Fact Check: No, manufacturing and coal are not rebounding

Fact Check

Posted
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump wants to show that his economic vision of America — making products again, raising great buildings and mining coal — is already coming true, despite the lack of legislation powering that dream. So when the latest jobs report came out, the White House eagerly trumpeted the robust results. But it was out of tune.

Manufacturing, coal mining and construction were little more than bit players in last month's employment growth, contrary to White House claims that those sectors led the surge.

Over the past week, Trump and Republicans legislators also made a variety of bold claims about the health care bill that passed the House and the budget deal that keeps the government running through September. Here's a sampling of questionable statements and the facts behind them:

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, deputy White House spokeswoman, in a briefing Friday: "We especially saw expansion in the sectors of the economy the president has had a particular focus on: construction, manufacturing and mining." Later in the briefing: "Primarily the places where we saw the most growth in this jobs report were in manufacturing, coal miners, other places."

THE FACTS: Manufacturing, coal mining and construction together accounted for less than 6 percent of the job growth. Of the 211,000 jobs added, 173,000 were in services while manufacturing jobs only grew by 6,000 and construction jobs by 5,000. Coal mining? By 200 jobs.

Altogether, hiring was strongest in lower-paying industries. One such category that includes hotels, restaurants, casinos and amusement parks added 55,000 jobs, the most of any major sector. Health care added 37,000.

The April gains mean that this year, the economy has been adding an average of 185,000 jobs a month, matching last year's pace.

Contacted by AP, White House spokeswoman Natalie Strom said Sanders misspoke about the source of job growth.

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KEVIN McCARTHY, House majority leader: "We're going to unshackle, build an economy, let people have greater choice in their health care and protect pre-existing conditions." — Rose Garden celebration Thursday, marking passage of the House bill to replace former President Barack Obama's health care law.

STEVE SCALISE, House majority whip: "There are so many things, multiple, multiple layers in our bill that we passed today that not only protect people with pre-existing conditions, but actually focus real targeted money on lowering premiums for families with pre-existing conditions." — Rose Garden event

TRUMP, on pre-existing conditions: "We cover it beautifully.... And I mandate it. I said, 'Has to be.'" — CBS interview April 30

THE FACTS: The history of high-risk pools and broad expert opinion call all of this optimism into doubt.

In certain circumstances, people with an existing illness would face the prospect of dramatically higher premiums than other people pay, despite protections in the bill and the addition of $8 billion over five years to help states cover those with high medical costs. People with medical conditions may need this help if they have a lapse in coverage. Under the Republican bill, states could get waivers that allow insurers to charge higher premiums to those customers, but only if they have a gap in coverage and if the state has a mechanism such as a high-risk pool to support them. Robert Graboyes, a senior research fellow at the conservative Mercatus Center, called the $8 billion "a pittance."

Lapses in coverage could become more common if the Republican bill delivers less financial support than President Barack Obama's law does for people buying individual insurance coverage.

"Many people with pre-existing conditions will have a hard time maintaining coverage because it just won't be affordable," said Larry Levitt, a health insurance expert with the Kaiser Family Foundation. In the more than 30 states that had high-risk pools before Obama's health care law took full effect in 2011, net losses piled up to more than $1.2 billion, with losses averaging $5,500 per person enrolled.

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McCARTHY: "If you simply look at the facts, more people took the penalty or the exemption than actually signed up for Obamacare." — Rose Garden event with legislators

THE FACTS: That's a fair comparison, if not the full picture. It leaves out Medicaid expansion.

The law expanded coverage primarily by giving millions more people Medicaid, setting up the subsidized markets for individual coverage and letting adult children stay on their parents' plans until they turn 26. Altogether, those measures cover more people than the number who claimed exemptions from the mandate to obtain health insurance or who paid a penalty for lacking insurance.

But McCarthy, R-Calif., is right when comparing the roughly 12 million enrollees in the individual market with the 19.5 million who did not sign up for the coverage because they couldn't afford it or didn't want it. Last year, nearly 13 million people claimed exemptions from the mandate to obtain health insurance, citing financial hardship or other reasons, and 6.5 million paid the penalty for lacking insurance (averaging $470) rather than choose a market place.

Counting both the subsidized market and the Medicaid expansion, Obama's law provides coverage for some 20 million people. The Republican bill that passed the House would end the extra federal payments 31 states are accepting to expand Medicaid to more people. It would also replace Obama's federal subsidies for lower-income insurance buyers with age-based tax credits.

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TRUMP, claiming the budget deal with Congress gives him money for his promised Mexico border wall: "We're putting up a lot of new walls in certain areas. We're putting up a tremendous amount of money to fix the existing structures that we have, some of which we can keep into the future. They're in good shape, but we have to bring them back to the highest level. We'll be doing that with this payment." — Rose Garden football-trophy celebration with U.S. Air Force Academy, Tuesday

THE FACTS: The deal to keep the government running through September doesn't have money to build any new fencing or walls along the roughly 2,000-mile border with Mexico. The deal does provide $772 million for border security, money that can be used for repairs to existing fencing or vehicle barriers that spread across just over 650 miles in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.

Most of the existing fencing and barriers were built under the Bush administration as part of the 2006 Secure Fence Act, though some of the construction was completed by the Obama administration.

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TRUMP: "FBI Director Comey was the best thing that ever happened to Hillary Clinton in that he gave her a free pass for many bad deeds!" — tweet Tuesday

THE FACTS: That's one way to look at it. Comey has a different view of why the FBI did not charge Clinton for her email practices: "There was not a prosecutable case there."

Trump's assertion also discounts the harm done to Clinton's campaign by Comey's pre-election disclosure that she was under investigation. Whether that disclosure essentially sank her presidential bid, as she and her allies suggest, or was irrelevant in her defeat, it is difficult to label that development a "free pass."

A criminal charge while she was running for president surely would have been a heavier weight on her campaign, but Comey asserts the FBI's "competent, honest and independent investigation," while finding fault with her email practices, did not provide the grounds to charge her.

Some Democrats say it's Trump who got a free pass from the FBI chief because he did not disclose during the campaign that Trump associates were under investigation for possible collusion with Russia. Comey told lawmakers Wednesday that he felt compelled to make his extraordinary statement on the continuing Clinton investigation in October because he had testified to Congress earlier that the probe was complete.

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