The highlights of the third day of the Democratic National Convention were speeches by President Obama, Vice President Biden and vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine. Here’s a roundup of some of the most noteworthy claims that were made. As is our practice, we do not award Pinocchios for a roundup of claims made in convention events.
“She’s still got the heart she showed as our first lady, working with Congress to help push through a Children’s Health Insurance Program that to this day protects millions of kids.”
— President Obama
“Fighting to get health insurance for 8 million kids when she was first lady.”
— Vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine
Both Obama and Kaine tout an election claim that previously earned the Clinton campaign Two Pinocchios because an ad stated she worked with both parties to enact the legislation. Kaine plays it safe, while Obama stretches a bit to say Clinton worked with Congress.
The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) was signed into law in 1997 by her husband, then-President Bill Clinton. By all accounts, the prime mover behind CHIP was the late senator Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.). He was inspired by a similar Massachusetts program and then enlisted Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) as his partner in the effort. Kennedy had to overcome opposition at the Clinton White House in order to get the measure passed, though Hillary Clinton was considered an ally at the White House and played a behind-the-scenes role.
Enrollment in the program reached 8 million largely because of passage of the Affordable Care Act under President Obama.
We “cut veterans homelessness almost in half.”
Obama is exaggerating the success of his homeless veteran initiative here. Department of Housing and Urban Development data show overall homelessness among veterans decreased by 35 percent from 2009 to 2015.
He likely is referring to the decrease in homeless veterans who are “unsheltered,” defined as “places not meant for human habitation, such as the streets, abandoned buildings, vehicles, or parks.” The unsheltered homeless veteran population decreased by 45.9 percent from 2009 to 2015.
The unsheltered count is important. But this figure does not encompass the thousands of other homeless veterans living in temporary housing programs, emergency shelters or safe havens. The overall homeless count is a combination of a “point in time” count (which is a snapshot of the number of people sleeping on the street or in a shelter on a given night) and a one-year estimate of sheltered homeless people. The latest data from the latter measure is from 2014, showing a 12 percent decrease from 2009.
It’s also important to look at the overall population because the administration has placed a focus on getting chronically homeless men and women, including veterans, placed into permanent housing and supported with mental health and substance abuse services that can keep them housed. This is the population that is most likely to end up back on the streets and in the “unsheltered” count.
“After decades of talk, we finally began to wean ourselves off foreign oil and doubled our production of clean energy.”
Obama may be referring to the production of wind and solar energy, which has been focused on those two sources. Energy Information Administration data from 2009 to 2016 show the production of wind and solar have more than doubled during that time.
But those are not the only types of renewable energy. Hydropower, the largest source of “clean” energy, has remained flat in recent years. Moreover, renewable energy is only 11 percent of the source of U.S. energy production in 2015.
“Just ask the 20 million more people who have health care today.”
This 20 million figure comes from a March 2016 estimate by the Department of Health and Human Services, intended to show how many people gained insurance through the Affordable Care Act since full implementation in 2013. But it’s not necessarily precise.
Since people move in and out of insurance markets on a regular basis, as they change or lose jobs, this is not an easy number to capture. Analysts relied on survey data that indicated that the percentage of adults between the ages of 18 and 64 who lacked health insurance dropped from about 20 percent to 11.5 percent. That translated into 17.7 million nonelderly adults.
About 2.3 million of the figure comes from young adults who choose to stay on their parents’ plan before they turned 26, between the years 2010 and 2013, under a provision that kicked in as soon as the bill was signed.
Enrollment in ACA marketplaces was 8 million in 2014, 11.7 million in 2015 and 12.7 million in 2016, the report said. But Americans also gained coverage through an expansion of Medicaid in 31 states and the District of Columbia.
“Take it from … John McCain’s chief economic adviser during the ’08 race, who estimates Trump’s promises would cost America 3.5 million jobs.”
Mark Zandi, a well-respected economist, did issue such a report. But Kaine, just like Obama four years ago, misleadingly suggests Zandi had an important policymaking role for the 2008 Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Zandi is a registered Democrat who had advised both Republicans and Democrats; he was one of 32 people listed as advising the McCain campaign in 2008 — which by his account was mainly to monitor current economic and financial conditions.
