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Aug. 27, 2020, 2:07 p.m. EDT

Fact checks undercut Pence and other convention speakers on economy, jobs, veterans, health care and policing

A look at how some of the rhetoric from the convention’s third night compares with the facts

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By Associated Press

Associated Press
President Donald Trump joins Vice President Mike Pence on stage after Pence spoke on the third night of the Republican National Convention at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine in Baltimore.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Mike Pence and fellow Republicans pressed a distorted case Wednesday that President Donald Trump inherited a moribund economy from President Barack Obama and supercharged it. That’s not what happened.

Speakers at the Republican National Convention also hailed Trump for protecting the health insurance of people with preexisting illness, flipping reality on its head as his administration tries to overturn the law that guarantees those protections.

A look at how some of the rhetoric from the convention’s third night compares with the facts:

On the economy

Mike Pence: “Four years ago we inherited ... an economy struggling to break out of the slowest recovery since the Great Depression. ... In our first three years we built the greatest economy in the world.”

The facts: That’s a highly misleading portrait. Obama started the longest expansion in U.S. history and prevailed over most of it.

The expansion was indeed slow, but growth under Trump has basically been the same: 2.3% in the final four years of Obama compared with 2.5% in the first three years of Trump. Trump took office with unemployment at a low 4.7%, steady job growth and a falling federal budget deficit.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden does not propose defunding the police, and has said so explicitly, but rather giving them more money, conditioned on improvements in policing practices.

And Trump’s record on economic growth is about to get crushed by the current recession brought on by the pandemic, a public health crisis that the White House said early on would not hurt the economy.

Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota: “In just four years, President Trump has lifted people of all races and backgrounds out of poverty. He shrunk government and put money back into the pockets of hardworking, ordinary Americans.”

The facts: Only this is true: Many Americans did get money back in the form of tax cuts and in direct government payments after the economy plunged into a recession this year as the coronavirus pandemic set in.

Everything else is wrong. The government is still huge, not shrinking, as Noem said. Federal spending was 20.6% of gross domestic product in 2016, Obama’s last year, according to the White House Office of Management and Budget. That percentage has gone up and down but was 20.8% in 2019. It probably surged this year due to the fastest and sharpest downturn in modern U.S. history.

The pandemic-induced recession has also flung millions of Americans back into poverty — as expanded government aid has expired. The unemployment rate is 10.2%, versus 4.7% when Trump took office. There are 14.8 million Americans collecting jobless aid, while just 2 million were doing so when Trump became president.

See: Weekly U.S. initial jobless claims fall to 1 million and have been at or above the million mark every week but one since the advent of the pandemic

On policing

Pence: “When asked whether he’d support cutting funding to law enforcement, Joe Biden replied, ‘Yes, absolutely.’ Under President Trump, we will always stand with those who stand on the thin blue line, and we’re not going to defund the police.”

The facts: That’s misleading, reliant upon a selective use of Biden’s words on the subject. Biden does not propose defunding the police, and has said so explicitly, but rather giving them more money, conditioned on improvements in policing practices. Biden’s actual position on this has been ignored at the GOP convention.

Pence is referring to an excerpted video clip of Biden’s conversation with the liberal activist Ady Barkan . In the fuller conversation, Biden declined to support defunding police, his consistent stance.

Don’t miss: Fact checking the Republican claim that Biden plans to defund the police, and Biden’s claim that Trump put brake on coronavirus tests

Barkan raised the issue of police reform and asked whether Biden would funnel money into social services, mental health counseling and affordable housing to help reduce civilian interactions with police. Biden responded that he is calling for more money for mental health providers but “that’s not the same as getting rid of or defunding all the police” and that more money for community policing must be provided, too.

Barkan asks: “So we agree that we can redirect some of the funding?” Biden then answers, “Absolutely, yes.”

Biden then gave the caveat that he meant “not just redirect” federal money potentially but “condition” it on police improvements. “If they don’t eliminate chokeholds, they don’t get [federal] grants, if they don’t do the following, they don’t get any [federal] help,” Biden replied, noting federal aid is only a supplement to departments financed mainly by localities and states.

On health care

Kayleigh McEnany, White House press secretary: “I can tell you that this president stands by Americans with pre-existing conditions.”

The facts: No, people with pre-existing medical problems have health-insurance protections because of Obama’s signature health-care law, which Trump is trying to dismantle.

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