AP FACT CHECK: Trump’s falsehoods on virus, taxes and Bidens


Washington, October 19

Back fully campaigning after COVID-19 sidelined him, President Donald Trump returned to familiar form, spreading a litany of falsehoods.

Over the weekend, he asserted yet again the virus was “rounding the corner” when it isn’t, misrepresented Democratic rival Joe Biden’s tax proposals and resurrected unfounded claims about Biden and the business dealings of his son, Hunter Biden, in Ukraine.

The statements came after Trump and Biden bid for a late advantage this past week in competing forums that replaced a cancelled presidential debate. The two are to meet Thursday in the last scheduled debate before the November 3 election.

Meantime, the Senate vetted Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination for the Supreme Court with committee hearings that often seemed to put the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, on trial. Biden went beyond the facts in suggesting that Barrett would undoubtedly strike down the law.

A look:

TAXES and ECONOMY

TRUMP, in all capital letters: “Sleepy Joe Biden is proposing the biggest tax hike in our country’s history!” — tweet Saturday.

THE FACTS: It wouldn’t be the biggest.

Biden’s proposal would raise as much as USD 3.7 trillion in new revenue over a decade, mostly by increasing business taxes and taxes on households with incomes over USD 400,000 a year.

That revenue would come to about 1.3% to 1.4% of the overall economy, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

The Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan tax policy group, evaluated the Biden tax plan against other historical tax increases and found that Biden’s proposal would rank fifth largest among 21 major tax bills passed since 1940, based on the share of the U.S. economy.

Biden’s would-be plan is surpassed by the Revenue Act of 1941, the Revenue Act of 1942, the Revenue Act of 1951, and the Revenue and Expenditure Control Act of 1968, which raised annual federal revenue between 1.5% and 5% of GDP, according to the study.

TRUMP: “We had the greatest economy in the history of our country.” — NBC town hall in Miami on Thursday.

THE FACTS: No, the numbers show it wasn’t the greatest in US history.

Did the US have the most jobs on record before the pandemic? Sure, the population had grown. The 3.5% unemployment rate before the recession was at a half-century low, but the percentage of people working or searching for jobs was still below a 2000 peak.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Romer looked at Trump’s economic growth record this month. Growth under Trump averaged 2.48% annually before the pandemic, only slightly better than the 2.41% gains achieved during Barack Obama’s second term. By contrast, the economic expansion that began in 1982 during Ronald Reagan’s presidency averaged 4.2% a year.

So Trump is wrong.

HUNTER BIDEN

TRUMP on Joe Biden and Ukraine: “I never had a quid pro quo. How about this quid pro quo? ‘We’re not going to give you the billion dollars unless you get rid of the prosecutor … Stop investigating my son.’ And then he goes, boom, the prosecutor was fired and they got the billion dollars.” — rally Saturday in Muskegon, Michigan.

THE FACTS: Trump is repeating a false claim alleging that Biden as vice president pressed to have a prosecutor fired while the prosecutor was investigating Burisma, the energy company in Ukraine where Biden’s son Hunter sat on the board of directors. In fact, by the time Biden came out against the prosecutor, the investigation into the company was dormant.

Biden, among other international officials, was pressing for a more aggressive investigation of corruption in Ukraine, not a softer one.

Trump’s team often cites a video of Joe Biden from 2018. Speaking on a public panel, Biden recounted threatening to withhold a loan guarantee from Ukraine’s government unless it fired the prosecutor, who was widely considered ineffective if not corrupt himself.

What Trump doesn’t say is that in February 2016, a few months after Biden threatened to hold back a $1 billion loan guarantee, the International Monetary Fund threatened to delay $40 billion in aid unless Ukraine took action to fight corruption.

An investigation into Burisma’s owner for money laundering, tax evasion and other alleged misdeeds began in 2012 and pertained to the years before Hunter Biden joined the board. — AP



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