FactCheck.org http://www.factcheck.org A Project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center Sun, 23 Nov 2014 13:27:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 Obama and Cruz Clash on Immigration http://www.factcheck.org/2014/11/obama-and-cruz-clash-on-immigration/ Fri, 21 Nov 2014 22:36:48 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=91072 President Obama and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz made seemingly conflicting statements about public opinion on the president’s plan to address immigration issues in the U.S.

Obama claimed that “most Americans support the types of reforms I’ve talked about tonight,” in a Nov. 20 address to the nation. Cruz, meanwhile, claimed that “this last election was a referendum on amnesty” and that voters had sent a clear message opposing it.

Obama is right that opinion polls show a majority of Americans support allowing immigrants now living in the country illegally to stay. But fewer Americans support using executive action to accomplish that.

Cruz, on the other hand, is wrong to say that the 2014 election results show that Americans rejected “amnesty” — at least how Cruz defines it. He considers “amnesty” to mean providing a path to citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally. Exit poll data show exactly the opposite.

 Obama Right, Mostly

Obama’s announced immigration plan would allow parents who have lived in the U.S. illegally for at least five years, and who also have children who are citizens or legal permanent residents, to remain in the country temporarily, for three years, without threat of deportation, if they pay taxes and pass a background check. The executive action would not apply to anyone who came to the U.S. recently, or who comes in the future, and it would not allow individuals to remain in the country permanently, or grant them citizenship or other benefits reserved for citizens.

A number of opinion polls support Obama’s claim that “most Americans support the types of reforms I’ve talked about tonight.”

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted from Nov. 14 to Nov. 17 found that 57 percent of respondents either strongly favored or somewhat favored allowing “foreigners staying illegally in the United States the opportunity to eventually become legal American citizens.” The level of support rose to 74 percent if those people had to “pay a fine, any back taxes, pass a security background check, and take other required steps” to gain citizenship. Obama’s plan doesn’t even go that far.

Likewise, a Pew Research Center poll conducted from Oct. 15 to Oct. 20 found that 71 percent of respondents said that people currently living in the U.S. illegally should be allowed to stay “if certain requirements are met.”

That’s in addition to a CBS News/New York Times poll from Sept. 12 to Sept. 15 that showed 63 percent of those surveyed said that illegal U.S. residents should be allowed to remain in the country.

The NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll had a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points. The Pew Research Center poll had a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points. And the CBS News/New York Times poll had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

Republican leaders, such as House Speaker John Boehner, have countered that Obama is “ignoring the will of the American people.” And there’s a little something to that as well.

That’s because while polls show majority support for allowing those here illegally to stay, they show less public support for Obama taking executive action to address immigration issues without Congress.

The same NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll cited earlier found that 48 percent of respondents disapproved of Obama taking executive action, or leaned that way, while 38 percent approved of executive action or leaned in that direction.

Similarly, a USA Today poll conducted from Nov. 13 to Nov. 16, with a margin of error of 3.6 percentage points, showed that 46 percent of those asked said Obama should wait for the new Congress in January to pass immigration legislation. On the flip side, 42 percent said that the president should act alone this year to deal with immigration. Another 10 percent of respondents were unsure and 2 percent refused to answer.

The CBS News/New York Times poll from September did find that 51 percent thought Obama should take action if Congress did not. But that may or may not represent “most Americans,” since the poll’s margin of error was 3 percent.

 Cruz Wrong

Cruz, during an interview with Fox News host Megyn Kelly, more than once said that “this last election was a referendum on amnesty” and that the clear message was “we don’t want amnesty.” It wasn’t, according to exit poll results.

Election voters, by a margin of 57 percent to 39 percent, said those living in the U.S. illegally but working should be offered legal status, according to the exit poll conducted by Edison Research for the National Election Pool, a consortium of news organizations. The gap is also greater than the margin of error of 3 percentage points to 4 percentage points.

Plus, just 14 percent of voters polled said that illegal immigration was “the most important” issue facing the country today, which also undercuts Cruz’s claim. Voters were given only four choices, and immigration ranked third behind the economy (45 percent) and health care (25 percent).

– D’Angelo Gore

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Bachmann’s Immigration Exaggerations http://www.factcheck.org/2014/11/bachmanns-immigration-exaggerations/ Fri, 21 Nov 2014 22:09:45 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=91056 Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann wrongly suggested that Obama is granting citizenship and voting privileges to immigrants who are in the country illegally. His executive actions do neither of those.

In a Nov. 20 email fundraising appeal for her political action committee — sent before Obama’s prime-time speech that evening but after details of his plan had been reported – Bachmann wrote: “What could more fundamentally transform our nation than making our precious American citizenship — and the rule of law — merely commodities to be dispensed with as our Imperial President sees fit, flooding our land with illegal foreigners which will forever alter our way of life?”

She went on to imply that the unauthorized immigrants affected by Obama’s actions would be able to vote. “The Democrats are licking their wounds after their terrible defeats this month, and are viewing these millions of illegal aliens as votes for their leftist agenda in two years.”

Obama’s plan in no way bestows citizenship on immigrants who are in the country illegally. And only U.S. citizens have the right to vote in federal and state elections.

Bachmann made a similar false claim about voting rights last year, wrongly saying that Obama had granted the right to vote to unauthorized immigrants in 2012 when he had only deferred deportation procedures for children who had been brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents.

The executive actions provide a temporary relief of three years from the threat of deportation to parents who are in the country illegally but who have children who are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. The parents must have lived in the United States for at least five years, and they must register, and pass background checks in order to obtain the reprieve. They also must pay taxes and prove that their child was born on or before Nov. 20. If they meet the requirements, they would also be given work authorization for the three-year period.

The president’s plan also expands an earlier order to delay deportation of young people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children and who meet certain education criteria. Before, those so-called DREAMers — named for failed legislation that addressed this group of immigrants – had to have entered the country before June 15, 2007, and be born after 1981. Obama changed that cut-off to Jan. 1, 2010, and eliminated the stipulation on age. The old rules said eligible individuals would receive deferred action on deportation for two years. Obama’s new action increases that to three years.

The administration’s actions give both groups of immigrants temporary reprieve from the threat of deportation, but they don’t grant citizenship or even put these immigrants on a path to citizenship, something the 2013 bipartisan Senate immigration bill would have established. That bill passed the Senate in June 2013 but hasn’t been taken up by the House. Other aspects of Obama’s actions pertain to those with legal permanent resident status and foreign workers with visas.

The White House estimates that nearly 5 million immigrants who are in the country illegally would be affected by the executive action. There are an estimated 11 million immigrants illegally living in the U.S., according to the Pew Research Center. The center estimates Obama’s action on deferred deportation would affect about 4 million immigrants, most of whom — 3.5 million — are parents whose children have legal status.

The White House fact sheet on the actions makes only two mentions of citizenship, and neither has anything to do with those in the country illegally. It says the Department of Homeland Security will launch a “citizenship awareness media campaign” for legal permanent residents, and the department will “expand an existing policy to provide relief to spouses and children of U.S. citizens seeking to enlist in the military, consistent with a request made by the Department of Defense.”

The Pew Research Center notes in its report on the executive actions that the unauthorized immigrants affected wouldn’t be eligible for certain government benefits including subsidies for obtaining insurance through the Affordable Care Act.

– Lori Robertson

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Behind the Rising Deportations of ‘Criminals’ http://www.factcheck.org/2014/11/behind-the-rising-deportations-of-criminals/ Fri, 21 Nov 2014 21:35:57 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=91063 In his immigration speech, President Obama said “deportations of criminals are up 80 percent.” But an independent analysis of deportation data found the increase is driven largely by the removal of individuals “whose most serious conviction was an immigration or traffic violation.”

In fact, “the number of individuals deported who have been convicted of any criminal offense apart from an immigration or traffic violation has actually declined,” according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University, which collects and analyzes immigration data.

The president made his remarks during his nationally television speech from the White House announcing a series of executive actions that will provide deportation relief to 5 million people living illegally in the United States and give them the authorization to work.

Obama, Nov. 20: Even as we are a nation of immigrants, we’re also a nation of laws. Undocumented workers broke our immigration laws, and I believe that they must be held accountable -– especially those who may be dangerous. That’s why, over the past six years, deportations of criminals are up 80 percent. And that’s why we’re going to keep focusing enforcement resources on actual threats to our security. Felons, not families. Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a mom who’s working hard to provide for her kids. We’ll prioritize, just like law enforcement does every day.

The White House fact sheet on the president’s immigration plan also cited the 80 percent figure. “By setting priorities and focusing its enforcement resources, the Obama Administration has already increased the removal of criminals by more than 80%.”

We were curious about the 80 percent jump in deportations of criminals and went to one of the most respected sources of immigration data and analysis: the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University. It turns out that TRAC has already vetted this exact claim.

On April 8, 2014, TRAC published a detailed analysis of 2.3 million deportations enforced by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from 2008 to 2013. The organization used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain the data.

Specifically, TRAC examined the Obama administration’s claim that is has had “a high degree of success in achieving its objective of deporting ‘convicted criminals.’”

The TRAC report confirms that Obama’s 80 percent figure is accurate, but inflated. TRAC said there has been an 87 percent increase from fiscal year 2008 to fiscal year 2013 in the deportation of those classified by ICE as “convicted criminals.” But that’s because ICE uses an “exceedingly broad definition of criminal behavior,” the report said.

TRAC report, April 8, 2014: ICE currently uses an exceedingly broad definition of criminal behavior: even very minor infractions are included. For example, anyone with a traffic ticket for exceeding the speed limit on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway who sends in their check to pay their fine has just entered ICE’s “convicted criminal” category. If the same definitions were applied to every citizen — rather than just to noncitizens — available evidence (see TRAC’s February 2012 report) suggests that the majority of U.S. citizens would be considered convicted criminals.

The 87 percent increase in the deportation of “convicted criminals” was driven almost exclusively by “those with a traffic violation (up 191 percent) and individuals convicted of immigration offenses (up 167 percent).”

By comparison, the deportation of those with serious crimes fell. “For example, the number of deportees convicted of vehicle theft was down by 27 percent. Robbery, burglary and forgery categories saw only a small increase — up 4 to 6 percent over this six year period. Although their numbers were small, declines also occurred for individuals convicted of arson (down 1 percent), embezzlement (down 14 percent) and bribery (down 41 percent).”

“In fact, after Director Morton [Obama's former ICE Director John Morton] on June 30 of 2010 directed a renewed focus on finding and deporting ‘convicted criminals’ who posed a serious threat to public safety or endangered national security, the number of individuals deported who have been convicted of any criminal offense apart from an immigration or traffic violation has actually declined,” the TRAC report concluded.

In fiscal 2013, for example, TRAC found that half of those deported committed no crime more serious than an immigration or traffic violation, while only 12 percent “committed a serious or ‘Level 1′ offense based on the agency’s own definitions.” Level 1 offenses include homicide, kidnapping, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault, among other serious crimes.

We asked the White House for comment, but did not receive an immediate response. If we receive one we will update this item.

– Eugene Kiely

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Obama’s Actions ‘Same’ as Past Presidents? http://www.factcheck.org/2014/11/obamas-actions-same-as-past-presidents/ Fri, 21 Nov 2014 21:05:17 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=91040 President Obama repeatedly claimed that there is presidential precedent for the executive actions he took on immigration. But are the actions Obama announced really the “same kinds of actions” taken by past presidents?

Obama’s use of executive actions to defer deportation for up to 5 million people living in the country illegally relies on similar legal principles used by past presidents, although the issue of presidential authority may ultimately have to be decided in federal court. But there are some fundamental differences between Obama’s actions and those taken by past presidents.

The actions taken by Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush — examples often cited by White House officials — were attempts to address ambiguities in an immigration law that was passed by Congress. Obama’s executive actions are different. They are a response to congressional failure to pass a law, and they affect a far greater number of immigrants currently living in the country illegally.

In his prime time speech, Obama twice emphasized that he was simply taking the same kinds of actions that were taken by past presidents.

Obama, Nov. 20: But until that happens, there are actions I have the legal authority to take as president – the same kinds of actions taken by Democratic and Republican presidents before me – that will help make our immigration system more fair and more just.

Obama: The actions I’m taking are not only lawful, they’re the kinds of actions taken by every single Republican president and every single Democratic president for the past half century.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest was even more specific in the days leading up to Obama’s announcement. On Fox News, Earnest said the authority invoked by Obama is “consistent with steps that were taken by President Reagan, President George H.W. Bush and other presidents over the course of history that have used their executive power to address problems with our broken immigration system. President Obama is going to do the same thing.”

In a Nov. 18 press briefing, Earnest went into greater detail about the first Bush administration. “Even somebody like President George H.W. Bush took steps to expand the Family Fairness Program to cover more than 1.5 million unauthorized spouses and children. This represented 40 percent of the undocumented population of roughly 3.5 million undocumented immigrants in the country at that time,” Earnest said.

In a recent op-ed, Reps. Nancy Pelosi, Luis Gutierrez and Zoe Lofgren also dropped President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s name.

Pelosi, Gutierrez, Lofgren op-ed, Oct. 30: The fact is, just as presidents before him, President Obama has broad authority to make our immigration system better meet the needs of our country and reflect our shared values. And every Administration since President Dwight D. Eisenhower has used executive authority to do just that.

We’ll address these chronologically starting with Eisenhower, who in 1956 took executive action to allow hundreds of foreign-born orphans to come to the U.S. with their adoptive parents. He said action was necessary because quotas established by the Immigration and Nationality Act and the Refugee Relief Act would have otherwise prevented U.S. parents, many of whom served overseas in the military, from bringing their adopted children home with them.

That same year, Eisenhower also took action to institute an emergency refugee assistance program to aid thousands of Hungarian refugees who fled their home country during a conflict with the Soviet Army. Nearly 32,000 Hungarian refugees were admitted to the U.S. under provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which gives U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services the authority to parole individuals into the U.S. on a temporary basis for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.

Then, late in 1960, Eisenhower took action to implement a similar program for Cuban refugees seeking asylum in the U.S. after fleeing the Communist nation. The program, which Eisenhower began with contingency funding via the Mutual Security Act, continued into the Clinton administration.

Eisenhower’s actions were not at all like the one being undertaken by Obama.

The actions taken by Reagan and George H.W. Bush bear more resemblance to Obama’s. But they came in response to an immigration overhaul approved by Congress, as opposed to Obama’s reaction to congressional inaction.

Congress passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986, which allowed immigrants who had been living continuously in the U.S. since at least Jan. 1, 1982, to apply for temporary, and later permanent, residency. Reagan signed it into law. The law provided legal permanent residency to 2.7 million immigrants who were living in the U.S. illegally, 1.1 million of whom went on to become American citizens.

But concerns were soon raised about the possibility of families being broken up if a spouse or child was ineligible for residency under the law’s guidelines.

According to a 1992 paper written by John W. Guendelsberger for the Center for Migration Studies of New York, Congress intentionally sidestepped this touchy issue with ambiguous language in the law regarding the status of mixed eligibility families. The Immigration and Naturalization Service initially took a “hard-line position,” stating that any ineligible family members would be subject to deportation.

Later in 1987, however, “the INS issued a policy statement and a memorandum peremptorily entitled ‘family fairness’ guidelines which slightly liberalized its approach to family unity for family members of amnesty applicants,” Guendelsberger explained. Specifically, the new Reagan administration guidelines extended protection from deportation to minor children who were living with parents who had applied for legalization.

In testimony before Congress, INS Commissioner Alan C. Nelson, a Reagan appointee, said the policy only applied to children if both of their parents qualified for residency. As for spouses, UPI reported on Oct. 22, 1987, that the guidelines announced by Nelson stated only that in order “for an ineligible spouse to be allowed to stay, certain compelling or humanitarian factors must exist in addition to the family relationship and hardships caused by separation.”

A little more than two years later, the George H.W. Bush administration used its executive powers to further address the potential separation of families.

As we said, the INS guidelines issued under Reagan granted relief only to children of the so-called mixed eligibility families who did not qualify under the new law but their parents did. On Feb. 2, 1990, INS Commissioner Gene McNary issued a memo that changed that.

McNary announced that INS would scrap the three-year-old Reagan-era guidelines and issue new guidelines that expanded deportation deferrals to include not just children but also spouses of newly legalized residents (provided the spouses and children were living in the United States prior to Nov. 6, 1986, which is when the 1986 law took effect, and provided that the children were unmarried and under 18 years old). It also gave these children and spouses the authorization to work — which was something that the Reagan-era guidelines did not do, as explained at the time by the Los Angeles Times.

Los Angeles Times, Feb. 3, 1990: McNary’s directive provides a renewable, one-year shield against deportation to spouses and children under 18 who can establish that they have been living in the United States with a legal alien family member since Nov. 6, 1986, and have not been convicted of a felony or three misdemeanors in this country.

The policy will enable families to stay together while applications for permanent visas wind through a 10-year bureaucratic maze.

Under the old policy, children, but not spouses, of newly legalized aliens were eligible for such relief. No work authorization was provided. And regional INS directors had wide latitude to determine whether “humanitarian circumstances” were “compelling” enough to provide relief.

Earnest said Bush’s action granted relief to “more than 1.5 million unauthorized spouses and children.” We could not independently confirm that number, and the White House could not provide any data to support it.

The 1.5 million figure comes from a March 5, 1990, article in the New York Times, which cited McNary as the source. Other accounts at the time gave estimates as low as 100,000. An INS spokesman at the time was quoted by the Philadelphia Inquirer as saying, “There’s no way to count them. It may run to a million.”

In his 1992 paper, Guendelsberger, an appointee of Attorney General Eric Holder to the U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals, wrote that “as many as 250,000 minor children and spouses” could benefit from Bush’s policy. His source was a Feb. 26, 1990, article in Interpreter Releases, a weekly publication, widely read by immigration lawyers, that writes about immigration guidelines and laws.

The Interpreter Releases article, which cited actual data after the first eight days of the Bush policy, said “INS’ own current ‘guesstimate’ is that no more than 250,000 aliens will apply for the family fairness program.”

The Bush policy, known as the Family Fairness Program, was not in effect long. On Nov. 29, 1990, Bush signed the Immigration Act of 1990 that, among other things, addressed the mixed eligibility families created by the 1986 immigration law. The new law created the Family Unity Program, which further increased the number of people eligible for protection from deportation.

The 1990 law gave “blanket protection from deportation and work authorization for all spouses and unmarried children who were in the United States and who were related to a ‘legalized alien’ prior to May 5, 1988. In order to benefit from the family fairness program, the spouse or child of a ‘legalized alien’ must apply to the INS for voluntary departure status,” as explained in Guendelsberger’s paper. In addition to changing the eligibility date from 1986 to 1988, the law also raised the eligibility age to 21 years old for children — two changes that increased the number of people eligible for protection.

We can’t speak to whether these actions by previous presidents provide legal precedence for Obama’s actions. The White House argues they do (though we noted in a previous story Obama wasn’t always of that opinion), and Republican leaders argue they do not.

While it will likely ultimately be up to the federal courts to decide, a Congressional Research Service report in December 2013 found that courts have provided “wide latitude” to presidents to use “prosecutorial discretion” when it comes to enforcing immigration laws. Perhaps foreboding what’s to come, however, the report concluded that Congress “may still be able to influence the implementation of … discretion-based policies by the immigration authorities, including by engaging in stringent oversight over the DHS program or by exercising its ‘power of the purse’ to prohibit DHS and its components from implementing particular policies related to the exercise of prosecutorial discretion that Congress does not support.”

On Fox News, Sen. Ted Cruz suggested just such a strategy to block Obama’s plan.

– Robert Farley, Eugene Kiely and D’Angelo Gore

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The ACA-Gruber Connection http://www.factcheck.org/2014/11/the-aca-gruber-connection/ Fri, 21 Nov 2014 17:20:54 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=90983 President Obama and Rep. Nancy Pelosi downplayed the contribution of MIT economist Jonathan Gruber to the Affordable Care Act, after controversial comments by Gruber came to light, while Republicans exaggerated his role. We find both sides are stretching the facts.

Pelosi, in a blog post, said the White House “sometimes consulted” with Gruber, who “testified at one Senate hearing.” He actually testified at three. Obama called him “some adviser who never worked on our staff.” Sure, he wasn’t on the White House staff, but he was a paid consultant on health care, earning hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of a year.

Meanwhile, conservatives, including Rep. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, have overstated Gruber’s role, claiming he was “the architect” of the law. Those who worked closely on the law say he ran economic models to determine the outcome of certain proposals.

Gruber’s ‘Stupidity’ Comment

Earlier this month, video began circulating online of Gruber speaking at an October 2013 conference on health economics at the University of Pennsylvania, where he said the ACA had been written “in a tortured way” so that the Congressional Budget Office wouldn’t “score the mandate as taxes.” He went on to say, “Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And basically, you know, call it the ‘stupidity of the American voter’ or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical to getting the thing to pass.”

He apologized in a Nov. 11 interview on MSNBC, saying he “basically spoke inappropriately.” But he said political infeasibility meant the law had to be structured a certain way, and that political pressure led to an “incomplete law.” (Washington Post Fact Checker Glenn Kessler wrote an explainer piece on what Gruber was talking about on taxes.)

But the damage of the “stupidity” comment was done. When Obama was asked at a Nov. 16 press conference about Gruber’s comments on lack of transparency and that “the voters are stupid,” the president responded:

Obama, Nov. 16, Brisbane, Australia: I just heard about this. I get well briefed before I come out here. The fact that some adviser who never worked on our staff expressed an opinion that I completely disagree with in terms of the voters, is no reflection on the actual process that was run.

Three days earlier, Pelosi’s office said in a blog post:

Pelosi Fact Sheet on Jonathan Gruber, Nov. 13: Indeed, at the dozens of hearings on the health reform bill by the three health committees in the House in 2009, with 181 witnesses, Jonathan Gruber was never a witness. He testified at one Senate hearing. … The White House sometimes consulted with Gruber on health issues.

Pelosi’s post correctly says that Gruber was tapped for his economic modeling expertise and that his microsimulation model was used to estimate the impacts of the health care bills. But the blog post downplays his role by saying he never testified at a House hearing and wrongly claiming he “testified at one Senate hearing.”

Earlier, on Nov. 13, Pelosi said of Gruber at a weekly briefing to reporters, “I don’t know who he is,” a comment her staff later said meant that she didn’t know Gruber personally. We found seven instances of Gruber being cited on Pelosi’s leadership website, and the Washington Post dug up November 2009 comments by Pelosi, in which she specifically named Gruber in citing his work.

The Gruber comment is playing big in the Louisiana Senate race, which is headed for a Dec. 6 runoff between Cassidy and Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu. Cassidy wrote on Nov. 11 on Twitter: “The architect of ObamaCare says it passed because voters are stupid. Does Landrieu think that about #LAsen voters?”

And two ads in the race seized on the controversy: An ad from the Conservative Campaign Committee calls Gruber “the architect” of the ACA, while a spot by Freedom Partners Action Fund calls him “Obamacare’s chief architect.”

So was the MIT economist “the architect” of the federal law, or just “some adviser”? His actual role lies somewhere in between, according to statements by Gruber and others who worked on the law.

Gruber’s HHS Contract

Gruber was hired by the Department of Health and Human Services for a one-year contract to provide “technical assistance in evaluating options for national healthcare reform,” as a Feb. 25, 2009, federal job posting indicates. The posting said he was uniquely qualified for the position not only because of his expertise in health economics but his “proprietary statistically sophisticated micro-simulation model” that could determine the impact of changes in health care policy.

Gruber’s consultancy work wasn’t made public until it was reported in early January 2010. Fox News then reported that Gruber was paid almost $400,000 for the contract, an amount that was recently confirmed by the Washington Post’s Kessler.

Gruber’s expert status in health economics was very well-known before Obama took office. We have quoted him on the subject many times, including in February 2008, when we cited his microsimulation modeling of different approaches to a health care overhaul and noted he had talked with the Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards campaigns on the topic. Gruber, who is also director of the health care program at the National Bureau of Economic Research, had advised former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and the state Legislature in developing the state’s 2006 health care law, which shares several similarities with the subsequent federal law.

In an April 2012 opinion piece, published by MassLive.com, a western Massachusetts news site, Gruber described himself as one of the architects of the Massachusetts law, but not the federal law: “Several of the architects of Massachusetts reform, including myself, worked closely with the Administration and Congress to translate the lessons from Massachusetts onto the national stage.” Similarly, his MIT bio says he was “a key architect” of the Massachusetts overhaul and a “technical consultant” to the Obama administration from 2009 to 2010 who “worked with both the Administration and Congress to help craft the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.”

Gruber declined to comment for this article.

Pelosi’s post is wrong to say he testified only once before the Senate. He testified at three Senate hearings on health care overhaul options and legislation: a May, 12, 2009, Senate Finance Committee hearing; a June 11, 2009, Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing; and a Nov. 3, 2009, hearing also before the HELP Committee.

At the June hearing, he said he wanted to “congratulate the committee on a draft bill which really provides a terrific framework for fundamentally transforming healthcare in the United States.” At the November hearing, his remarks included the results of modeling the impact of the Senate Finance Committee bill on small businesses using the Gruber Microsimulation Model, which he said had been “widely used for policy analysis at both the state and federal level” and was similar to CBO’s modeling.

White House visitor logs show that Gruber visited the White House on several occasions, as reported by both the Wall Street Journal and The Hill. His six visits in 2009 include a July 20 group meeting with Obama and other economists.

Former administration advisers and congressional staff have said Gruber was tapped for his modeling work, not to draft the legislation.

Ezekiel J. Emanuel, who was the special adviser for health policy to the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget from January 2009 to January 2011, told us in a phone interview, “He was a consultant who, quote, ran the numbers,” meaning that “he did the estimates of how much, when you change things in a proposal, how that would affect the number of people covered and the cost of the program.”

Emanuel, who is now vice provost for global initiatives and chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania, says calling Gruber “the architect” of the law is “utter, total nonsense.”

In his book “Reinventing American Health Care,” which was published in March, Emanuel mentions Gruber just once, in the context of economic modeling. He writes that the White House was concerned about how the CBO would score the cost of legislation. Emanuel says his brother, then-White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, and the president “established a very firm maximum-cost limit” of $1 trillion over 10 years. They wanted half of the money to come from savings in existing programs and half to come from new revenue, Emanuel writes.

Here’s the mention of Gruber:

“Reinventing American Health Care,” March 2014: During the development of the ACA the administration undertook 2 major efforts to create a shadow CBO “score” function. First, the Department of Health and Human Services contracted with Jonathan Gruber, an economist at MIT, to predict the CBO score. Gruber was picked largely because he had developed an economic model of the health care system that the CBO borrowed and refined to create its own model.

David Bowen, who was the health policy staff director for the HELP committee first under Sen. Ted Kennedy and then Sen. Tom Harkin, told us he “wouldn’t describe any single person as the architect of the ACA,” as a number of people made major contributions to the law. As for Gruber, he says, “There were a few experts that we sought as sounding boards and counsel, and he was one of those.”

Gruber’s economic modeling was very helpful, especially early on before there was draft legislation that CBO could score, says Bowen, who left the Senate committee shortly after the ACA was signed into law and is now an executive vice president at H&K Strategies. But Gruber wasn’t one of the people writing the legislation or working on it into the early hours. “I know who was there at 3 in the morning and I know who wasn’t,” Bowen says. Gruber wasn’t.

“It was an excellent analytical model,” Harvard University’s David Cutler, a former Obama adviser, was quoted as saying in the Wall Street Journal. “He was not a formal adviser. It was all about his model.”

Neera Tanden, a senior adviser to HHS from 2009 to 2010 and now the president of the left-leaning Center for American Progress, wrote in an op-ed in the Journal that Gruber was a consultant who “did not make policy.” She said, “The true architects of the ACA are the members of the Senate Finance and Senate Health committees who wrote the bill, with input from dozens of congressional hearings and bipartisan round tables.”

Emanuel told us that Gruber didn’t write any portion of the legislation “that I was intimately involved with,” but he couldn’t speak for the whole bill. Emanuel says the fact that Gruber calls himself an architect of the Massachusetts law doesn’t make him an architect of the federal one. The two laws are related but “distant cousins.” That sentiment was expressed by Romney’s former secretary of health and human services, Tim Murphy, who told us in a 2011 interview that there were many differences between the laws, though they shared certain mechanisms. However, Murphy said, “unless you were going to go to single-payer, how many mechanisms really are there to use?”

Gruber’s October 2013 full comments at the University of Pennsylvania conference show that he’s a supporter of the law, even though he is quite critical of some of its provisions. He may not have written it, but Obama’s claim that he was “some adviser” and Pelosi’s focus on how many committee hearings he attended brush aside the fact that he was a highly paid consultant whose modeling work was instrumental in determining the impact of health care policy. At the same time, the claim by Cassidy and conservative ads that Gruber was “the architect” overstates the role of an economic consultant and overlooks the role many others in the administration and Congress played in creating the law.

– Lori Robertson

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The Great Premium Debate Continues http://www.factcheck.org/2014/11/the-great-premium-debate-continues/ Wed, 19 Nov 2014 22:51:30 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=90926 In the latest round of what’s-happening-to-health-care-premiums, Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann wrongly claims that we’re seeing “huge increases” in employer-sponsored plans, while President Obama touts historically low health care inflation, which experts say is mainly due to the slow economy, not the health care law.

Both Bachmann and Obama were making competing arguments about the success of the Affordable Care Act, specifically on costs to consumers.

We’ll start with Bachmann, who made her comments on Fox News’ “On the Record” on Nov. 17.

Bachmann: We are seeing huge increases in these premiums, not only in the Obamacare exchanges, but in the private market. Because remember, a lot of times it’s the private market where we are getting health care through our employers. It’s the private market that has to offset government programs, whether its Medicaid or whatever government program. So the costs are going through the roof.

Her comment that there have been “huge increases” in the private market “where we are getting health care through our employers” is low-hanging fruit for fact-checkers. Employer-sponsored insurance premiums have been growing at low rates for the past several years. The average annual family-plan premium went up 3 percent from 2013 to 2014, according to the latest annual employer survey from the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research & Educational Trust.

As the press release on the survey says: “Premiums increased more slowly over the past five years than the preceding five years (26 percent vs. 34 percent) and well below the annual double-digit increases recorded in the late 1990s and early 2000s. This year’s increase also is similar to the year-to-year rise in worker’s wages (2.3 percent) and general inflation (2 percent).”

We’ve explained before that a small increase in employer-sponsored premiums from 2010 to 2011 was linked to the Affordable Care Act’s elimination of preexisting condition exclusions for children, coverage of dependents on their parents’ plans up to age 26, free coverage of preventive care, and an increase in caps on annual coverage. At the time, experts estimated premiums had increased 1 percent to 3 percent due to those requirements.

Despite that, there has been a slow rate of growth for premiums for the 48 percent of Americans on employer plans recently.

While premiums have gone up slowly, deductibles also have increased. The percentage of covered workers on plans with a deductible was 63 percent in 2009 and had increased to 80 percent in 2014.

As we’ll explain, it’s unclear how much the Affordable Care Act has affected this slow growth of premiums. But, at any rate, it’s clear Bachmann is wrong when she says there have been “huge increases” and “costs are going through the roof.”

The president, meanwhile, talked about the growth of health care costs in a press conference on Nov. 16 in Brisbane, Australia, site of the G20 summit.

Obama: And contrary to some of the predictions of the naysayers, not only is the program working, but we’ve actually seen health care inflation lower than it’s been in 50 years, which is contributing to us reducing the deficit, and has the effect of making premiums for families lower that they otherwise would have been if they have health insurance.

Obama is right about health care inflation, or health care costs, and it’s a statistic the administration has cited several times. From 2009 to 2012, total health care expenditures for the U.S. have grown at rates under 4 percent per year (see Table 23). The journal Health Affairs noted that such rates are the lowest since the National Health Expenditure Accounts data was first compiled in 1960 by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The NHEA estimates total health care spending in the country.

But Obama implies that the ACA caused that slow growth, and experts say it’s mainly due to the slow economy. A 2013 statistical analysis of health spending by the Kaiser Family Foundation determined that “much of the decline in health spending growth in recent years was fully expected given what was happening more broadly in the economy.” The analysis estimated that “about three-quarters (77%) of the recent decline in health spending growth can be explained by changes in the broader economy.”

Similarly, experts at CMS said in a January article in Health Affairs that the health care law had a “minimal impact” on the slowdown. They wrote that the major reasons were the economy and its slow recovery, increased use of lower-cost generic prescription drugs, and a reduction in Medicare payments to skilled nursing facilities.

The ACA may have had some influence. Drew Altman, CEO of KFF, explained in a September 2013 column that the law may be having an indirect effect, though it’s difficult to prove. Altman wrote: “Historically, we have always seen the health-care marketplace respond by lowering costs when there is the threat of impending health reform legislation or government action on costs. Now we have not only the threat but the reality.”

The White House Council of Economic Advisers also issued a report in November 2013 saying the ACA is a “meaningful” contributor to the slowdown in spending, even if it’s not the sole or most important factor. The CEA said that the law’s reductions in Medicare spending would not only have an impact on slowing growth in Medicare but would have a “spillover effect” on overall health care spending.

So, the ACA may be a factor in the historically low growth in health care spending in recent years, but it’s certainly not the sole reason. CMS projects continued slow growth in total spending in 2013 “due to the modest economic recovery, the impacts of sequestration and continued slow growth in the utilization of Medicare services, and continued increases in cost-sharing requirements for the privately insured.”

But after that, the rate of growth is expected to increase, partly due to an increase in the number of insured individuals under the ACA. CMS projects average growth of 6 percent per year for 2015 through 2023, “largely as a result of the continued implementation of the ACA coverage expansions, faster projected economic growth, and the aging of the population.”

Obamacare Premiums

Bachmann also mentioned “huge increases” in premiums on the “Obamacare exchanges.” Are premiums on the state and federal marketplaces going up significantly? Overall, no, but some individuals face substantial increases unless they are willing to switch plans.

The New York Times analyzed the recent premium rate data on the marketplace plans released by the federal government and found that many with existing marketplace plans could see increases, as high as 20 percent, on their current plans. But it pays to shop around. “In a typical county, the price will rise 5 percent for the cheapest silver plan and 4 percent for the second cheapest,” the Times wrote.

The Times also looked at data from the McKinsey Center for U.S. Health System Reform and found that the premium for the cheapest Silver plan is 3.4 percent higher for 2015, compared with last year. But if consumers stayed put in the cheapest plan from 2014, they would see an average increase of 9.7 percent. In other words, the cheapest plan from 2014 is, in many cases, not the cheapest in 2015.

An interactive map created by the Times shows how the increases — and even decreases — in premiums vary widely across the country. Those renewing the cheapest Silver plan would see a drop in premiums in Maine, New Hampshire, New Mexico and most of Mississippi, as well as a few other areas across the country. But a much greater proportion of the country would see a decrease in premiums if consumers switched plans.

Similarly, the Kaiser Family Foundation’s analysis of HealthCare.gov data and state insurance rate filings found low overall increases in premiums on average — but geographic variation. For all U.S. counties, the second-cheapest Silver plan is up by 2 percent on average and the cheapest Bronze plan is up by 4 percent, KFF found.

The nonprofit also looked at rates in 51 cities in the U.S., and the change in the second-cheapest Silver plan for a 40-year-old nonsmoker. Premiums for those plans are going up by just 2.5 percent in Birmingham, Alabama, but up by 28.4 percent in Anchorage, Alaska, and down by 10 percent in Phoenix, Arizona. The biggest discrepancy is between those Anchorage rates and a 25.5 percent drop in premiums in Jackson, Mississippi.

It remains to be seen to what extent consumers will shop around for lower-cost plans. In the past, the individual market has experienced a lot of turnover, with some of those purchasing their own insurance doing so for only short periods of time. It also was a market that saw substantial premium increases. In 2010, the last year KFF surveyed people in the individual market about premiums, it found that more than three-quarters of consumers reported that their insurers had requested a premium increase of 20 percent on average.

Most who faced a premium increase elected to stay with the plan anyway. But 16 percent of all those on the individual market switched plans and ended up paying 3 percent less on average than they had before. That group also may have been motivated by more substantial price increases — KFF’s survey found the plan-switchers had faced an average premium increase of 31 percent.

That market was also one in which consumers could be denied coverage, or charged higher rates, for preexisting health conditions. Insurers are no longer allowed to deny coverage or base premiums on health status, so there’s no longer that risk in shopping around.

An FAQ on the KFF website explains that it’s important to at least update one’s application for tax credit purposes; those subsidies are based on family income and also the cost of benchmark exchange plans. In most cases if an application isn’t updated by Dec. 15, the tax credit will automatically continue and the plan will be renewed.

One last thing: Bachmann went on to say that “President Obama promised us that our health insurance premiums would reduce $2,500 a year. Put your hand up if your health care premiums reduced $2,500 a year. No one’s did.” We’ve long questioned this old claim from Obama, calling it “overly optimistic” and “misleading” when he first posited on the campaign trail in 2008 that a shift to electronic medical records would lead to such savings.

Though he didn’t make it clear, Obama was talking about a reduction in spending compared with what would have happened in the absence of the law — or a slower growth. And he was counting trickle-down savings in the form of lower taxes and higher wages.

In the years since, we’ve shot down other White House versions of the $2,500 claim.

– Lori Robertson

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Obama’s Immigration Amnesia http://www.factcheck.org/2014/11/obamas-immigration-amnesia/ Tue, 18 Nov 2014 22:55:46 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=90919 President Barack Obama tried to rewrite history by claiming that his position had not changed regarding legal authority for executive orders on immigration that he is now considering.

During a press conference in Brisbane, Australia, Obama was asked what had changed since he made comments in 2013 that he was “not king” and “not the emperor” in response to questions about stopping deportations and providing temporary legal status to undocumented workers — much as he is now contemplating.

Obama replied that his “position hasn’t changed” and that the questions then were about him unilaterally enacting comprehensive immigration changes similar to the Senate bill that passed in 2013, but stalled in the House. But those questions in early 2013 weren’t about a comprehensive immigration overhaul, they were about Obama taking the kinds of executive actions he is now mulling.

Here’s how the question was raised in Australia on Nov. 16:

Jim Avila of ABC News, Nov. 16: Following up on immigration — in 2010, when asked by immigration reform advocates to stop deportations and act alone on providing legal status for the undocumented, you said, “I’m President, I’m not king. I can’t do these things just by myself.” In 2013, you said, “I’m not the emperor of the United States. My job is to execute laws that are passed.” Mr. President, what has changed since then? And since you’ve now had a chance to talk since July with your legal advisors, what do you now believe are your limits so that you can continue to act as president and not as emperor or king?

Obama: Well, actually, my position hasn’t changed. When I was talking to the advocates, their interest was in me, through executive action, duplicating the legislation that was stalled in Congress. And getting a comprehensive deal of the sort that is in the Senate legislation, for example, does extend beyond my legal authorities. There are certain things I cannot do. There are certain limits to what falls within the realm of prosecutorial discretion in terms of how we apply existing immigration laws.

But the questions posed to Obama earlier were very specific. They asked the president whether he had the authority to do the very kinds of things he is considering now. For weeks, Obama has been saying that if Congress fails to act on immigration, he will “do everything I can lawfully with my executive authority to make sure that we don’t keep on making the system worse.” According to the New York Times, Obama plans to lift the threat of deportation from as many as 5 million immigrants in the country illegally — mainly the relatives of people already in the country legally — and to offer many of them work permits.

Obama’s action would not permanently change a person’s immigration status and would not provide a pathway to citizenship, as was proposed in the Senate immigration bill that stalled. Obama is correct that that kind of lasting, comprehensive immigration overhaul has to come through Congress. But that’s not what was asked of him in the interviews back in early 2013.

The “I’m not a king” comment came during an interview of Obama on Univision on Jan. 30, 2013.

Maria Elena Salinas of Univision: Now I know that you have reduced, this is another concern on Twitter, the number of deportations of non-criminals. However, in 2012 more than 184,000 non-criminals were deported. In the spirit of your push for immigration reform, would you consider a moratorium on deportations of non-criminals? Remember, these are your words: “This is not about policy. It’s about people.”

Obama: Well, I think it is important to remind everybody that, as I said I think previously, and I’m not a king. I am the head of the executive branch of government. I’m required to follow the law. And that’s what we’ve done. But what I’ve also said is, let’s make sure that we’re applying the law in a way that takes into account people’s humanity. That’s the reason that we moved forward on deferred action. Within the confines of the law we said, we have some discretion in terms of how we apply this law. The same is true with respect to the kinds of the length of time that people have to spend outside of the country when their spouses are already here for example.

The “I’m not the emperor of the United States” comment came during a Google Hangout interview two weeks later, on Feb. 14, 2013, (starting at the 18:42 mark).

Jacky Guerrero of California: Your administration has deported a record high number of 1.5 million undocumented immigrants, more than your predecessor. And I know your administration took some steps last year to protect unintended undocumented immigrants from being deported. However many people say that those efforts weren’t enough. What I’d like to know is what you’re going to do now until the time immigration reform is passed, to insure that more people aren’t being deported and families aren’t being broken apart.

Obama: Well, look Jacky, this is something that I’ve struggled with throughout my presidency. The problem is that, you know, I’m the president of the United States. I’m not the emperor of the United States. My job is to execute laws that are passed, and Congress right now has not changed what I consider to be a broken immigration system.

And what that means is is that we have certain obligations to enforce the laws that are in place, even if we think that in many cases the results may be tragic. And what we have been able to do is to make sure that we’re focusing our enforcement resources on criminals, as opposed to somebody who’s here just trying to work and look after their families.

What we have tried to do is administratively reduce the burdens and hardships on families being separated. And what we’ve done is, obviously, pass the deferred action which made sure that the DREAMers, young people who were brought here and think of themselves as Americans, are American except for their papers, that they’re not deported.

Having said all that, we’ve kind of stretched our administrative flexibility as much as we can. And that’s why making sure we get comprehensive immigration reform done is so important.

In both cases, the president was asked about executive actions to remove the threat of deportations from a much larger group, to prevent the breakup of families — the very thing Obama is proposing to do now. Then, Obama said, “[W]e’ve kind of stretched our administrative flexibility as much as we can.” Now, he believes he has the legal authority to do it.

In a similar analysis of Obama’s claim that his “position hasn’t changed,” Washington Post Fact Checker Glenn Kessler noted two other instances in which Obama previously claimed he lacked the authority to extend a freeze of deportations to a larger class of immigrants in the country illegally, or to grant temporary status.

The first came in a Univision town hall meeting on March 28, 2011, in which Obama was asked if he could “grant temporary protective status, TPS, to undocumented students.” Obama said that he could not.

Obama, 2011: With respect to the notion that I can just suspend deportations through executive order, that’s just not the case, because there are laws on the books that Congress has passed — and I know that everybody here at Bell is studying hard so you know that we’ve got three branches of government. Congress passes the law. The executive branch’s job is to enforce and implement those laws. And then the judiciary has to interpret the laws.

There are enough laws on the books by Congress that are very clear in terms of how we have to enforce our immigration system that for me to simply through executive order ignore those congressional mandates would not conform with my appropriate role as president.

The other example cited by Kessler was an interview with Noticias Telemundo on Sept. 17, 2013, during which Obama was specifically asked if he would “at least consider unilaterally freezing the deportations for parents of deferred-action kids.” Again, Obama said he could not.

Obama, Sept. 17, 2013: My job in the executive branch is supposed to be to carry out the laws that are passed. Congress has said, here’s the law when it comes to those who are undocumented, and they allocate a whole bunch of money for enforcement.

Obama continued to say that he had made the legal argument that the government did not have the resources to deport so-called DREAMers — people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as young children. But he didn’t think it was legally possible to extend that policy beyond DREAMers.

“But if we start broadening that, then essentially I would be ignoring the law in a way that I think would be very difficult to defend legally,” Obama said. “So that’s not an option. I do get a little worried that advocates of immigration reform start losing heart and immediately thinking, well, somehow there’s an out here — if Congress doesn’t act, we will just have the president sign something and that will take care of it, and we won’t have to worry about it. What I have said is that there is a path to get this done and that is through Congress.”

According to the New York Times, White House officials insist the evolution of Obama’s comments reflects a change in emphasis, rather than a change in opinion, and that at the time Obama was focused on convincing Congress to pass comprehensive immigration legislation.

We take no position on whether Obama has the legal authority to enact the kinds of immigration changes he is considering via executive authority. Ultimately, that may have to be decided in federal courts (as Republicans have threatened a legal challenge). But then, Obama said he lacked the legal authority to suspend deportation of family members. Now, he says he has just such legal authority.

– Robert Farley

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Biden’s Boasts http://www.factcheck.org/2014/11/bidens-boasts/ Tue, 18 Nov 2014 16:54:33 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=90859 Vice President Joe Biden went too far in boasts about job growth and deficit reduction.

Biden was the keynote speaker at the AFL-CIO and American Federation of Teachers Summit on Career and Technical Education and Workforce Development on Nov. 13. His comments centered on job opportunities and education, and they included some exaggerations.

  • Biden said manufacturing jobs were expected to grow by 1.8 million, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates they will decline by 73,100 between 2010 and 2020.
  • He said the administration had reduced the federal deficit, as a share of GDP, more quickly than at any time since World War II. Not true. The deficit shrank at a faster rate in the 1990s.
  • Biden said the unemployment rate was 10 percent “when we took office.” It was 7.8 percent.

Manufacturing Jobs

Biden overstated manufacturing job growth, something we caught the vice president doing two years ago as well.

Biden: Manufacturing jobs are not only back 728,000 since we’ve been in office, in the last five years, but it’s expected to grow by another million, 800 thousand manufacturing jobs – more than any time, including in the 90s, if we meet the projections that are ahead of us. (Listen at the 1:05:20 mark.)

Manufacturing jobs haven’t gone up by 728,000 “since we’ve been in office,” but they have gone up that much in the “last five years” or nearly five years.

According to BLS data, there were 12.56 million manufacturing employees in January 2009, compared with 12.18 million manufacturing workers in October 2014, for a net loss of 379,000 jobs. Biden is measuring job growth from the low point in February 2010 — when there were 11.45 million manufacturing jobs. Since then, 728,000 manufacturing jobs have been added.

More puzzling is Biden’s claim that manufacturing jobs are “expected to grow” by another 1.8 million.

We’re not sure where Biden gets his statistic, and his office did not respond to our questions. One possible source is a 2012 study by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, a bipartisan think tank, which said then that if the pace of manufacturing job growth continued, “it would take until 2020 to return to where the economy was in terms of manufacturing jobs at the end of 2007.” The think tank was calling the pace of growth too slow. It said the U.S. had gained back about 166,000 of the 2 million manufacturing jobs that were lost during the Great Recession. That left another 1.8 million jobs to be gained by 2020.

A 2012 report from BLS, however, estimated that manufacturing employment would shrink — not grow — from 2010 to 2020, with a net loss of 73,100 jobs (see Table 1). That report is another possible source for the 1.8 million statistic, but it contradicts Biden’s claim.

While BLS estimated manufacturing jobs would drop, it projected a nearly 1.8 million increase in jobs in the “goods-producing sectors.” Manufacturing is the “dominant industry,” the report says, among those sectors. But manufacturing jobs are still expected to decrease. The growth in “goods-producing sectors” is expected to come mostly from the construction industry.

Deficit Reduction

The administration has reduced the yearly federal deficits — the 2009 deficit was running at $1.2 trillion the day Obama took office, and this year’s deficit is projected to be $483 billion. But the rate of reduction is not as quick Biden claimed.

Biden: We’ve reached a federal deficit as a share of GDP; we’ve reduced it by 70 percent — the fastest reduction since World War II. (1:05:10 mark.)

Biden’s half right. The deficit was 9.8 percent of GDP in fiscal year 2009. It declined by 6 percentage points to 2.8 percent of GDP in fiscal year 2014. That’s a 71 percent reduction, but it’s not the fastest rate of reduction since the 1940s.

Looking at the six years from 1992 to 1997, the deficit as a percentage of GDP went from 4.5 percent to 0.3 percent (Table H-1). That’s a 93 percent reduction. There were also six-year periods during the 1990s and early 2000s when budget deficits became surpluses.

We checked a similar statement from President Obama in August 2013. Back then, the White House was looking at the four-year period from 2009 to 2012.

Job Growth

Biden correctly said the unemployment rate “is down to 5.8 percent,” but then added, “It was at 10 percent when we took office” (1:05:05 mark). No, it wasn’t. It was 7.8 percent when Obama and Biden took office in January 2009, and it climbed to 10 percent by October of that year.

He also exaggerated the job growth under this presidency by cherry-picking his numbers.

Biden: There have been 10.6 million jobs created in the private sector. Fifty-six straight months — the longest streak of constant employment in the history of the United States of America. (1:04:50 mark.)

That’s correct, at least since 1939, which is the earliest year for which we have Bureau of Labor Statistics data. From February 2010 through October 2014, there were 56 months of private-sector job growth and 10.6 million private jobs created. But there hasn’t been consecutive growth for 56 months for all jobs. Biden ignores government jobs.

Total nonfarm employment declined from June through September 2010. In terms of all jobs, 9.4 million have been created over 49 straight months, which is still the longest streak of continuous employment growth since BLS data was first collected.

His figures leave out all of 2009, which consisted entirely of monthly job losses. All told under the Obama presidency, 5.7 million jobs have been created.

– Lori Robertson and D’Angelo Gore, with Alexander Nacht

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FlackCheck.org Video: Spotting Bogus Claims http://www.factcheck.org/2014/11/flackcheck-org-video-spotting-bogus-claims/ Mon, 17 Nov 2014 21:16:24 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=90889 “That Chain E-mail Your Friend Sent to You Is (Likely) Bogus. Seriously.”

That’s the title of a special report we published in 2008 encouraging readers to be highly skeptical of any chain emails that landed in their inboxes. “Assume all such messages are wrong, and you’ll be right most of the time,” we said then.

Well, that report now has a companion video courtesy of FlackCheck.org, our sister website for political literacy. It’s the same cautionary advice, just in video form.

Feel free to forward both the video, and the report, far and wide.

]]> Nov. 14: Pentagon, China, FactCheck ‘Awards’ http://www.factcheck.org/2014/11/nov-14-pentagon-china-factcheck-awards/ Fri, 14 Nov 2014 21:57:03 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=91154

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