Saturday, October 25th, 2014

Fact-checking the State of the Union address

President Barack Obama visited Arden, N.C., the day after delivering the State of the Union address. (AP Photo)
President Barack Obama visited Arden, N.C., the day after delivering the State of the Union address. (AP Photo)

Last updated Thursday, Februrary 14th, at 4:38 p.m.

PolitiFact is fact-checking President Barack Obama's State of the Union address, as well as the rebuttal and reaction to the speech. We'll be collecting our fact-checks here as we finish them.

Manufacturing jobs

At several points in his State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama noted the importance of manufacturing to the nation’s economy.

"Our first priority is making America a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing," Obama said. "After shedding jobs for more than 10 years, our manufacturers have added about 500,000 jobs over the past three."

The rise in manufacturing jobs that Obama is referring to is modest compared to the prior decade’s decline, but he has described the numbers carefully. We rate his statement True.

Border security

Obama also touted his administration’s record on curbing illegal immigration.

"We can build on the progress my administration has already made – putting more boots on the southern border than at any time in our history and reducing illegal crossings to their lowest levels in 40 years," Obama said.

Obama is right about the numbers, but it’s a stretch for him to suggest that his administration is the primary reason. The growth in agents began under President George W. Bush. And economic conditions in both the United States and Mexico tend to influence the number of crossings, as does crime. On balance, we rate Obama’s claim Half True.

Public support for gun legislation

Obama said victims of gun violence deserve an up or down vote on new legislation concerning guns.

"Overwhelming majorities of Americans – Americans who believe in the 2nd Amendment – have come together around common-sense reform – like background checks that will make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun," he told lawmakers.

Obama is right that "overwhelming majorities" support universal background checks. But background checks have the strongest support; polling shows fewer people support other measures, such as an assault weapons ban. We rated Obama's statement Mostly True.

Economic growth

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio delivered the Republican response to President Obama’s address. He criticized Obama’s handling of the economy.

"Economic growth is the best way to help the middle class," Rubio said. "Unfortunately, our economy actually shrank during the last three months of 2012."

That decline was documented by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, the federal agency that calculates gross domestic product, or GDP -- the benchmark statistic for measuring the size of the economy. It’s too early to say whether the fourth-quarter decline in GDP represents a reversal of economic fortune or just a blip. We rated Rubio's statement True.

Defense budget cuts, a.k.a 'the sequester'

Rubio criticized Obama not only on substance, but on style, too.

"Any time anyone opposes the president’s agenda, he and his allies usually respond by falsely attacking their motives," Rubio said.

"Tonight, he even criticized us for refusing to raise taxes to delay military cuts – cuts that were his idea in the first place," he added.

That doesn’t tell the whole story -- particularly the fact that Obama does not favor these cuts. The White House proposed them as a means of driving the two sides to a compromise over the deficit, not as a real-world spending plan. Still, the idea did originate with Obama’s team. We rated Rubio’s statement Half True.

Keeping Congress 'fully informed'

After being criticized for using drones to kill suspected terrorists, including American citizens, Obama said he has been transparent with Congress about his administration’s policy.

Obama said his administration "has worked tirelessly to forge a durable legal and policy framework to guide our counterterrorism efforts. Throughout, we have kept Congress fully informed of our efforts."

We found complaints from both Republican and Democratic senators that the administration has fallen significantly short when it comes to keeping Congress informed. In fact, requests for additional information have been pending for much of the president’s tenure in office. We rated Obama's statement False.

Fuel economy

Obama said the country’s progress toward energy independence can be measured in miles per gallon.

"Today, no area holds more promise than our investments in American energy. After years of talking about it, we're finally poised to control our own energy future," he said, adding, "We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas and the amount of renewable energy we generate from sources like wind and solar, with tens of thousands of good, American jobs to show for it."

We looked at whether we’ve "doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas" and found that's not the case. Federal rules say that cars will reach 54.5 mpg benchmark -- but that's not until 2025. We rated Obama's statement False.

Where Rubio lives

Rubio said Obama accuses Republicans of favoring the rich in their policies. But that's not the case, Rubio argued.

"Mr. President, I still live in the same working-class neighborhood I grew up in. My neighbors aren’t millionaires," he said. That claim lit up the blogosphere with chatter that Rubio was actually trying to sell his house for $675,000.

PolitiFact Florida investigated and found that he is trying to sell, but the neighborhood is working class. They rated his statement Mostly True.

The minimum wage

Obama proposed an increase to the federal minimum wage, from the current $7.25 an hour to $9, and then indexing it to inflation. Obama said that tying the minimum wage to the cost of living is something he and Mitt Romney "actually agreed on." We looked into Romney's past statements on indexing the minimum wage and rated Obama's statement Mostly True.

The health care law and slowing costs

Obama talked about the need to slow the growth of health care spending, particularly on Medicare. "Already, the Affordable Care Act is helping to slow the growth of health care costs," he said. We actually found a great deal debate over how much the Affordable Care Act is contributing to an overall slowdown in health spending, because the evidence is mixed. We rated his statement Half True.

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We'll be adding more fact-checks to this story as we complete them this week; check back for new reports.