Was Trump right that 94 million Americans are out of the labor force?
"We must honestly acknowledge the circumstances we inherited," President Trump declared, as he listed a series of problems the country faces.
First on the list: "94 million Americans are out of the labor force."
Sounds like an ominously large number. Is it accurate?
Well, if you include roughly 41 million who are retired, yes. You also have to include about 15 million students who are not looking for work. Homemakers make up another big chunk.
In short, while a large number of Americans don't work, most of those who aren't working have good, traditional reasons for not doing so.
Hiding behind Trump's misleading statistic is a real issue: The share of Americans who are in the labor force has gone down in recent years.
Some of the decline comes from the aging of the huge baby boom generation, now moving into retirement. But part of the decline also represents people who have dropped out because they can't find jobs that pay enough.
Economists differ about how many of those discouraged workers exist and whether that number is still on the rise.
Anne Frank center criticizes Trump's remarks on Jewish attacks
President Trump condemned attacks against Jews in his speech Tuesday to a joint session of Congress and called threats against Jewish community centers examples of "hate and evil."
At the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, that wasn't enough.
"After weeks of our organization’s having to plead, cajole and criticize this President to speak out against anti-Semitism, we give him credit for doing the right thing tonight by beginning his speech to address anti-Semitism and other hate. But his suddenly dulcet tones weren’t matched by substantive kindness," executive director Steven Goldstein said in a statement.
"The President didn’t say exactly what he would do to fight anti-Semitism – how he could have stayed so vague? We’ve endured weeks of anti-Semitic attacks across America and we didn’t hear a single proposal from the President tonight to stop them," Goldstein said.
The Anti-Defamation League, which has also criticized Trump's response to the nearly 100 bomb threats against Jewish institutions since Jan. 9, was more subdued in its response.
"Thanks @POTUS for condemning #hate ag Jews & immigrants. Now let's fight it. See our plan. Let's do it together," tweeted ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt.
Is the coal industry really roaring back to life under Trump?
In his speech, President Trump said he had promised that "dying industries will come roaring back to life" – and then highlighted the boost he gave one such industry by blocking an environmental regulation “that threatens the future and livelihoods of our great coal miners.”
The move Trump referred to stopped an environmental rule meant to protect streams from pollution stemming from mining.
But while coal companies cheered Trump's decision, it underscored how little power he has to bring back the bulk of the coal jobs he promised in his campaign.
Environmental regulations are not the main problem killing the coal industry – the realities of the energy market and cheap natural gas are. And Trump can do little to change that.
That much was clear this month when operators of the biggest coal plant in the West, the Navajo Generating Station, announced they can no longer afford to keep it going. The planned closure by 2019 of the plant near Page, Ariz., will likely mean the loss of hundreds of coal-related jobs in a region that badly needs work.
Community leaders demanded that the Trump administration step in with a plan to save them. But the owners of the plant say relief from environmental regulations is not what they need.
A bailout plan would require heavy federal subsidies, which doesn’t square with Trump’s calls to get government out of the business of propping up troubled energy companies – like the failed Solyndra solar plant the Obama administration backed – that can’t stand on their own.
Trump repeats his push for school voucher program in joint address to Congress. But how would it be accomplished?
President Trump announced steps toward creating a national school voucher program during his speech to Congress on Tuesday night.
"I am calling upon members of both parties to pass an education bill that funds school choice for disadvantaged youth, including millions of African American and Latino children," Trump said. "These families should be free to choose the public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school that is right for them."
Trump didn't provide details, but experts have said that the most likely way to do this at a national level would be through a tax credit program.
Don't blame NAFTA for all the U.S. factory job losses
President Trump is correct in saying that U.S. manufacturing employment has fallen by one-fourth since the North American Free Trade Agreement took effect in 1994.
But American factory payrolls were declining well before NAFTA -- since the late 1970s, in fact. And as every social scientist knows, correlation is not causation.
While moving work to Mexico and especially to China has cost American manufacturing plants and jobs, most economists believe the bigger culprit was automation and new and faster ways of producing goods: robots and the Internet, for example.
