Fact check: Night 2 of the Democratic primary debate - The Boston Globe


THE FACTS: Not really. The former vice president minimizes a major climate deal from 22 years ago. In 1997, nations across the world met in Japan and hammered out the Kyoto Protocol to limit climate change in a treaty that involved more than 190 countries at different points in time. And that treaty itself stemmed from the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Biden is referring to an agreement that came out of a 2015 meeting in Paris that was the 21st climate change convention meeting.

However, the Kyoto Protocol only required specific greenhouse gas emission cuts of developed nations, far less than half the countries in the world. The Paris agreement, where several world leaders pushed hard including France's president, has every country agreeing to do something. But each country proposed their own goals.

Biden, on President Donald Trump's treatment of migrant children at the border: ''The idea that he's in court with his Justice Department saying, children in cages do not need a bed, do not need a blanket, do not need a toothbrush - that is outrageous.''

THE FACTS: The former vice president here taps into a misleading and common insinuation by Democrats about Trump placing ''children in cages.''

The cages are actually chain-link fences and the Obama-Biden administration used them, too.

Children and adults are held behind them, inside holding Border Patrol facilities, under the Trump administration as well.

Obama's administration detained large numbers of unaccompanied children inside chain link fences in 2014. Images that circulated online of children in cages during the height of Trump's family separations controversy were actually from 2014 when Obama was in office.

Children are placed in such areas by age and sex for safety reasons and are supposed to be held for no longer than 72 hours by the Border Patrol. But as the number of migrants continues to grow under the Trump administration, the system is clogged at every end, so Health and Human Services, which manages the care of children in custody, can't come get the children in time. Officials say they are increasingly holding children for 5 days or longer.

Health and Human Services facilities are better equipped to manage the care of children, but, facing budget concerns, officials cut activities like soccer, and English classes and legal aid for children in their care.

Biden: "I got Mitch McConnell to raise taxes $600 billion by raising the top rate."

THE FACTS: This is misleading. Biden is referring to the deal he struck with McConnell to end a partisan budget showdown in the early hours of New Year's Day in 2013. The agreement did allow the top individual income tax rate to rise, increasing revenue by about $600 billion. But it also preserved and made permanent most of the Bush tax cuts and added trillions of dollars to the national debt.

Kamala Harris, senator from California: ''Vice President Biden, do you agree today that you were wrong to oppose busing in America, then?''

Biden: ''I did not oppose busing in America. What I opposed is busing ordered by the Department of Education. That's what I opposed.''

THE FACTS: That's hairsplitting.

Biden is claiming that he only opposed the US Education Department's push for busing to desegregate schools because he didn't want federal mandates forced on local school boards. But in the early and mid-1970s, those were the fault lines in almost every US community, from New Orleans to Boston, where there was stiff opposition to busing. If you were a politician opposing federally enforced busing, you were enabling any local school board or city government that was fighting against it.

As a senator in the late 1970s, Biden supported several measures, including one signed by President Jimmy Carter, that restricted the federal government's role in forced busing.

Bernie Sanders, senator from Vermont: ''83 percent of your tax benefits go to the top 1 percent.''

THE FACTS: That statistic is not close to true now. The Vermont senator is referring to 2027, not the present day. He didn't include that critical context in his statement.

His figures come from an analysis by the Tax Policy Center . That analysis found that in 2027 the top 1 percent of earners would get 83 percent of the savings from the tax overhaul signed into law by President Donald Trump. Why is that? Simple: Most of the tax cuts for individuals are set to expire after 2025, so the benefits for everyone else simply go away. The 2017 tax overhaul does disproportionately favor the wealthy and corporations, but just 20.5 percent of the benefits went to the top 1 percent last year.

Sanders: Under Medicare for All, ''the vast majority of the people in this country will be paying significantly less for health care than they are now.''

THE FACTS: Probably true, but that's only part of the equation for a family. Sanders' plan for a government-run health care system to replace private insurance calls for no premiums, and no copays and deductibles. But taxes would have to go up significantly as the government takes on trillions of dollars in health care costs now covered by employers and individuals. Independent studies estimate the government would be spending an additional $28 trillion to $36 trillion over 10 years, although Medicare for All supporters say that's overstating it.

How those tax increases would be divvied up remains to be seen, as Sanders has not released a blueprint for how to finance his plan.

Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana: Tariffs are taxes. And Americans are going to pay on average $800 more a year, because of these tariffs."

THE FACTS: Mostly true. He is referring to tariffs imposed by President Donald Trump on imports from China. Consumers are actually paying more than $800 a year. Buttigieg's number appears drawn from a Federal Reserve Bank of New York report that estimated the average American household will pay an extra $831 per year as a result of the additional tariffs that Trump imposed on China this year. That is on top of the $414 households are paying from the tariffs that Trump imposed on Chinese imports in 2018. The Trump administration also imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from around the world last year, hitting businesses and consumers with other higher costs.

Michael Bennet, senator from Colorado: "Forty years of no economic growth for 90 percent of the American people."

THE FACTS: False. From 1979 to 2015, average income increased for every quintile of American households, according to the Congressional Budget Office. For the bottom 20 percent and for the middle three quintiles, the average income rose 32 percent. For the top 20 percent, the increase was 101 percent.

Bennet: "Bernie mentioned the taxes that we would have to pay. Because of those taxes, Vermont rejected Medicare for all."

THE FACTS: Mostly true. Vermont enacted a law in 2011 to establish something close to a single-payer health care system. The plan was not rejected by voters or the legislature, but it was abandoned in 2014 by then-Gov. Peter Shumlin, a Democrat. He blamed the "enormous" new taxes the plan would have required, including an 11.5 percent payroll tax on all Vermont businesses and a sliding-scale income tax of up to 9.5 percent. In all, he said, the plan would require about $2.5 billion in taxes annually, in a state that raises only about $2.7 billion in taxes annually. "These are simply not tax rates that I can responsibly support or urge the Legislature to pass," Shumlin said at the time.

Andrew Yang, attorney and entrepreneur: "We automated away 4 million manufacturing jobs due to automation."

THE FACTS: This is disputed. Yang's figure likely comes from a 2015 study from Ball State University. It estimated that the United States lost 5.6 million manufacturing jobs from 2000 to 2010, about 4.9 million of which were due to increases in productivity.

Other research, however, shows other factors were in play. The left-leaning Economic Policy Institute has contended that trade is the main culprit. A 2018 Bureau of Labor Statistics brief cited competition with China, a skills mismatch between employers and workers, and a decline in cross-regional migration.

Material from the New York Times was used in this report.