Although it wasn't nearly as Doomsday-oriented as his inauguration speech, Donald Trump's first address to Congress showed just how different his worldview is compared to reality. The real world has plenty of problems, ones that are similar to what he mentioned in the speech, but Trump’s catastrophes simply don’t exist in the way he describes them. Tracing his thought processes through the speech show that Trump’s dystopian view of the world is, in many ways, opposed to the real problems facing America today.
It's long been theorized that Trump somehow lives in a different reality from the rest of the world, but Tuesday night confirmed that. The policy points that he chose to address in his speech were so radically different from the ones I wanted to hear that it felt like there are two separate countries focused on two separate sets of problems. This isn’t a disputed fact — political polarization has created two radically different political cultures with different world views and priorities. However, Trump’s claims were so off-base that even his most ardent supporters should be able to admit they don’t make much sense when held against some basic fact checking. Here are just a few of the claims that Trump made during the speech that show how wrong he is about America’s problems, and why his solutions could ultimately do more harm than good.
Free And Fair Trade
Trump: "It's been a long time since we've had fair trade." https://t.co/hND8stlceX— Daniella Diaz (@DaniellaMicaela) March 1, 2017
"I am not going to let America and its great companies and workers be taken advantage of anymore. They have taken advantage of our country. No longer," Trump said Tuesday night to a huge round of applause. However, the next morning, the Dow Jones rose to a historic 21,000 points.
By many economic measures, America is doing just fine. U.S. per capita growth is six times higher right now than it was in 1930, and according to The Wall Street Journal, the Congressional Budget Office predicts that real GDP growth this year will be above 2.5 percent. There's not a whole lot of evidence that Americans are being "taken advantage of."
Generally, the people who are taking advantage of hardworking Americans are people like Trump. He said Tuesday night that he's going to support the shrinking middle class, but he also wants to cut taxes on the rich (like himself), a plan which most economists say will hurt the American middle and lower classes. Focusing on fair trade when the real problem is the tax code is another of Trump's classic distraction techniques, and the country can't afford to let him enact further financial discrimination.
Trump's call to single out undocumented immigrants who commit violent crimes was one of the single most disturbing points of his speech. The creation of a new government office dedicated to supporting American citizens who are victims of violent crimes committed by immigrants falsely conflates the real incidences of those crimes, solely for the purpose of supporting Trump's agenda.
The truth is that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than American citizens, because they are largely a self-selecting group of individuals who immigrated to escape political or economic turmoil. Most immigrants just want to live a safe, happy life, and stay out of trouble. Plus, the number of undocumented immigrants who qualified for "criminal removal" ( 177,960 in 2014, according to the Department of Homeland Security) is higher than it should be because undocumented immigrants don't get the same due process as American citizens. Yet Trump uses these inaccuracies to feed his and others' ideas that undocumented immigrants represent a danger to the country that has to be eradicated.
Furthermore, this messaging goes against the uniquely American idea that immigrants always have a place in this society. By perpetuating the dichotomy between immigrants and American citizens, it acknowledges and plays to the fact that there is privilege in being born here. While this is inherently true, since immigrants have to deal with legal and emotional hardships that citizens don't, the role of government is to reduce that inequality, not reinforce it.
The War On Drugs
Trump says U.S. needs to "work to bring down the artificially high price of drugs", allow purchasing of insurance across state lines. pic.twitter.com/LB7P2LiMVD— CNBC Now (@CNBCnow) March 1, 2017
Trump was right in saying that there is a "terrible drug epidemic" going on right now that desperately needs solutions, but completely negated the real causes of that epidemic. "We will stop the drugs from pouring into our country and poisoning our youth," as Trump said. However, that's a complete misunderstanding of the problem. The opioid epidemic was sparked by the development and for-profit pedaling of insufficiently studied prescription drugs like Oxycontin. Trump's plan to "slash the restraints, not just at the FDA, but across our government" could put more people at risk of being prescribed medicines that will cause more harm than good (not to mention encourages pharmaceutical companies to make and market more expensive drugs).
Additionally, his assertion that "drugs [are] pouring into our country and poisoning our youth" isn't the full story either. It's true that most heroin in the United States comes from Central and South America, but the United States had a hand in making that happen. For decades, the United States has exploited the impoverished countries of Central and South America, leaving millions without an alternative industry other than opium cultivation to support their families and local economies. Although Trump is supposedly all about questioning American imperialism, facing up to the collective sins of the American past and admitting that we caused our own problem is apparently too much truth.
All of these claims are interrelated fallacies predicated on a single falsehood — that America is more important than other nations, and that it's allowed to bend the rules. Those who believe that's not true stand diametrically opposed to Trump, working toward a government that represents the American ideals of equality and prosperity for all.