President Donald Trump described to Poles an America that does not exist — one where everyone is getting richer except himself.
Despite his claims at an energy meeting with European leaders, in a Warsaw speech and at a news conference, the stock market is not lifting all boats, his stated commitment to NATO has not been tested by action, and the pipeline he said was approved on his first day in office was not.
A look at some of his points Thursday:
TRUMP: “When I say that the stock market is at an all-time high, we’ve picked up in market value almost $4 trillion since November 8, which was the election. Four trillion dollars — it’s a lot of money. Personally, I picked up nothing, but that’s all right. Everyone else is getting rich. That’s OK. I’m very happy. ” — Energy meeting
THE FACTS: First, everyone else is not getting rich. Most Americans lack meaningful stock market investments. Research by New York University economist Edward Wolff found that just 10 percent of the U.S. population owns 80 percent of stock market wealth. A sizable chunk is concentrated with the top 1 percent of earners. The stock market has indeed climbed during Trump’s time in office, as it did for most of Barack Obama’s presidency after the recession bottomed out in March 2009.
Second, his suggestion that he has not benefited from a rising stock market is dubious.
Financial disclosures show the president has multiple brokerage accounts and extensive stock holdings. He owns shares in Apple Inc. (up 23 percent year to date), Caterpillar Inc. (up 15 percent) and Microsoft Corp. (up 10 percent), among other companies. Even if Trump didn’t buy into the recent stock market gains, his existing shares probably received a boost.
As for his own businesses, Trump gave his two adult sons and a senior executive control of his global real estate, property management and marketing empire when he took office in January. But Trump did not divest his businesses. Instead, he placed his financial assets in a trust that he can seize control of at any time.
And there are signs that Trump’s businesses are making money off his presidency. The Trump International Hotel hosted a major-donor event in June. His annual financial disclosure shows that Mar-a-Lago, the Florida resort he owns and routinely visits, saw its revenues increase to $37 million from $30 million during the period covered in his previous filing.
TRUMP: “To those who would criticize our tough stance, I would point out that the United States has demonstrated not merely with words but with its actions that we stand firmly behind Article 5, the mutual defense commitment.” — Public speech in Warsaw
THE FACTS: Rather than showing a commitment with his actions, Trump has sown confusion with his words. Article 5 has only been used once — by other NATO members, to come to the defense of the U.S. after the 2001 terrorist attacks.
Trump suggested during the campaign that NATO members lagging on their own military spending might not be able to count on the U.S. to come to their aid if attacked. And he pointedly did not endorse Article 5 at a NATO meeting in May, unnerving some allies. In June, though, he said: “I’m committing the United States to Article 5.” Those words won’t be tested with action until or unless a NATO member is attacked.
TRUMP: “We just approved a big pipeline also — the Keystone Pipeline. It was under consideration for many, many years, and it was dead, and I approved it in my first day of office.” — Energy meeting
THE FACTS: He did not approve it on his first day in office. During his first week, on January 24, Trump signed an order asking TransCanada to resubmit its application to build Keystone XL, which Obama had blocked. Trump suggested at the time that more negotiations would be required with TransCanada before he would approve the project. The project actually got the go-ahead in late March.
TRUMP: “Americans know that a strong alliance of free, sovereign and independent nations is the best defense for our freedoms and for our interests. That is why my administration has demanded that all members of NATO finally meet their full and fair financial obligation. As a result of this insistence, billions of dollars more have begun to pour into NATO. In fact, people are shocked. But billions and billions of dollars more coming in from countries that, in my opinion, would not have been paying so quickly.” — Warsaw speech
THE FACTS: The notion of money pouring into NATO because of his tough talk is one of Trump’s most frequent fictions. The actual issue is how much NATO countries spend on their own military budgets. They agreed in 2014, well before he became president, to stop cutting military spending, and have honored that. They also agreed then to a goal of moving “toward” spending 2 percent of their gross domestic product on their own defense by 2024. Most are short of that and the target is not ironclad. His tough talk is aimed at nudging them toward that goal.