The result is that U.S. manufacturing output today is at a record high. More goods are being produced than ever before, but with far fewer workers -- 12.3 million as of January, compared to 19.3 million in the same month in 1980.
Trump talks about violence in Chicago -- but doesn't repeat promise to 'send in the feds'
A few days after he entered the White House, President Trump threatened to “send in the feds” to Chicago to quell rising violence there.
The city came up again Tuesday in his speech before both houses of Congress.
“In Chicago, more than 4,000 people were shot last year alone –- and the murder rate so far this year has been even higher,” he said. “This is not acceptable in our society. Every American child should be able to grow up in a safe community, to attend a great school, and to have access to a high-paying job.”
He didn't mention sending in the feds. But can a president even do that?
Trump lays out five principles for replacing Obamacare in his first speech to Congress
|Noam N. Levey|
President Trump didn’t repeat his promise to deliver a “terrific” replacement for Obamacare within days Tuesday evening.
But the president did outline a series of “principles” that he said Congress should follow as it repeals the Affordable Care Act and develops an alternative.
Several are staples of conservative thinking on healthcare: restricting medical malpractice suits and allowing more sale of health insurance across state lines.
Neither idea has impressed many healthcare experts, most of whom say the proposals would have relatively little impact on reducing healthcare costs.
But Trump also appears to be staking out positions that may be more consequential.
He said healthcare legislation “should ensure that Americans with preexisting conditions have access to coverage,” a phrase that Republicans have often used to step back from the current law’s guarantee of coverage.
Many conservatives say that the federal government only must guarantee “access,” a distinction that critics note would justify an Obamacare replacement that does not cover as many people as the current law.
The Affordable Care Act has extended coverage to more than 20 million previously uninsured Americans.
Trump also called for tax credits to help Americans buy health coverage. That could put him at odds with conservative Republicans in Congress, who object to the current law’s system of subsidizing millions of Americans’ health insurance.
And the president said the federal government should give states “the resources and flexibility they need with Medicaid to make sure no one is left out.”
With that phrasing, Trump appears to be supporting longtime calls from Republicans for more flexibility to reshape Medicaid, including imposing work requirements and requiring Medicaid patients to pay more for their medical care.
But his reference to “resources” is less clear. Many Republican Medicaid proposals, including ones by House Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Trump’s health secretary, Tom Price, would slash federal support for the program.
Finally, Trump reiterated calls to make prescription drugs more affordable.
But he seemed to suggest the problem could be best addressed by speeding federal regulatory review of new drugs, not negotiating lower prices for seniors on Medicare, as he has proposed in the past.
Trump gets ahead of himself with boast of creating tens of thousands of pipeline jobs
President Trump boasted Tuesday night that he has created “tens of thousands of jobs” by clearing the way for construction of two major oil pipelines.
That’s not necessarily true.
The bulk of those temporary, two-year jobs – 42,000 of them -- would come from a project that may never get built, the Keystone XL pipeline. Despite Trump’s best efforts to move the project forward, there are serious questions about whether the economics pencil out for the plan to ship oil from the tar sands of Canada to Gulf Coast refineries. The project was conceived at a time analysts predicted that oil prices would be considerably higher than they are now. Amid the cheap barrels of crude flooding the market, investors are rethinking whether it is worth the expense of extracting and shipping the oil from the Alberta tar sands, a very costly endeavor.
And Trump’s own demand that the pipeline be built with American steel drives the cost up substantially.
That leaves the Dakota Access Pipeline project, which Trump has also moved to revive. Its prospects for completion are brighter. But it won’t create tens of thousands of jobs. It would create 3,900 short-term construction jobs and, according to the developer, roughly 12,000 indirect jobs for businesses in the region that will see a temporary boost in income while the project is in process.
Trump’s critics also point out that his analysis fails to account for the clean-energy jobs that don’t get created when more oil flows into the market.
“He repeated the same tired lies about creating jobs with Keystone XL and Dakota Access, but said nothing about the millions of jobs that could be created by a transition to 100% renewable energy,” said a statement from May Boeve, executive director of 350.org.
