Fact check: Trump, Clinton and their debate claims
Washington — Donald Trump painted an inaccurately dark portrait of manufacturing in America while Hillary Clinton stretched credulity in boasting that her spending plans won’t add to the country’s debt. As well, both struggled in the presidential final debate to explain comments from their past:
DONALD TRUMP: “We’re not making things anymore, relatively speaking.”
THE FACTS: Despite his “relatively speaking” hedge, the assertion is wrong. U.S. factory production has more than doubled since 1979, when manufacturing employment was at its peak.
The problem is that it takes fewer people to produce more. The United States has lost more than 7 million factory jobs, a drop of nearly 40 percent, since the 1979 manufacturing employment peak.
Factory production, minus the cost of raw materials and certain other expenses, reached $1.91 trillion last year, according to the Commerce Department, which uses 2009 dollars to adjust for inflation. That’s a notch below the record set on the eve of the Great Recession in 2007. Factories have used robotics and computers to increase output even with fewer workers. The U.S. still produces plenty of autos, planes, steel and other metals, and large industrial machinery.
HILLARY CLINTON: “I don’t add a penny to the national debt.”
THE FACTS: Not true, according to the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. It estimates her increased spending in areas such as infrastructure, more financial aid for college and early childhood education, would increase the national debt by $200 billion over 10 years. That is far less than their estimate for Trump, who they predict would add $5.3 trillion over 10 years. But it’s plenty more than a penny.
TRUMP: “She’s lied hundreds of times to the people, to Congress, and to the FBI.”
THE FACTS: Trump’s claim about the FBI doesn’t square with what FBI Director James Comey has said publicly.
At a July congressional hearing, two days after announcing that he was recommending against bringing charges against Clinton over her use of a private email server to handle sensitive information while secretary of state, Comey said, “We have no basis to conclude she lied to the FBI.”
TRUMP: Hillary Clinton “has no idea whether it’s Russia, China or anybody else” that is behind recent hacks of Democratic organizations and individuals. “Our country has no idea.”
THE FACTS: Actually, the U.S. government says it does have an idea, and has concluded it was Russia who hacked into the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the email accounts of Clinton campaign manager John Podesta and others.
Trump’s refusal to point the finger at Moscow is at odds with the prevailing position of the U.S. intelligence community.
“We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities,” the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said recently in a joint statement with the Department of Homeland Security.
Top Democrats on the House and Senate intelligence committees say they’ve concluded Russian intelligence agencies were trying to influence the U.S. presidential election.
Russia has denied the accusation.
TRUMP: Under Hillary Clinton, “$6 billion went missing” at the State Department.
THE FACTS: Not quite. That figure is a distortion about a legitimate record-keeping concern. In 2014, the State Department’s inspector general released an alert warning that the documentation for $6 billion in State Department contracts was incomplete. But there’s no reason to think that all occurred under Clinton. The inspector general, Steve Linnick, specifically disavowed the conclusion that the money went missing.
TRUMP: “President Obama has moved millions of people out … millions of people have been moved out of this country.”
THE FACTS: That’s true. Obama has overseen the deportation of more than 2.5 million immigrants since taking office in January 2009.
During Obama’s first term hundreds of thousands of immigrants were deported annually, following a trend of increasing deportations started under President George W. Bush. The administration set a record in 2014 when more than 409,000 people were sent home. During his second term, deportations have steadily declined as he has opted to focus immigration enforcement resources on finding and deporting serious criminals and those who pose a threat to national security or public safety.
But Trump also claims that “nobody knows about it, nobody talks about it,” and that’s far from the truth. Obama has been dubbed “the deporter in chief” by immigration advocates and opponents of his immigration enforcement policies.
CLINTON: “I disagreed with the way the court applied the Second Amendment” in the District of Columbia vs. Heller decision in 2008. “I was upset because unfortunately dozens of toddlers injure themselves and even kill people with guns… But there’s no doubt I respect the Second Amendment, that I believe there’s an individual right to bear arms.”
THE FACTS: While Clinton emphasized the protection of children from gun accidents, the main holding in that case was far broader: that individuals have a right to own guns, at least in their homes and for self-defense. The case marked the first time the court said that individuals have a Second Amendment right to own a gun. The decision struck down Washington’s ban on handgun ownership as well as a separate requirement that people who have other guns store them either with trigger locks or disassembled. The court said both provisions violate the Second Amendment.
TRUMP: “Hillary Clinton wanted the (border) wall. Hillary Clinton fought for the wall in 2006 or thereabouts. Now, she never gets anything done, so naturally it wasn’t built.”
THE FACTS: Almost, but not quite. As a senator from New York, Clinton did support the 2006 Secure Fence Act, which authorized the construction of hundreds of miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border.
But it was built. Nearly 700 miles of fencing was put in place during President George W. Bush’s second term and the beginning of President Barack Obama’s first term.
The fencing is placed largely in urban areas along the nearly 2,000-mile frontier. It is not the type of solid wall that Trump has pledged to construct at Mexico’s expense. The fence has miles-long gaps and gates built in to allow landowners access to their property on the south side of the fencing. Immigrants have been known to go over and around the fence.
CLINTON: Asked about her reference in a 2013 speech to a Brazilian bank as part of her “dream of a hemispheric common market,” Clinton said she was “talking only about energy. We trade more energy with our neighbors than we do with the rest of the world combined.”
THE FACTS: Clinton’s speech in May 2013 to Banco Itau was not simply about energy, but also referenced other forms of open trade, according the partial transcript released by WikiLeaks. Clinton said that “my dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders, sometime in the future with energy that is as green and sustainable as we can get it, powering growth and opportunity for every person in the hemisphere.” In other partial transcripts released by WikiLeaks, Clinton cautioned that the rules of such unfettered trade also needed to be fair.
