By Congressman Adam Smith (D-Wash.)
It is inevitable that members of Congress will have disagreements about the policy and approach laid out by the President in the State of the Union each year. On Tuesday, however, we saw an abdication from the truth by President Trump like we have never seen before in a State of the Union address to Congress. President Trump laid out a twisted, distorted vision that misled the American people on critical issues and failed to acknowledge certain threats entirely. Many of his claims were unequivocally false.
President Trump touted the strength of the economy, claiming that reversing the economic policies of the previous administration has paved the way for the economic gains of today. This is just wrong. GDP growth is hardly the best ever, as President Trump has claimed, and has slowed in the wake of the Republican tax cuts. In the first three years of the Trump Administration, the U.S. GDP grew by 2.4%, 2.9%, and 2.3% respectively.
Numerous previous presidents have averaged well above Trump’s GDP growth levels:
- Johnson averaged 5.3%;
- Clinton averaged 3.9%;
- Reagan averaged 3.5%;
- Carter averaged 3.3%;
- Eisenhower averaged 3%.
Trump is not even performing above the post-World War II average of 2.9% per year.
The truth is that economic growth Trump claims credit for began during the Obama administration. In the 36 months before Trump took office, 8.2 million jobs were created under President Obama compared to just the 6.7 million jobs gained under Trump in his first three years. In addition, the Trump tax plan signed into law at the beginning of 2018 will add $1.9 trillion to the deficit over the next decade, leaving our kids to foot the bill for this giveaway to corporations and the wealthy.
Trump also said he will “always protect patients with pre-existing conditions.” But the Trump administration is actively pursuing a lawsuit today that would completely dismantle the Affordable Care Act, including its protections for pre-existing conditions, and has offered no serious legislation to protect pre-existing conditions. His actions are not protecting patients, they are leaving millions of Americans at risk from losing their health care.
Beyond domestic issues, Trump said we are stronger than ever in foreign relations. That could not be further from the truth. The Trump administration’s policies have severely undermined our credibility on foreign policy and diplomacy, which threatens our national security. For example, he abandoned the Kurds in Syria after decades of support and cooperation, and we drew dangerously close to another war with Iran when Trump ordered the killing of Soleimani without fully considering the consequences. Trump has actively undermined key alliances such as NATO, sided with Russia instead of our own intelligence agencies, and abandoned career diplomats and foreign service officers that are the backbone of our foreign policy. Our long-standing alliances are in jeopardy due to his short-sightedness and bravado. The damage done in just his first term will take years to repair.
In all of his exaggerations and lies, the President failed to mention an existential threat facing the United States and the world: climate change. Failure to acknowledge and address this threat is unacceptable and will impact our children and country for years to come.
The challenges facing the United States are not going to be easy to address, but our country deserves leadership that is at least honest with the American people.
Congressman Adam Smith (D-Wash) represents Washington State’s 9th Congressional District.
Featured image by Joyce N. Boghosian