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Jon Greenberg
By Jon Greenberg April 4, 2017
Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson April 4, 2017

This story will be updated. 

President Donald Trump invited CEOs s to a town hall on the economy on the White House grounds. In his own remarks, he emphasized the priority he puts on cutting government regulations to create jobs.

"We are absolutely destroying these horrible regulations that've been placed on your heads over not eight years, over the last 20 and 25 years," Trump promised. "You have regulations that are horrendous."

The price, he said, of all those regulations was that nothing gets done quickly. Construction work was example No. 1.


"There was a very large infrastructure bill that was approved during the Obama administration, a trillion dollars," Trump said. "To this day, I haven't heard of anything being built. They used most of that money. It went, and they used it on social programs."

Trump would have to be referring to the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, commonly called the stimulus bill. The actual price tag of over $800 billion approaches Trump’s $1 trillion figure.

But by design, the law was never primarily an infrastructure program. Congress specifically designated most of the money for other purposes.

About 35 percent of the expenditures went for tax cuts for individuals and businesses. About 18 percent went for aid to cash-strapped state governments to offset cuts to health and education programs. About 14 percent went for "safety net" expenditures paid to individual Americans, such as added unemployment payments.

Michael Grabell, a journalist with the investigative project ProPublica, estimated that only about $80 billion, or roughly one-tenth of the act’s spending, was devoted to what people would normally think of as "infrastructure," and of that, only about $27 billion was spent specifically on roads and bridges. So roads and bridges accounted for just over 3 percent of all spending under the act.

And even so, the idea that nothing was built is wrong. Among many other projects, the Recovery Act helped push to completion the $1 billion DFW Connector highway in Dallas-Fort Worth; a $650 million elevated truck route to the Port of Tampa; a new Cleveland Interbelt Bridge; a tunnel connecting Oakland and Contra Costa County, Calif.; a veterans' facility at Fort Bliss in Texas; and new headquarters for the Department of Homeland Security and the Coast Guard.

President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats did push for more infrastructure spending later in Obama’s term, but it ran into solid resistance from congressional Republicans who objected to the price tag.

We rated Trump's statement at the CEO forum Mostly False.

Manufacturing jobs

Trump said the country was coming back from a long-running decline in manufacturing jobs.

"We have lost close to 70,000 factories over a relatively short period of time," he said. "That isn't happening now ."

Trump is in the right ballpark. In 2001, the Census counted 352,619 manufacturing establishments. In 2014, the most recent year for which data is available, it counted 292,543. That’s a drop of 60,076 over those 13 years.


Appearing to reference the number of Americans out of work, Trump said, "We have 100 million people if you look."

He said a "good percentage" of them would like to have jobs.

"When you look for a job, you can't find it and you give up," Trump said. "You are now considered statistically employed. But I don't consider those people employed."

Trump is mischaracterizing unemployment data. There is an official statistical category for people who want and look for a job but then give up: They are called "discouraged workers." Specifically, these people "want and are available for a job and who have looked for work sometime in the past 12 months" but are "not currently looking because they believe there are no jobs available or there are none for which they would qualify."

The problem for Trump is that "discouraged workers" are relatively rare -- in the most recent month, there were 522,000 of them. That’s just one-fourteenth the number of unemployed workers, and only about one-half of 1 percent of the "out of work" Americans Trump seems to have been referring to.

We rated this claim False.

Illegal immigration

Near the end of his town hall, Trump said illegal border crossings are down 61 percent. We looked at that just recently and rated it Mostly True.

The Department of Homeland Security on March 8 released illegal border crossing data that show that in the month of the presidential election, November 2016, border patrol made 47,210 apprehensions. In February 2017, there were 18,762 apprehensions, a 60 percent decline.

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