CLINTON: “I want to make college debt free.”
THE FACTS: Clinton might aspire to that lofty goal, but she has only proposed making college tuition free for in-state students who go to a public college or university. Even with expanded grant aid, room and board costs can lead to students to borrow.
Clinton would have the government pay for in-state tuition at public colleges and universities for students from families earning less than $125,000 a year. Students would still need to foot the bill for housing and food, which makes up more than half of the average $18,943 sticker price at a four-year public university, according to the College Board.
But Trump was correct when he said that government would shoulder higher costs with Clinton’s plan.
Her plan would cost the federal government an estimated $500 billion over 10 years, with additional costs possibly for state governments.
TRUMP: “Her plan is going to raise taxes and even double your taxes.”
THE FACTS: Clinton’s plan wouldn’t raise taxes at all for 95 percent of Americans, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. The very wealthiest would take the greatest hit, though a doubling is highly questionable.
Two-thirds of her proposed increases would hit the top 0.1 percent of richest Americans, the center estimates. The main components of her tax plan: a minimum 30 percent tax on those earning at least $1 million a year, and a 5 percent tax surcharge for those earning more than $5 million a year. She would also cap the value of tax deductions and exclusions for wealthier taxpayers.
CLINTON on her opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal: “It didn’t meet my test.”
THE FACTS: It met her test when she was secretary of state and she promoted it worldwide.
Hacked emails from Clinton’s campaign, released Wednesday by WikiLeaks, showed that Jake Sullivan, her top foreign policy adviser, called her a “big champion” of the deal and worried about how to handle the issue in the face of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ opposition. She later flip-flopped into opposition during the Democratic primaries against Sanders.
Clinton says she no longer backs the proposed trade deal as written because it does not provide enough protections for U.S. workers on wages, jobs and the country’s national security. Yet the final deal also includes some of the strongest labor protections of any U.S. trade agreement.
TRUMP: “So I just left some high representatives of India. They’re growing at 8 percent. China is growing at 7 percent. And that for them is a catastrophically low number. We are growing, our last report came out, and it’s right around the 1 percent level and I think it’s going down. Last week, as you know, the end of last week, they came out with an anemic jobs report. A terrible jobs report.”
THE FACTS: China and India are growing faster in large part because they’re playing catch-up to the United States, the world’s largest economy. Those two Asian countries are starting from a much lower baseline with a much larger population than the United States, meaning that by definition that they should be growing faster. Economists would warn of a dangerous bubble if the United States grew that quickly and financial markets would fear a devastating recession to follow.
But China and India aren’t any better off than the U.S., said former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke in an analysis released Wednesday. On a per-capita basis, China has just 10 percent of the United States’ income. India has about 6 percent.
Factoring in life expectancy, inequality and leisure, Bernanke notes that the United States comes off even better. And the September jobs report that Trump calls “terrible” is actually viewed by most economists as encouraging. Employers added 156,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate ticked up to 5 percent because more Americans felt confident enough to start looking for jobs, a positive sign.
TRUMP: “Last week, as you know, the end of last week, they came out with an anemic jobs report. A terrible jobs report.”
THE FACTS: The September jobs report that Trump calls “terrible” is actually viewed by most economists as encouraging. Employers added 156,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate ticked up to 5 percent because more Americans felt confident enough to start looking for jobs, a positive sign.
TRUMP: “If you look at your voter rolls you will see millions of people that are registered to vote, millions — this isn’t coming from me, this is coming from Pew report and other places — millions of people that are registered to vote that shouldn’t be registered to vote.”
THE FACTS: Trump asserted this to support his charge that the presidential election is “rigged,” but it doesn’t prove his point. A 2012 report from the Pew Charitable Trusts did find that 24 million voter registrations on the books are either no longer valid or inaccurate in some way. Some were failures to remove names of people who had died or moved, blamed on “antiquated” state registration systems. But the report didn’t find or even discuss any evidence of voting fraud.
TRUMP: The violence that occurred at his campaign rallies “was started by” Hillary Clinton, whose operatives paid people to “cause fights, do bad things.” He said the proof of this was “all on tape.”
THE FACTS: Unclear. A selectively edited video released on Wednesday by conservative activist James O’Keefe does show Democratic operative Scott Foval appearing to boast about provoking violent reactions at Trump rallies. But Foval was not directly employed by either the Clinton campaign or the Democratic National Committee, both of which have denounced his comments. DNC chairwoman Donna Brazile says she doesn’t believe that people working for Democrats incited violence or employed the tactics Foval described.
TRUMP: Insurance premiums under the Obama health care law next year “are going to go up over 100 percent.”
THE FACTS: Premiums are going up, and by double digits in many states, but to say it’s over 100 percent is pure hyperbole.
The full impact of next year’s premium increases is going to take time to sort out and vary across the country. Full information will be available Nov. 1 when the HealthCare.gov market goes live.
A study this summer by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation looked at 14 metro areas with complete information and found premiums were rising in 12 of them. The average increase for a popular option called the “lowest-cost silver plan” was 11 percent.
Since then, some states have reported higher numbers. California’s marketplace projected an average increase of 13.2 percent. The three insurers in Tennessee’s market got increases of 44 percent, 46 percent and 62 percent on average. In Minnesota customers will see increases ranging from 50 percent to 67 percent.
Many consumers receive subsidies that will offset the rising premiums, but an estimated 9 million people buy individual policies outside the health law’s markets and pay full freight. Many will be shocked when they get their renewal notices.
More from the debate: