Fact-checking Donald Trump's 2020 campaign kick-off in Florida

President Donald Trump speaks during his re-election kickoff rally in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump speaks during his re-election kickoff rally in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump kicked off his re-election campaign with a rally in Orlando, Fla., a key state in the path to victory. Trump offered a long list of accomplishments, many centered on the economy. But he also revisited old criticisms of Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration, and warned the crowd that "the Democratic Party has become more radical, more dangerous, and more unhinged than at any point in the modern history of our country."

While he might exaggerate improvements in the economy, generally those claims had a measure of truth. But not in every case. On other issues, Trump took more liberties.

Here are some highlights from his speech:

"If you take a look at the African-American community, how much progress has been made, the lowest unemployment numbers in the history of our country."

True.

The latest numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics put black unemployment at 6.2%. That is 1.5 percentage points lower than when Trump became president. It has been lower, but that was also during Trump’s administration. And going back to 1972, the earliest year for BLS data, black unemployment has never been lower.

"Wages are rising at the fastest rate in many decades."

This goes too far.

Wages have gone up on Trump’s watch, but not at a consistently high rate. One of the best measures is median usual weekly real earnings. Data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis shows that in real, inflation corrected dollars, wages rose 1.14% since Trump took office. But in the same number of months before he moved into the White House, real wages went up 2.93%.

The story is the same for the average change from quarter to quarter.

"We are, by the way, the No. 1 producer of energy in the world because of what we've done right now."

This is partially correct: American energy production is at the top, but it is not due just to Trump’s policies.

The Energy Information Administration reported that the United States was the world’s top producer of oil in 2018 and the top producer of natural gas in 2017. However, American oil production began to skyrocket in 2012, long before Trump was in charge. It dipped in 2014 when oil prices fell, but the government reported that  "after crude oil prices increased in early 2016, investment and production began increasing later that year."

(We passed) "the biggest tax cut in history."

Wrong.

Trump often repeats this point, but three tax cuts were larger. In inflation-corrected dollars, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 cut $321 billion per year. The Tax Relief Act of 2010 cut them by $210 billion per year. And the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 reduced taxes by $208 billion a year.

The 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act cut taxes by $150 billion a year.

"We have among the cleanest and sharpest crystal clean air and water anywhere on earth."

Exaggerated.

It’s not that America’s air and water are particularly polluted, but the country ranks 27th overall on the Environmental Performance Index, a project of the World Economic Forum, and the researchers at Yale and Columbia.

On air it ranks 10th and on water, 29th. Among wealthy democracies, the United States ranks toward the bottom, according to Zachary Wendling, principal investigator at the Environmental Performance Index.

"We’ll have over 400 miles (of the wall) built by the end of the year."

Misleading.

Trump has struggled unsuccessfully to deliver on his signature campaign promise to build a wall between the United States and Mexico. In recent months, he has spoken of 400 miles of wall that are going up. However, the United States already has about 650 miles of barriers, and at least some of the wall work Trump has pointed to involved replacing existing fencing. Looking at government contracts and requests for proposals, the Trump administration hasn’t laid out how many more new miles of the border will have some sort of barrier by the end of 2020, much less 2019.