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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Groundhog Friday

This week, the candidates for the White House repeated claims they’ve made before on nuclear weapons, jobs and wages. Follow the links to our original stories for more information on each claim. Groundhog Friday is our occasional feature highlighting the false and misleading talking points we hear repeatedly from politicians.

Groundhog2Hillary Clinton on reducing nuclear weapons, Aug. 31 speech at the American Legion Convention: “We convinced Russia to reduce their nuclear weapons arsenal.”

Clinton, again, overstates the impact of the 2011 New START agreement, which limits the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads — that is, nuclear weapons that are deployed on long-range (or strategic) launchers. The agreement does not require the U.S. or Russia to destroy nuclear warheads or reduce their nuclear stockpile. Plus, Russia was already below the treaty’s limit on deployed strategic nuclear warheads when the treaty took effect, and Russia has increased the number since then — going from 1,537 in February 2011 to 1,735 in March, the most recent data available. The number of U.S. nuclear warheads deployed on long-range launchers has decreased in that time, but the agreement did not call for the destruction of any nuclear weapons “withdrawn from operational deployment.”

“Clinton Overstates Nuclear Achievement,” April 27


Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim KaineAug. 30 speech in Lancaster, Pennsylvania: “And let’s start with this. President Obama, since he’s come into office, we’ve created 15 million new, private-sector jobs, cut the unemployment rate in half, people’s 401(k)s have come back and they’re worth something again.”

Kaine repeats one of the Clinton campaign’s misleading talking points. Since President Barack Obama took office in January 2009, the U.S. has gained 10.5 million nonfarm jobs. Kaine arrives at the higher figure by starting in February 2010, the low point of employment during the Great Recession, and only counting private-sector jobs, which Kaine does make clear. But since Obama took office, private-sector jobs have gone up 10.9 million — not 15 million.

Kaine uses the same cherry-picking to claim that under Obama the unemployment rate has been cut “in half.” The rate went from 9.8 in February 2010 to 4.9 in August. But it was 7.8 in January 2009, when Obama was sworn in as president.

“FactChecking Clinton’s Big Speech,” July 29


Kaine on economist Mark ZandiAug. 30 in Lancaster: “Don’t take that from me. Probably the best nonpartisan economics firm in the country is Moody’s Analytics. And the chief economist is Mark Zandi. Zandi’s no Dem. He was John McCain’s chief economist in 2008.”

As we’ve written before, Democrats have repeatedly overplayed Mark Zandi’s role in John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign in an effort to bolster their arguments. Zandi, a well-respected economist, confirmed to us that he is a longtime registered Democrat — contrary to what Kaine says — and that he contributed the maximum amount allowable ($2,700) to Clinton’s primary campaign.

As for his work for McCain in 2008, he wasn’t the campaign’s “chief economist.” Douglas Holtz-Eakin, McCain’s actual chief economic adviser, hired Zandi, asking him to provide reports on economic and financial market data to the campaign. The Clinton campaign has been citing Zandi and Moody’s Analytics analyses that found Clinton’s proposals — if fully implemented — would add millions of jobs while Donald Trump’s would cost millions of jobs. But they continue to misrepresent Zandi in the process.

“Clinton Plays Partisan Game,” Aug. 17


Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on wages, Aug. 31 press conference in Mexico: “Workers in both of our countries need a pay raise, very desperately. In the United States, it’s been 18 years, 18 years. Wages are going down.”

Trump continues to be wrong on wages. In fact, wages have gone up 10.8 percent over the last 18 years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, average weekly earnings for production and non-supervisory employees were $280.88 in July 1998 and $311.34 in July 2016, in inflation-adjusted dollars. That’s an increase, not a decrease.

“Trump’s Attack on Clinton’s Character,” June 22


Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson on marijuana research, Aug. 28 interview on Fox News: “There needs to be research and development in this area that can’t currently happen because marijuana is listed as a class one narcotic.”

As we said in April, when Hillary Clinton made a similar claim, Schedule I classification makes it difficult to conduct research on a substance, but not impossible. Johnson is wrong to say research “can’t currently happen.”

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, Schedule I drugs are “the most dangerous class of drugs” and have “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” They include heroin, LSD, marijuana and ecstasy. To conduct research on marijuana, the DEA must examine a scientist’s facility. And until recently, the agency had only granted permission to the University of Mississippi to grow marijuana for scientific study. “This restriction has so limited the supply of marijuana federally approved for research purposes that scientists said it could often take years to obtain it and in some cases it was impossible to get,” reported The New York Times.

But on Aug. 11, the DEA “announced a policy change designed to foster research by expanding the number of DEA-registered marijuana manufacturers.” The goal of the change was to “provide researchers with a more varied and robust supply of marijuana.”

“Clinton on Marijuana Research,” April 22