FactChecking Biden’s Swing-State Stops in Pennsylvania

20.04.2024, 0:30, Разное
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While former President Donald Trump spent much of his week in court, President Joe Biden visited the swing state of Pennsylvania for three days and gave speeches in Scranton, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. We flagged some false and misleading claims, including several common talking points:

Biden twisted Trump’s words about the COVID-19 pandemic, saying, “Remember when he told us, literally, inject bleach?” Trump suggested having scientists test the use of “very powerful light” and “disinfectant” in the body to kill the disease. He didn’t tell people to “inject bleach.”

Biden got ahead of himself in touting Medicare savings, due to drug price negotiations, that won’t happen for several years.

The president falsely said there were “more people in retirement than working” in China.

Biden wrongly said he was “the second-youngest man ever elected to the Senate.” He was the second-youngest from Delaware, but the sixth-youngest overall.

The president also repeated misleading claims we’ve fact-checked before — on taxes, jobs, deficit reduction, the Affordable Care Act, and Trump’s comments on Social Security and Medicare.

In 2020, Biden, who was born in Scranton, won the presidency after winning the state of Pennsylvania. He started off his trip to the state on April 16 in Scranton, and then visited Pittsburgh and Philadelphia the following two days.

Trump spent the week in a New York court room as a jury was selected for the criminal fraud case alleging that Trump falsified business records to cover up state and federal election law violations after paying to keep allegations of extramarital affairs a secret during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Twisting Trump’s Words

In one of his Scranton speeches, Biden criticized how Trump managed the COVID-19 pandemic, but he also misrepresented pandemic-related statements that Trump made.

“When the pandemic hit, Trump failed the most basic duty any president owes the American people: a duty to care and a duty to respond,” Biden said. “Remember when he told us, ‘Don’t worry; this will all be over by Easter’? Remember when he told us, literally, inject bleach?”

First, Trump did not “literally” tell the public to “inject bleach” as a treatment for COVID-19.

He did suggest having scientists test the use of “very powerful light” and “disinfectant” in the body to kill the disease. That was during an April 2020 press briefing in which William Bryan, then the head of the science and technology directorate at the Department of Homeland Security, discussed DHS research on the ways the coronavirus reacted on nonporous surfaces when exposed to heat, humidity, sunlight and disinfectant.

Trump, while looking back at Bryan at times, said: “So, supposing we hit the body with a tremendous, whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light, and I think you said that hasn’t been checked, but you’re going to test it. And then I said supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way. And I think you said you’re going to test that too. Sounds interesting, right? And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute, one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or almost a cleaning, because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it’d be interesting to check that.”

But Trump never said people should try this themselves.

He also did not say that the pandemic would end by Easter on April 12, 2020. 

In a Fox News virtual town hall from the White House on March 25, Trump said he hoped that by then the country could reopen businesses and other services that had been temporarily shut down. This was after he issued guidance on March 16 that recommended ways the public could help slow the spread of the coronavirus for a period of 15 days.

“I would love to have it open by Easter,” Trump said. “It’s such an important day for other reasons, but I’ll make it an important day for this, too. I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter.”

Trump said that after reopening the public could continue other mitigation practices, such as social distancing, but he argued it was important for the U.S. to get back to work as soon as possible. Later that same day, Trump told Fox News: “And I’m not sure that’s going to be the day, but I would love to aim it right at Easter Sunday.”

Then on March 29, as reported cases of COVID-19 continued to increase, Trump issued updated guidance advising Americans to follow his previous recommendations for 30 more days, through April 30.

Finally, on April 16, Trump issued additional guidance on how states could begin reopening on May 1. But he said the decision to do so ultimately would be up to each governor.

Medicare Savings

The 2022 Inflation Reduction Act included several provisions related to Medicare that would lower some beneficiaries’ prescription costs and reduce the deficit over 10 years, as we’ve explained. But Biden claimed a provision on insulin would lower the deficit — in fact, it would increase spending — and said savings that have yet to occur had already happened.

Biden at Zummo’s Cafe with Scranton, Pennsylvania, Mayor Paige Cognetti on April 17. Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images.

