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Fact checking the fourth round of GOP debates

Presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (3rd R) speaks while Sen. Marco Rubio (L-R), Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina and Sen. Rand Paul take part in the Republican presidential debate sponsored by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal.  (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Fox Business News aired two GOP presidential debates Tuesday: a prime-time event starring eight candidates and an earlier debate featuring four second-tier contenders, based on an average of recent polls.

Not every candidate uttered facts that are easily fact checked, but following is a list of 15 suspicious or interesting claims. As is our practice, we do not award Pinocchios when we do a roundup of facts in debates.

“Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers.”
— Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)

This was a great line by Rubio, well delivered, but it’s totally off base.

The median wage of welders is $37,420, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The median wage for philosophy teachers is $63,630, according to BLS.

In fact, the average first-year salary for a college graduate with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy is $42,200 — with a mid-career average of $85,000, according to For college professors, the median salary is $89,913, with the top 10 percent having a salary near $200,000.

By contrast, the top 10 percent salary for welders is only about $58,590, BLS says.

“Every time we raise the minimum wage, the number of jobless people increases.”
— Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson

Carson has a point, but such a trend did not play out every time the federal minimum wage was raised.

Our friends at PolitiFact have compiled a chart showing the years Congress raised the minimum wage, and the months of job growth in the following one-year period. The chart shows that between 1978 and 2009, raising the federal minimum wage did not always result in job loss or job growth. In fact, it was split almost evenly; out of the 11 times the minimum wage was raised, there was overall job growth six times, and overall job loss five times.

Still, the Congressional Budget Office projected that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 from the current wage of $7.25 per hour would result in about 500,000 fewer workers having jobs — and possibly up to 1 million workers would be affected. Raising the minimum wage to $9 per hour could result in 100,000 to 200,000 jobs lost, the CBO projected.

However, many more low-wage workers’ earnings would increase as a result of raising the minimum wage, the CBO found. Under the $10.10 option, 16.5 million workers with hourly wages less than the proposed minimum would see an increase in their earnings. Under the $9 option, 7.6 million workers would see an increase.

Conventional economic analysis may show that increasing the minimum wage reduces employment by increasing the cost to employers, and by raising the cost of low-wage workers relative to other inputs like machines or technology, the CBO wrote. But conventional economic analysis might not always apply, according to the CBO: “For example, when a firm is hiring more workers and needs to boost pay for existing workers doing the same work — to match what it needs to pay to recruit the new workers — hiring a new worker costs the company not only that new worker’s wages but also the additional wages paid to retain other workers.”

“Let me just tell you that Dwight Eisenhower, good president, great president, people liked him. ‘I like Ike,’ right? The expression. ‘I like Ike.’ Moved a 1.5 million illegal immigrants out of this country, moved them just beyond the border. They came back.  Moved them again beyond the border, they came back. Didn’t like it. Moved them way south. They never came back.”
— Businessman Donald Trump 

Trump likes to cite this historical example to defend his plan to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants, but never uses its now-politically-incorrect name, “Operation Wetback.”

As our colleague Yanan Wang documented in September, this campaign dumped hundreds of thousands of Mexican migrants back into Mexico, with few resources to fend for themselves: “Unloaded from buses and trucks carrying several times their capacity, the deportees stumbled into the Mexicali streets with few possessions and no way of getting home. … After one such round-up and transfer in July, 88 people died from heat stroke.”

Moreover, researchers now believe claims that more than 1 million people were deported to be highly exaggerated, with the actual figure closer to 250,000.

“We ought to look at where income inequality seems to be the worst. It seems to be the worst in cities run by Democrats.”
— Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)

A Brookings Institution report appears to confirm Paul’s claim. But at The Fact Checker, we always warn readers against correlating the economic trends in a city or state to policy decisions of a single executive — or in this case, his or her party.

A study by the Brookings Institution ranked the top 10 and bottom 10 largest cities in the country by income inequality, using 2012 Census data. PolitiFact rated Paul’s statement Half True, based on this study.

Among the 10 cities with the highest income inequality, nine had Democratic mayors. Atlanta, under a Democratic mayor, had the highest inequality out of the nation’s largest cities. The other cities led by Democrats were San Francisco, Boston, Washington, D.C., New York, Oakland, Chicago, Los Angeles and Baltimore.

PolitiFact found that seven of the 10 cities in the report with the least income inequality had Republican mayors: Oklahoma City; Omaha, Neb.; Fort Worth, Texas; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Mesa, Ariz.; Arlington, Tex.; and Virginia Beach, Va.

