pass through one of the most intensive screening processes in the world, often taking up to two years to process one application.
4. “The vast majority of terrorist attacks came from people who came over our border.”
As demonstrated by the recent terrorist attack in Kansas — where a man shouted “Get out of my country” before shooting and killing two Indian immigrants — the greatest terror threat in the U.S. comes from “homegrown” right-wing extremists increasingly emboldened by Trump’s own rhetoric.
Indeed, according to the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, “Law enforcement agencies in the United States consider anti-government violent extremists, not radicalized Muslims, to be the most severe threat of political violence that they face.”
In another study, professors Charles Kurzman and Duke Professor David Schanzer found that so-called “radical Islamic” terror attacks “accounted for 50 fatalities over the past 13 and a half years.” In contrast, “right-wing extremists averaged 337 attacks per year in the decade after 9/11, causing a total of 254 fatalities.”
5. “By finally enforcing our immigration laws, we will raise wages, help the unemployed, save billions of dollars, and make our communities safer for everyone.”
Far from being lax on immigration enforcement, the Obama administration actually oversaw some of the harshest enforcement of immigration laws in U.S. history, deporting over 2.5 million people and dramatically increasing funding for border security and immigration detention.
Rather than boosting employment, raising wages, or saving billions, multiple studies suggest that Trump’s stated plans on immigration will likely have a devastating effect on the U.S. economy.
The right-wing think-tank American Action Forum predicts that Trump’s immigration crackdown would result in a US$381 to US$623 billion dollar hit to the U.S. economy in the private sector alone. It pointed out that some of the biggest industries in the U.S. — agriculture, construction, and hospitality — depend on migrant workers, both documented and undocumented. In contrast, multiple studies show that immigration is generally good for the economy, even raising long-term employment rates as well as wages.
Far from saving money, Trump’s stated plans to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and vastly expand the deportation machinery created by the Obama administration will cost billions. A recent Department of Homeland Security study estimated that the wall alone will cost US$21.6 billion, while CNBC estimates that Trump’s deportation plan could cost up to US$500 billion.
Last but certainly not least, rather than making “communities safer for everyone,” Trump’s recent immigration raids and racist rhetoric has brought terror to millions of U.S. immigrants and unleashed a wave of racist violence.
This post, The Five Biggest Lies in Trump’s Speech originally ran on teleSUR.
Image: Flickr: North Charleston