Checking President Trump's State of the Union facts

Checking President Trump's State of the Union facts
Posted at 8:50 PM, Jan 30, 2018

President Donald Trump on Tuesday delivered his first State of the Union address, and CNN's Reality Check Team was there to vet his claims.

The team of reporters, researchers and editors across CNN listened throughout the speech and analyzed key statements, rating them either true, true but misleading, or false.


Biggest tax cuts in history?

By Jeanne Sahadi, Sam Petulla and Tami Luhby, CNN

Trump thinks everything he does is huge. Tax reform is no different.

"Just as I promised the American people from this podium 11 months ago, we enacted the biggest tax cuts and reform in American history," he said. "Our massive tax cuts provide tremendous relief for the middle class and small businesses."

Tax analysts and Treasury data, however, contradict the assertion that the tax cuts included in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act are the biggest in US history.

As a share of the economy, four other tax cuts have been bigger than Trump's since the 1960s: Those of President John F. Kennedy's passed in 1964, President Ronald Reagan's 1981 tax cuts, and the 2010 and 2013 tax cuts under President Barack Obama, which included making permanent earlier tax cuts signed by President George W. Bush.

It's unclear how the White House is measuring "reform."

"Reform is a much more subjective measure, so it is hard to rate," said Howard Gleckman, a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center.

Generally, tax experts define reform in one of three ways, he said. Replacing the income tax, simplifying the code and lowering rates in exchange for getting rid of most tax breaks. By those measures, Gleckman said, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act falls short. It retains the income tax. It simplifies the code in some ways but further complicates it in others. And while it lowers rates, it also retains most tax preferences from the previous tax code.

As for the tax cuts themselves, they are notable, although not enormous for many.

The middle class, for instance, would see tax cuts on average, especially in the next five years. But they would be modest -- with an average increase below 2% in after-tax income. By contrast, higher income households would see an average bump in after-tax income north of 2%, according to the Tax Policy Center.

Plus, for most middle-income groups, their tax cuts will start to diminish and then disappear completely, since individual tax cuts and other benefits would expire after 2025. Republicans say they will extend the individual tax cuts beyond that date.

Verdict: False.

Black unemployment

By Tami Luhby, CNNMoney

Trump has been touting the fact that black unemployment has fallen to a record low 6.8% in recent weeks.

"African-American unemployment stands at the lowest rate ever recorded," the President said Tuesday.

It's true that the unemployment rate for African-Americans has never been lower. It's one of the benefits of the strong job market.

In the past, Trump has falsely taken credit for the stat. The unemployment rate for blacks has been dropping for years, along with the rates for other racial groups.

Plus, black joblessness remains far higher than the rate for whites, which stands at 3.7%.

The President got into a high-profile spat with Jay-Z this past weekend after the rapper told CNN's Van Jones that just putting money in people's pockets doesn't make Trump a good leader.

Trump tweeted the next morning: Somebody please inform Jay-Z that because of my policies, Black Unemployment has just been reported to be at the LOWEST RATE EVER RECORDED!

Verdict: True.




ISIS territorial loss

By Laura Koran, CNN

"Last year, I pledged that we would work with our allies to extinguish ISIS from the face of the earth," Trump said Tuesday. "One year later, I'm proud to report that the coalition to defeat ISIS has liberated very close to 100% of the territory just recently held by these killers in Iraq and in Syria."

There is no doubt the military campaign to defeat ISIS has claimed major victories in the past year. The terror group was expelled from their self-proclaimed capital in Raqqa, Syria, as well as its onetime stronghold in Mosul, Iraq.

Exactly how much territory has ISIS lost? Estimates vary, but it's clear it no longer has firm control over large swaths of land as it did during its heyday in 2014. Last month, the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS estimated that the group had lost 89% of its territory in Iraq and 87% in Syria since that time.

Of course, some of those coalition gains were made during the Obama administration. Just ahead of the inauguration last year, a survey from the analysis firm IHS Conflict Monitor estimated the group had lost nearly a quarter of its territory over the course of 2016.

While the anti-ISIS effort began under the Obama administration, military officials and diplomats credit Trump with delegating more of the day-to-day decision making to commanders on the ground, which they say brought new momentum to the effort.

Still, experts warn that ISIS remains a threat within the region and, potentially, to the US homeland. As the terror group loses physical territory, it is increasingly turning its attention to online radicalization efforts, urging supporters to conduct terror attacks in their home countries rather than travel to the so-called "caliphate."

Verdict: True. The US-led coalition cannot yet declare victory in its effort to defeat ISIS. But at this moment, as Trump addresses Congress, the group is clearly in retreat, and has experienced significant territorial losses. The United States now faces the challenge of securing and expanding those territorial losses, preventing an ISIS resurgence, and -- at least in Syria -- determining who will govern that space in the long-term.