According to the donor database of OpenSecrets.org, Zandi in 2015 made a $2,700 contribution — the maximum possible — to the Clinton campaign.
“Independent analysts … found Trump’s tax plan given to the wealthy and big corporations would rack up $30 trillion in debt.”
Kaine, a member of the Senate Budget Committee, based this figure on a December report from the well-respected and nonpartisan Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center. But he is citing a 20-year budget figure, which is an uncommonly long length of time to evaluate the impact of policy decisions. (Generally, analysts cite 10 years — and for decades Congress used five-year budget plans.)
A longer budget window greatly increases the numbers. The report shows, for instance, that the tax revenue loss would remain relatively consistent over either a 10-year or 20-year period — about 4 percent of GDP. But added years increase the number (as well as the additional interest that must be paid on the national debt).
The Tax Policy Center thus concluded that Trump’s policies would increase the debt by $34 trillion over 20 years – and $11 trillion over 10 years. Kaine chose the higher number but failed to explain he was using a very lengthy budget window.
“We achieved national recognition for our work — best-managed state, best state for business, best state for a child to be raised, low unemployment, high median income.”
So often, state executives exaggerate their record as governor. Kaine is largely on point with the various ratings issued while he was governor from 2006 to 2010, but there are many economic factors that affected some of these ratings that are beyond the policy decisions of the state’s chief executive.
Kaine may be able to take the most direct credit for Virginia’s rating as one of the best-managed states. The 2008 State Management Report Card by Governing magazine rated three states the highest, giving them A-minus grades: Virginia, Washington and Utah. The grade was based on state performance and investment in four categories: information, people, money and infrastructure. The report was published as a part of the Pew Charitable Trusts’s Government Performance Project, which ended in 2010.
Virginia has had a long history of good management. PolitiFact Virginia wrote that the state has earned high marks for management in virtually every survey for 20 years: “Kaine built upon a strong legacy of management established by his predecessors from both parties. He deserves credit, however, for keeping the state near the top. He was handed a Cadillac and drove it well.”
Was Virginia the best state for business? From 2006 to 2009, Forbes ranked Virginia the top state for doing business. The high rating was due to the state’s “highly-trained workforce, a favorable regulatory environment and high quality of life,” PolitiFact Virginia wrote.
Was Virginia the best state to raise a child? The claim comes from a 2007 report by Education Week and the Pew Center on the States, PolitiFact Virginia said. Virginia was one of five states that ranked the highest, based on education test scores, high school graduation rates, family incomes and education level of parents, they reported.
Virginia did outperform U.S. employment and jobless rates while Kaine was governor, the Wall Street Journal reported. But the unemployment rate still grew under Kaine, from 3.2 percent to 7.4 percent.
There are reasons for Virginia’s high jobs performance beyond Kaine’s control. From the Journal:
“One factor that may have stemmed job losses in Virginia is the federal government. Washington, D.C., remained relatively stable during the recession because federal government employment expanded during those years. That same factor aided Washington suburbs in northern Virginia. The state is also closely tied to defense contractors and military installations, and may have benefited from defense spending late in George W. Bush’s second term.”
“We have the most productive workers in the world.”
— Vice President Biden
The United States ranks third in worker productivity, out of the member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. OECD countries are the largest economies in the world. The OECD measure of productivity is GDP per hour worked, or “how efficiently labor input is combined with other factors of production and used in the production process.” Luxembourg and Norway ranked higher than the United States in 2014, the last full year of data, and have done so for many years.
“Donald Trump and Mike Pence want to gamble with your retirement benefits in the stock market.”
— Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.)
This is a tired old talking point that Democrats throw at Republicans, one that we have criticized in the past. Yet it’s particularly misplaced against Donald Trump.
As a presidential candidate, Trump has repeatedly insisted that he will not touch Social Security benefits, saying that Social Security can remain solvent without changing its structure. There’s no indication that he currently supports investing Social Security trust funds — now in Treasury bonds — in the stock market.
