President Trump told some whoppers over the course of a 71-minute Cabinet meeting that turned into a live-streaming, rambling self-defense. (CNN counted 20 false claims.) Several of Trump's claims were distortions of his economic record — and probably will help form the spine of his reelection pitch in 2020.
So, some fact-checking is in order:
1. On the rise of median household income.
Trump opened the session by pointing to a jump in median household income he says far outstrips that of his two most recent predecessors.
“I don’t know if anybody saw, the household median income, for eight years of President Bush, it rose $800. For eight years of President Obama, it rose $975,” Trump said. “And for two and a half years of President Trump — they have it down as 2.5 years — it rose $5,000, not including $2,000 for taxes. So it rose let’s say $7,000. So in two and a half years we’re up $7,000, compared to $1,000, compared to $400. And that’s for eight years and eight years. That’s a number that just came out, but that’s a number that I don’t know how there can be any dispute. I’ve never heard of a number like that. Meaning that the economy is doing fantastically well.” (See the entire meeting here.)
It’s true that in nominal terms, median household income is hitting new highs, topping $63,000 last year in a first, according to Census Bureau figures. But that mark comes with two important qualifications. First, after adjusting for inflation, the number has barely budged in the past 20 years. “On an inflation-adjusted basis, Americans families are earning just 2.7% more than they did in 1999, when median household income stood at $61,526, or 2007, when the median household income was about $61,000,” per CBS News’s Aimee Picchi.
Here’s the 20-year history in chart form:
Trump's numbers appear to have originated in a pair of columns from the Heritage Foundation's Steve Moore, who used research from a private firm called Sentier Research, per PolitiFact's Louis Jacobson. He writes that "median income has risen under Trump, and economists expect it to rise again in 2019 once those figures are available. But even taking the expected 2019 statistics into account, the increase under Trump in the official data ... should be smaller than the increase Sentier’s data shows, while the increase under Obama — even factoring in the Great Recession he inherited — is bigger than Sentier’s data shows."
And the median number obscures an important fact about the distribution of the gains. Perhaps ironically, recent economic winners are concentrated in Democratic districts, where “college degrees and professional jobs are plentiful — and the economy is thriving,” the Wall Street Journal’s Aaron Zitner and Dante Chinni write. Republican districts, by contrast, “hold a growing share of jobs in low-skill manufacturing, agriculture and mining — sectors that often do not require college degrees and which offer lower pay. Median household income and GDP have fallen in these districts, compared to the House districts Republicans represented a decade ago.”
2. On the jobless rate for minorities and women.
Trump accurately said unemployment rates for African-Americans and Hispanics are at all-time lows. He said the same thing about Asian Americans, but their unemployment sits at 2.4 percent, tying a low it hit in 2006. Trump also said the unemployment rate for women is at a 71-year low; in fact, it’s at a 66-year low:
And it’s worth noting these positive developments continue long-standing trends. Here, for example, is the recent history of the black jobless rate:
By the president’s other preferred measure of economic well-being, median household income, African-American and Asian American households are actually worse off than at the end of the Obama administration. "The median income last year for a black household was $40,258, according to the Census Bureau,” AP’s Calvin Woodwardand Hope Yen wrote. “That’s below a 2000 peak of $42,348 and also statistically no better than 2016… As for Asian Americans, the median income for a typical household last year was $81,331. It was $83,182 in 2016.”
3. On “trillions” in new value across the economy.
Trump said the United States now has “tremendous power because since the election of 2016, November, since that beautiful day, our country has picked up in value trillions and trillions of dollars of worth. Trillions and trillions of dollars. Numbers that nobody would believe. Numbers that if I would have said it on the campaign trail, I would have been excoriated by the fake media.” It’s not entirely clear what Trump is referring to here — but it’s possible he means GDP, which gained $1.8 trillion from the end of 2017 through the middle of last year.
But Trump early in his presidency projected the economy would rev up as much as 6 percent. It has so far averaged in the mid-2 percent range and looks to be slowing as the boost from his tax cuts wane and the trade war weighs on businesses.
4. On the stock market’s performance.
It’s also possible Trump was referring to the stock market’s rise during his time in office. It’s a subject he returned to later in the meeting. “I have the strongest economy in the history of our country,” he said. “We’re setting records… Over 100 times we've had the highest stock market in history since November 8. Over 100 times. And by the way, the day I got elected, the following day from there until January 20, the market went through the roof. You know why it went through the roof? Because they got rid of Obama and they got rid of Clinton.”
But from Obama’s inauguration until this point in his presidency, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 48.5 percent; under Trump, it has risen 35.5 percent.
5. On China’s growth struggles.
The president exaggerated by 30 years the interval since China has seen its economic growth slow as much as it has this year. “China is doing very poorly — worst year they've had in 57 years,” Trump said. In fact, the country is seeing its weakest growth since 1992 — 27 years.
