WASHINGTON >> President Joe Biden related a faulty Democratic talking point about guns in his first State of the Union speech, made his plan on electric vehicles sound more advanced than it is and inflated the sweep of his infrastructure package. On several fronts, he presented ambitions as achievements.
A look at some of his claims tonight and a glance at the Republican response:
BIDEN: “Severe cases are down to a level not seen since July of last year.”
THE FACTS: Biden overstated the improvement, omitting a statistic that remains a worrisome marker of the toll from COVID-19.
While hospitalizations indeed are down from last summer, deaths remain high. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID tracker shows 289 deaths on July 1, 2021. This past Monday the CDC tracker reported 1,985 deaths.
BIDEN, asking Congress to pass measures he said would reduce gun violence: “Repeal the liability shield that makes gun manufacturers the only industry in America that can’t be sued, the only one.”
THE FACTS: That’s false. While gun manufacturers do have legal protections from being held liable for injuries caused by criminal misuse of their weapons thanks to the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, they are not exempt or immune from being sued.
The law lays out exceptions where manufacturers or dealers can be held liable for damages their weapons cause, such as defects or damages in the design of the gun, negligence, or breach of contract or warranty regarding the purchase of a gun.
Families of victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, sued gun maker Remington, alleging “wrongful marketing” of firearms, and last month agreed to a $73 million settlement.
BIDEN, promoting his $1 trillion infrastructure law: “We’re done talking about infrastructure weeks. We’re now talking about an infrastructure decade. … We’ll build a national network of 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations.”
THE FACTS: Not so fast.
The bipartisan legislation approved by Congress ended up providing just half of the $15 billion that Biden had envisioned to fulfill a campaign promise of 500,000 charging stations by 2030.
Biden’s Build Back Better proposal aimed to fill the gap by adding back billions to pay for charging stations. But Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., in December declared that bill dead in its present form due to cost.
Administration officials now say the infrastructure law will help “pave” the way for up to 500,000 charging outlets by 2030. That’s different than charging stations, which could have several outlets. They say private investments could help fill the gap. Currently there are over 100,000 EV outlets in the U.S.
The Transportation Department’s plan asks states to build a nationwide network of EV charging stations that would place new or upgraded ones every 50 miles along interstate highways. The $5 billion in federal money over five years relies on cooperation from sprawling rural communities in the U.S., which are less likely to own EVs due to their typically higher price.
States are expected to start construction as early as fall.
BIDEN, on Intel’s plans for new factories in central Ohio: “Up to eight state-of-the-art factories in one place, 10,000 new jobs.”
THE FACTS: His statement is premature. That many factories are not imminent and may or may not ever be built.
Earlier this year, Intel announced it would open two factories expected to employ 3,000 people. The other 7,000 positions the project is slated to create are temporary construction jobs. It is also planning a chip foundry business that makes chips designed by other firms. Construction is expected to start this year.
Intel has raised the possibility of constructing up to six more factories over the next decade, which could bring the total number of factory workers up to 10,000. But that is only a prospect, years away.
BIDEN: “The pandemic also disrupted the global supply chain … Look at cars last year. One third of all the inflation was because of automobile sales. There weren’t enough semiconductors to make all the cars that people wanted to buy. And guess what? Prices of automobiles went way up … And so we have a choice. One way to fight inflation is to drag down wages and make Americans poorer. I think I have a better idea to fight inflation. Lower your costs and not your wages. Folks, that means make more cars and semi conductors in America. More infrastructure and innovation in America. More goods moving faster and cheaper in America … Instead of relying on foreign supply chains let’s make it in America.”
THE FACTS: It’s dubious to suggest that more domestic manufacturing means less inflation.
Manufactured products made overseas, particularly in countries such as China or Mexico where wages are lower, are generally cheaper than U.S.-made goods.
Biden also places too much weight on supply chain disruptions from overseas as a factor in the worst inflation in four decades. Although those problems indeed have been a major factor in driving up costs, inflation is increasingly showing up in other areas, such as rents and restaurant meals, that reflect the rapid growth of the economy and wages in the past year and not a global supply bottleneck. Those trends are likely to keep pushing up prices even as supply chains recover.
BIDEN on the infrastructure bill: “The single biggest investment in history was a bipartisan effort.”
THE FACTS: No, it wasn’t that historic.
Biden’s infrastructure bill was big, adding $550 billion in fresh spending on roads, bridges, and broadband Internet over five years. But measured as a proportion of the U.S. economy, it is slightly below the 1.36% of the nation’s gross domestic product that was spent on infrastructure, on average, during the first four years of the New Deal, according to an analysis by the Brookings Institution. It is even further below the roughly 2% spent on infrastructure in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
IOWA GOV. KIM REYNOLDS, criticizing the Biden administration’s handling of immigration and boasting about Republican governors’ attention to the issue: “We’ve actually gone to the border — something that our president and vice president have yet to do since taking office.”
THE FACTS: Not true. Vice President Kamala Harris visited the border last year. Biden hasn’t gone yet.
Harris toured a Customs and Border Protection processing center in El Paso, Texas, and met migrant children there. She also stopped by an intake center on the border and held a discussion with local community organizations.
The half-day trip in June came after months of criticism from Republicans and some in her own party over her absence and that of Biden from the border at a time when immigration officers have logged record numbers of encounters with migrants attempting to cross into the U.S.