Fact Check on Biden’s Recent Economic Talking Points


As he seeks re-election, President Biden has been trying to sell voters on his approach to the economy and draw a contrast with his likely 2024 opponent, former President Donald J. Trump.

During the Biden administration, the economy grew 3.1 percent from the end of 2022 to the end of 2023. The inflation rate has fallen sharply since its peak in the summer of 2022 (although it fell less than economists expected in January ). And the increase in employment continues.

However, at recent public and campaign events, Biden has made some misleading statements about the economy, jobs and taxes.

Here’s a fact check.


“Now we have a thousand billionaires in the United States. Do you know what your average tax rate is – federal tax? 8.2 percent.”
– during a campaign event in late January

This is misleading. Biden was referring to a White House study that sought to use a “more comprehensive measure of income” than the way income is currently assessed. In other words, he offered a hypothesis about what the rate would be if the law were different.

More specifically, the study, published in 2021, included profits made on unsold shares. Under the law, those gains are not subject to taxes until the asset is sold. The report estimated that the average federal income tax rate paid by the 400 richest families in the United States is 8.2 percent.

While there is debate about whether the law should take that type of income into account, presenting that 8.2 figure without explanation leaves room for erroneous impressions, said Garrett Watson, senior policy analyst at the right-wing Tax Foundation.

For example, the public may then mistakenly compare that 8.2 percent to other average federal income tax rates. To make a more accurate comparison with, say, the tax rate of someone with a middle income, the same exercise would need to be done to also incorporate their unrealized gains, such as the increase in value in investment accounts or homes, Watson said. .

(The Tax Foundation has also argued that the White House analysis should also take into account corporate income taxes, since many company founders may retain stock in their companies, but their companies pay taxes on their profits each year ).

Under the law, the top 1 percent of earners in the United States are estimated to pay an average federal tax rate of more than 20 percent, according to an analysis by the Treasury Department in November. An IRS report that specifically looked at the top 400 individual income tax returns found that those taxpayers paid an average income tax rate of about 23 percent in 2014.

The White House defended Biden’s use of the 8.2 percent figure.

“Most Americans agree that when a billionaire’s wealth increases by millions of dollars in a year, that is income,” White House spokesman Michael Kikukawa said in a statement. “And economists across the political spectrum, including the American Enterprise Institute and the nonpartisan Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, agree that a person’s income equals the change in their net worth. By quantifying the income the wealthiest Americans receive from unrealized capital gains, the CEA-OMB analysis applies this standard definition of effective tax rates, increasing our understanding of how low billionaires’ tax rates are.”


“I signed the CHIPS and Science Act, which attracted $640 billion in investment from private companies that are building factories and creating jobs back in America.”
– during an event this month

FAKE. Estimates of private investments spurred by the CHIPS and Science Act, which gave billions to the chip industry, amount to $640 billion. By some measures, it’s a fraction of that: an estimate from the Semiconductor Industry Association puts the figure at about $220 billion.

Biden signed the legislation in August 2022, which included about $52 billion in subsidies and tax credits for semiconductor (chip used in electronics) manufacturers to open or expand in the United States. He also invested heavily in research on artificial intelligence, quantum computing and other technologies.

Biden was referring to a White House estimate of private investments made in various industries over the course of his presidency, not only in response to the CHIPS legislation but also as a result of the Inflation Reduction Act and the bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure.

That estimate tabulated that there had been $649 billion worth of private investments in multiple 21st century industries, including clean energy and electric vehicles. The White House says it arrived at the figure by calculating projects announced in public sources.


“And let’s make something clear. Trump talks about putting checks in pockets. But in 2021, as soon as I took office, I was the person who sent each of you those $1,400 checks.”
– during a campaign event in late January

This needs context. Both Biden and Trump signed legislation providing stimulus payments to Americans as the United States battled the coronavirus.

In March 2020, Trump signed a $2 trillion measure known as the CARES Act, which provided payments of $1,200 per person and an additional $500 per child. Months later, in December 2020, Trump signed a stimulus package that included $600 checks and an additional $600 per child. (He had pushed for the second round of payments to be increased to $2,000.)

Two months after taking office, in March 2021, Biden signed a $1.9 trillion economic relief package, called the American Rescue Plan Act, which provided payments of $1,400 per person and another $1,400 per child. .


“The only president besides Donald Trump to lose jobs during an administration was Herbert Hoover.”
– during a campaign event in late January

This needs context. Biden is right that Trump ended his term with a poor job record (the only president to do so after World War II), but he omits that this occurred because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Looking at January 2017, when Trump took office, there were 145.6 million jobs, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. When he left in January 2021, there were 142.9 million jobs. This represents a decrease of 2.7 million jobs, or 1.9 percent.

But before the pandemic hit, Trump had a positive work record. Jobs had increased from 145.6 million jobs in January 2017 to 152 million jobs in January 2020, an increase of 6.4 million jobs, or 4.4 percent.

About half of the nearly 22 million jobs lost in early 2020 were recovered before Trump left office.

The same Bureau of Labor Statistics data only goes back to 1939, several years after Hoover left the White House in 1933. But Hoover was president at the beginning of the Great Depression, and when he left office, nearly a quarter of the workforce was unemployed.

Curious about the accuracy of a claim? Email factcheck@nytimes.com.

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