Fact-checking Biden on ’60 Minutes’

Fact-checking Biden on ’60 Minutes’

Interviews with the 2020 presidential candidates on “60 Minutes” made headlines after President Donald Trump pre-emptively released his full 38-minute interview on Facebook Thursday. A shorter, edited version of Trump’s interview with Lesley Stahl aired on CBS Sunday evening alongside interviews with Vice President Mike Pence, former Vice President Joe Biden and his running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris.

Trump’s interview contained his characteristic barrage of dishonesty. However, it’s worth noting that CNN fact-checked the extended version of Trump’s interview but was only able to check the version of Biden’s interview that CBS aired.

In the spirit of holding both candidates accountable, here are some of the misstatements Biden made in his conversation with Norah O’Donnell of “60 Minutes.”

Corporate tax plan

When asked by O’Donnell about some of the institutional changes he’s called for, Biden mentioned his tax plan, which proposes to use revenue from increasing taxes on corporations and enforcing the corporate tax rate to fund his initiatives, such as making college tuition-free for families with incomes below $125,000.

Currently the corporate tax rate is 21%, though many businesses pay a lower rate thanks to deductions and loopholes. Biden’s plan would raise it to 28% and require corporations with pre-tax profits of $100 million or more to at least pay 15%.

“If we just made every corporation pay minimum 15% tax,” Biden said. “That raises over $400 billion. I can send every single qualified person to a four-year college in their state for $150 billion.”

Facts First: At least two separate models estimate the corporate minimum tax would raise about half of what Biden claimed.

The Penn Wharton Budget Model shows the corporate minimum tax would represent a $227 billion increase in revenue from the baseline based on current law. And according to the Tax Foundation’s analysis, the 15% minimum tax on a corporation’s income would generate $202.7 billion between 2021-2030.

The CBS broadcast itself noted that the non-partisan Tax Policy Center and others had questioned whether Biden’s corporate minimum tax would raise as much money as Biden estimates. In a voice-over fact check, O’Donnell added, “After our interview, Mr. Biden’s staff told us he misspoke and that the cost of free public college could be twice as much as he said.”

Billionaires and the coronavirus

According to Biden, American billionaires are “making $700 billion” during the coronavirus crisis.

Facts First: There is a basis for Biden’s claim, but it’s outdated. One recent study estimates the wealthiest Americans have gained over $800 billion during the pandemic.

In July, Americans for Tax Fairness, a coalition of labor groups and organizations advocating for progressive tax reform, reported that billionaires’ collective pandemic wealth gains topped $700 billion, based on their analysis of Forbes data. A September report from the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive think tank, showed that the combined assets of the 643 wealthiest Americans increased $845 billion between March 18 and September 15. Both organizations have been tracking the change in the net worth of America’s billionaires since March using the latest Forbes data.

This is not the first time the top 1% has benefited disproportionately while many Americans are suffering record losses.

Business Insider reported that in the wake of the housing crisis, “the incomes of the bottom 99% grew by only 0.4%, but the income of the top 1% grew by a staggering 31.4%” from 2009 to 2012.

Trade deficit with China under Obama vs. Trump

Biden claimed that the US trade deficit with China is larger under the Trump administration than it was under the Obama administration, echoing comments he made during the final presidential debate.

“We have a trade deficit that’s larger with China than when we were there,” he told O’Donnell.

Facts First: This is false. As of 2019, the US trade deficit with China is lower than it was at the end of 2016.

The goods and services trade deficit with China grew during the first two years of Trump’s presidency, but then fell to $308 billion in 2019 — the lowest it’s been since 2013, according to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

It was $310 billion at the end of 2016, just before Trump was elected.

Defunding the police

Biden said he “never, ever supported defunding police.”

Facts First: This needs context. It’s true that Biden has explicitly stated his opposition to abolishing or defunding the police several times. He has also proposed an investment in community policing initiatives if elected. However, the Trump campaign has previously taken comments Biden made over the summer out of context to claim he supports defunding the police.

In June, Biden said it “makes sense” for some local communities to reduce police funding and in July, he agreed with progressive activist Ady Barkan that some funds could be redirected but didn’t provide details. Both times these remarks were accompanied by Biden reiterating his proposals and clarifying that he doesn’t intend to defund all the police.

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