“So, the mayor just recently had a fundraiser that was held in a wine cave full of crystals and served $900-a-bottle wine. Think about who comes to that. He had promised that every fundraiser he would do would be open-door, but this one was closed-door.”
— Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.)
“Your presidential campaign right now as we speak is funded in part by money you transferred having raised it at those exact same big-ticket fundraisers you now denounce. Did it corrupt you, Senator? Of course not.”
— South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg
Fireworks were spotted at the debate when Warren attacked Buttigieg for courting high-dollar donors in the Democratic primary, something she has eschewed this year, decrying the influence of money in politics.
Her attack misfired somewhat. Buttigieg did hold a high-dollar fundraiser in a wine cave, but it was not closed off to onlookers. In fact, it was the first fundraiser Buttigieg opened up after sustaining weeks of criticism from, among others, Warren. A reporter who attended it filed a pool report.
At the debate, Buttigieg responded by noting that Warren seeded her presidential campaign with a sizable financial transfer from her 2018 Senate campaign. For that race, Warren did not have the same restrictive fundraising practices in place that she does now.
As we've reported, Warren did seek out contributions from high-dollar donors when she last ran for Senate. Then, after winning reelection, she transferred $10.4 million from her Senate committee to her presidential campaign, which allowed her to get a head start in the primary race.
A search of Warren’s Federal Election Commission records for the 2018 Senate race showed max contributions of $5,400 from the chief executives of DreamWorks and Yelp, media mogul Haim Saban, philanthropist Alexander Soros, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, hedge fund owners and wealthy investors, and some donors who have given millions to the Democratic Party. Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, film director Steven Spielberg and actress Barbra Streisand each donated $2,700 to Warren’s Senate campaign.
We previously gave Two Pinocchios to Warren for claiming her presidential campaign was “100% grassroots-funded.”
“Ninety-five percent of our customers are outside of our borders.”
— Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.)
This line from Klobuchar is a bit deceiving. Former vice president Joe Biden has used it, too, although not in this debate.
The U.S. population, standing at more than 320 million, rounds out to nearly 5 percent of the world population. Going only by this metric, yes, 95 percent of all the theoretical consumers of U.S. goods are “outside of our borders.”
But trade doesn’t work that way. As PolitiFact reported when Biden delivered the same line in July, “The vast majority of people across the world are quite poor and will not generally be in the market for American products.” They rated the claim “half true.”
“We have the highest rate of childhood poverty of almost any major country on earth.”
--Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)
There are various ways to frame this, but note that Sanders says “almost any major country.” That’s generally code for members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a group of the 36 wealthiest countries. But Sanders appears to be operating off stale data. (His staff has previously pointed to a 2012 UNICEF report that showed the United States just behind Romania.)
The OECD, in a report updated in November, lists the United States sixth from the bottom. Chile, Spain, Israel, Turkey and Brazil had higher rates of child poverty in 2016.
A 2017 UNICEF report also places the USA sixth, but with a different group of OECD countries with higher rates of child poverty: Spain, Mexico, Turkey, Israel and Romania ranked lower.
“This is why three people own more wealth than the bottom half.”
Sanders is drawing on a 2017 report from the left-leaning Institute for Policy Studies, which said that three billionaires — Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos (who owns The Washington Post) and Warren Buffett — had total wealth of $248.5 billion, compared with $245 billion for the bottom 160 million of the United States. The wealth of the three men has gone up since then.
But people in the bottom half have essentially no wealth, as debts cancel out whatever assets they might have, according to Emmanuel Saez, the University of California at Berkeley professor who is the pioneer in this field of research.
“The real scandal here is that the bottom half of the U.S. families owns essentially no wealth on net, because debts cancel out whatever small assets they may have, on average,” Saez said in an email. “If you exclude cars (consumer durables), the wealth of the bottom 50% is actually slightly negative according to the most recent distributional Fed statistics. You don’t even need to be a billionaire to actually own more than what the bottom half of Americans own! Billionaires in the Forbes 400 owned slightly less than 1% of total wealth back in 1982, they now own about 3.5% of total wealth. That’s another alarming trend.”
“The idea of a two-cent tax on great fortunes in this country. Fifty million dollars and above, for two cents …. I have a two-cent wealth tax proposed for millionaires and billionaires.”
Warren twice pitched her “two-cent tax” on wealthy Americans, but she did not mention that for the richest Americans, the tab keeps getting higher.
Warren’s “Ultra-Millionaire Tax” would apply to households with a net worth of $50 million or more, essentially the wealthiest 75,000 households. (She misspoke when she said $50 billion.) They would be charged 2 percent of every dollar of net worth above $50 million, unless they’re billionaires.
Households with $1 billion or more in assets would start paying 3 percent on assets above $1 billion. At least that was in Warren’s first iteration of her tax plans. She said this tax would raise $2.75 trillion over 10 years. But to help fund her plan for universal health care, she recently announced that she would also charge another 3 percent to billionaires, for a total of 6 percent. So that’s six pennies.
“By asking billionaires to pitch in 6 cents on each dollar of net worth above $1 billion, we can raise an additional $1 trillion in revenue,” Warren said in explaining how she would fill the $20.5 trillion hole created by her Medicare-for-all proposal. While 6 percent a year may not seem like much, over 10 years it would quickly add up.
“Five hundred thousand Americans, including 30,000 veterans, are sleeping out on the streets today in America.”
The way Sanders frames this is exaggerated. His number came from a single-night survey done by the Department of Housing and Urban Development to measure the number of homeless people. For a single night in January 2018, the estimate was that 553,000 people are homeless.
But the report also says that two-thirds — nearly 360,000 — were in emergency shelters or transitional housing programs; the other 195,000 were “unsheltered” — i.e., on the street, as Sanders put it. The number has been trending down over the past decade. It was 650,000 in 2007.
As for veterans, the 2018 figure for all homeless veterans was nearly 38,000 in 2018. But fewer than 15,000 were unsheltered. The rest — 62 percent — were in sheltered locations.
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