Fact Checking Candidates’ Claims From Last Night’s Democratic Debate
Ten Democrats seeking the presidency vied for advantage Wednesday night in a debate just over two months before the primary voting begins.
How some of their claims from Atlanta stack up with the facts:
BERNIE SANDERS: “What the scientists are telling us is if we don’t get our act together within the next eight or nine years, we’re talking about cities all over the world, major cities going underwater, we’re talking about increased drought, we’re talking about increased extreme weather disturbances.”
THE FACTS: To be clear, the world’s big cities aren’t going to go underwater for good in as soon as eight to nine years. The Vermont senator’s reference to eight to nine years seems to refer to standard warnings of the expected temperature increases kicking in by roughly 2030, and the progressively worse weather extremes that will keep following.
JOE BIDEN: “The fact is the vast majority of Democrats do not support Medicare for All.”
THE FACTS: That statement is at odds with a Kaiser Family Foundation poll out this week. It found that 77% of Democrats support Medicare for All.
Even more — 88% — support a “public option” proposal such as the one Biden advocates. It would allow people to buy into a new government insurance plan modeled on Medicare, but it would not completely replace private insurance. Overall, 53% of Americans support Medicare for All, while 43% oppose it, according to the Kaiser poll.
It’s also true, though, that public support for Medicare for All declines when costs and other, similar details are introduced in the polling.
ELIZABETH WARREN: “Today in America — a new study came out — 20 years out, (of) whites who borrowed money, 94 percent have paid off their student loan debt, 5 percent of African Americans have paid it off.”
THE FACTS: That’s not right. Warren appears to be citing a September report from Brandeis University’s Institute on Assets and Social Policy. The study found that, 20 years after starting college, 49% of white borrowers had paid off their loans entirely (not 94% of them) compared with 26% of black borrowers (not 5%).
The study also found that the typical white student had paid off 94% of his or her debt, while the typical black borrower had only paid off 5%. Warren cited those statistics, but in the wrong way.
She’s correct that there are disparities by race when it comes to paying back student loans. Other studies have similarly found that black borrowers are at greater risk of default than their white counterparts.
TULSI GABBARD: “The most recent example of inexperience in national security and foreign policy came from your recent careless statement about how you as president would be willing to send our troops to Mexico to fight the cartels.”
PETE BUTTIGIEG: “That is outlandish, even by the standards of today’s politics. … I was talking about U.S.-Mexico cooperation. We’ve been doing security cooperation with Mexico for years, with law enforcement cooperation and a military relationship that could continue to be developed with training relationships, for example. Do you seriously think anybody on this stage is proposing invading Mexico?”
GABBARD: “You were asked directly whether you would send our troops to Mexico to fight cartels and your answer was yes. The fact checkers can check this out.”
THE FACTS: Neither offered a fully accurate account in their exchange.
Gabbard did not accuse Buttigieg of being open to “invading” Mexico, as he suggested she did. But she did not explain the context of his remarks at a Latino-issues forum in Los Angeles on Sunday.
At the forum, he heavily conditioned the idea of sending troops to help Mexico fight the drug and gang war, saying he would only do so if Mexico wanted the assistance as part of a security partnership.
“There is a scenario where we could have security cooperation as we do with countries around the world,” he said in Los Angeles. “I would only order American troops into conflict if there were no other choice, if American lives were on the line and if this were necessary in order for us to uphold our treaty obligations.
“But we could absolutely be in some kind of partnership role if and only if it is welcome by our partner south of the border.”
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