The US President has delivered his second state of the union address as the impasse over his wall at the Mexico border drags on.

By Daniel Herborn

Posted on February 6, 2019

“The agenda I will lay out this evening is not a Republican agenda or Democrat agenda, it is the agenda of the American people,” Trump began.

“Many of us have campaigned on the same core promises, to defend American jobs and demand fair trade for American workers, to rebuild and revitalize our nation’s infrastructure, to reduce the price of health care and prescription drugs, to create an immigration system that is safe, lawful, modern and secure, and to pursue a foreign policy that puts America’s interests first.”

Trump’s assertion that an “urgent national crisis” is happening was met with scepticism

Some commentators found Trump’s emphasis on unity ironic given he had been willing to shut down the government on the issue of funding for his proposed wall on the US-Mexico border. His address was originally scheduled for 29 January but was delayed due to the shutdown.

Much of the media coverage of Trump’s address has been concerned with fact-checking his statements. Fact-checking website Politifact has determined only 4% of his public statements could be classified as ‘true’.

His speech circled back to one of his key messages from the last few months: that urgent action must be taken to slow illegal immigration, which has reached a crisis point. This has previously been hotly disputed. Reporters covering today’s address have taken issue with Trump’s description of illegal border crossings from Mexico as an “urgent national crisis”. The New York Times said this was inaccurate given that border crossings have been in decline for almost 20 years. While border apprehension numbers have spiked in recent months, they are still lower than they were two decades ago.

His speech went on to touch on American exceptionalism. “In the 20th century, America saved freedom, transformed science, redefined the middle class, and when you get down to it, there is nothing anywhere in the world that can compete with America,” he said, pausing for applause.

“Now, we must step boldly and bravely into the next chapter of this great American adventure. We must create a new standard of living for the 21st century.”

Trump described the nation’s economic growth as “unprecedented” but fact checkers disagreed

Trump also argued that the country was experiencing unprecdented economic growth, stating: “There’s been nothing like it” and citing the figure of 5.3 million new jobs. Responding to the address, NPR Business Reporter Jim Zarroli suggested the President’s remarks overstated the boom. “The US economy has enjoyed steady but modest growth since the Great Recession,” he wrote. “Growth very likely slowed in the last quarter and is expected to return to trend in 2019.”

The New York Times has debunked the claim that 5.3 million new jobs have been created under the Trump administration, citing the much lower figure from the Bureau of Labor Statistics: 4.9 million new jobs since Trump took office.

The claim that the current growth is “unprecedented” has also been disputed, with NBC News and Politico noting that the upward trajectory began during the Obama regime after the country shook off the effects of the global financial crisis.

The US economy continues to be strong across a number of indicia and has grown around 3% in the last year. The President’s claim that it is the world’s fastest growing economy was rejected, however, with USA Today pointing out that a number of emerging markets, as well as China (which grew 6.5% last year) are objectively growing faster.

After Trump’s address, Stacey Abrams, the Democrat who became the first African-American to be Governor of Georgia, was tasked with delivering her party’s response.

Header image credit: US Department of State