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Updated 3:01 AM  |  October 16, 2019
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Buttigieg’s description of a grieving mother

“We saw the horrifying sight of a woman with the lifeless body of her child in her arms asking, ‘What the hell happened to American leadership?’”

— South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg

Buttigieg  appears to referring to a video first published on Oct. 12 by the broadcast news outlet Kurdistan 24. The video depicts a woman sitting with a child in her lap. In the first frames, she is feeding the child with a bottle. Then, according to Kurdistan 24’s translation, she says, “Where can I take this daughter to? I tried to take her to a hospital, but there was none.”

While the imagery is unquestionably upsetting and despite some news reports to the contrary, the child in question appears to be ill, not “lifeless.”

Biden on the cost of Medicare-for-all

“If you eliminated the entire Pentagon, every single thing — planes, ship, troop, the buildings, everything, satellites — it would pay for a total of four months [of Medicare-for-all].”

— Former vice president Joe Biden

How to cover the cost of Medicare-for-all has dominated the Democratic debates. At an estimated $30 trillion cost over 10 years, the plan, as outlined in a bill by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that is supported by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), comes with a hefty price tag.

To illustrate the high cost, Biden said that eliminating the U.S. defense budget would pay for four months of Medicare-for-all. It’s unclear how he did his math, and his campaign did not immediately provide a breakdown.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates $7 trillion in defense spending from 2019 to 2028. That’s about one-fifth of the cost of Medicare-for-all over 10 years. It suggests that — all else being equal — defunding the military would cover two years, not four months, of the cost of Medicare-for-all. But with such a sweeping and intricate plan, it’s difficult to devise a solid estimate, and it’s unlikely that defunding the military completely would ever come to pass.

Opioid crisis in Ohio

“There was a point where there were more opiate prescriptions in the state of Ohio than human beings in the state of Ohio.”

— Business executive Andrew Yang

This is accurate. Ohio had a peak of 102.4 opioid prescriptions per 100 persons in 2010, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Ohio’s rate has since declined. In 2017, it was 63.5 opioid prescriptions per 100 persons, but that was still higher than the U.S. average of 58.7.

Yang on whether wealth taxes work

“And a wealth tax makes a lot of sense in principle. The problem is that it’s been tried in Germany, France, Sweden and all of those countries ended up repealing it because it had massive implementation problems and did not generate the revenue they projected.”

—Andrew Yang

Yang is right about this. According to an Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development report, “while 12 countries had net wealth taxes in 1990, there were only four OECD countries that still levied recurrent taxes on individuals’ net wealth in 2017.” (And in 2018, France also replaced its net wealth tax with one focused on real estate wealth.)

“Decisions to repeal net wealth taxes have often been justified by efficiency and administrative concerns and by the observation that net wealth taxes have frequently failed to meet their redistributive goals,” the report added. “The revenues collected from net wealth taxes have also, with a few exceptions, been very low.”

Besides France, Germany and Sweden are among the countries that abandoned the wealth tax, as Yang said.

Is Steyer right that most Americans haven’t had a raise in 40 years?

“People haven’t had a raise — 90 percent of Americans have not had a raise for 40 years.”

— Business executive Tom Steyer

This is not the case, not even when considering inflation. A study by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office analyzed a nearly 40-year period from 1979 to 2015, adjusting for inflation and changes in federal (but not state or local) taxes. The CBO found that wages grew for all income groups, from top to bottom, during the period. The rate of increase, however, was most dramatic for the top 1 percent, while everyone else saw relatively modest increases.

According to PolitiFact, other studies show that the top earners have absorbed a growing share of all new income in the last 40 years. But the claim that wages have not increased in 40 years is unsupported by the data.

Fact-checking the fourth Democratic debate

Twelve candidates are on stage tonight at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio, outside Columbus. The debate, hosted by  CNN and the New York Times, starts at 8 p.m. Eastern; the Fact Checker is writing on the candidates’ claims here.

Fact-checking and analysis from previous debates: June debate | July debate  | September debate

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