(As is typical of Trump, he sang a different tune in 2000, writing in a book that Social Security was a “Ponzi scheme” and that the retirement age should be raised to 70. He also called for “privatization” of the program.)
Pence, as a member of Congress, supported George W. Bush’s ill-fated 2005 effort to introduce investment options. It was designed as a voluntary program, in which individuals could choose to direct a relatively small portion of their payroll taxes to investment options besides Treasury securities.
But Bush could not even get a committee vote on his idea, even though Republicans controlled both houses of Congress, as Republicans were wary of embracing a concept under furious assault by Democrats.
That was 11 years ago, and no serious Republican has tried to push the concept again. Yet here it ended up in yet another Democratic attack.
“Donald Trump doesn’t believe in the science. He says, and again I quote, ‘The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese.’”
— Former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley
This line refers to a 2012 tweet by Trump:
Early in 2016, Trump explained on “Fox and Friends” that this was a joke: “Well, I think the climate change is just a very, very expensive form of tax. A lot of people are making a lot of money. I know much about climate change. I’d be — received environmental awards. And I often joke that this is done for the benefit of China. Obviously, I joke. But this is done for the benefit of China, because China does not do anything to help climate change.”
But there is little doubt that Trump still believes climate change is a hoax, as he has used the phrase in tweets and speeches.
“But Donald Trump? He has actually said, ‘Wages are too high.’ Wages are too high? Really, Donald?”
For the third day in a row, let’s add context to this claim, which Trump has clarified since he said it during a November 2015 Republican primary debate.
During the debate, Trump was asked whether he was “sympathetic to the protesters’ cause since a $15 wage works out to about $31,000 a year.” His full answer, with the part O’Malley is quoting in bold:
“I can’t be, Neil. And the reason I can’t be is that we are a country that is being beaten on every front economically, militarily. There is nothing that we do now to win. We don’t win anymore. Our taxes are too high. I’ve come up with a tax plan that many, many people like very much. It’s going to be a tremendous plan. I think it’ll make our country and our economy very dynamic.
But, taxes too high, wages too high, we’re not going to be able to compete against the world. I hate to say it, but we have to leave it the way it is. People have to go out, they have to work really hard and have to get into that upper stratum. But we cannot do this if we are going to compete with the rest of the world. We just can’t do it.”
Days later, Trump clarified he was referring to whether he would increase the minimum wage. He would not raise it, because then it would be “too high,” he said.
Trump has shifted on the federal minimum wage since then. Although Democrats like to say Trump wants to get rid of the federal minimum wage, his most recent stance as of Wednesday was in support of raising the federal minimum wage to $10, and that states can raise it higher.
Also on Tuesday, a Trump campaign official clarified that the Republican presidential nominee supports a federal minimum wage as an entry training wage, and opposes increasing it to $15 “since it becomes a barrier to entry-level employment.”
“About one in three American women have abortions by the age of 45.”
— Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America
Advocates of abortion rights use this statistic frequently, but it is outdated and has received Two Pinocchios.
Reproductive health research organization Guttmacher Institute came up with the statistic based on 2008 abortion rates. If the 2008 abortion rate prevailed, the estimate would still be applicable today. But that rate did not prevail; the abortion rate for women ages 15 to 44 dropped by 13 percent between 2008 and 2011. The Guttmacher Institute usually adds the caveat that the figure is based on the 2008 abortion rate, and we have urged advocates and politicians do the same. Hogue did not in her speech.
The Guttmacher Institute is now coming up with a new calculation, which has not yet been released. Researchers are analyzing the 2014 Abortion Patient Survey, which is conducted every six to eight years, and will be the first update since 2008. Without the breakdown of first-time abortions of women ages 15 to 44 in 2014, we can’t definitively say whether this statistic would increase or decrease, or by how much — though previous trends indicate it could decrease.
The decline in abortion rates from 1992 to 2008 was accompanied by a parallel decline in the proportion of women expected to have an abortion by 45. We don’t know yet if the 2014 data, which is being calculated right now, will show the same trend. But until early 2017, when the Guttmacher Institute plans to release the updated findings, this “one in three” figure should be treated with caution and always with mention of the appropriate caveat.
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