President Donald Trump welcomed governors and insurance company executives to the White House on Monday to discuss Obamacare and other matters. But not all his claims held up well against scrutiny.
Here’s a look at some of his eyebrow-raising comments.
VAT’s a lot of bull
During his presentation of his budget outline Monday at a meeting of the National Governors’ Association, Trump railed against what he considers unfair trade practices with other countries.
“We’re one of the only countries in the world that can – people can sell their product into us and have no tax, no nothing,” he said. “And they get rich. And yet, if you want to do business with them, you’ll have taxes, I’ve seen as high as 100%.”
Here’s the reality: Trump is very likely referring to the value-added tax – or VAT – that 164 countries have but the US does not. Trump says this is an unfair advantage but the evidence suggests it’s not.
First, companies in countries with a VAT pay the same tax on products sold within their borders that US companies selling into those countries pay. So everyone is paying the tax and the US is not at any disadvantage at all.
Yes, it is true that no VAT gets paid on goods exported to the US. But that’s because there is no VAT paid by American companies on goods produced for the US market. So, once again, everyone is paying – or not paying – the same thing. As a result, the World Trade Organization considers a VAT to be perfectly legal.
Ultimately, Trump is trying to argue that a VAT helps create a trade deficit and causes jobs to go to other countries. But the United States has trade surpluses in goods with some countries, such as the United Kingdom, Argentina, Brazil, Columbia, and Chile, that have a VAT.
This has been pointed out to the President many times in different fact checks. Yet he keeps repeating it. When an American company and a Mexican company sells the same type of goods in Mexico, both pay the same VAT to the Mexican government. Trump’s claim that that is an unfair advantage is false.
CNN’s Patrick Gillespie contributed to this item.
Look out for falling tiles!
You are taking your life in your hands every time you drive through one of those tunnels in New York – at least according to Trump.
In decrying the state of the nation’s infrastructure, the President Monday remarked on the number of tiles missing from the roof of tunnels in New York City.
“Our tunnels – I mean, we have tunnels in New York … and you see many tiles missing,” he said. “And you wonder – you know, you’re driving 40 miles an hour, 50 miles an hour through a tunnel, you take a look at the Lincoln Tunnel and the Queens Midtown Tunnel, and you’re driving and you see all this loose material that’s heavy.”
This phenomenon caused him to wonder aloud about the danger of falling tiles. “Every time I drive through, I say, ‘Man, I wonder how many people are hurt or injured when they’re driving at 40, 50 miles an hour through a tunnel and a tile falls off.”
Here’s what the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey says about the tunnels it operates under the Hudson River connecting those two states: “The tile structures in the various Lincoln and Holland Tunnel tubes are intact, regularly inspected and pose no danger to the public. In the last 12 months there have been no reported incidents involving falling tiles.”
And this from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the Queens Midtown Tunnel:
“Not a single person has been injured by any falling tiles because no tiles are falling – they are being replaced by workers as part of an infrastructure project to repair the tunnel from Hurricane Sandy damage.”
Now, to be fair, this was just a question from Trump, not a definitive statement. So it’s hard to call it true or false. But the answer to his musings over how many people have been hurt driving through these tunnels under the threat of tumbling tiles is none – at either 40 or 50 miles per hour.
Misquoting Mark Dayton – again
The President is fond of quoting Minnesota’s Democratic governor, Mark Dayton, on the failures of the Affordable Care Act. He did it again Monday when speaking to the governors’ association.
“If you go to Minnesota, where they had a 66% increase (in insurance premiums), and the governor of Minnesota, who is with us today, said, Obamacare – the Affordable Care Act – is no longer affordable – something to that effect. I think that might be it exactly.”
It is not exactly.
What Dayton said last year was that “the Affordable Care Act is no longer affordable to increasing numbers of people.” Dayton did not say it was unaffordable to everyone, or even the majority of people in his state.
However, state authorities noted that most people in Minnesota got their insurance through their job or bought policies on the Obamacare exchanges and were shielded from the premium increases because their premiums were subsidized by the federal government. So how big was the population that was finding the law unaffordable? “The law isn’t working well for the 2% of Minnesotans in the individual market who don’t receive any financial assistance to pay for their coverage,” Dayton said.
We would say that Trump is being misleading in describing Gov. Dayton’s feelings. But this point has been made in the past.
So in this case, by repeating a claim that has been shown to be misleading, Trump’s assertion gets bumped up to be considered false.
People are opting out!
Trump argues virtually every day in virtually every forum that Obamacare is failing. He cites disparate pieces of evidence to bolster his point. Here’s one he referred to Monday when he met with a group of insurance company executives.
“It’s gotten so bad that nearly 20 million Americans have chosen to pay the penalty or received an exemption rather than buy insurance,” Trump said.
Obamacare’s individual mandate requires nearly all Americans to have health insurance. Those who are not covered by an employer’s insurance plan or by Medicaid or Medicare must purchase insurance on the individual market, often on the Obamacare exchanges.
Those who fail to buy insurance must pay a penalty unless they qualify for one of a number of exemptions. One can be excused from the mandate if you are experiencing financial hardships or if the cheapest plan in your area costs more than 8.13% of your household income. Among those also exempt are the very low-income, homeless, domestic violence victims and members of American Indian tribes.
In 2015 – the last year for which complete figures are available – approximately 6.5 million people paid the penalty for not having insurance and another 12.7 million were granted exemptions. That’s a total of 19.2 million who fit Trump’s description.
It should be noted that the number of people who paid the penalty dropped by about 20% in 2015 from the 8 million who paid it the year before. Still the President’s assertion is close enough to be considered true.