Fact-checking President Biden's town hall in Baltimore

President Joe Biden made a number of false or misleading claims at a town hall event in Baltimore on Thursday as he attempted to sell his party's spending legislation.

During the CNN event, Biden minimized concerns about inflation and supply crunches while inflating his administration's role in economic recovery.

Here are some of his inaccurate claims.

"[Manchin] says he doesn’t want to further burden Medicare so that — because it will run out of its ability to maintain itself in X number of years. There’s ways to fix that, but he’s not interested in that part either."

Biden mischaracterized Sen. Joe Manchin’s position on Medicare as he criticized the centrist Democrat’s opposition to elements of a massive spending bill Democrats are currently negotiating on Capitol Hill.

Manchin has said he will not support a proposal to expand Medicare coverage to dental, vision, and hearing — an expansion championed by progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders.

But Manchin has said repeatedly that he wants the focus, when it comes to Medicare, to stay on stabilizing the program before it runs out of money in 2026.

That is a policy position explicitly stated on his website and one he has repeated to reporters asking about his negotiating position in recent weeks.

Biden falsely claimed Manchin is “not interested” in shoring up Medicare, despite the West Virginia lawmaker saying the opposite.

“Gas prices relate to a foreign policy initiative that is about something that goes beyond the cost of gas. And we’re about $3.30 a gallon most places now, when it’s up from — when it was down in the single digits. I mean — single di- — a dollar-plus. And — and that’s because of the supply being withheld by OPEC.”

Biden’s efforts to blame OPEC are not entirely accurate. There are a number of reasons why prices at the pump continue to climb, and several have nothing to do with the oil cartel.

Demand for gas has soared in recent months as more people hit the road for travel and work that they avoided for more than a year due to coronavirus.

The supply of gas simply hasn’t kept pace with that demand, and issues ranging from hurricanes to a cyberattack on a major U.S. pipeline this summer have hampered the distribution of fuel for weeks at a time.

It is true that OPEC has not increased production to meet rising global demand, which has driven up the price of oil.

But the U.S. has not ramped up domestic production either, and some experts blame Biden’s policies for discouraging more drilling.

Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy, told USA Today this month that producers are wary of investing significantly in fossil fuel production because “[t]he (Biden) administration has made it plain and simple that they are going to be pushing a very, very accelerated time schedule to get off fossil fuels.”

“We’ve created more jobs in the first eight months of my administration than any president in American history — total number of jobs created."

This claim is misleading. In January 2021, when Biden took office, the unemployment rate sat at 6.3%. The week he took office, more than 835,000 people filed for jobless benefits.

The economy began bouncing back in the spring at a robust pace as businesses reopened with fewer restrictions. By June, weekly jobless claims had fallen to less than half of what they were in January.

The economy lost 10 million jobs due to public health lockdowns that in some places stretched into this year. While as of last month, the economy had regained 4.5 million jobs under Biden, there are still far fewer than before the pandemic.

Biden has presided over a massive return to work that has seen millions of people employed again since January, but he started from a historic low point.

The unemployment rate in September was 4.8%, which is still significantly higher than it was in September 2019, when former President Donald Trump oversaw a 3.5% unemployment rate.

On whether the U.S. would defend Taiwan in the event China attacked: “Yes, we have a commitment to do that.”

Biden raised eyebrows when he answered unambiguously that the U.S. would come to Taiwan’s defense if it came under attack from China, citing a commitment to do so.

That is not what U.S. policy toward Taiwan currently dictates. Guided by the Taiwan Relations Act, the U.S. has no defense commitment toward Taiwan, and the act’s language on what the U.S. would do in the event of a military conflict involving Taiwan is vague enough to allow room for nearly any course of action.

The White House has since cleaned up Biden’s remarks, saying there has been no change in the U.S. policy toward Taiwan.

On why he hasn’t visited the border: "I’ve been there before, and I haven’t — I mean, I know it well. I guess I should go down. But the — but the whole point of it is: I haven’t had a whole hell of a lot of time to get down."

Biden has faced pressure to visit the southern border as illegal migration hits multi-decade highs on his watch.

Fact-checkers from multiple media outlets could find no evidence that Biden has ever visited the border, however, and the White House provided little evidence to support the claim either.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday that Biden “did drive through the border” on the 2008 campaign trail, but offered no specifics on whether he actually stopped there.

Biden also misleadingly claimed he has had no time to visit the border since becoming president.

As of August, Biden had already spent 14 weekends in Wilmington, Delaware, and eight weekends at Camp David, the presidential retreat.

"Well, I think what’s fair is that — this present tax code, the highest tax rate is 35%, number one."

Biden was responding to a question from an audience member who wanted to know how much the wealthy would need to contribute in taxes to pay their fair share.

The president was seemingly arguing that the rich don’t owe enough under the current tax structure, although he misstated the actual top marginal rate.

For the highest earners, it is 37%, not 35%.

“When I first was elected, there were only 2 million people who had COVID shots in the United States of America — had the vaccine. Now we got 190 million because I went out and bought everything I could do — and buy in sight, and it worked.”

As he has in the past, Biden overstated the credit he’s owed for the number of people who have taken the vaccine.

At the end of Trump’s presidency, his administration had 800 million doses of the vaccine under contract with delivery expected through July of this year, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office.

That is enough doses to have covered all 190 million of the vaccinated people Biden claimed credit for immunizing.

In addition, only 2 million people had received COVID-19 vaccines by the time Biden took office because distribution had begun only weeks before Inauguration Day.

The first shots to be administered outside of clinical trials did not begin until mid-December.

Vaccines did not become widely and easily available to everyone until April, explaining the massive jump in vaccination levels between January and today.

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Tags: News, Vaccination, Tax, Joe Biden, Joe Manchin

Original Author: Sarah Westwood

Original Location: Fact-checking President Biden's town hall in Baltimore