During his first visit to a combat zone since assuming office nearly two years ago, President Donald Trump couldn’t help but take personal credit for a very generous and fictional pay raise for U.S. troops.
The president told service members at al-Asad air base in Iraq that he was proud to secure them a much-needed pay bump of “more than 10 percent” after years of stagnant wages. Many of the troops in attendance may have been surprised to learn they hadn’t seen a pay increase in more than a decade.
“Is anybody here willing to give up the big pay raise you just got?” Trump said, asking for a show of hands. “You haven’t gotten one in more than 10 years. More than 10 years. And we got you a big one. I got you a big one. I got you a big one.”
In fact, military members have seen a pay raise in each of the last 10 years, ranging from 1 percent to 3.9 percent, according to the Defense Department. They even saw pay bumps when other federal workers were subjected to a three-year pay freeze in the wake of the Great Recession.
The pay increase for 2019 passed by Congress and signed by the president in August will be 2.6 percent, the largest since 2010. It is not far above last year’s raise for troops, which was 2.4 percent.
Trump told the troops that other people wanted their raise to be smaller, but he fought for a double-digit boost.
“We had plenty of people that came up. They said, ‘You know, we can make it smaller. We can make it 3 percent. We can make it 2 percent. We can make it 4 percent.’ I said, ‘No. Make it 10 percent. Make it more than 10 percent.’”
The falsehood about military pay raises may be turning into a theme for Trump. As Politifact reported in May, the president claimed that the last pay increase, for fiscal year 2018, was also the “first time in 10 years.” On Wednesday, Trump used the phrase “in more than 10 years” four times.
The fact-checking site noted that the last single year without a military pay raise was 1983, and that was only because the date of the raise was shifted from Oct. 1 to Jan. 1.
Trump headed to Iraq late on Christmas night to make his surprise appearance in front of the troops. Until now, Trump has preferred to speak to troops via teleconference from the White House or his Florida country club.
As HuffPost previously reported, Trump’s factual inaccuracies Wednesday were hardly the first he’s uttered about the military. Trump has claimed the military budget he signed was the biggest ever ― it isn’t ― and he’s taken credit for passing a law that allows veterans to use private doctors if they can’t get quick care through the Department of Veterans Affairs. That law was actually signed by Barack Obama.