A year on from Donald Trump’s election, FactCheck takes a look at how he’s getting on with some of the big campaign promises.
“I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I’ll build them very inexpensively, I will build a great, great wall on our southern border. And I will have Mexico pay for that wall.”
That was one of Donald Trump’s founding campaign pledges – he first made it back in June 2015.
There’s actually three claims here: that the wall will be built, that it will be “inexpensive”, and that Mexico will fund it.
Work has begun on eight prototypes, and renovations are underway to restore “old and existing fences and walls”. So far, so good.
But what about the cost? Well, here’s where things get tricky for Mr Trump. Leaked documents from the US Department of Homeland Security predict the project will cost $21.6 billion – significantly more than the $12 billion figure that Mr Trump claimed during his campaign.
And Mexico? Even trickier. Immediately after Mr Trump’s initial promise to build a wall, the Mexican interior minister hit back, saying “the remarks by Donald Trump seem prejudicial and absurd”.
Since then, Mr Trump appears to have modified the terms of his pledge, tweeting in August 2017 that “Mexico will pay for it through reimbursement/other”.
The Mexican foreign ministry released a statement saying the country would not be paying for a wall or physical barrier at the border “under any circumstances”.
In the same month, President Trump threatened to shutdown the US government to fund the construction. In October, he told Congress that he’d only continue to support so-called “Dreamers” (children of undocumented migrants who were granted legal protection under President Obama) if progress was made on the wall.
Again, this suggests that he is stepping back from his commitment to “have Mexico pay for that wall”, and instead expects the US taxpayer to foot the bill for the wall, with the possibility of Mexico stumping up sometime afterwards.
It’s too early to say whether Mr Trump has reneged on his promise to build a wall across the US-Mexico border. What we do know is that he’s trying very hard to get it constructed.
However, it looks increasingly unlikely that the Mexican government will foot the bill, directly or indirectly, despite Mr Trump’s confident campaign rhetoric.
It seems that money will be Mr Trump’s biggest challenge here, with the US Department of Homeland Security estimating the wall will cost nearly $22 billion. That’s a lot more than the $12 billion Mr Trump originally claimed.
Jobs, jobs, jobs
“I’m going to be the greatest jobs president God ever created”
Leaving aside the question of God’s existence for a second, let’s assume that Mr Trump is talking about reducing unemployment.
We looked at how the economy’s fared since Mr Trump was elected in a recent FactCheck. It’s true that unemployment has fallen since the start of his presidency, and now stands at 4.1 per cent.
So how does his record on jobs compare to his White House predecessors?
On the face of it, pretty favourably. The first year of Mr Trump’s presidency has seen one of the lowest average unemployment rates of any president since 1947 – second only to Truman. (We can’t compare earlier years as the relevant figures aren’t readily available).
But he’s by no means unique. Since 1947, four other presidents (Truman, Johnson, Nixon and Clinton) have all presided over unemployment rates that are the same or lower than today’s figures.
It’s not clear whether Mr Trump can take all the credit for this. After all, unemployment has been falling for some time as the US continues to recover from the financial crisis.
And perhaps more importantly, employment figures are what economists call a “lagging indicator”- it takes a while for economic policies to trickle through to the jobs market.
As Frances Donald, senior economist at Manulife Asset Management, told Politico in September, labour market reports “tend to be a reflection of what has been happening in the economy in the prior six months to a year.
“The jobs numbers that we’ll see six months from now will probably be a better reflection of the [Trump] administration.”
Unemployment has been relatively low in the first year of Mr Trump’s presidency. But there have been four other presidents since 1947 who’ve overseen similarly low rates of joblessness.
And it’s not clear that Mr Trump can take the credit for positive employment statistics this early in his presidency, given how long we have to wait for macroeconomic policies to take effect.
So far, Mr Trump cannot claim the title of “the greatest jobs president” ever.
“Repeal and replace” Obamacare
“Obamacare. We’re going to repeal it, we’re going to replace it, get something great. Repeal it, replace it, get something great!”
This was another founding tenet of Mr Trump’s campaign. He’s not alone: “repeal and replace” has been the rallying cry of Republicans since Obama’s Affordable Care Act took effect in 2010.