6. On who shoulders the burden for U.S. tariffs.
Trump said China is paying the tariffs that his administration has imposed on imports from the country. “We’re taking billions and billions of dollars in tariffs from China,” he said. It’s a claim he’s made so often, it almost seems unworthy of a mention at this point. But it’s just as wrong as the first time he said it. In fact, American businesses bringing in those goods and the American consumers buying them are paying the import taxes.
There were a number of other inaccuracies, too, from inflated statements about crowd sizes at his rallies to the false claims about the disposition of American troops in the Middle East and dismissing as "phony" the emoluments clause of the Constitution. But as Trump leans on the economy to boost his reelection bid, expect to hear some of these same distortions about his economic report card.
— Stocks power higher. AP's Alex Veiga and Damian Troise: "Technology companies and banks helped power stocks on Wall Street broadly higher Monday, extending the market’s gains of the past two weeks. The rally came as investors found fresh reason for optimism as the U.S. and China continue negotiations aimed at resolving their costly trade war. China’s top negotiator said over the weekend that 'substantial progress' was being made in its talks with the U.S. Tensions over trade between Washington and Beijing have cooled recently.
"The latest gains nudged the S&P 500 above 3,000 points for the first time in a month. The benchmark index is now within 0.7 percent of its all-time high set on July 26 but could need a catalyst to set a record."
— Half of the world's banks could sink in a downturn. Bloomberg's Hannah Levitt: "More than half of the world’s banks are too weak to survive a downturn, according to a survey from consultancy McKinsey & Co. A majority of banks globally may not be economically viable because their returns on equity aren’t keeping pace with costs, McKinsey said in its annual review of the industry released Monday. It urged firms to take steps such as developing technology, farming out operations and bulking up through mergers ahead of a potential economic slowdown...
"In its report, the firm said banks risk 'becoming footnotes to history' as new entrants change consumer behavior. Most recent attempts by banks to boost efficiency have been 'business-as-usual,' it said."
— A weakened Justin Trudeau holds on to power. The Post's Amanda Coletta: "Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has survived scandal and missteps to win a plurality of seats in Parliament in Canada’s federal election, news media here projected, but he failed to retain his majority, leaving his government dependent on the support of smaller parties to advance his agenda. Trudeau’s Liberal Party has won more seats than Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. and CTV News projected shortly after polls closed Monday night, but fell short of the 170 needed for a majority in the 338-seat House of Commons."
— Trump says China deal is possible come November: “Trump said China has indicated that negotiations over an initial trade deal are advancing, raising expectations the nations’ leaders could sign an agreement at a meeting next month in Chile,” Bloomberg News’s Justin Sink and Jordan Fabian report.
“Earlier Monday, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said that it was more important to get details of the agreement right than it was for Trump to sign it at an expected meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping next month in Chile. Ross also told Fox Business Network that the ‘actual meat’ of the agreement would come in two additional phases yet to be completed.”
— Pence and Biden argue trade in PA: "Vice President Mike Pence and former Vice President Joe Biden went head to head on trade ... both using Pennsylvania, a critical electoral state, to prove their opposing points on the efficacy of the Trump administration's new North American trade proposal," Politico's Sabrina Rodríguez and Matthew Choi report.
"Biden sent a scathing statement to a local news outlet, The Citizens’ Voice, lambasting [Trump’s] record on the working class, shortly before Pence’s planned visit to Luzerne County, Pa., to tout the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement."
- Biden's statement: "[Trump] has talked tough on trade but has nothing to show for it, other than pain for America’s families,” Biden wrote to the paper. “[Pence] has been his complicit sidekick, propping up Trump’s trade wars and slighting hard-working Americans in Luzerne County and across the country.”
- Pence responds: "Well, Joe, Pennsylvanians will not be fooled,” Pence said to an audience of more than 200. “They know the USMCA is a win for Pennsylvania and a win for America. It’s time you got on board. It’s time to pass USMCA.”
— Drugmakers, Ohio counties reach $260 settlement in opioids case: “Two Ohio counties settled with four drug companies on the morning of a landmark federal trial over responsibility for the opioid epidemic, striking a $260 million deal that emerged just an hour before opening arguments were set to start,” my colleagues Lenny Bernstein, Scott Higham and Sari Horwitz report.
“The deal is with the ‘Big Three’ distributors McKesson Corp., AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Health and Israeli generics drugmaker Teva Pharmaceuticals. The agreement does not include a fifth defendant, Walgreens, the retail drugstore chain that was sued over its distribution operation. Walgreens’ case has been postponed.”
- It’s unclear what this means for everyone else: “The deal covers only two of the 2,400 cities, counties, Native American tribes that have sued the drug companies. It also involves only a handful of the companies facing lawsuits. While a major trial could still be in the offing, [the] settlement suggests a larger deal might be coming.”
