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AP FACT CHECK: Trump's claims in his State of Union address

AP FACT CHECK: Trump's claims in his State of Union address

February 6th, 2019 in National News

FILE - In this Dec. 22, 2018, file photo, Tijuana, Mexico, left, and San Diego, Calif, right, are seen separated by the U.S. border fence. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Associated Press fact-checked remarks from President Donald Trump's State of the Union speech. Here's a look at some of the claims examined:

Border wall

TRUMP: "These (border) agents will tell you where walls go up, illegal crossings go way, way down. San Diego used to have the most illegal border crossings in our country. In response, a strong security wall was put in place. This powerful barrier almost completely ended illegal crossings Simply put, walls work and walls save lives."

THE FACTS: Yes, Border Patrol arrests in the San Diego sector plummeted 96 percent from nearly 630,000 in 1986 to barely 26,000 in 2017, a period during which walls were built. But the crackdown pushed illegal crossings to less-patrolled and more remote Arizona deserts, where thousands died in the heat. Arrests in Tucson in 2000 nearly matched San Diego's peak.

Critics said the "water-balloon effect" — build a wall in one spot and migrants will find an opening elsewhere — undermines Trump's argument, though proponents said it only demonstrates that walls should be extended.

The Government Accountability Office reported in 2017 the U.S. has not developed metrics that demonstrate how barriers have contributed to border security.

Tariffs

TRUMP: "We recently imposed tariffs on $250 billion of Chinese goods — and now our treasury is receiving billions of dollars."

THE FACTS: This is misleading. Yes, money from tariffs is going into the federal treasury, but it's largely coming from U.S. businesses and consumers. It's not foreign countries that are paying these import taxes by cutting a check to the government.

His reference to money coming into the treasury "now" belies the fact that tariffs go back to the founding of the country. This revenue did not start with his increased tariffs on some goods from China.

Tariffs did produce $41.3 billion in tax revenues in the last budget year, according to the Treasury Department. But that is a small fraction of a federal budget that exceeds $4.1 trillion.

The tariffs paid by U.S. companies also tend to result in higher prices for consumers, which is what happened for washing machines after the Trump administration imposed import taxes.

Trade-NAFTA

TRUMP: "Our new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement — or USMCA — will replace NAFTA and deliver for American workers: bringing back our manufacturing jobs, expanding American agriculture, protecting intellectual property, and ensuring that more cars are proudly stamped with the four beautiful words: MADE IN THE USA."

THE FACTS: It's unlikely to do all those things, since the new agreement largely preserves the structure and substance of NAFTA.

In one new feature, the deal requires that 40 percent of cars' contents eventually be made in countries that pay autoworkers at least $16 an hour — that is, in the United States, or Canada, but not in Mexico. It also requires Mexico to pursue an overhaul of labor law to encourage independent unions that will bargain for higher wages and better working conditions for Mexicans.

Still, just before the agreement was signed, General Motors announced it would lay off 14,000 workers and close five plants in the United States and Canada.

Drug pricing

TRUMP: "Already, as a result of my administration's efforts, in 2018 drug prices experienced their single largest decline in 46 years."

THE FACTS: A broader look at the data shows drug prices are still rising, but more moderately. Some independent experts said criticism from Trump and congressional Democrats may be causing pharmaceutical companies to show restraint.

The Consumer Price Index for prescription drugs shows a 0.6 percent reduction in prices in December 2018 when compared with December 2017, the biggest drop in nearly 50 years. The government index tracks a set of medications including brand drugs and generics.

However, that same index showed a 1.6 percent increase when comparing the full 12 months of 2018 with the entire previous year.

"The annualized number gives you a better picture," said economist Paul Hughes-Cromwick of Altarum, a nonprofit research organization. "It could be that something quirky happened in December."

Separately, an analysis of brand-name drug prices by the Associated Press shows there were 2,712 price increases in the first half of this January, as compared with 3,327 increases during the same period last year.

The size of this year's increases was not as pronounced. Both this year and last, the number of price cuts was minuscule. The information for the analysis was provided by the health data firm Elsevier.

Wages

TRUMP: "Wages are rising at the fastest pace in decades, and growing for blue collar workers, who I promised to fight for, they're growing faster than anyone else thought possible."

THE FACTS: This is an unsupported statement because the data on hourly wages for private workers only go back to 2006, not decades.

But data on wages for production workers date back to 1939 — and Trump's claim appears to be unfounded.

Average hourly earnings for production and non-supervisory workers are up 3.4 percent over the past year, according to the Labor Department. Those wage gains were higher as recently as early 2009. And they were averaging roughly 4 percent before the start of the Great Recession in late 2007.

There are other ways to track wage gains — and those don't work in Trump's favor, either.

Adjusted for inflation, median weekly wages rose just 0.6 percent in 2018. The gains in weekly wages were 2.1 percent in 2015.

Economy

TRUMP: "In just over two years since the election, we have launched an unprecedented economic boom — a boom that has rarely been seen before. There's been nothing like it. ... An economic miracle is taking place in the United States."

THE FACTS: The president is exaggerating what has been a mild improvement in growth and hiring. The economy is healthy but not nearly one of the best in U.S. history.

The economy expanded at an annual rate of 3.8 percent last spring and summer, a solid pace. But it was just the fastest in four years. In the late 1990s, growth topped 4 percent for four straight years, a level it has not yet reached under Trump. And growth even reached 7.2 percent in 1984.

Almost all independent economists expect slower growth this year as the effect of the Trump administration's tax cuts fade, trade tensions and slower global growth hold back exports, and higher interest rates make it more expensive to borrow to buy cars and homes."