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Fact-checking Biden’s claims as he seeks to save his candidacy

As President Biden seeks to shore up support for his decision to seek a second term, he’s embarked on a round of interviews and communications to make the case for his candidacy and against former president Donald Trump. Here’s a quick roundup of fact checks of claims he has made.

“Trump and the MAGA Republicans want another $5 trillion in tax cuts for rich people so they can cut Social Security and Medicare.”

— Biden, in a letter to congressional Democrats, July 8

This is lacking context. The Trump tax cuts passed in 2017 largely expire in 2025 — corporate tax cuts were made permanent — meaning individual taxes will go up sharply if Congress and the next president do not act. Biden’s $5 trillion figure is simply an estimate for the cost of extending those tax cuts for another 10 years, along with increased costs for additional debt service and business-friendly tax proposals advanced by Republicans.

Trump has never explained how he would pay for these tax cuts. But Biden has also pledged to extend the tax cuts for people making less than $400,000. We’ve previously estimated the 10-year revenue loss for keeping the tax cuts for people making less than $400,000 appears to be between $1.5 trillion and $2.5 trillion over 10 years — which is an indication of how much of the tax cuts went to people who would not necessarily be considered “rich.” Biden has also not fully explained how he would pay for extending these tax cuts, though he’s proposed higher taxes on the wealthy.

Biden’s bigger stretch is that he suggests the tax cuts are designed to result in reductions in Social Security and Medicare. This is a line that Bill Clinton used effectively against Bob Dole in 1996 because House Republicans passed a bill that contained both tax cuts and Medicare cuts. Republicans haven’t made that mistake again. Trump has explicitly ruled out any changes in Social Security — even though it faces a cash crunch in a decade — and the Heritage Foundation’s 900-page 2025 Project makes no mention of the program. The 2025 project, a blueprint for a second Trump term, does recommend changes to Medicare that would emphasize private insurance plans, known as Medicare Advantage, over traditional Medicare — a traditional GOP approach to the old-age medical program.

“What do you think American families are going to think when they find out Trump and the MAGA Republicans want to hit them with a new $2,500 national sales tax on all the imported products they buy.”

— in the letter to congressional Democrats

Biden is referring to an estimate made by the left-leaning Center for American Progress Action on the impact of imposing a 10 percent tariff on all imports. (Trump has thrown out a figure of 10 percent, but his staff has said the actual number has not been determined.) Trump has also suggested he would impose a 60 percent tariff on all Chinese goods.

While Trump frequently claims tariffs are paid by countries, that’s wrong; the cost of the tariffs generally are passed onto consumers, so it is a form of tax. For lower-income Americans, the impact of higher prices on imported goods might wipe out lower income taxes from extending the 2017 tax cut. Many analysts also believe that the proposals would increase inflation.

The Center for American Progress analysis, which looks at the impact on households in the 40th to 60th percentile of the income distribution, concludes that food costs by 2026 would rise $100 in a year, car and auto parts would rise $280, clothing would rise $160 and electronics would climb $260. More broadly, companies would also have to pay higher prices for things like agricultural machinery and medical equipment, which ultimately would get passed on to consumers.

There is little debate that across-the-board tariffs would raise prices. A competing analysis, by economists Kimberly A. Clausing and Mary E. Lovely, came up with an overall increase of $1,700 in 2023.

“Well, Mark [Warner] is a good man. We’ve never had — he also tried to get the nomination too.”

interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News, July 5

This is wrong. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), who was organizing an effort to ask Biden to leave the presidential race, never challenged Biden for the Democratic nomination this year — and has never sought the presidency. In 2006, he briefly considered a run but later that year announced he had decided to not seek the nomination in 2008.

“One thing I’m proudest of is, remember when my economic plan was put forward? A lot of the mainstream economists said, ‘This is not gonna work.’ Guess what? We now have 16 Nobel laureates, 16 of ’em in economics, saying that ‘Biden’s next term would be, based on what he wants to do, [an] enormous success.’ Trump’s plan would cause a recession and significantly increase inflation.”

— in the ABC News interview

Biden overstates the opposition to his economic plan and what the letter says. Biden’s covid relief plan generally was considered a necessary stimulus; the debate was over whether it was too big, with some economists arguing that cash payments to Americans might add to inflationary pressures. Now it’s generally believed that some inflation can be attributed to the covid relief bill. Biden’s Build Back Better plan, meanwhile, was significantly scaled back during congressional negotiations.

As for the Nobel economic prizewinning economists, their letter is mostly an attack on Trump’s policies and do not say Biden’s next term would be “an enormous success.” The letter says that “Joe Biden’s economic agenda is vastly superior to Donald Trump’s …. An additional four years of Joe Biden’s presidency would allow him to continue supporting an inclusive U.S. economic recovery.”

As for Trump, the letter says “there is rightly a worry that Donald Trump will reignite this inflation” but it does not say Trump would cause a recession. Instead it says that “Donald Trump and the vagaries of his actions and policies threaten this stability and the U.S.’s standing in the world” and would have “a destabilizing effect on the U.S.’s domestic economy.”

“Look, I remember them telling me the same thing in 2020. I can’t win. The polls show I can’t win.”

— In the ABC News interview

A generous interpretation of this comment would be that Biden is referring to the 2020 primaries. Biden initially was a polling leader but then plummeted when votes began to be tallied and he lost the caucuses in Iowa and the New Hampshire primary. But after he won the South Carolina primary, rivals dropped out to prevent Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) from claiming the nomination.

If Biden is referring to the 2020 matchup with Trump, he’s wrong. Biden was ahead in the polls as soon as he clinched the Democratic nomination in April and he never fell behind. On July 5, four years before this interview, Biden was beating Trump by 9.6 percentage points, according to the polling average by FiveThirtyEight. He won the popular vote by seven percentage points and narrowly won the electoral college vote.

“By the way, in terms of my neurological capacity, I had a physical, a neurological physical as well, in February. It’s released. I released all my records. All of them. And I have a neurological test every day.”

interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” July 8

Biden is referring to a Feb. 28 letter released by his doctor, Kevin O’Conner, which stated: “An extremely detailed neurologic exam was again reassuring in that there were no findings which would be consistent with any cerebellar or other central neurological disorder, such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s or ascending lateral sclerosis, nor are there any signs of cervical myelopathy.”

The Washington Post has reported that O’Conner has never seen the need to order a cognitive test. In a letter released this week, O’Conner said the neurologic exams were conducted by Dr. Kevin Cannard, a neurology consultant to the White House since 2012.

Biden has not released all his medical records, choosing to instead provide letters from O’Conner, who unlike other White House physicians has never held a news conference about the president’s health. In 2008, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who at 71 then would have been the oldest person elected president, provided reporters with access to nearly 1,200 pages of medical records and made available three of McCain’s doctors.

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This post appeared first on The Washington Post
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