Fact-Checking the Kickoff to Biden’s Re-election Campaign

WASHINGTON — Since announcing his re-election bid on Tuesday, President Biden has repeated familiar boasts about his economic record and recounted folksy, personal anecdotes — and sometimes veered from the facts.

Here’s a fact-check of his remarks.

What Mr. Biden Said

“We’ve created more than 12 million new jobs, more jobs in two years than any president created in a four-year term.”
— A speech on Tuesday announcing his candidacy

This needs context. The economy added 12.1 million jobs‌ ‌from January 2021, the month‌ when‌ Mr. Biden took office, to this January. By raw numbers, that is a larger increase in new jobs over two years than the number added over the full four-year terms of other presidents since at least 1945.

But by percentages, Mr. Biden’s first two years still lag the job growth of several of his predecessors’ full terms. The economy added 8.5 percent more jobs under Mr. Biden, compared with 8.6 percent in President Barack Obama’s first term, 10.5 percent in President Bill Clinton’s first term, 11.2 percent in President Ronald Reagan’s second term and 12.8 percent in President Jimmy Carter’s four years in office.

A comparison of two years to four-year terms is not equivalent. Moreover, Mr. Biden’s first two years in office followed historic job losses wrought by the coronavirus pandemic in Donald J. Trump’s presidency. Perhaps most important, presidents are not singularly responsible for the state of the economy.

What Mr. Biden Said

“My grandpop, who I never met — he died in the same hospital I was born in two weeks before I was born. But my grandpop was from — as they say in Maryland — from Baltimore. And he worked for the American Oil Company.”

False. Mr. Biden’s paternal grandfather, Joseph H. Biden, worked for the American Oil Company and died in September 1941 at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, according to an obituary. Mr. Biden was born in November 1942 at St. Mary’s Hospital in Scranton, Penn., according to biographies.

The president may have been thinking of his maternal grandfather, Ambrose J. Finnegan, who worked in the advertising department of a local newspaper. Mr. Finnegan died at St. Mary’s Hospital, but in May 1957, when Mr. Biden was a teenager, not before he was born.

What Mr. Biden Said

“My first two years in office I’ve lowered the deficit by a record $1.7 trillion.”

This needs context. The federal deficit did decrease by $1.7 trillion, to $1.4 trillion in the 2022 fiscal year from $3.1 trillion in the 2020 fiscal year. But much of that decline can be attributed to the expiration of pandemic-era spending, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, which presses for lower levels of spending.

In February 2021, before the Biden administration enacted any legislation, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the deficit would have reached $1.1 trillion in the 2022 fiscal year — less than the actual figure.

Overall, large measures Mr. Biden signed into law added some $4 trillion to the deficit over the next decade. The Inflation Reduction Act, which was the only significant piece of legislation to reduce the deficit, trimmed it by $240 billion over the next 10 years. That was partly achieved through generating $222 billion through a minimum corporate tax of 15 percent as well as $101 billion in enhanced tax enforcement.

What Mr. Biden Said

“This is a debt that took over 200 years to accumulate. The last administration alone increased the debt by nearly 40 percent in four years.”

This needs context. When Mr. Trump took office on Jan. 20, 2017, the national debt stood at $19.9 trillion. When he left office on Jan. 20, 2021, it was $27.8 trillion — an increase of $7.9 trillion, or about 40 percent. But Mr. Trump did not unilaterally add to that amount. In fact, two major factors for that increase were mandatory spending levels set long before Mr. Trump became president and several bipartisan spending bills that were passed to address the pandemic.

From the fiscal years of 2018 to 2021, mandatory spending on programs such as Social Security and Medicare totaled $14.7 trillion alone. Discretionary spending totaled about $5.8 trillion.

The budget office estimated that Mr. Trump’s tax cuts — which passed in December 2017 with no Democratic support — added roughly another $1 trillion to the federal deficit from 2018 to 2021, even after factoring in economic growth spurred by the tax cuts.

Other drivers of the deficit include several sweeping measures that had bipartisan approval. The first coronavirus stimulus package, which received near unanimous support in Congress, added $2 trillion to the deficit over the next two fiscal years. Three additional spending measures contending with the pandemic and its economic ramifications added another $1.4 trillion.

What Mr. Biden Said

“I noticed the polling data I keep hearing about is that I’m between 42 and 46 percent favorable rating, etc. But everybody running for re-election in this time has been in the same position.”
A news conference on Wednesday

This is exaggerated. Mr. Biden is understating how his predecessors have fared in the polls.

About 40 percent of adults approved of Mr. Biden on his 792nd day in office, according to Gallup, which has conducted approval surveys of presidential job performance for nearly a century.

But of Mr. Biden’s 12 most recent predecessors who ran for re-election (President Gerald Ford did not), only one had a lower approval rating recorded by Gallup than him at roughly the same point in their first terms. Mr. Trump on his 779th day as president had an approval rate of 39 percent.

Three presidents had approval ratings in Mr. Biden’s stated range of 42 to 46 percent: Barack Obama at 45 percent, Bill Clinton at 44 percent and Ronald Reagan at 41 percent. The two presidents who lost their re-election bids, Jimmy Carter and George Bush, had approval ratings of 47 percent and 84 percent at the same point in their presidencies.

Mr. Biden’s average approval rating across various polls is currently 42.6 percent, according to the website FiveThirtyEight. By this metric, all but three of Mr. Biden’s predecessors — Mr. Trump (41.2 percent), Mr. Reagan (41 percent) and Mr. Carter (39.8 percent) — had higher average approval ratings at the same point in their presidency. One other, Mr. Obama, fell in Mr. Biden’s stated range with 44.9 percent.

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