“With the same law, I gave Medicare the power to negotiate lower prescription drugs, which is why those of you who have diabetes and need insulin, instead of paying 400 bucks a month, you’re now paying $35 a month for insulin,” Biden said at his April 16 campaign stop in Scranton. He went on to talk about the law giving Medicare the ability to negotiate drug prices and putting a cap on Medicare Part D out-of-pocket costs of $2,000 a year.

He then talked about savings to the federal government. “Not only does it reduce the federal deficit — help with the prescription holder, it reduces the federal debt. You know how much the first tranche of this has done? It’s reduced the federal debt by $160 billion. Why? Because Social Security — Medicare does not have to pay out 400 a month. They’re paying out $35 a month.”

Overall, the Medicare provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act would reduce the deficit by $237 billion over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office estimates (which are broken down by the budget watchdog Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget and KFF, an independent health policy research organization). But much of the savings hasn’t happened yet.

For the prescription drug negotiation provisions, the CBO estimated a deficit reduction of $98.5 billion over 10 years, and there’s another $63.2 billion reduction for requiring rebates from drug companies if their prices increase faster than inflation. That’s a little more than $160 billion, the figure Biden used. But those savings haven’t materialized yet.

CBO estimated very little of the savings from rebates would have occurred last year, when the rebates began, and in 2024. There aren’t any savings from the drug negotiation until 2026, when the negotiated price for the first batch of drugs will be available, and most of the deficit reduction is in the later years of the 2022-2031 period.

As KFF explains in an FAQ, 10 drugs on Part D — the Medicare prescription drug program — were selected for negotiation in this first round. Another 15 drugs can be negotiation for 2027 and again in 2028 (when Part B, which covers drugs administered by a health care provider, will be part of the program), and for 2029 forward, 20 drugs each year can be subject to negotiation.

The insulin provision, which took effect in 2023 and caps what beneficiaries in Part B and D have to spend on insulin to $35 per month, doesn’t save the government money — instead, it costs $5.1 billion over 10 years.

Biden also mentioned the law capping seniors’ out-of-pocket costs for Part D at $2,000 a year. That provision is being phased in this year and next, and it, too, increases federal spending — by $30 billion over the 2022-2031 period.

Juliette Cubanski, deputy director of KFF’s Program on Medicare Policy, confirmed to us in an email that the insulin provision “is separate from the drug price negotiation provision.”

“One possible interpretation of President Biden’s statement is that the savings to the federal government associated with drug price negotiation will help to pay for other provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act that will cost money, including the $35 insulin copay cap and other improvements to the Medicare Part D benefit, like the $2,000 out of pocket spending cap that takes effect next year,” she said. “In the early years of IRA implementation, before negotiated drug prices have taken effect, some provisions might cost more than the savings that’s been achieved to date, but over the 10-year budget window, based on CBO’s estimates, savings to the federal government will outweigh spending.”

China’s Aging Population

In discussing China’s economy, Biden said that it has “real problems,” citing China’s aging population. “They’ve got a population that is more people in retirement than working,” he said in Pittsburgh.

It is true that China has an aging population, but it doesn’t have more retirees than workers.

On Jan. 17, Reuters wrote a story on the impact of China’s aging population on the country’s pension system. “Ten working-age Chinese supported 1 retiree in 2002, with the ratio falling to 5 in 2021,” Reuters wrote. “The ratio is forecast to drop to 4 in 2030 and 2 in 2050, said Larry Hu, chief economist at Macquarie.”

That same day, the National Bureau of Statistics of China released data showing that the working-age population (ages 16 to 59) accounted for 61.3% of mainland China’s population last year, and those 60 years and older accounted for 21.1% of the population.

China has among the lowest retirement age in the world. “Normal pension age is 60 years for men, 50 years for blue collar women and 55 years for white collar women,” according to a 2021 report on China’s pension system by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

It should be noted, too, that the U.S. also has a problem with an aging workforce.

A table from the Social Security trustees’ 2023 report shows that there were 2.8 covered workers for each beneficiary in 2022, down from 4 workers per retired beneficiary in 1965.

Sixth-Youngest U.S. Senator

In Pittsburgh, where he spoke at the United Steelworkers Headquarters, Biden recalled receiving the support of a steelworkers’ union leader “as a 29-year-old kid running in a tough year for United States Senate, making me the second-youngest man ever elected to the Senate.”

Biden was the second-youngest Delawarean ever elected to the Senate, but not “the second-youngest man ever elected to the Senate.”

Five others were younger than Biden when they were elected — including three in the 1800s who were sworn into office even though they were not the constitutionally required age of 30 years old, according to the U.S. Senate Historical Office.

On Nov. 16, 1818, Tennessee’s John Henry Eaton became the youngest senator in history — “a record that is never likely to be broken” — when he took the oath of office at just 28 years, 4 months and 29 days old, the historical office says. Two others were also younger than 30 when they took office: Virginia’s Armistead Mason, who was 28 years, 5 months and 18 days when he took office in 1816, and Kentucky’s Henry Clay, who was 29 years old when he became a senator in 1806.

The fourth-youngest senator in U.S. history was West Virginia’s Rush Drew Holt, who was elected when he was 29 years old in 1934, but pledged to wait until his 30th birthday to be sworn in. Holt wasn’t sworn into office until June 21, 1935 — two days after his birthday and five months after the session started, according to his official congressional biography.

The fifth youngest was William Wells, also of Delaware, who took the oath of office in 1799 at 30 years old and 10 days.

“In January 1973, the distinction of becoming the sixth youngest — and the youngest since Holt, at the age of 30 years, 1 month, and 14 days — went to Delaware’s Joseph R. Biden, Jr.,” the historical office said.

Biden did set a record when he was sworn in as president on Jan. 20, 2021. On that day, he became the oldest president to take the oath of office at 78 years and 61 days. Prior to Biden taking office, Trump had been the oldest. Trump was 70 years and 220 days on Jan. 20, 2017, when he assumed office.


Billionaire “tax rate”: Biden once again misleadingly claimed that the “average federal tax rate for a billionaire” is 8.3%. “For real: 8.3%,” he said in Scranton. But, as we’ve explained before, that “tax rate” is actually a White House calculation that factors in earnings on unsold stock as income. When counting just taxable income, the wealthiest Americans — the top 0.1% of earners who have more than $4.4 million in expanded cash income — paid an average effective federal income tax rate of 24% in 2023, according to the Tax Policy Center.

Social Security/Medicare: Biden misleadingly suggested that Trump will pay for “billionaire tax cuts” by cutting popular retirement programs. “Trump recently said Social Security and Medicare, quote … ‘There’s a lot you can do in terms of cutting,’ end of quote,” Biden said. As we’ve written, the Trump campaign said the former president was talking about cutting waste and fraud in those programs. Besides, as a president and candidate, Trump has consistently stated his opposition to cutting both programs.

Jobs. The president contrasted the job growth during his tenure with a loss of jobs under Trump, leaving out the fact that the loss under his predecessor occurred because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “There are only two presidents on record in all of American history that left office with fewer jobs than when they entered office: Herbert Hoover and, yes, Donald ‘Herbert Hoover’ Trump,” Biden said in Scranton. Job growth under Trump was positive until April 2020, when millions of jobs were lost during pandemic-related closures and layoffs. Employment had only partly rebounded by the time Trump left the White House.

In his Pittsburgh stop, Biden highlighted the 15 million jobs created during his presidency — “a record,” he said. As of March, the job growth was 15.2 million jobs under Biden, a record number, at least since 1939, for any president in his first three or four years in office, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data that go back to January 1939. But Presidents Jimmy Carter and Lyndon Johnson saw greater percentage increases over the same number of months in office.

Deficit reduction: Biden took more undeserved credit for the budget deficit declining from about $3.1 trillion in fiscal year 2020 to about $1.7 trillion in fiscal 2023. “I’ve been able to cut the federal deficit at the same exact time by over $1 trillion,” he said at a Scranton campaign event. But as we’ve written, the primary reason the deficit dropped so much is because of emergency COVID-19 funding that expired — not Biden’s policies.

Affordable Care Act: Once more, Biden inflated the number of Americans who could be denied health coverage if the ACA health care law is repealed. “Trump says his MAGA friends want to, quote … ‘terminate’ the Affordable Care Act,” Biden said. “That would mean over 100 million Americans with preexisting conditions who now have health care because of the Affordable Care Act would lose their coverage.” There are an estimated 100 million Americans not on Medicare or Medicaid who have preexisting conditions. But as we’ve explained, if the ACA were repealed, only those buying their own plans on the individual market — about 20 million people in 2022– would immediately be at risk of losing health insurance.

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