Here are the stories of Trump’s speech guests whose relatives were killed by people in the U.S. illegally
During his first address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, Donald Trump highlighted Californians whose loved ones were gunned down by people in the U.S. illegally as he announced the creation of an office to help American victims of such crimes.
"We are providing a voice to those who have been ignored by our media, and silenced by special interests. Joining us in the audience tonight are four very brave Americans whose government failed them," Trump said. "... I want you to know that we will never stop fighting for justice. Your loved ones will never ever be forgotten; we will always honor their memory."
He did not offer details on what this new office, to be called Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement and housed in the Department of Homeland Security, would do.
But Trump’s focus on the family members and their murdered relatives was a continuation of a tactic he frequently employed on the campaign trail as he vowed to crack down on illegal immigration. The four relatives were among several guests who sat with First Lady Melania Trump during the speech.
Here are their stories:
Jamiel Shaw’s 17-year-old son was walking to his Los Angeles home in 2008 when two men, both Latino, asked what gang he belonged to. When he failed to respond, he was shot twice by Pedro Espinoza, a gang member who had recently been released from jail. His father heard the shots and raced outside to find his son bleeding on the sidewalk.
The teen, who shared his father’s name, was a high school student and standout football player who was being looked at by NCAA Division I colleges. He reportedly had no gang affiliations and was a serious student and regular churchgoer. His mother, an Army sergeant, flew back from her second tour of duty in Iraq for his funeral.
Jamiel Shaw Jr.'s murder sparked an outcry over local government policies for dealing with those in the country illegally.
Shaw Sr. strongly supported Trump during the election, speaking during the Republican National Convention and appearing with Trump at multiple rallies, including one in Costa Mesa.
Espinoza was sentenced to the death penalty in 2012.
The other Californians in the audience Tuesday were Jessica Davis and Susan Oliver, the widows of two Northern California sheriff’s deputies who were shot in 2014 by a convicted felon who had twice been deported to Mexico; and Jenna Oliver, the daughter of one of the slain deputies.
Trump singled out the daughter to offer solace.
"I want you to know that your father was a hero, and that tonight you have the love of an entire country supporting you and praying for you," he said.
Her father, Sacramento County Sheriff's Deputy Danny Oliver, had approached a couple in a vehicle in a strip mall parking lot when a man suspected to be Luis Enrique Monroy Bracamontes shot him in the forehead.
The couple in the car fled, and 30 miles away, the man shot Placer County Sheriff's Deputy Michael Davis Jr. when he approached the couple in an allegedly car-jacked vehicle.
Davis died 26 years to the day after his father died in the line of duty as a Riverside County sheriff's deputy.
Bracamontes was also accused of injuring another officer and a civilian. The suspect was apprehended after a six-hour chase.
In the following days, investigators learned that Bracamontes had been deported to Mexico in 1997 after his arrest and conviction in Arizona for possession of narcotics for sale, and that he was arrested and sent back to Mexico a second time in 2001.
Bracamontes, who is scheduled to go to trial in October, has tried to plead guilty to the murders.
Trump calls for fundamental change in legal immigration
One of the most specific pledges in President Trump's speech is his call for changing America's system for legal immigration.
The current U.S. system heavily emphasizes family unification and is aimed at allowing strivers from around the world to take advantage of American opportunity. By contrast, Trump advocated a system that would emphasize immigrants who already have skills the economy needs.
"Nations around the world, like Canada, Australia and many others -- have a merit-based immigration system," Trump said.
"It is a basic principle that those seeking to enter a country ought to be able to support themselves financially. Yet, in America, we do not enforce this rule, straining the very public resources that our poorest citizens rely upon."
"Switching away from this current system of lower-skilled immigration, and instead adopting a merit-based system, will have many benefits: It will save countless dollars, raise workers' wages, and help struggling families –- including immigrant families –- enter the middle class," he said.
Trump's plan, which he first described during a major speech on immigration during his campaign, would represent a fundamental shift in the philosophy of the U.S. immigration system.
Supporters of merit-based immigration argue that the current system pushes down the wages of those at the bottom of the income ladder by increasing the supply of low-skilled workers.
On the other side, supporters of the current system point to the success that immigrants have had in taking advantage of U.S. opportunities.