The 10 cities with the least inequality obviously are smaller cities than the ones in the top 10. The range of income distribution is wider in larger cities with bigger populations.

“We have to recognize that small businesses right now, more of them are closing than are being set up.”
— Former Florida governor Jeb Bush

This is stale statistic, derived from a report published in 2014 by the Brookings Institution, which studied Census Bureau data called Business Dynamic Statistics. Brookings analysts tracked data back to 1978 and found that starting in 2008, business deaths exceeded business births through 2011.

It soon became a favorite GOP talking point (Marco Rubio used it in the last debate). But that report is out of date. More recent data shows the trend shifted in 2012 and in the past two years, business starts began to exceed business deaths.

“Only 19.8 percent of black teenagers have a job, who are looking for one.”
— Carson

In saying he was against increasing the minimum wage, Carson cited a figure for black teenage unemployment that seemed suspiciously high to some viewers. Apparently he meant to refer to the unemployment rate, though it came out sounding like he was saying 80 percent were unemployed.

But then a 19.8 percent unemployment rate sounded suspiciously low. Indeed, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that it stood at 25.6 percent as of October.

The Carson campaign initially sent a 2013 report from the American Enterprise Institute that said the jobless rate for black male teens was 44.3 percent — but 19.8 percent for white male teens. Oops. Then we were sent a pair of studies that show the summer jobless rate for black teens was 19 percent. Seems like a shifting of the goal posts, but apparently he was talking about summer employment. He just didn’t make that very clear.

“We also must recognize that it’s [Syria] a very complex place. You know, the Chinese are there, as well as the Russians, and you have all kinds of factions there.”
— Carson

We note this comment because it is very puzzling. The Chinese are in Syria? The Carson campaign did not respond to a query. (Update: Spokesman Doug Watts sent links to blog posts from September 2015 speculating that China was in Syria and a 2012 article about possible Chinese participation in war games with Russia and Syria, which noted the reports were unconfirmed.)

But while there were reports in Middle Eastern media that China would fight alongside Russia in Syria, that has been dismissed by the Chinese media as “speculative nonsense.” A newspaper tied to the ruling Communist Party noted, “It’s not China that brought chaos to Syria, and China has no reason to rush to the front lines and play a confrontational role.”

“I don’t have to give you a Web site because I’m self-funding my campaign. I’m putting up my own money. I want to do something really special.”
— Trump

This may have been true at the start of his campaign, but it’s no longer valid though Trump loves to keep saying this line. In the third quarter of this year, the Trump campaign received $4 million in unsolicited donations, according to the campaign’s latest financial filing. Since launching the campaign, Trump has spent about $2 million of his own money, the filing said.

“In the two hours during this debate … two veterans have taken their lives out of despair.
— Carson

Carson appears to cite the common statistic that 22 veterans commit suicide a day. At best, this figure is a rough, outdated estimate based on partial data.

This statistic comes from the VA’s 2012 Suicide Data Report, for which researchers analyzed death certificates of veterans from 21 states, from 1999 to 2011. They took the percentage of veteran deaths identified as suicides, out of all suicides from those states during that period. Then they applied that percentage to the number of suicides in the United States in a given year. That comes out to 22 suicides a day.

But the sample size was fewer than half the states, and did not include some states with the largest veteran populations (such as Arizona, California, Texas and North Carolina). Researchers who wrote this report provided a major caveat about their findings: “It is recommended that the estimated number of veterans be interpreted with caution due to the use of data from a sample of states and existing evidence of uncertainty in veteran identifiers on U.S. death certificates.” The Department of Veterans Affairs, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Defense Department have been working on a larger study to accurately quantify the suicide problem among veterans.

Suicide is a serious concern among veterans, and Americans at large. In fact, suicides among veterans happen at a higher rate than Americans in general.

“We have no idea who these people are. What we do know is that only one out of five of the so-called ‘Syrian refugees’ who went into Europe were actually Syrian.”
— Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee 

Huckabee appears to be citing data from a flawed article that appeared in the tabloid Daily Mail in September. That one in five figure is simply wrong.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees reports that of the nearly 800,000 refugees arriving by sea in 2015, 52 percent are from Syria, followed by 19 percent from Afghanistan and 6 percent from Iraq. (Nearly 3,500 people were dead or missing because of the sea journey.) Obviously, both Afghanistan and Iraq are also war-torn countries.

About 650,000 refugees arrived in Greece, followed by nearly 150,000 in Italy.