- Teva’s shares surged after the announcement: “The stock rose as much as 18% in intraday trading before giving up some of those gains. It ended the day up more than 8%. Mallinckrodt and Endo International also briefly moved higher, before ending the day down 4.5% and 4.6%, respectively,” CNBC’s Berkeley Lovelace Jr. reports.
— Boeing’s woes continue to drag on: “Boeing Co may have to book billions of dollars in additional charges related to its parked 737 MAX jets, brokerages said on Monday, citing fresh uncertainty over the time frame for lifting a safety ban imposed after deadly crashes,” Reuters’s Ankit Ajmera, Eric M. Johnson report.
“Credit Suisse and UBS downgraded the stock after Reuters on Friday reported that a series of internal messages from a former Boeing pilot described the plane’s software as behaving erratically months before the jet entered service.”
- Meanwhile, Europe says the Max won’t return until January at the earliest: “European regulators expect to clear Boeing’s grounded 737 MAX to return to service in January at the earliest, following flight trials by European test pilots scheduled for mid-December, Europe’s top aviation safety official told Reuters,” Reuters’s Tim Hepher reports.
— Thiel’s fund builds new war chest: “Peter Thiel’s venture-capital firm is raising nearly $3 billion—and in a switch from the company’s usual script, much of the war chest will be poured into the swelling ranks of technology startups that have stayed private for years,” the Wall Street Journal’s Rob Copeland and Katie Roof reports.
“Founders Fund, Mr. Thiel’s flagship San Francisco firm, is late in the process of amassing the new cash across two funds, people familiar with the matter said. The push includes Founders’ first dedicated fund for late-stage companies, which the firm intends to use to plow new money into existing investments like payments business Stripe Inc. and data-analysis company Palantir Technologies Inc.”
MONEY ON THE HILL
— Yang says GDP is an outdated metric: “Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang said … that the three chief indicators for measuring the economy — gross domestic product, the unemployment rate and the stock market — are misleading because they don’t reflect the life conditions of most Americans,” Bloomberg News’s Emma Kinery reports.
“ ‘GDP is at record highs.’ he told the National Press Club in Washington, adding that ‘stress levels, financial security, student loan debt, suicides, mental illness, drug overdoses’ were also at ‘record highs and multi-decade highs.’ ”
— Mark Zuckerberg has recommended hires to Pete Buttigieg. Bloomberg's Tyler Pager and Kurt Wagner: "Facebook Inc. chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg has privately recommended several potential hires to Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign, a rare example of direct political involvement from one of tech’s most powerful executives.
"Earlier this year, Zuckerberg sent multiple emails to Mike Schmuhl, Buttigieg’s campaign manager, with names of individuals that he might consider hiring, campaign spokesman Chris Meagher confirmed. Priscilla Chan, Zuckerberg’s wife, also sent multiple emails to Schmuhl with staff recommendations. Ultimately, two of the people recommended were hired."
The company is still facing Russian attempts to interfere in the election. The Post's Tony Romm and Isaac Stanley-Becker: "Facebook on Monday said it removed a network of Russian-backed accounts that posed as locals weighing in on political issues in swing states, praising President Trump and attacking former vice president Joe Biden — illustrating that the familiar threat of Russian interference looms over the next U.S. presidential race.
"Facebook said the network bears the hallmark of the same Kremlin-backed group that interfered in the 2016 election by sowing social discord, seeking to boost Trump and attacking Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. The new disinformation campaign appears to follow the same playbook."
From former Obama administration economist Jared Bernstein:
- The House Financial Services Committee holds a hearing on the Trump administration’s plans to change housing finance.
- The American Enterprise Institute holds an event on what comes next about the GOP’s tax law.
- McDonalds, Harley-Davidson, UPS, JetBlue Airways, Whirlpool, Biogen, Discover Financial Services, Skechers USA, United Technologies and Chipotle Mexican Grill are among the notable companies reporting their earnings today, per Kiplinger.
- The Brookings Institute holds an event on how millennials think about climate change and the national debt.
- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is scheduled to testify at a Financial Services Committee hearing about his company.
- Boeing, Anthem, Caterpillar, Ford, Hilton, General Dynamics, Microsoft, Tesla, Spirit Airlines, PayPal, O’Reilly Auto, eBay Inc. and Eli Lilly are among the notable companies reporting their earnings today, per Kiplinger.
- The Urban Institute holds an event on reimagining housing policy.
- Two House Education and Labor Committee subcommittees hold a hearing on preserving worker protections in the modern economy.
- Amazon, American Airlines, 3M, Intel, Comcast, Visa, Southwest Air, Dow, Capital One, Hershey Foods, GMC Holdings, Valero Energy, First Solar and Twitter are among the notable companies reporting their earnings today, per Kiplinger.
- Verizon, Phillips 66 Partners, Goodyear Tire and Anheuser-Busch InBev are among the notable companies reporting their earnings today, per Kiplinger.
From The Post's Tom Toles: