FactCheck.org http://www.factcheck.org A Project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center Mon, 12 Oct 2015 20:15:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.1 Sanders Misleads on Social Security http://www.factcheck.org/2015/10/sanders-misleads-on-social-security/ http://www.factcheck.org/2015/10/sanders-misleads-on-social-security/#comments Mon, 12 Oct 2015 20:15:55 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=99702 Sen. Bernie Sanders repeats a Democratic talking point in saying that Social Security hasn’t contributed “one penny” — or “one nickel” — to the deficit. In fact, it contributed $73 billion to the deficit in 2014.

Sanders, an independent who’s running for the Democratic nomination for president, has made this claim several times, recently saying in a video he sent out on Twitter on Oct. 6 that “Social Security does not add one nickel to the deficit.” On Sept. 25, he tweeted that the program “had not contributed one penny to the deficit.” And he, like other Democrats, has been making the claim for several years.

Sanders is talking about what’s called the “on-budget” deficit, while Social Security is considered an “off-budget” program. But in terms of actual federal revenue and outlays, and borrowing, Social Security is contributing to yearly deficits and has been since 2010. Sanders himself has considered Social Security to be a part of the overall budget: On his Senate website, he includes raising the income cap on Social Security taxes as one way to “reduce the deficit.”

“Social Security adds to the unified deficit, which is the deficit we almost all discuss all the time,” Marc Goldwein, senior vice president and senior policy director at the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, told us in an email interview. “It does so because we spend a lot more on Social Security benefits than we raise in payroll tax and other related revenue.”

Goldwein told us that Sanders’ statement contains a kernel of truth in that Social Security technically can’t run a debt. “That means that any [yearly] deficits it’s running now can only legally be paid because it was running surpluses in the past,” he says. But the government spent the surplus on other things. It owes Social Security the money, which is held in the form of Treasury securities. In order to pay it, the government must cut spending in other areas, raise taxes or borrow from the public.

Because current payroll taxes don’t produce enough revenue to pay Social Security benefits, the program is contributing to the yearly deficits.

Deficits and ‘Off-Budget’ Spending

We wrote about this claim in 2011, when other Democrats made the not-one-penny claim. As we said then, Social Security for years brought in more revenue through payroll taxes than it paid out in benefits, lessening the federal deficit and allowing Congress to spend more money in other areas. But that changed in 2010, when benefits paid outpaced revenues generated.

That year, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Social Security had a $37 billion primary deficit and projected a $30 billion deficit in 2014. The deficit actually was $73 billion in 2014, says CBO, which now estimates that the yearly deficit will rise to $177 billion in 2020 and $361 billion in 2025. (The “primary deficit” is the total budget deficit excluding interest payments.) CBO expects outlays to continue to rise, compared with the size of the economy, as baby boomers retire and retirees live longer, but tax revenues “will remain at an almost constant share of the economy.”

Social Security deficit chart

CBO’s projections show that Social Security’s balance is expected to grow for several years, but that’s because Treasury must credit the trust funds with interest payments on past borrowing. The government will have to either increase taxes, cut spending or borrow from the public to pay that interest that it owes to itself.

This doesn’t mean that Social Security benefits are in danger, at least not in the next few decades. The government can make up that gap between Social Security revenues and outlays with the Social Security trust funds, essentially cashing in Treasury bonds it holds for that amount or using interest paid on those bonds. The Trustees of the Social Security and Medicare trust funds’ most recent report says: “Interest income and redemption of trust fund assets from the General Fund of the Treasury, will provide the resources needed to offset Social Security’s annual aggregate cash-flow deficits until 2034.” At that point, the trust fund would be exhausted. CBO estimated the trust fund would be depleted earlier, in 2029.

Once the trust fund is gone, Social Security can still pay benefits — but not more benefits than it takes in from revenue. The trustees say tax income would be able to cover three-quarters of the benefits through 2089.

Sanders, and other Democrats, claim that Social Security doesn’t add to the deficit, because it still has that trust fund to make up the financing gap. Sanders said in his video: “Social Security has a $2.8 trillion surplus and according to the Social Security Administration can pay out every benefit owed to every eligible American for the next 19 years. … Social Security is independently funded by the payroll tax … that means that Social Security does not add one nickel to the deficit.”

That’s correct in theory, but not in practice. “Politicians decided to classify Social Security and the postal service as ‘off budget’ so that they would be treated as their own programs and not as part of the government,” Goldwein says. “It didn’t work. Everyone uses the unified budget deficit concept.”

That includes Sanders, who, Goldwein points out, listed raising the income cap on Social Security taxes as one way to “reduce the deficit” and said in a 2013 press release that 2009’s $1.4 trillion deficit was on track to be reduced by more than half — that’s the total, unified deficit. And in a speech in March, Sanders said: “From 1998-2001, the budget was in surplus.” But the “on-budget” surpluses only occurred in 1999 and 2000. The U.S. government had budget surpluses for all four of those years, because the “budget” is the total budget. (See Table H-1 of this CBO report.)

When politicians, economists and experts like the Congressional Budget Office talk about the “deficit,” they’re talking about the combined effect of all government revenues and spending. As the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center says: “Despite the formal separation of Social Security from the rest of the budget, budget debates in Congress and the media focus mainly on the unified budget balance, that is, the combined balance of Social Security and the rest of government.”

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget says that even if Social Security is viewed as an “off-budget program,” it still indirectly adds to the on-budget deficit.

CRFB, Aug. 13, 2015: If viewed as an off-budget program, Social Security does not directly add to the “on-budget deficit.” However, it indirectly contributes to the on-budget deficit because the interest payments it receives from the general fund are on-budget. It also receives funding from income tax revenue on Social Security benefits, which is technically on-budget, and has at times received general revenue transfers to compensate for policies that would reduce Social Security revenue (such as when lawmakers cut payroll taxes in 2011 and 2012).

For years, Social Security was a boon to the government’s bottom line, lowering the deficit and even causing a budget surplus in 1998 and 2001. But now outlays outpace revenues, and the government has to use deficit spending to honor its obligations to the program.

CRFB issued a report in August, marking the 80th birthday of Social Security and identifying several common falsehoods about the program. It says it’s a “myth” that “Social Security cannot run a deficit.” We agree.

— Lori Robertson, with Raymond McCormack

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‘Nobody Did Anything Wrong’ on Benghazi? http://www.factcheck.org/2015/10/nobody-did-anything-wrong-on-benghazi/ http://www.factcheck.org/2015/10/nobody-did-anything-wrong-on-benghazi/#comments Fri, 09 Oct 2015 14:11:05 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=99674 The subject of this week’s fact-checking collaboration with CNN’s Jake Tapper is Hillary Clinton’s comment that all of the government investigations into the terrorist attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi concluded that “nobody did anything wrong.” That’s not exactly accurate.

Four Americans were killed Sept. 11, 2012, at a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi and a nearby CIA annex. An independent board blamed “leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels” for “inadequate” security at the department’s diplomatic facility. A bipartisan Senate report said the department should have “closed or temporarily shut down” its diplomatic mission, calling the decision to leave it open “a grievous mistake.”

The department reassigned four senior officials after its own investigation. For more, see our item “Hillary Clinton and the Benghazi Reports.”

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Cruz Misquotes Clapper on Refugees http://www.factcheck.org/2015/10/cruz-misquotes-clapper-on-refugees/ http://www.factcheck.org/2015/10/cruz-misquotes-clapper-on-refugees/#comments Thu, 08 Oct 2015 20:55:02 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=99646 Ted Cruz misrepresented the words of the U.S. national intelligence director, claiming that James Clapper “said among those [Syrian] refugees are no doubt a significant number of ISIS terrorists.” Clapper didn’t say that.

Instead, Clapper said it was a “huge concern” that ISIS could try to infiltrate the refugees. Clapper also expressed confidence in the United States’ ability to screen refugee applicants.

During a campaign stop in Michigan on Oct. 5, Cruz said President Obama’s plan to accept more than 10,000 refugees from war-torn Syria was “nothing short of crazy” due to the possibility that ISIS could embed operatives among the refugees, who could then unleash terrorist activities within the United States. Cruz isn’t the only Republican presidential candidate who has expressed such a concern. Donald Trump said of Syrian refugees: “No documentation, we have no idea where they come from, we have no idea who they are … It could be the all-time great Trojan Horse.”

But Cruz went one step further, and claimed Clapper had concluded there were a “significant number of ISIS terrorists” among the refugees headed to the U.S.

“There is a reason the director of national intelligence said among those refugees are no doubt a significant number of ISIS terrorists,” Cruz said. “It would be the height of foolishness to bring in tens of thousands of people including jihadists that are coming here to murder innocent Americans.”

But that’s not what Clapper said.

Speaking at the second annual Intelligence and National Security Summit on Sept. 9, Clapper said such a possibility was a “huge concern,” but he added that the U.S. has a “pretty aggressive” screening program. He said he was particularly concerned about refugees being taken in by European countries that might not have such tight screening.

Here are his full comments on the Syrian refugee crisis, and the security concerns surrounding it (starting at the 56:55 mark).

Clapper, Sept. 9: It is getting to be, in its totality, a disaster of biblical proportions. Just look at Syria alone, where there are in excess of 4 million people that have left Syria and another 11 million that have been internally displaced. And, of course, the humanitarian situation internal to Syria is a disaster. And so what this has caused, obviously, is this urge to go somewhere, anywhere where there is some hope of their life improving.

And, of course, as they descend on Europe, one of the obvious issues that we worry about, and in turn as we bring refugees to this country, is exactly what is their background.

I don’t, obviously, put it past the likes of ISIL to infiltrate operatives among these refugees. So that is a huge concern of ours. We do have a pretty aggressive program for those coming to this country, for screening their backgrounds. I’m not as uniformly confident about each European country that is going to be faced with welcoming or allowing refugees into their countries. So this is a huge issue for all kinds of reasons. The security implications are just one small part of it. The economic, the social impacts, are huge.

So Clapper said it was a “huge concern of ours” that ISIL (or ISIS) might try to “infiltrate operatives among these refugees.” But he never stated definitively that there are a “significant number” of terrorists embedded among those refugees headed to the U.S. In fact, he went on to say that the U.S. has “a pretty aggressive program” to screen refugees, and that he was “not as uniformly confident” about the screening programs employed by European countries accepting Syrian refugees. That suggests he has confidence in the U.S. screening program.

The U.S. Screening Process

On Sept. 11, a State Department official, speaking on background, went through a lengthy explanation of the mechanics of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. It is hardly a matter of simply waving through the first 10,000 people who come forward.

The Syrians being considered for refugee status are referrals from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. According to the State Department official, UNHCR prioritizes “the most vulnerable” for referral. This includes “female-headed households. It could include victims of torture or violence. It could include religious minorities. It could include LGBT refugees, people who need medical care that they can’t get in their country of origin. So basically, people who are not thriving or expected to thrive in their country of origin.”

Caseworkers collect biographic and other information from refugees while they are living in resettlement support centers overseas. Refugees are then interviewed in person at the resettlement center by Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Citizenship and Immigration officers, primarily to determine whether the applicants meet the definition of a refugee based on one of five protected grounds: “race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.”

The applicants are then subjected to security checks involving screening by the National Counterterrorism Center, the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense. The State Department official did not go into detail on those security checks, noting that “[m]ost of the details of the security checks are classified.”

Applicants also go through health screenings and a three-day “cultural orientation” program. In all, the State Department official said, the vetting process takes “anywhere from 18 to 24 months or even longer to process a case from referral or application to arrival in the United States.”

In a press briefing on Sept. 10, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said, “I can tell you that refugees go through the most robust security process of anybody who’s contemplating travel to the United States. Refugees have to be screened by the National Counterterrorism Center, by the FBI Terrorist Screening Center. They go through databases that are maintained by DHS, the Department of Defense and the intelligence community. There is biographical and biometric information that is collected about these individuals. They have to submit to in-person interviews to discuss their case.”

The screening process “typically takes 12 to 18 months,” Earnest said. “And the reason for that process is that the safety and security of the U.S. homeland comes first.”

How Secure Is It?

However, in a Senate subcommittee hearing on the refugee resettlement program on Oct. 1, Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions raised concerns about the ability of federal officials to properly vet Syrian refugees, to ensure they are not linked with terrorists. Sessions cited, for example, media reports about the accessibility of forged Syrian passports.

Barbara Strack, chief of the refugee affairs division of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, responded, “We think documents are informative. We look at them. But no single document is taken as a gold ticket for refugee approval.”

“And what if they don’t have any documents?” Sessions asked. “A lot of people don’t have any documents. What do you refer to then?”

Said Strack: “In general, again, as I mentioned, we’ve found with Syrian refugees … in general they have many, many documents. … We involve the law enforcement community, intelligence community. We invite them in to train our refugee officers and to talk to them about country conditions information.

“So if someone doesn’t have documents, for example, they might tell us, ‘My documents were destroyed when a barrel bomb fell on my house.’ We’ll ask when and where that happened, and then we can check with intelligence community, or often even open-source information, to find out if that’s realistic. Was that happening at that place at that time? So we have a multifaceted approach to this.”

Matthew Emrich, associate director of the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate at the Citizenship and Immigration Services, added that he would be “happy to describe this to you in a different setting” — meaning that he could only discuss some classified details of the screening protocol in a private meeting.

Sessions then referred to testimony by Michael Steinbach, assistant director of the Counterterrorism Division at the FBI before the House Committee on Homeland Security on Feb. 11, in which Steinbach was asked about the problem of vetting Syrian refugees.

“The concern in Syria is that we don’t have systems in places on the ground to collect the information to vet,” Steinbach said. “That would be the concern is we would be vetting databases that don’t hold information on those individuals, and that is the concern” (starting at about the 1:14:00 mark).

It’s fair for Sessions, or any other member of Congress, to ask questions about the federal government’s ability to screen Syrian refugees to ensure they do not have ties to ISIS. And in his remarks on Sept. 9, Clapper concurred that it is a “huge concern.” But Clapper never said — as Cruz claimed — that he had “no doubt a significant number of ISIS terrorists” were among those refugees headed for the U.S.

— Robert Farley, with Rebecca Heilweil

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Mailbag: Emails and Economic Growth http://www.factcheck.org/2015/10/mailbag-emails-and-economic-growth/ http://www.factcheck.org/2015/10/mailbag-emails-and-economic-growth/#comments Wed, 07 Oct 2015 21:13:39 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=99582 This week, readers sent us letters about Hillary Clinton’s emails and Jeb Bush’s comments on economic growth.

In the FactCheck Mailbag, we feature some of the email we receive. Readers can send comments to editor@factcheck.org. Letters may be edited for length.


Why Hillary Clinton Released Her Emails

I would like to thank you for your valuable service. However, I would argue with your latest piece on Hillary Clinton and her email [“Clinton’s Email Narrative, Interrupted,” Sept. 23] in which you claim her previous statements are incomplete or misleading.

From my reading of your article, you say that Clinton has said that her providing the emails was in response to a State Department request that was sent to her and three other secretaries of state. As far as I can tell, the rest of your article confirms that to be true.

What seems to be the point of contention is that the State Department apparently decided to do this after discovering they were missing her email and that of other secretaries, while responding to a Republican request about Benghazi, and realizing that Clinton was using a private email server.

Is your argument that Clinton should have volunteered that fact somehow? As you note, it wasn’t a secret — a State Department spokesperson acknowledged that in March 2015. That hardly seems grounds for calling her account misleading or incomplete.

Steve Chien
San Carlos, California


Tax Cuts and Economic Growth

In a recent fact-check on comments made by Jeb Bush on a Sunday news show [“Jeb Bush on Poverty, Economic Growth,” Sept. 30], you said that average annual growth under [George W. Bush] was about 2 percent. Gov. Bush had claimed that tax cuts under his brother had led to dynamic growth in the economy. It seems to me that in the last year or so of President Bush’s time in office, we were in a recessionary cycle caused, in no small part, by failures in the banking system and the resulting significant reduction in the amount of capital available for lending.

While there are significant conflicting opinions on the impact of tax rates on economic growth rates, I don’t think there should be much debate that the economic issues facing this country in the latter part of President Bush’s time in office were impacted, one way or the other, by the various tax rates. Accordingly, it would be more meaningful to measure the average growth rate of the economy between the time that the tax cuts were enacted and the beginning of the recessionary cycle referenced above. Further, I think it would be more telling to compare that average growth rate against the average growth rate PRIOR to the tax cuts. These calculations would be a better indicator of the impact of tax cuts on economic growth and the validity of Gov. Bush’s claims.

Rick Zeckel
Carmel, Indiana

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Clinton and the Benghazi Reports http://www.factcheck.org/2015/10/clinton-and-the-benghazi-reports/ http://www.factcheck.org/2015/10/clinton-and-the-benghazi-reports/#comments Wed, 07 Oct 2015 18:40:55 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=99621 Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said all of the government investigations into the terrorist attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi concluded that “nobody did anything wrong.” That’s not exactly accurate.

An independent accountability board appointed by Clinton found “systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels.” On the day the report came out, four State Department employees were placed on administrative leave, and all four were later reassigned.

Clinton, who was interviewed Oct. 5 on NBC’s “Today” show, criticized congressional Republicans for politicizing the deaths of four Americans who were killed in the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks at a temporary U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi and a nearby CIA annex.

In her interview, Clinton cited comments made by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy about the negative impact that the House Select Committee on Benghazi has had on her standing in the 2016 presidential polls. Clinton, who has run a TV ad featuring McCarthy’s comments, said the Benghazi special committee was unnecessary because the attacks have been thoroughly investigated by others.

Clinton, Oct. 5: There have been seven investigations led mostly by Republicans in the Congress. And they were nonpartisan and they reached conclusions that first of all I and nobody did anything wrong but there were changes we could make.

We contacted Clinton’s campaign about her comments, but we did not receive a response. However, it is not entirely correct to say that the reports found “nobody did anything wrong.”

We won’t go into all the Benghazi investigative reports — four of which can be found on the House Republican caucus website. We will just focus on key aspects of two bipartisan reports: one written by an independent accountability board and another issued jointly by the chairman and ranking committee member of a Senate committee.

As required by law, Clinton convened and appointed the bipartisan Accountability Review Board for Benghazi. Thomas R. Pickering, George H.W. Bush’s United Nations ambassador, was chairman. Another board member was Catherine Bertini, who served in the Reagan and Bush administrations.

In a report released Dec. 18, 2012, the independent board said responsibility for the attack rests “solely and completely with the terrorists.” However, it also said “systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels within two bureaus of the State Department (the “Department”) resulted in a Special Mission security posture that was inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place.”

In particular, the report said the “perimeter and interior security” at the temporary diplomatic facility was inadequate and its security equipment was “severely under-resourced.”

The State Department immediately placed four employees on administrative leave, pending further review and action. The department did not name the employees, but the New York Times and a subsequent House Oversight and Government Reform Committee report identified them as Eric Boswell, assistant secretary for diplomatic security; Scott Bultrowicz, director of diplomatic security service; Charlene Lamb, deputy assistant secretary for international programs; and Raymond Maxwell, deputy assistant secretary for Maghreb affairs.

Lamb was “responsible for the safety and security of over 285 overseas Embassies and Consulates and oversees the 550 special agent/security professionals posted at those locations,” according to her official biography. She took the brunt of the criticism at congressional hearings for the security failures.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee issued its report two weeks later on Dec. 31, 2012. That bipartisan report — which was issued jointly by the committee chairman, Sen. Joe Lieberman, and the ranking minority member, Sen. Susan Collins — was also critical of the lack of security at the U.S. temporary diplomatic facility in Benghazi.

The Senate report said that State Department officials ignored “increasingly dangerous threat assessments” that indicated the Benghazi facility was “particularly vulnerable.” That report cited classified intelligence reports and well-publicized “attacks and other incidents targeting western interests in Libya” prior to the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. facility in Benghazi. It said the State Department should have increased security or “closed or temporarily shut down” its facility in Benghazi, calling the decision to leave the facility open “a grievous mistake.”

The independent board did not recommend disciplinary action against any department employee. Its report said “poor performance does not ordinarily constitute a breach of duty that would serve as a basis for disciplinary action,” adding that the board did not find that the employees “engaged in misconduct or willfully ignored his or her responsibilities.” The Senate report did not address the issue of disciplinary action.

Nearly eight months after those reports were issued, the four employees placed on administrative leave were reinstated and reassigned to other jobs at the State Department. No other disciplinary action was taken. At an Aug. 20, 2013, press briefing, then-department spokeswoman Marie Harf said “things could have been done better,” but the decision not to fire them was based on “the totality of these four employees’ overall careers at the State Department.”

It may be Clinton’s opinion that no one did anything wrong, but the fact is independent, bipartisan reports found “poor performance” by senior department officials left the temporary U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi “particularly vulnerable” for attack.

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Fiorina and Planned Parenthood http://www.factcheck.org/2015/10/fiorina-and-planned-parenthood/ http://www.factcheck.org/2015/10/fiorina-and-planned-parenthood/#comments Tue, 06 Oct 2015 18:25:18 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=99612 “State of the Union” anchor Jake Tapper this week discusses Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina’s insistence that she has “seen the footage” of an abortion she vividly described during the second GOP debate.

During the GOP debate, Fiorina described a disturbing scene while arguing to defund Planned Parenthood, saying, “I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.”

But the undercover video attacking Planned Parenthood doesn’t show that at all. It shows an ex-worker for a fetal tissue procurement company talking about witnessing such an incident, while unrelated stock footage of a fetus is shown on the screen. Tapper’s report is based on our article “Doubling Down on Falsehoods.”

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Trump Attacks Bush on Sanctuary Cities http://www.factcheck.org/2015/10/trump-attacks-bush-on-sanctuary-cities/ http://www.factcheck.org/2015/10/trump-attacks-bush-on-sanctuary-cities/#comments Tue, 06 Oct 2015 16:49:51 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=99476 Donald Trump says that “the state of Florida had sanctuary cities while Jeb Bush was governor,” and “nobody said anything.” But we could find no evidence that any Florida city or county fit the bill of a sanctuary city at that time, at least not officially.

Making his regular pitch for tougher immigration policy, Republican presidential candidate Trump told a crowd in New Hampshire on Sept. 30, “We have to get rid of these sanctuary cities, it’s disgraceful.”

Trump then went on to talk about the case of Kathryn Steinle, who prosecutors allege was shot and killed in San Francisco by a Mexican national with a felony criminal record who had been deported several times. The case sparked a national debate about so-called “sanctuary cities” due to San Francisco’s policy of refusing to honor federal requests to detain people found to be in the country illegally.

Specifically, San Francisco passed a “Sanctuary Ordinance” in 1989 that prohibits city and county employees from “assist[ing] in the enforcement of federal immigration law or … gather[ing] or disseminat[ing] information regarding the immigration status of individuals in the City and County of San Francisco unless such assistance is required by federal or State statute, regulation or court decision.”

Trump then went on to accuse Jeb Bush, an opponent in the Republican primary, of being part of the problem. “The state of Florida had sanctuary cities while Jeb Bush was governor,” Trump said. “Nobody said anything” (at the 15:20 mark).

We reached out to Trump’s campaign for information to back up his claim, but we did not receive a response.

We could find no clear or convincing evidence to corroborate Trump’s claim.

While the definition of “sanctuary cities” varies, here’s how the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service put it.

Congressional Research Service, 2009: The term “sanctuary city” is not defined by federal law, but it is often used to refer to those localities which, as a result of a state or local act, ordinance, policy, or fiscal constraints, place limits on their assistance to federal immigration authorities seeking to apprehend and remove unauthorized aliens. Supporters of such policies argue that many cities have higher priorities, and that local efforts to deter the presence of unauthorized aliens would undermine community relations, disrupt municipal services, interfere with local law enforcement, or violate humanitarian principles. Opponents argue that sanctuary policies encourage illegal immigration and undermine federal enforcement efforts.

So do any cities or counties in Florida fit that bill during the time Jeb Bush served as governor, from Jan. 5, 1999, to Jan. 2, 2007?

According to a report from the Congressional Research Service issued in August 2006, when Bush was governor, there were 32 cities and counties nationwide that had “sanctuary policies.” None of those on the list is in Florida. (See footnote 85.)

Nor was Florida on a list compiled in December 2008 by the National Immigration Law Center of nearly 70 cities, counties and states that had laws, resolutions or policies limiting enforcement of federal immigration laws. However, the organization’s communications manager warned that the list has since been taken off its website, and “I can’t imagine it’s anywhere near accurate.”

Again, Trump’s campaign won’t say where he got his information. But one possibility is a report from the Ohio Jobs and Justice PAC, which claims its report is “the most complete and widely used list of sanctuary cities in the United States.” OJJPAC’s list, originally compiled in 2006 and periodically updated, includes five Florida jurisdictions: DeLeon Springs, Deltona, Jupiter, Lake Worth and Miami. Two of them, Jupiter and Lake Worth, were added in April 2009, more than two years after Bush left office.

When PolitiFact Florida scrutinized the others on the list in July, local officials told PolitiFact they had never had so-called “sanctuary” laws. We note that the OJJPAC list includes jurisdictions it says have “informal” or “unwritten” sanctuary policies. We reached out to OJJPAC’s founder, Steve Salvi, via email to find out why the jurisdictions in Florida ended up on the organization’s list and when, but we did not hear back.

In 2006, Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo, a staunch proponent of stricter enforcement of immigration laws, got into a mini-war of words with then-Gov. Bush, after Tancredo referred to Miami as “a Third World Country.” Bush responded with a letter describing Miami as “a wonderful city filled with diversity and heritage that we choose to celebrate, not insult.” Tancredo dismissed Bush’s response as “politically correct happy talk” and asked in a follow-up letter, “Do you not worry that Miami’s ‘sanctuary city’ rules serve as a magnet for illegal aliens and undercut the state’s otherwise sound law enforcement policies?”

We couldn’t find any direct response from Bush about Miami’s status as a so-called sanctuary city — though in an email to a reporter later that month Bush called Tancredo “an ignorant man on the subject of Miami.”

On Oct. 19, 2006, the Miami Herald wrote about an immigrant advocacy group, American Fraternity, that was lobbying to have the Miami-Dade County Commission declare the county a sanctuary.

The paper quoted the group’s president, Alfonso Oviedo, as saying, ”For all practical purposes, I believe Dade County already is a sanctuary, but we want them to make it official so … that there will not be abuses.”

In July, PolitiFact Florida quoted Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado denying that Miami has ever been a sanctuary city. Regalado, who has been mayor since 2009, served on the city council during Bush’s time as governor.

“Do police enforce immigration? No, we never have. … Officially, we don’t protect immigrants or deliver immigrants (to federal officials),” Regalado told PolitiFact.

Based on those two comments, it is possible there could have been unofficial policies among some law enforcement agencies in Florida to not assist federal immigration authorities seeking to apprehend some people in the country illegally. But we agree with the Congressional Research Service that landing on a list of so-called sanctuary cities ought to be tied to “state or local act, ordinance, policy, or fiscal constraints” to limit cooperation with federal immigration officials.

We found one other list of “sanctuary cities” floating around the Internet. In July, the Center for Immigration Studies produced a map of “Sanctuary Cities, Counties and States.” It includes seven cities or counties in Florida, but all of them were due to policies adopted either in 2013 or 2014. That’s more than six years after Bush left office.

As the CIS website makes clear, its map was based on a 2014 report from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which in early 2014 began to track when law enforcement agencies declined requests by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain suspects who had violated immigration laws. ICE identified 276 jurisdictions that were “limiting cooperation with ICE.” The whole issue of declined detainers didn’t even arise until 2011 or 2012, said Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, a group that describes itself as an advocate for “low immigration.”

“I do not know if there were any sanctuary cities in Florida when Jeb Bush was governor,” Vaughan said.

We also reached out to former Florida State Rep. Don Brown, a Republican, who in 2007 introduced a bill to prohibit so-called sanctuary cities from taking root in the state.

Brown told us in a phone interview that he proposed the legislation in reaction to an unsuccessful effort the previous year by then-state Rep. Anitere Flores, who is now a state senator, to offer in-state tuition rates to the children of illegal immigrants. Brown said he modeled his legislation after an Oklahoma law that had been passed in 2006.  

“My motivation was prospective, not reactive,” Brown told us. “I was not aware of any sanctuary cities in Florida. That was not my motivation for the bill. I was trying to prevent something like that from happening.”

Brown served in the state Legislature for eight years, ending in late 2008. So his tenure overlapped the majority of Bush’s time in office. He said he served as a county co-chair of Bush’s 2002 gubernatorial reelection campaign. Brown said he is not working on Bush’s presidential campaign, and has not formally endorsed any presidential candidate, though he said he is “a Jeb Bush supporter.”

“Anyone saying there were sanctuary cities in Florida at that time is stretching it,” Brown said. “If some cities had publicly declared that they were not going to enforce the laws, I’d remember. And I have no recollection of that.”

Brown’s bill never saw the light of day. At the time, Charlie Crist was the Republican governor, and Florida House Speaker (and now presidential candidate) Marco Rubio did not schedule the bill for a hearing.

One last point: The 2006 Congressional Research Service report on the state and local role of immigration enforcement noted that in 2002, Florida was one of three states to enter into a pilot program to train and empower state law enforcement officials to help the federal government enforce immigration laws, particularly related to domestic security and counterterrorism efforts.

So, while Trump said “nobody said anything” about Florida’s sanctuary cities, Bush did take action to enforce immigration laws in his state.

Moreover, Trump has provided no evidence that any city in Florida had a so-called sanctuary law on its books while Bush was governor. We’ll update this post if we receive new information.

— Robert Farley

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Obama’s Numbers (October 2015 Update) http://www.factcheck.org/2015/10/obamas-numbers-october-2015-update/ http://www.factcheck.org/2015/10/obamas-numbers-october-2015-update/#comments Tue, 06 Oct 2015 11:06:49 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=99431 Summary

Since President Barack Obama first took office:

  • The economy has added nearly 8.4 million jobs — more than six times the number gained under George W. Bush.
  • The number of job openings doubled, to a record 5.7 million.
  • Nearly 15 million fewer people lack health insurance coverage.
  • Corporate profits are at record levels; stock prices have more than doubled.
  • However, median household income was down 3 percent as of 2014, and the official poverty rate was 1.6 percentage points higher.
  • The rate of home ownership has dropped to the lowest point in nearly half a century.
  • The federal debt owed to the public has more than doubled — up 107 percent.

Obama's Numbers graphic


As we do every three months, we offer here a fresh update of selected statistical indicators of what has happened since Barack Obama first took the oath of office in January 2009. We leave it to our readers to judge how much credit or blame the president deserves for what has happened on his watch, and we caution that no single number or collection of numbers can tell the entire story. What we offer here are some key yardsticks from sources we consider solid and reliable.

Jobs & Unemployment

Number of Jobs — The economy has added another 529,000 jobs since our last report three months ago. As of September, the number of total nonfarm jobs stands 8,394,000 higher than when Obama first took office.

To put that into recent historical context, the economy gained nearly 23 million jobs during the booming years of Bill Clinton’s presidency, but fewer than 1.3 million during President George W. Bush’s eight years, which were plagued by two recessions.

Unemployment Rate — Meanwhile the unemployment rate edged down further to 5.1 percent. It’s now 2.7 percentage points lower than it was in January 2009, when the president first took office in the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

Historically, the jobless rate is now better than it has been most of the time since 1948. The historical median is 5.6 percent.

Long-term Unemployment — The number of long-term unemployed — those who have been looking for work for 27 weeks or longer — has continued to inch downward since our last report. The number went down to just over 2.1 million in September, which is 595,000 fewer than when the president first took office.

Job Openings — The number of job openings increased further since our last report, to 5,753,000 as of the last business day in July. That’s the highest number of openings since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking them in December 2000. The number of openings has gone up 108 percent since the month the president entered office.

Business Startups — The growth in the number of new business establishments slowed slightly since our last report. The Bureau of Labor Statistics counted 222,000 “births” of new establishments in the three months ending last December, the most recent period on record. That’s 2,000 fewer than in the previous quarter, but still nearly 19 percent more new establishments than were born in the quarter prior to Obama’s first inauguration.

Meanwhile the number of business establishments shutting down permanently — business “deaths” — has gone down by more than 21 percent. The most recent figure is for the first quarter of 2014, because the BLS must wait a year before counting any shutdown as a permanent closing. Establishment birth and death figures are adjusted to compensate for seasonal variations.

Labor Participation Rate — However, the labor force participation rate, which is the portion of the civilian population that is either employed or currently looking for work, was 62.4 percent in September, down 3.3 percentage points since Obama took office.

Not all of that decline is due to the Great Recession and the slow recovery that followed. The rate actually peaked in early 2000, and it had declined by 1.6 percentage points before Obama took office.

Furthermore, a 2012 article by economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago concluded that just under half the decline “can be explained by long-running demographic patterns, such as the retirement of baby boomers.” The study predicted that these demographic patterns would continue, and would offset any improvements due to economic recovery in the future.

For more on this, see our March 11 item, “Declining Labor Force Participation Rates.”

Income and Poverty

Also since our last report, the Census has released annual figures on income and poverty covering 2014. They provide a bleak picture of the economic well-being of most Americans during the first six years of Obama’s tenure.

Median household income last year was $53,657, Census reported. In “real” income, adjusted for inflation, that was $1,656 less than in 2008 — a decline of 3 percent. And it was 7.2 percent below the peak year of 1999.

The same Census report showed that the number of people living in poverty went up in 2014 to nearly 46.7 million — which is 6.8 million more than in 2008. The official poverty rate — meaning the percentage of the population living below the official poverty line — was 14.8 percent last year, which is 1.6 percentage points higher than in 2008.

Health Insurance

However, Census also reported that the number of people who lacked health insurance dropped sharply last year, the first year that the main provisions of the Affordable Care Act began to take full effect. According to Census, people who lacked coverage for all of last year declined to 33 million from 41.8 million the previous year — a difference of 8.8 million.

But the most recent Census figures can’t be compared with earlier periods, because Census changed the way it gathers such data in 2013. So to gauge how coverage has changed during Obama’s entire tenure, we turn to the National Health Interview Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Besides keeping a consistent methodology, the NHIS has the added virtue of being conducted quarterly, and so is more up to date than the annual Census figures.

During the three months ending with March of this year, 29 million people lacked coverage at the time they were interviewed, according to the most recent NHIS data (found in Table 1.1a on page 3). That’s down from 43.8 million during all of 2008, a drop of 14.8 million people since Obama first took office.

The recent drop is even more dramatic when considering that the number who lacked coverage jumped up to a peak of 48.6 million in 2010, as many who lost jobs during the recession and its aftermath also lost employer-sponsored coverage for themselves and their family members.

According to the NHIS (Table 1.1b), 14.7 percent of all people in the U.S. lacked health insurance at the time they were interviewed in 2008, and that number peaked at 16 percent in 2010. But it was down to 9.2 percent in the first quarter of 2015.

Prices & Wages

Consumer Prices – Overall inflation in consumer prices has remained moderate over Obama’s more than six-and-a-half years in office, rising by only 12.3 percent between January 2009 and August, the most recent month for which the Bureau of Labor Statistics has released the Consumer Price Index.

The average yearly rise under Obama of 1.9 percent is less than half the post-World War II average, according to BLS figures. Between 1946 and 2008 the average yearly rise in the CPI was 4 percent, measured from December to December. In the most recent 12 months, the CPI has gone up only a little over 0.2 percent.

Real Weekly Earnings – The recent low inflation has helped the buying power of weekly paychecks. The BLS measure of average weekly earnings for all workers, adjusted for inflation and seasonal factors, is 3.1 percent higher in August than it was when Obama first took office.

Gasoline – The national average price of regular gasoline, after rebounding somewhat from the plunge that took it down to just over $2 a gallon in January, is now headed down once again. As of the week ended Sept. 28, it stood at $2.32, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

That’s a 47-cent drop since our last report three months ago. Still, the most recent price is 26 percent higher than the unusually low point at which it stood on Inauguration Day 2009.

Food Stamps

The number of people receiving food stamps dropped slightly since our last report, by fewer than 132,000. And as of June, the most recent month on record, more than 45.5 million Americans were still receiving the food aid, now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

That’s 4.8 percent lower than the record level set in December 2012, but still 42 percent higher than it was when Obama took office in 2009.

Nevertheless, Obama no longer qualifies for the title of “Food Stamp President” that Republican Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House, tried to hang on him during the 2012 presidential campaign. As we noted at the time, 14.7 million people were added to the food-stamp rolls during George W. Bush’s time in office. By comparison, the net gain under Obama now stands at 13.5 million — and it’s slowly declining as the economy improves.

Home Ownership

Since our last report, the rate of home ownership sank again, to the lowest level since 1967.

In the second quarter of this year, the latest Census Bureau figures show, the percentage of households that owned their own home was down to 63.4 percent.

Home Ownership ChartThe home ownership rate peaked at 69.2 percent in the second quarter of 2004, but it has declined 5.8 percentage points since then. Most of the decline — 4.1 percentage points — has taken place since Obama first took office.

Technical note: With this update we have switched to using figures that are not adjusted for seasonal variations, in order to put the current trend in a longer historical context. Census has tracked the unadjusted home ownership rate since 1965, but has offered seasonally adjusted figures only since 1980.

Previously we have used the seasonally adjusted rate. That rate smooths out variations due to the time of year. But with home ownership, the seasonal effect is small: On a seasonally adjusted basis, the rate in the second quarter was 63.5 percent, a difference of only 0.1 percentage point from the unadjusted figure of 63.4 percent. The seasonally adjusted rate for the second quarter is the lowest since that series began.

 Profits & Markets

Corporate Profits — Corporate profits have soared under Obama, setting record after record. They hit a seasonally adjusted yearly rate of more than $1.8 trillion in the April-June quarter of this year, according to the most recent figures from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. That exceeds the previous record level set in the third quarter of 2014.

Profits are now running 175 percent higher than in the recession-plagued quarter just before Obama entered office. And they are 31 percent higher than in the best quarter prior to his taking office, which was the third quarter of 2006.

(Technical note: Since our last report, when we reported the gain in after-tax profits at 182 percent, the BEA revised its estimates downward. The revisions are part of an annual fine-tuning of its statistics to make them as accurate as possible. BEA said the revised estimates take advantage of newly available tax-return data from the Internal Revenue Service, and updated measures of seasonal variation.)

Stock Markets Stock prices have declined sharply since our last report. Nevertheless, stockholders have done quite well under Obama. The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index was 147 percent higher at the close on Oct. 5 than it was the day Obama took office. Other stock indexes show similarly robust gains. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has also more than doubled, rising 111 percent during Obama’s tenure, and the NASDAQ Composite index has tripled, rising 232 percent.

Federal Debt, Deficits and Spending

The debt owed to the public has more than doubled. It is now nearly $13.1 trillion, an increase of 107 percent since Obama first took office.

And the debt also has grown dramatically even when measured as a percentage of the growing economy, from 52 percent of gross domestic product at the end of fiscal year 2009 to just under 74 percent last year.

Federal spending, however, has increased much less. Total federal outlays in the fiscal year that just ended will total around $3.67 trillion, according to the most recent CBO estimate. That’s just 4.5 percent above the total outlays for fiscal 2009, which was well underway when Obama took office.

As we’ve shown in detail elsewhere, Obama’s early spending initiatives added — at most — $203 billion to the fiscal year 2009 spending levels that were set before he took office. Attributing that extra FY 2009 spending to Obama brings the total increase in outlays since he took office to just under 11 percent over the level he inherited.

Massive federal deficits continue: The final figure for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 hasn’t yet been tallied, but last month’s Monthly Budget Review by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that the deficit would come in at $426 billion, about $59 billion less than the shortfall in fiscal year 2014. However, the debt is now growing less rapidly than during Obama’s first years, which saw a string of trillion-dollar-plus annual deficits.

Total debt, counting money the government owes to itself, currently stands at close to $18.2 trillion, up nearly 71 percent under Obama.


U.S. Crude Oil Production – U.S. crude oil production has nearly doubled under Obama, but the historic boom may finally have peaked, at least for a while.

In September, the Energy Information Administration reported in its monthly Short Term Energy Outlook that total U.S. crude oil production began declining in May, and was expected to continue falling in coming months. A plunge in the price of crude oil — from more than $100 a barrel last year to $44.40 last week — has led to less drilling and fewer new oil wells being completed, EIA said.

Nevertheless, in the second quarter of this year, the U.S. produced 90 percent more crude oil than it did in the three months before Obama began his presidency. (Since our last report, when we put the increase at 94 percent, EIA has revised this year’s production estimates downward a bit, based on new survey data.)

Also, EIA said it expected U.S. production to begin rising again in August of next year, when a dozen projects in the Gulf of Mexico are projected to come on line.

Oil Imports & Dependency — With the increase in domestic production, U.S. reliance on imported oil has been cut by more than half. Under Obama, as of the second quarter of 2015, net imports were down 59 percent.

And as a result, during the first eight months of this year, the U.S. imported only 25.3 percent of the petroleum and refined products that it consumed. For all of 2014, the figure was 26.5 percent, the lowest annual level of dependency on imports since before the first Arab oil embargo of 1973-74.

The U.S. oil boom is due mainly to advances in drilling technology rather than to any change in government policy. The decline in dependency on imports actually began in 2006, after peaking at 60.3 percent the year before. But the trend has continued under Obama.

Wind & Solar – Electricity generated by wind and solar power in the most recent 12 months on record (ending in July) was 258 percent higher than the total for 2008.

The increase in solar power in particular has been spectacular. The U.S. generated 27 times more electricity from solar power in the most recent 12 months than it did in the year before Obama took office.

These trends are partly due to large federal tax subsidies for wind and solar generation, all supported by Obama. But several states, independent of federal policy, also have imposed renewable energy standards that require electric utilities to generate a certain portion of their power from wind or solar. Market forces also have been at work: The cost of installing a solar system has dropped 73 percent since 2006, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

The U.S. produced 4.9 percent of all its electricity from wind and solar in the most recent 12 months on record, up from 1.4 percent in 2008. But coal still accounted for the biggest share — 36 percent — followed by natural gas at 30 percent and nuclear power at 20 percent.

Unfulfilled Promises

Exports – Exports rose weakly since our last report, but still remain far short of the president’s 2010 promise to “double our exports over the next five years.” The clock ran out on that goal at the end of last year.

As of the second quarter of this year, according to the most recent quarterly report of the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, U.S. exports of goods and services have gone up by only 32.5 percent since Obama took office.

Future prospects look bleak: The Wall Street Journal reported Sept. 29 that hopes for an export boom “are wilting under the weight of a strong dollar and global economic strains.” The Journal reported, based on monthly “advance” figures from the BEA, that exports for 2015 are on track to be lower than they were in 2014.

Car Mileage — Progress toward Obama’s goal of doubling the fuel efficiency of new cars and light trucks by 2025 has come to a standstill.

The average EPA city/highway sticker mileage of light duty vehicles sold in September was 25.2 miles per gallon, according to the Transportation Research Institute of the University of Michigan. That’s actually 0.2 mpg lower than the June figure we cited in our last report, and 0.1 mpg lower than it was in September of last year. For the entire 2015 model year (vehicles sold in the 12 months ending in September), the sticker mileage was exactly the same as for model year 2014.

The September figure is 20 percent higher than it was when Obama first took office — but that’s a long way short of the president’s 2013 boast that “we have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas.” What he meant was that the administration was putting in place requirements that cars and light trucks average 54.5 mpg by model year 2025. But recently, lowered gasoline prices have led car buyers to temper their enthusiasm for smaller, more efficient cars and trucks.

So it is looking increasingly doubtful that Obama’s ambitious goal can be reached on schedule. The industry is reported to be readying a push to relax the standards when they come up for review in 2017.

Guantanamo – Since our last report, two more prisoners have been released from the military detention camp for suspected terrorists in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba — one was announced on Sept. 17 and another on Sept. 22. But 114 remain at the facility, which Obama ordered to be closed within a year just after taking office. In the more than six-and-a-half years since then, the population has been reduced by 53 percent.

War Deaths

Since our last report, one U.S. sailor died of a noncombat gunshot (reportedly a possible suicide) while serving in support of “Operation Inherent Resolve” against Islamic State forces in Iraq and elsewhere. That brings the total U.S. military fatalities in Iraq operations since Obama took office to 271.

Meanwhile, 10 more have died supporting continuing U.S. operations in Afghanistan — including six airmen who died in the Oct. 2 crash of a C-130 transport plane at Jalalabad Airfield, Afghanistan. Those brought the total there to 1,740 since Obama became commander in chief.

— Brooks Jackson


Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Employment, Hours, and Earnings from the Current Employment Statistics survey (National); Total Nonfarm Employment, Seasonally Adjusted.” Data extracted 5 Oct 2015.

Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey; Unemployment Rate, Seasonally Adjusted.” Data extracted Data extracted 5 Oct 2015.

Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey; Number Unemployed for 27 Weeks & Over, Seasonally Adjusted.” Data extracted 5 Oct 2015.

Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey: Job Openings, Seasonally Adjusted.” Data extracted 5 Oct 2015.

Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Private sector establishment births and deaths, seasonally adjusted.” 29 Jul 2015.

Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey; Labor Force Participation Rate.” Data extracted 5 Oct 2015.

Aaronson, Daniel and Jonathan Davis and Luojia Hu. “Explaining the Decline in the U.S. Labor Force Participation Rate.” Chicago Fed Letter, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. Mar 2012.

U.S. Census Bureau. “Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2014.” 16 Sep 2015.

Smith, Jessica C. and Carla Medalia. “Health Insurance Coverage in the United States; 2014.” 16 Sep 2015.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; National Health Interview Survey. “Early Release of Selected Estimates Based on Data From the National Health Interview Survey, January – March 2015.” Sep 2015.

Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Consumer Price Index – All Urban Consumers.” Data extracted Data extracted 5 Oct 2015.

Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Employment, Hours, and Earnings from the Current Employment Statistics survey (National); Average Weekly Earnings of All Employees, 1982-1984 Dollars.” Data extracted 5 Oct 2015.

U.S. Energy Information Administration. “Weekly U.S. Regular All Formulations Retail Gasoline Prices (Dollars per Gallon).” Data extracted 5 Oct 2015.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Data as of Sept 4, 2015).” Data extracted 5 Oct 2015.

U.S. Census Bureau.”Residential Vacancies and Homeownership in the Second Quarter 2015.” 28 Jul 2015.

U.S. Census Bureau. “Time Series: Not Seasonally Adjusted Home Ownership Rate.” Data extracted 5 Oct 2015.

Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis. “Corporate Profits After Tax (without IVA and CCAdj) (CP).” Data extracted 5 Oct 2015.

McCulla, Stephanie H. and Shelly Smith. “The 2015 Annual Revision of the National Income and Product
Accounts.” Survey of Current Business, Bureau of Economic Analysis, U.S. Department of Commerce. Aug 2015.

Google Finance. “S&P 500.” Historical prices. Data extracted 2 Oct 2015.

Google Finance. “Dow Jones Industrial Average.” Historical prices. Data extracted 2 Oct 2015.

Google Finance. “NASDAQ Composite.” Historical prices. Data extracted 2 Oct 2015.

U.S. Treasury. “The Debt to the Penny and Who Holds It.” 1 Oct 2015. Data extracted 5 Oct 2015.

Congressional Budget Office. “Monthly Budget Review for August 2015.” 8 Sep 2015.

U.S. Energy Information Administration. “Short Term Energy Outlook.” Sep 2015.

U.S. Energy Information Administration. “Cushing, OK WTI Spot Price FOB (Dollars per Barrel).” 30 Sep 2015.

U.S. Energy Information Administration. “U.S. Crude Oil Production.” Short Term Energy Outlook. 9 Sep 2015. Data extracted 5 Oct 2015.

U.S. Energy Information Administration. “Table 3.3a. Monthly Energy Review.” 25 Sep 2015.

U.S. Energy Information Administration. Electric Power Monthly, “Table 1.1.A. Net Generation from Renewable Sources: Total (All Sectors), 2005-January 2015.” 24 Sep 2015.

U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Affairs. “Table 1. U.S. International Transactions: Exports of Goods and Services.” 17 Sep 2015.

Sivak, Michael and Brandon Schoettle. “Average sales-weighted fuel-economy rating (window sticker) of purchased new vehicles for October 2007 through March 2015.” University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. 2 Oct 2015

New York Times. The Guantanamo Docket. “A History of the Detainee Population.” 24 Sep 2015.

iCasualties.org. “Operation Enduring Freedom/Afghanistan; Afghanistan Coalition Military Fatalities by Year.” Data extracted 5 Oct 2015.

iCasualties.org. “Operation Iraqi Freedom; Iraq Coalition Military Fatalities by Year.” Data extracted 5 Oct 2015.

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Trump Gets Refugee Numbers Wrong http://www.factcheck.org/2015/10/trump-gets-refugee-numbers-wrong/ http://www.factcheck.org/2015/10/trump-gets-refugee-numbers-wrong/#comments Sun, 04 Oct 2015 16:08:49 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=99526 Donald Trump keeps saying he “heard” the Obama administration plans to accept 200,000 Syrian refugees. He misheard, because that’s inaccurate.

The administration has said its goal is to accept 185,000 total refugees of all nationalities over the next two fiscal years. It is committed to accepting up to 85,000 in fiscal year 2016, including at least 10,000 Syrians.

Trump, the Republican Party’s leading candidate for president, made news at a Sept. 30 campaign stop in Keene, New Hampshire, for saying that he will seek to return all Syrian refugees for fear that they may include terrorists from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

During that same campaign visit, Trump also mischaracterized the administration’s refugee plans (at about 51:20 of his speech at Keene High School).

Trump, Sept. 30: You have the migration because Syria is such a disaster. And now I hear we want to take in 200,000 Syrians, right? And they could be, listen, they could be ISIS. I don’t know.

He repeated what he misheard two days later on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” — not once but twice — when he was asked by cohost Mika Brzezinski (at about 7:30 into the interview) if he really meant that he would send back all Syrian refugees.

Trump, Oct. 1: It started, if you remember, Mika, with 2 or 3,000. Then it went up to 10,000 then 15. The last number I heard was 200,000. 200,000. I said now wait. This could be a terrible security breech because if these people come over here, and in fact, if they’re ISIS, we’re allowing, you know, tens of thousands of ISIS, potentially ISIS fighters coming into our country. …

So when I heard 10,000 and 3,000 a number, you know, from one of you — I’d say all right. But now we’re talking about 200,000. Obama is getting carried away again with this whole thing about immigration. And now we hear 200,000 and it could very well be ISIS.

Trump again cited the 200,000 figure on Oct. 3 at a campaign stop in Franklin, Tennessee.

But he’s wrong. The 200,000 figure Trump cites is more than the entire allotment of refugees worldwide that the administration hopes to accept over the next two years.

But let’s start at the beginning to explain the crisis and how the administration has responded to it.

As we have written before, more than 4 million Syrians have fled their home country because of a civil war, and the United Nations and fellow Democrats have pressured the Obama administration to increase the number of Syrian refugees that it plans to accept in fiscal year 2016, which began Oct. 1.

In a May 21 letter to President Obama, 14 Democratic senators urged the administration to accept 65,000 Syrian refugees in fiscal 2016. On Sept. 17, a group of 20 former senior government officials, including those from the Bush and Obama administrations, urged the president and Congress to accept 100,000 Syrian refugees over the next year.

But accepting 65,000 or 100,000 Syrians in fiscal year 2016 would mean a significant increase in the number of total refugees that the U.S. annually has accepted in recent years.

By law, the president each fiscal year sets a maximum number of refugees that the U.S. can accept, and that limit has been between 70,000 and 80,000 every year since at least fiscal 2004, as shown in Table 1 of a February report by the Congressional Research Service.

In fiscal year 2015, about 1,500 of the 70,000 refugees were from Syria, according to White House spokesman Josh Earnest.

In a compromise, the administration agreed to increase the ceiling on refugees and accept more Syrians, but not nearly as much as those Democrats wanted — and certainly not as many as Trump says he heard.

At a Sept. 20 press conference, Secretary of State John Kerry announced the total number of refugees for fiscal year 2016 would be increased from 70,000 to 85,000, and at least 10,000 of those would be from Syria.

Kerry also said the administration’s goal is to increase the maximum number of refugees worldwide to 100,000 in fiscal 2017, which is what he also told members of Congress at closed meetings on Sept. 9. He didn’t say how many of the 100,000 refugees would be from Syria, but the administration does not need to make any determination on fiscal 2017 until Oct. 1, 2016.

Earnest, the White House spokesman, said an increase to 100,000 is unlikely without congressional approval. At a Sept. 10 press briefing, Earnest said that “ramping it up to 100,000 in the next fiscal year seems quite ambitious and probably not possible without a significant commitment of additional resources by Congress.”

All the president can do, for now, is set the ceiling for fiscal year 2016, and that’s what he did on Sept. 29. As required by law, Obama issued a presidential determination for fiscal year 2016 that officially set the maximum number at 85,000.

The 85,000 figure includes a maximum of 34,000 refugees from the Near East/South Asia region, which would include Syria. That’s an increase of 1,000 from fiscal 2015. The president also increased the unallocated reserve for fiscal 2016 from 2,000 to 6,000 — which can be another source for the administration to reach its stated goal of accepting at least 10,000 Syrian refugees.

As for Trump’s claim, the numbers just don’t add up.

— Eugene Kiely

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Gun Laws, Deaths and Crimes http://www.factcheck.org/2015/10/gun-laws-deaths-and-crimes/ http://www.factcheck.org/2015/10/gun-laws-deaths-and-crimes/#comments Sun, 04 Oct 2015 14:10:51 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=99479 President Barack Obama claimed that “states with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths.” Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, meanwhile, has made nearly the opposite claim, saying states with stringent gun control laws have “the highest gun crime rates in the nation.”

In looking solely at the numbers of gun deaths and gun crimes, the data back up Obama, not Fiorina. But both politicians imply a causation that’s impossible to prove — that gun control laws lead to fewer or greater gun crimes or gun deaths.

Obama talked about gun deaths, while Fiorina said “gun crime rates,” which could include aggravated assault and robberies. Let’s start with gun deaths.

Obama’s Argument

The president made his comments on Oct. 1 after a mass shooting that day at a community college in Roseburg, Oregon, left 10 people dead, including the shooter.

Obama, Oct. 1: We know that states with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths. So the notion that gun laws don’t work, or just will make it harder for law-abiding citizens and criminals [to] still get their guns is not borne out by the evidence.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention publishes statistics on firearm deaths and the death rate, which would be a fairer measure in comparing states of various populations. The death rate is the number of deaths per 100,000 people. The CDC also gives age-adjusted death rates, since such rates are influenced by the age of the population. This levels the comparison between different groups.

For 2013, the 10 states with the highest firearm age-adjusted death rates were: Alaska (19.8), Louisiana (19.3), Mississippi (17.8), Alabama (17.6), Arkansas (16.8), Wyoming (16.7), Montana (16.7), Oklahoma (16.5), New Mexico (15.5) and Tennessee (15.4).

The 10 states with the lowest firearm age-adjusted death rates were, starting with the lowest: Hawaii (2.6), Massachusetts (3.1), New York (4.2), Connecticut (4.4), Rhode Island (5.3), New Jersey (5.7), New Hampshire (6.4), Minnesota (7.6), California (7.7) and Iowa (8.0).

Firearm deaths, however, include suicides, and there are a lot of them. In 2013, there were a total of 33,636 firearm deaths, and 21,175, or 63 percent, were suicides, according to the CDC. Homicides made up 11,208, or 33 percent, of those firearm deaths. The rest were unintentional discharges (505), legal intervention/war (467) and undetermined (281).

Homicide data for 2013 don’t give us a clear picture of homicides only by firearm; however, 70 percent of homicides for the year were by firearm. The 10 states with the highest homicide rates were: Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Maryland, Oklahoma, South Carolina, New Mexico, Missouri and Michigan. That lists includes six states that also have the highest firearm death rates.

The 10 states with the lowest homicide rates are: North Dakota, Vermont, Wyoming, New Hampshire, Utah, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts and Oregon.

The number of homicides that occurred in the first three states were so low that their death rates were zero. Wyoming is an interesting case, because it has one of the highest firearm death rates but a homicide rate of zero.

What role do gun control laws play in these statistics? It’s difficult to say. One news report that compiled these same CDC numbers on firearm death rates, by 24/7 Wall Street and published by USA Today, listed several reasons besides gun laws that these states might have high rates of gun deaths (suicides included). Many of the states also have higher rates of poverty, lower educational attainment and perhaps more rural areas that make getting to a hospital in time to save someone’s life difficult.

But that report also noted weaker gun laws were common among the states with higher gun death rates: “In fact, none of the states with the most gun violence require permits to purchase rifles, shotguns, or handguns. Gun owners are also not required to register their weapons in any of these states. Meanwhile, many of the states with the least gun violence require a permit or other form of identification to buy a gun,” reporter Thomas C. Frohlich wrote.

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, both groups that advocate for strong gun laws, published a scorecard on state gun laws in 2013, giving higher letter grades to states with stronger gun laws. Nine of the 10 states with the highest firearm death rates, according to the CDC, got an “F” for their gun laws, and one of them got a “D-.” (Note that most states — 26 of them — received an “F.”) Seven of the states with the lowest firearm death rates got a “B” or higher; two received a “C” or “C-“; and one — New Hampshire — got a “D-.”

But again, that’s a correlation, not a causation. And the homicide rate statistics don’t show the same pattern. Eight of the 10 states with the highest homicide rates and eight of the 10 states with the lowest homicide rates all got “D” or “F” grades from the Brady Campaign analysis.

We have written before about gun control issues, and the inability to determine causation between gun laws and gun violence. As Susan B. Sorenson, a professor of social policy at the University of Pennsylvania, told us in 2012, “We really don’t have answers to a lot of the questions that we should have answers to.” And that’s partly because a scientific random study — in which one group of people had guns or permissive gun laws, and another group didn’t — isn’t possible.

When we asked the White House about Obama’s claim, a spokesman sent us links to other studies that found states with more gun restrictions had fewer gun deaths, backing up Obama’s claim that “states with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths.” But it doesn’t back up his claim that “the evidence” shows there is a link between the gun deaths and gun laws.

Researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital and the Harvard School of Public Health looked at gun laws and gun deaths in all 50 states from 2007 to 2010, concluding that: “A higher number of firearm laws in a state are associated with a lower rate of firearm fatalities in the state, overall and for suicides and homicides individually.” Their research was published in JAMA Internal Medicine in May 2013. But the study said that it couldn’t determine cause-and-effect.

One of the authors, Dr. Eric Fleegler, a pediatric emergency medicine physician at Boston Children’s Hospital, told the Boston Globe that “[i]n states with the most laws, we found a dramatic decreased rate in firearm fatalities, though we can’t say for certain that these laws have led to fewer deaths.”

Fiorina’s Claim

Fiorina made her claim on Sept. 24 in a speech in Greenville, South Carolina, when asked about her views on guns (see the 43:40 mark). She said that the gun laws currently on the books aren’t enforced. “That is why you see in state after state after state with some of the most stringent gun control laws in the nation also having the highest gun crime rates in the nation. Chicago would be an example,” she said.

We asked the Fiorina campaign for support for that claim, and to clarify whether she meant states or cities, since she mentioned Chicago. We have not received a response, but we will update this article if we do.

Fiorina said “gun crime rates,” not just “gun deaths,” as the president claimed. The FBI has statistics on violent crimes committed with a firearm, including murder, robbery and aggravated assault, though its data come from voluntary reporting from law enforcement agencies. When we last researched firearm deaths, experts advised us to use the CDC data, since it came from required death-certificate reporting.

But what about robberies with a firearm, or aggravated assaults? We calculated firearm robbery rates for the states, using the FBI data for 2014, and the states with the highest rates are Nevada, Mississippi, Georgia, Maryland and Louisiana. Four out of five of those states received an “F” from the groups that advocate tougher gun laws. (We discounted Illinois, which reported limited data to the FBI.)

We then did the same rate calculation for aggravated assaults with a firearm in 2014. The top five states: Tennessee, South Carolina, Arkansas, Louisiana and Delaware. The last state was the only one not to receive an “F.”

As for Chicago, the Pew Research Center published a report in 2014 that found that while Chicago had seen a lot of murders in raw numbers, smaller cities had a higher rate, adjusted for population. Using FBI data — with the caveat that it is reported by local police agencies and not always consistently — the Pew Research Center determined that the top cities in 2012 for the murder rate were Flint, Michigan; Detroit; New Orleans; and Jackson, Mississippi. Chicago came in 21st.

An August 2013 CDC report looked at rates for gun homicides in the 50 most populous metropolitan areas. It found that for 2009-2010, the top gun murder rate areas were, in order: New Orleans, Memphis, Detroit, Birmingham, St. Louis, Baltimore, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Philadelphia and Chicago.

Six of those cities are in states with poor scores for their gun laws, while the other four get a “C” or better. Chicago, which placed last in the top 10, had a ban on handguns at the time. There’s no discernible pattern among those cities, nor clear or convincing evidence in these statistics that shows more gun laws lead to more or less gun crime.

— Lori Robertson

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