In his 64-minute address to a joint session of Congress, President Biden was on mostly factual ground when he stuck to the script. But he got in trouble when he ad-libbed some lines that stretched the truth. Here’s a roundup of nine claims that caught our attention. As is our practice with live events, we do not award Pinocchio rankings, which are reserved for complete columns.

“The economy created more than 1.3 million new jobs in 100 days.”

This number probably understates how many jobs have been created in the first 100 days. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 916,000 non-farm jobs were created in March and 468,000 in February, for a total of 1,384,000. The April numbers will not be reported until May 7, but given that Biden’s 100th day falls on April 29, that’s almost a month of additional jobs not included in the statistic.

Left unsaid was that the economy still has almost 7 million fewer jobs than when the pandemic struck. At The Fact Checker, we are dubious about the practice of measuring job growth by presidential term. Presidents do not create jobs; companies and consumers do.

“Independent experts estimate the American Jobs Plan will add millions of jobs and trillions of dollars in economic growth for years to come. These are good-paying jobs that can’t be outsourced. Nearly 90 percent of the infrastructure jobs created in the American Jobs Plan don’t require a college degree; 75 percent don’t require an associate’s degree.”

Biden originally pitched his infrastructure plan with a finely tuned claim that “Independent analysis shows that if we pass this plan, the economy will create 19 million jobs.” While the analysis, by Moody’s Analytics, did make that prediction, it only attributed 2.7 million of those additional jobs to the plan itself; most of the other jobs would have been created anyway, with or without the plan.

Biden’s language in his speech to Congress is not as specific — just “millions of jobs” — which makes it more accurate. The infrastructure plan would especially spur job growth in 2024 and 2025, after a slight decline in jobs because of the impact of Biden’s proposed tax increases to fund the plan, the analysis said.

Moody’s was not the only firm to offer an analysis. A Penn-Wharton Budget model study was more pessimistic about the long-term impact of the plan on the gross domestic product. “On net, by 2050 the capital stock ends up 1.52 percent smaller, and GDP is 0.49 percent lower, than under the current law baseline,” the study said.

Biden’s statistics on the mix of jobs that plan would created comes from yet another study, issued by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. “The majority of infrastructure jobs (75 percent) will be for people with no more than a high school diploma and some non-degreed short-term training — those who have been harmed most by technology change and trade since the mid-1980s,” the report said.

“When I was sworn in, less than 1 percent of seniors were fully vaccinated against covid-19. One hundred days later, nearly 70 percent of seniors are fully protected.”

The number of seniors vaccinated now is impressive but the figure for when Biden took office is a misleading statistic. When Biden took office, vaccinations had been given for only about a month. Moreover, health-care workers, residents of long-term care facilities, front-line essential workers and people over the age of 75 were in line to be the first to be vaccinated, which is why a relatively small percentage of people over 65 had been fully vaccinated.

“A recent study shows that 55 of the nation’s biggest corporations paid zero in federal income tax last year.”

In a report released in April, the left-leaning Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) concluded that 55 profitable companies in the Fortune 500 did not pay any federal income tax, largely as a result of the 2017 tax law, such as through deductions for investment that President Donald Trump promoted in the bill. This is actually a reduction from the year before, when the group said that 91 companies in the Fortune 500 failed to pay any federal taxes — a statistic Biden frequently cited on the campaign trail. It’s worth noting that companies do not fully disclose their tax liability in their filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, so this statistic is the product of research and analysis by the ITEP. But the group has done this for many years, and certainly the comparison of estimated taxes paid before and after the tax bill is relevant.

“I spent a lot of time with President Xi — traveled over 17,000 miles with him.”

Biden ad-libbed a line for which he previously received Three Pinocchios. This is a strange claim — and it was a comment Biden also made during the campaign. But it does not add up. During the Obama administration, it became clear that Xi Jinping, then the vice president, was in line to become the next leader of China. He was largely a mystery to U.S. officials, so Biden was assigned the task of getting to know him.

In 2011, Biden traveled to China and over three days met with Xi in various settings. They had a bilateral meeting and formal dinner in Beijing on Aug. 18, co-hosted a business dialogue on Aug. 19 and then visited the city of Chengdu in Sichuan province, along with a high school about 50 miles away in an area where a 2008 earthquake had left 86,000 people dead or missing. They also had a lengthy dinner together in Chengdu. Afterward, Biden flew on to Mongolia.

In 2012, Xi visited the United States. On Feb. 14, Biden and Xi gathered at the White House for meetings, including with President Barack Obama, had lunch at the State Department, conducted a business roundtable and finally had dinner at the vice president’s residence at the Naval Observatory. Xi then traveled elsewhere in the United States, including Iowa, before arriving in Los Angeles. Biden flew to Los Angeles to meet Xi there on Feb. 17; they had dinner, among other events.