During the campaign and the early months of his presidency, Mr Trump took this political football and ran with it. According to one count, he repeated the pledge at least 68 times between June 2015 and March 2017.
And during the campaign, Mr Trump was clear that he intended to act as soon as possible. The Washington Post reports that Mr Trump claimed on at least ten occasions that the Affordable Care Act would be repealed “immediately” upon him taking office.
But a year after his election, Republican members of Congress have already admitted defeat in the battle to get the necessary legislation through.
That said, it’s been reported in recent days that the White House has prepared an executive order that will gut much of President Obama’s flagship health policy.
The legislation underpinning Obamacare is still in place – despite Mr Trump’s campaign pledges to repeal and replace it immediately upon taking office. It’s possible that a forthcoming executive order will damage the existing policy. We’ll have to wait and see.
The “Muslim ban”
“Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on”
That’s what Mr Trump’s campaign said in a press release back in December 2015. It quickly attracted criticism from around the world.
In January this year, he signed an executive order barring citizens of six countries from entering the US for a period of 90 days – as well as barring Syrian nationals indefinitely.
However, even at the point of enacting the policy, Mr Trump had already started to distance himself from his own original campaign rhetoric. He asserted that this was not a “Muslim ban” per se – even though all the countries on the list have largely Muslim populations.
The president’s cybersecurity advisor, Rudy Giuliani, seemed to shed light on this revised position in January this year.
He told Fox News: “I’ll tell you the whole history of it: when [Trump] first announced it, he said ‘Muslim ban’ […] He called me up, he said: ‘Put a commission together, show me the right way to do it legally.’”
According to Mr Guiliani, “what we did was we focused on, instead of religion, danger”.
Since then, the Trump administration has revised the list of countries whose citizens face travel restrictions to include Venezuela and North Korea. This means that the list is no longer solely comprised of majority-Muslim countries.
It appears Mr Trump has fallen between two stools on the so-called “Muslim ban”.
The restrictions he introduced in January initially blocked travel from seven majority-Muslim countries. But even this first iteration of the policy did not fulfil the initial pledge to enact a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States”. After all, these countries do not represent anything like the total population of Muslim people trying to enter the US.
But Mr Trump is now making a deliberate point of not enacting a “Muslim ban” as initially promised. Comments from an advisor to Mr Trump suggest that the administration has now chosen to use the language of “danger” rather than religion in order to protect the travel restriction policy from legal challenge.
Tax cuts for everyone
“Everybody is getting a tax cut, especially the middle class”
That’s what Mr Trump told CNN in May 2016. For readers on this side of the pond, it’s worth remembering that in the US, the term “middle class” is typically associated with less well-off Americans, rather than the more privileged connotations it has here in Britain.
That’s important because it means that Mr Trump’s pledge was specifically designed to woo ordinary voters, rather than the wealthy.
And yet, the tax legislation framework published in September offers no guarantee of cuts for everyone – and seems to mainly favour the wealthiest individuals in the US. The Tax Policy Center estimates that the top 1 per cent of earners would receive about 80 per cent of the tax benefit from Mr Trump’s plans.
The Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin was asked by ABC’s This Week whether he could guarantee a tax cut for all middle class people (as per Mr Trump’s pledge). He said that he couldn’t, although it remained the government’s objective.
Tax cuts for everyone – “especially the middle class” – remains an official government line under Mr Trump. But we’ve yet to see any evidence that it will materialise. Meanwhile, it looks like the richest 1 per cent of Americans will benefit most from Mr Trump’s recent tax plans.
We could debate endlessly which are the most important promises associated with the Trump campaign. We’ve tried to pick out some of the most high-profile ones here, but there are plenty to choose from (at least 282 according to the Washington Post).
We should also point out Mr Trump’s “Contract with the American Voter”, which contained 18 specific pledges that he promised to “immediately pursue” on the first day of his term in office.
The Atlantic studied the list in January this year, and found that Mr Trump had fulfilled four of the 18 commitments – including announcing America’s withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and beginning the process of replacing Supreme Court Justice Scalia. But he failed to deliver the 14 remaining pledges on time.
We’ll no doubt return to some of these claims, and more, in the near future.