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AP Fact Check: Trump is Overpromising on Border Wall

by Calvin Woodward .
Tuesday May 21, 2019

President Donald Trump is vowing to have 500 miles of border wall built by the 2020 election. There's reason to be strongly skeptical about that.

Here's a look at a sampling of his rhetoric Monday night at a rally in Montoursville, Pennsylvania, and how it compares with the facts:

BORDER

TRUMP: "The wall is being built as we speak. We'll have almost 500 miles of wall by the end of next year."

THE FACTS: It's unclear how Trump arrives at 500 miles (800 kilometers), but he would have to prevail in legal challenges to his declaration of a national emergency or get Congress to cough up more money to get anywhere close. Those are big assumptions.

So far, the administration has awarded contracts for 244 miles (390 kilometers) of wall construction, but more than half comes from Defense Department money available under Trump's Feb. 15 emergency declaration. Two judges — in Washington and in San Francisco — are weighing whether to block the administration for tapping those funds.

And nearly all of what Trump has awarded so far is for replacement barriers and fencing, not new miles of wall. Even if Trump prevails in court, all but 14 miles (22 kilometers) of those awarded contracts replace existing barriers.

The White House says it has identified up to $8.1 billion in potential money under the national emergency, mostly from the Defense Department.

Customs and Border Protection officials say the administration wants Congress to finance 206 miles (330 kilometers) next year. The chances of the Democratic-controlled House backing that are between slim and none.

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JOBS

TRUMP claims "the best unemployment numbers in history."

THE FACTS: The 3.6% unemployment rate in the latest report is not the best in history. It's the lowest since 1969, when it was 3.5%. The U.S. also had lower rates than now in the early 1950s. And during three years of World War II, the annual rate was under 2%.

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DRUG PRICES

TRUMP: "Last year for the first time in 51 years, drug prices went down."

THE FACTS: Trump continues to ignore an increase in drug prices.

The Labor Department's Consumer Price Index for prescription drug prices shows an increase of 0.3% in April compared with the same month last year. The index tracks a set of medications, both brand names and generics, and Trump has frequently made his boast since the updated numbers showing higher costs came out.

Other independent studies point to increasing prices for brand-name drugs as well and more overall spending on medications.

An analysis of brand-name drug prices by The Associated Press showed 2,712 price increases in the first half of January, compared with 3,327 increases during the same period last year. However, the size of this year's increases was not as pronounced.

Both this year and last, the number of price cuts was minuscule. The information for the analysis was provided by the health data firm Elsevier.

An analysis by Altarum, a nonprofit research and consulting firm, found that in 2018, spending on prescription drugs was one of the main factors behind a 4.5% increase in U.S. health spending. Spending on prescription drugs grew much faster than in 2017, according to the study.

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Spagat reported from San Diego. Associated Press writer Hope Yen contributed to this report.

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