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FactChecking Biden on Inflation, Other Claims

Este artículo estará disponible en español en El Tiempo Latino.

When President Joe Biden took office in January 2021, the U.S. annual rate of inflation was 1.4% — far from the 9% inflation Biden falsely said in a May 8 interview that he inherited. Inflation rose quickly in Biden’s first year, but it didn’t hit 9% until 17 months into his presidency.

Biden made that claim — and several others we’ve fact-checked before — in an interview with CNN’s Erin Burnett. While responding to Burnett’s question about voter concerns about the economy, Biden touted the economic recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic.

“But no president’s had the run we’ve had in terms of creating jobs and bringing down inflation. It was 9% when I came to office, 9%,” Biden said.

He’s wrong about inflation, which, as measured by the Consumer Price Index, rose 1.4% year over year in January 2021, the month that Biden became president.

After that, inflation increased almost every month until reaching 9.1% in June 2022 – its highest level in about 40 years. From there, the annual rate of inflation trended down for a year, reaching 3% in June 2023. But it has since remained above 3%, and was at 3.5% for the 12 months ending in March, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

A White House official told us that in the CNN interview Biden was conveying that factors contributing to the spike in inflation – such as global supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic – were already in place before Biden was sworn into office. High inflation was worse in some other countries, the official said.

Economists did tell us in June 2022 that price increases were inevitable as the economy opened back up after a shutdown period intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. They said increased consumer demand and spending combined with the limited production of various goods helped push prices up fast.

In the U.S., that spending surge was partly due to trillions of dollars in federal funding that were pumped into the economy during the pandemic, including three rounds of government stimulus checks distributed to qualifying households. Two of those stimulus payments were part of bills signed into law in 2020 by Biden’s predecessor, former President Donald Trump, while the other payment to most Americans was in the American Rescue Plan Act that Biden signed in March 2021.

Some analysts said that while the federal stimulus may have contributed to inflation, not providing that spending also could have negatively affected the economy.

Nevertheless, Biden did not tell Burnett that factors out of his control helped produce high inflation early in his term. Instead, he said he walked into the White House with inflation already at 9% – which was not the case.

Repeats on Jobs, COVID-19 and Tax Rates

Biden also repeated some claims we have already fact-checked:

Jobs. He misleadingly contrasted the job creation under his presidency with the job losses that occurred over former President Donald Trump’s term, losses that occurred once the COVID-19 pandemic hit. “He’s never succeeded in creating jobs and I have never failed,” Biden claimed. “I have created over 15 million jobs since I have been president, 15 million in three-and-three-quarters years.”

Trump did succeed in creating jobs. As we’ve written, employment was up during his term, until the economy lost 20.5 million jobs in April 2020, as pandemic containment measures led to business closures and layoffs. When Trump left office in January 2021, employment was still 9.4 million jobs below the February 2020 peak, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Under Biden, the economy has gained 15.4 million jobs.

‘Inject bleach.’ Biden again twisted Trump’s words, claiming his predecessor “would tell people, inject bleach,” during the COVID-19 pandemic. Trump suggested that scientists test the use of “very powerful light” and “disinfectant” in the body to kill the virus. But he didn’t tell people to do this themselves, nor did he say: “inject bleach.”

During an April 2020 press briefing, a Department of Homeland Security official discussed research on the ways the coronavirus reacted on nonporous surfaces when exposed to heat, humidity, sunlight and disinfectant. In his remarks, Trump said: “And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute, one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or almost a cleaning, because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it’d be interesting to check that.”

For the record, experts say it’s dangerous to inject disinfectants into the body.

Billionaire “tax rate”: Biden repeated his misleading talking point that billionaires pay an 8.3% federal tax rate on average. The figure comes from a White House calculation that factors in earnings on unsold stock as income. When counting just taxable income, the wealthiest Americans — the top 0.1% of earners who have more than $4.4 million in expanded cash income — paid an average effective federal income tax rate of 24% in 2023, according to the Tax Policy Center.

Biden has proposed that those with wealth over $100 million pay a 25% minimum tax, as calculated on both standard income and unsold investment income combined. We wrote a detailed explanation of Biden’s claim last year.

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