UNHCR also says there are nearly 4.3 million registered Syrian refugees, with more than 2 million living in Turkey, 1 million in Lebanon and more than 600,000 in Jordan.

“We’ve lost 5 million manufacturing jobs just since the year 2000.”
— Huckabee 

The former Arkansas governor gets this depressing factoid correct. In January of 2000, there were 17.3 million manufacturing jobs in the United States, according to government statistics. As of October this year, there were just 12.3 million manufacturing jobs.

Huckabee was also right to reach back to 2000, during the Bill Clinton presidency, as that was the high point for manufacturing in the past 20 years. Almost 5 million manufacturing jobs were lost during George W. Bush’s term in office — and the nadir was reached during President Obama’s term, when the United States had only 11.5 million manufacturing jobs. Some of those jobs have been recovered, but the total number of manufacturing jobs is still lower than when Obama took office.

“What they [Democrats] forgot to tell was that they’re going to raise your tax rates to 70 or 80 percent in order to provide all of that stuff.”
— New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R)

None of the Democratic candidates have said they would boost tax rates so high, even on the wealthy.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, has not yet released a tax plan, but he has repeatedly denied that he would increase taxes from the current marginal rate of 39.6 percent to as high as 80 or even 90 percent. (The marginal rate is what you pay on each additional dollar earned.) Sanders claims he would fund his $1 trillion plan to rebuild U.S. infrastructure by tapping corporate profits now stashed in overseas tax havens.

The United States had a marginal tax rate of 90 percent in the Dwight Eisenhower administration, and then John F. Kennedy proposed to reduce it to 70 percent. (The plan was approved by Congress after his assassination.) But even such rates would not take 90 percent of a person’s income.

“I’ll tell you the thing that disturbs me the most about what’s going on with the Democratic Party in Washington, that they’re not standing behind our police officers across this country. That they’re allowing lawlessness to reign in this country.”
— Christie

The crime rate has been decreasing for decades, but you wouldn’t know it just listening to what Christie says about the rampant “lawlessness” in the country.

The violent crime rate has been decreasing steadily since 1991, despite overall population growth. The FBI Uniform Crime Report, which compiles data from law enforcement agencies, shows the violent crime rate decreased by 15 percent since President Obama took office in 2009. In 2011, the violent crime rate was the lowest it had been since 1971.

The murder rate also has been dropping in major American cities, including in New York City. This has been the trend for the past decade, even in cities that once were overrun by crime. This trend holds even despite a blip in some cities this summer.

“Over 50 percent of children being raised in a home today of a single mom are raised in a home where the father … is living at the time the child is born. Now what does that mean? That means we have incentivized people not to marry. We’ve incentivized people to cohabitate than marry.”
— Former senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.)

It’s not entirely clear where Santorum got his figure, or how the father “living” at the time the child is born is an incentive not to marry the mother. Perhaps Santorum meant that the father was living in the home at the time the child was born, leading to his argument about cohabiting.

In any case, a 2014 Pew Research Center analysis of 2013 Census data show that 46 percent of children younger than 18 years old are living in a “traditional” family — a home with two married heterosexual parents in their first marriage. According to the analysis, 34 percent of children in 2013 were living with an unmarried parent, and most of the unmarried parents were single. Four percent of all children were living with two cohabiting parents.

Santorum may be referring to a report, referenced in a 2014 Associated Press article, by researchers at Harvard University and Cornell University that found found that at least half of mothers who were cohabiting when their child was born were still in relationships with the child’s biological father five years later. More couples are cohabitating, and the trend likely will continue because many couples are postponing marriage until their finances are more stable, according to the article, citing research by the National Center for Health Statistics.

The National Center for Health Statistics also found that nonmarital births increasingly are likely to occur among cohabiting couples, though the rate of births of unmarried women has decreased since the peak in 2008.

“We’ve cut our budget 26 percent.”
— Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R)

This is one of Jindal’s favorite boasts about his record, but he takes too much credit for saying he “cut” the state budget 26 percent.

The state budget in fiscal 2009, Jindal’s first budget after taking office in 2008, was $34.3 billion. In fiscal 2016, the proposed budget was $25.1 billion. That is a $9.2 billion decrease, or 26.8 percent.

But this budget decrease was not due to his executive decisions alone. Federal funding also decreased by $10 billion during those eight years, from $19.7 billion to $9.7 billion. Part of this decrease was due to waning federal funding for hurricane recovery, according to the Times-Picayune.

The top quotes from the fourth GOP presidential debate