The week's news was dominated by the nation’s remembrance of President George H.W. Bush – and politicos and pundits said President Donald Trump deserved high marks for putting aside his usual petty grievances in deference to the Bush family.
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He also saved some his most distracting and outrageous tweets for later in the week, after the services were over. (See the one where he calls his former Secretary of State "dumb as a rock.")
So, as many rightly absorbed memories and appreciations of “41” this week, we at Fact Check Friday smoked out a few falsehoods you might have missed. We begin with the economy.
Tariffs "Make America Rich Again"
Even as the Dow dropped more than a thousand points this week, in the worst losses since March, over uncertainty about where trade negotiations stand with China – followed by a weaker-than-expected jobs report – the president tried to reassure Americans by falsely implying they’re getting rich off his trade war.
“We are right now taking in $billions in Tariffs. MAKE AMERICA RICH AGAIN!” he Tweeted.
....I am a Tariff Man. When people or countries come in to raid the great wealth of our Nation, I want them to pay for the privilege of doing so. It will always be the best way to max out our economic power. We are right now taking in $billions in Tariffs. MAKE AMERICA RICH AGAIN— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 4, 2018
The claim is reminiscent of his late November tweet that billions of dollars are “pouring into the coffers of the U.S.A. because of the Tariffs being charged to China.” In reality, as recently as this October, the Treasury Department has reported it collected $5.5 billion in revenue from tariffs, up from $3.2 billion in October last year. It's a gain, yes, but is that the same as making America rich again?
Measuring winners and losers is not so simple, as explained in this New York Times piece. To be clear, the Chinese don't pay all the tariffs, many of the burdens are dumped onto Americans. When an American company imports a part that gets a new tariff, it may choose to pass the added cost onto consumers by raising prices. Or it could switch suppliers altogether, which wouldn’t mean any more money “pouring” into the U.S. Or the company could absorb the tariff and accept lower profits. Finally, the U.S. company could negotiate concessions and the Chinese company could pick up some of the costs.
As ABC News has reported America's soybean and pig farmers and others have been hurt badly by Trump's trade war with China as the price of their products plunges.
After a dinner with Chinese President Xi Xinping at the G20 summit in Argentina last weekend the president claimed he'd secured a commitment from China to buy more U.S. agricultural products, "immediately." As a bonus fact check, that purchase has yet to materialize. And economists partly blame that uncertainty for the stock market plunge this week.
Climate in Paris
As Paris was rocked again this week by violent protests over a proposed gas tax hike, the president took to Twitter to pile (false) insult onto injury.
"I am glad that my friend @EmmanuelMacron and the protestors in Paris have agreed with the conclusion I reached two years ago. The Paris Agreement is fatally flawed because it raises the price of energy for responsible countries while whitewashing some of the worst polluters...."
....in the world. I want clean air and clean water and have been making great strides in improving America’s environment. But American taxpayers – and American workers – shouldn’t pay to clean up others countries’ pollution."
The facts are there's no evidence that French President Emmanuel Macron has abandoned the Paris Agreement. He has been an enthusiastic supporter of it. As recently as September, he told the UN General Assembly that trade pacts should not be signed with countries that don’t respect the treaty.
It’s also inaccurate to say that the French protesters’ “conclusion” is that the Paris Agreement is flawed. The protests started in response to a proposed gas tax hike and as they’ve grown in size, they’ve also taken on the cost of living, high taxes and Macron's policies. The protests are the latest part of the Yellow Jackets movement, named after the neon yellow security vests demonstrators have been wearing. That movement has attracted groups of people with a wide variety of demands and has no clear leader, so to say that the groups “conclusion” is a flawed Paris Agreement isn’t accurate.
That gas tax hike is part of France’s push to bring down its greenhouse gas emissions, and the French government decided to postpone the move in response to the protests. This may be what the president is referring to.
It is also unclear what the president is referencing when he says he’s been “making great strides in improving America’s environment.” The Trump administration has moved to rollback several Obama-era environmental regulations including tougher standards for carbon dioxide emissions at power plants, higher fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks, and a proposal that would force energy companies to plug methane leaks from some natural gas wells.
The media stages migrants at the border
Finally, during his speech Friday at the 2018 Project Safe Neighborhoods National Conference, President Trump promoted a false conspiracy theory, accusing the new media of staging women and children at the front of the migrant caravan on the border.
"They like to minimize it on the fake news," Trump said, to laughs among some of the law enforcement members in the crowd. "I know every trick, they told me– I know every trick they put women and children in the front row and they'll have those cameras nice and low so, number one that doesn't look like a big crowd number, so all you see is women and children," he said.
There is no evidence to support such a claim.
We know that the caravan includes thousands of Central American children, parents, elderly and other adults. Most of them are from Guatemala and Honduras. Trump has also made claims without providing evidence that the caravan contains "criminals and unknown Middle Easterners".