A White House official conceded that Biden’s line of “traveling with” Xi is not accurate. “This was a reference to the total travel back and forth — both internally in the U.S. and China, and as well as internationally — for meetings they held together,” he said. “Some travel was in parallel, some was separately to joint destinations.” But try as we could, however, we still could not get the travel to add up to anything close to 17,000 miles.

“Over 11 million undocumented folks, the vast majority of here overstaying visas.”

Biden, in another ad-lib, said most undocumented migrants are people who enter the United States legally and then overstay their visas, a phenomenon involving air travelers from Asia or Europe, rather than Spanish-speaking migrants trekking to the border.

He’s not totally off base, but was wrong to say the “vast majority” overstayed their visas.

Government statistics and independent studies show that in recent years, visa overstays have in fact outpaced migrations from unauthorized border-crossings. In fiscal 2017, the Department of Homeland Security reported 606,926 suspected in-country overstays, or twice the number of southern border apprehensions. In fiscal 2016, U.S. officials reported 408,870 southern border apprehensions and 544,676 suspected in-country overstays. The Center for Migration Studies of New York, a think tank, found in a recent study that visa overstays “significantly exceeded” border-crossing migrations for the seventh straight year in 2017.

The issue here is that Biden was speaking about the entire undocumented population accumulated over time. He didn’t limit his comments to the migration dynamics seen in recent years. When looking comprehensively across decades, border-crossings are still the top driver of undocumented migration. In fact, the recent surge at the border in 2019 and in Biden’s early months may have substantially changed the percentages.

“In fact, the pay gap between CEOs and their workers is now among the largest in history. According to one study, CEOs make 320 times what their average workers make.”

Biden is referring to an annual survey by the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank, which examines the pay of chief executives at 350 of the largest companies. The ratio of CEO-to-worker compensation was 320-to-1 in 2019, up from 293-to-1 in 2018 and a big increase from 21-to-1 in 1965, the group says.

Other survey have found a somewhat lower ratio. The most powerful part of EPI’s research is the change in the ratio over time, as stock options and other incentives have resulted in big increases in chief executive pay. Biden simply stated that “CEOs make 320 times what their average workers make.” But most chief executives do not work at large companies.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says there are more than 202,000 chief executives in the United States, with a median annual wage of $197,840. Looking just at the category of “management of companies and enterprises” yields an annual median wage of just over $248,000. These figures do not include benefits, but on an hourly basis it’s about five or six times more than the pay of a typical worker before benefits.

Finally, we should note that a disparity in pay between very top in a field and other workers is not necessarily unusual. In 2015, the average salary for the top 100 Major League Baseball players was $16.4 million, compared to $4 million for the average for all MLB players and about $40,000 for professional minor league baseball players who earn a spot on a 40-man roster. Most minor league players earned between $3,000 and $7,000 in a season, according to a lawsuit filed against Major League Baseball that said minor-leaguers earned less than fast-food workers on the minimum wage.

“In fact, we pay the highest prescription drug prices of anywhere in the world right here in America — nearly three times, for the same drug, nearly three times as other countries pay.”

Biden is mostly on target, but it's worth pointing out that this applies only for branded prescription drugs and that it doesn't account for the effects of rebates and other discounts, which can be substantial.

Overall, U.S. prices for prescription drugs are 2.56 times higher than in other countries on average, according to a January study by the Rand Corp.

Analyzing 2018 data for the United States and 32 other countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the researchers found U.S. prices for branded prescription drugs were 3.44 times higher on average, while prices for generic drugs were 84 percent of those in other countries.

In the United States, generic drugs account for 84 percent of drugs sold by volume but 12 percent of U.S. spending, the study found.

The Rand study says that “most individual comparison countries have higher prices for unbranded generics than the United States does. Prices in the United States are 43 percent of those in Japan and 68 percent of those in the United Kingdom.”

Researchers said that they did not account for the effect of rebates and other negotiated discounts because the data is not readily available but that estimates show U.S. prices would still be above the global average if these price reductions were considered.

“U. S. prices were 190 percent of prices in other countries after adjusting U.S. prices downward to account for rebates and other discounts,” the study says, or about twice, rather than three times.

“In the 1990s, we passed universal background checks and a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines that hold 100 rounds that can be fired in seconds. We beat the NRA. Mass shootings and gun violence declined.”

Correlation does not necessarily equal causation, but Biden was careful to cite both the ban on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines. As we documented in an earlier fact check, new research increasingly supports the idea that restrictions on large-capacity magazines were effective in reducing the death toll when the law was in effect. (Whether the assault-weapons restrictions reduced mass shootings is still questionable.)

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