Zirpoli: Fact-checking the State of the Union address

According to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address, he is the protector of health care for people with preexisting conditions. He said, “I have also made an ironclad pledge to American families: We will always protect patients with preexisting conditions — that is a guarantee.”

In fact, the Trump administration is already allowing many insurance companies to sell plans that don’t protect preexisting conditions. In addition, the Trump administration continues to argue in court that the Affordable Care Act, the only law that protects preexisting conditions, is unconstitutional.


Trump has been in office for three years and has yet to propose any health care plan to replace the Affordable Care Act or any law or executive order to protect people with preexisting conditions. On this topic, Trump’s actions speak louder than his lies about a popular health care protection he pretends to support.

Trump bragged about his “peace plan” between Israelis and Palestinians. In fact, his son-in-law, who has no experience in diplomacy, “negotiated” a one-sided peace plan without talking to Palestinian leaders. His plan is a wish list for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It allows Israel to keep occupied lands and illegal settlements, and gives the Israeli government control over the Palestinian people, even within their own territory, for the foreseeable future. Trump’s plan is dead on arrival and an international joke among real diplomats.


The design, timing, and roll-out of the plan, with Netanyahu at the president’s side in the White House, was an obvious political effort to help Netanyahu win his March 2 election. Netanyahu has been indicted on corruption charges which he, like Trump, calls a “witch hunt.” Unlike Trump, however, Netanyahu doesn’t have a Senate of Republicans to cover for him.

Trump and his supporters continue to exaggerate the state of our economy during the past three years. He stated that, “If we hadn’t reversed the failed economic policies of the previous administration, the world would not now be witnessing this great economic success.”

Was Trump referring to the “failed economic policies” of the previous administration that saved our nation from the 2008 Great Recession, that provided the second-best stock market gains in our nation’s history (second to the growth under the Clinton administration), and that provided a larger average monthly job growth when leaving office than Trump has provided since?

Let’s review the facts. According to J. P. Morgan, during Trump’s 35 months as president, the American economy added an average of 191,000 jobs per month. During President Barak Obama’s last 35 months in office, the economy was adding an average of 227,000 jobs per month. The job growth has slowed during Trump’s three years in office compared to Obama’s last three years in office.

Trump can brag about the low unemployment rate. But it was Obama who took the unemployment rate from a high of 10.2 percent after he inherited the 2008 Great Recession to 4.7 percent when he left office in 2016. Under Trump, the unemployment rate has continued to the current rate of 3.6 percent. Thus, the Obama administration was responsible for 84 percent of the decrease (10.2% to 4.7%) in the unemployment rate after the recession compared to just 16 percent of the drop (4.7% to 3.6%) that occurred during Trump’s tenure.

Trump brags about the 2.9 percent annualized economic growth during his first three years in office. But, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, presidents Kennedy (5.5%), Johnson (5.2%), Ford (3.1%), Carter (3.4%), Reagan (3.4%), and Clinton (3.7%) all had higher annual economic growth than Trump during their tenure in the White House.

Trump said that the “Trump stock market rally is far outpacing past U.S. presidents.” Not true. Stocks were up 42 percent as of Feb. 4 during the Trump administration, or about 14 percent per year over his three years in office. But stocks increased at an annual rate of about 23 percent (182% over eight years) during the Obama administration and about 26 percent during the Clinton administration (210% over eight years).

What Trump did not talk about during the State of the Union was the record number of farm foreclosures during his tenure, the result of his tariffs that have closed the door to Chinese markets for American farmers. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, Trump’s tariffs will also cost the average American family $1,277 in higher prices in 2020. Trump promises better trade deals with China, after the election, of course, but China has already found alternative sources for their corn, soybeans, and wheat. He also did not talk about the $3 trillion he added to the national debt — a record amount in three years.


Trump can have his own lies, but he can’t have his own facts.

Tom Zirpoli is the program coordinator for the Human Services Management graduate program at McDaniel College. He writes from Westminster. His column appears Wednesdays. Email him at