Monday, September 26, 2016

The debate moderator won’t fact check Trump. Use this guide to do it yourself.

The Commission on Presidential Debates, which organized Monday night’s debate, has said it’s inappropriate for moderators to fact check the candidates.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea to get the moderator into essentially serving as the Encyclopedia Britannica,” Janet Brown, executive director of the commission told CNN.

This would appear to be an abdication of the basic responsibility of journalism, which is to inform the public.

It also presents a particular challenge for a debate featuring Donald Trump. The New York Times reports that Trump has “unleashed a blizzard of falsehoods, exaggerations and outright lies in the general election, peppering his speeches, interviews and Twitter posts with untruths so frequent that they can seem flighty or random — even compulsive.”

If the debate commission won’t let Lester Holt do his job, we’ll do it for him.

You can use this guide to fact check Trump during the debate.

Trump: “If you look at their numbers, you look at what’s going on statistically. 40 percent in poverty. 58 percent of African-American youth can’t get jobs.”

These poverty numbers are not accurate. According to the US Census Bureau, 24.1 percent of the African American population fell below the poverty line in 2015 — the highest out of any racial group, but nowhere near Trump’s inflated numbers.

The latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics puts unemployment among African American youth at 26.1 percent (Trump has repeated the higher percentage throughout the summer; in June Politifact rated it “mostly false” and explained how Trump had likely inflated the statistics to make an exaggerate talking point).

Trump: “I am under audit. A routine audit. And when the audit is complete, I will release my [tax] returns.”

In February, Trump said he would “at some point, probably” make his tax returns public. But later, he claimed that he could not do so because his returns since 2009 are under IRS audit (at one point suggesting that he is regularly audited because he is a Christian).

The IRS has made it clear that he is still free to release his returns and would not hold it against him, but Trump has not even been willing to release returns from 2008 and before — returns that are not under audit. The last time Trump did reveal his tax filing, in a report by gaming regulators, the documents showed he did not pay a dollar in federal income tax.

In May, Trump was asked to reveal just his tax rate, but told a reporter it was “none of your business.” Trump added that he did not believe voters have a right to see his returns, but that “When the audit ends, I’m going to present them. That should be before the election. I hope it’s before the election.”

In recent weeks, Trump’s son Donald Jr. completely contradicted Trump’s stated reasoning, revealing perhaps the real reason the campaign is remaining steadfastly opaque: “[Trump Sr. has] got a 12,000-page tax return that would create … financial auditors out of every person in the country asking questions that would detract from [the campaign’s] main message.”

Trump: “The [Trump] Foundation is really rare. It gives money to vets. It’s really been doing a good job”

Though Trump has smeared the Clinton foundation as “the most corrupt enterprise in political history” and demanded that it “be shut down immediately,” he has said very little about his own foundation.

Only after months and media scrutiny about his January claims that he had raised $6 million for veterans at a campaign stunt did he finally keep his pledge to kick in $1 million of his own. He berated a reporter for asking about it at the time, “You know, you’re a nasty guy. You’re really a nasty guy. I gave out millions of dollars that I had no obligation to do.”

Surrogates have boasted since that Trump has given “millions and millions” to charitable causes and that the Trump foundation “is his money.” but an extensive examination by the Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold found that Trump has not has not given any of his own money to the tax-exempt foundation since 2008 — and found less than $10,000 in personal charitable giving over seven years. He also found that even Trump’s pledges of personal charitable donations were often paid out by the foundation or his television production company.

More problematic — and seemingly illegal — was the fact that Trump used the foundation’s money to support a political campaign committee (for which the foundation paid a $2,500 penalty), to settle business debts, and to purchase paintings of himself and sports memorabilia.

Asked last week about these allegations of improper “self-dealing,” Trump offered only an incoherent word salad, stating that ““we put that to sleep just by putting out the last report.” Earlier this month, New York’s attorney general said he is investigating the Trump Foundationover possible improprieties.

Trump: Hillary wants to “bring in 620,000 new refugees from Syria and that region over a short period of time.”

Clinton has called for 65,000 Syrian refugees to be resettled in the U.S., an increase from the 10,000 resettled under the Obama administration. While Clinton proposed this increase once, Trump is effectively adding the 55,000 additional refugees Clinton proposed to resettle and adding it to the 100,000 refugees from all over the world proposed by the Obama administration for FY 2017.

“Trump then multiplies 155,000 times four years to reach 620,000 refugees,” the Washington Post reported. “Clinton has never proposed such a ‘plan,’ so this is an invented figure. Clinton only has proposed an increase of 55,000 refugees for one year.”

Trump: “Illegal immigration costs our country more than $113 billion a year”

From ThinkProgress’ Esther Lee in August:

According to Trump, undocumented immigrants are a billion-dollar burden on the economy, costing $113 billion in local, state, and federal taxes. The same statistic can be found at the Federation for American Immigration Reform website, an anti-immigrant organization founded by white nationalist John Tanton.
In reality, undocumented immigrants are a net positive to the economy, contributing $11.64 billion into local and state taxes, according to a 2016 Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy report. What’s more, undocumented immigrants also contributed $35.1 billion to the Medicare Trust Fund between 2000 and 2011, according to a 2015 Journal of General Internal Medicine study. Even Alex Nowrasteh, the immigration policy expert at the Libertarian think tank CATO Institute, called Trump’s claim “nonsense.”

Trump: “Crime is rising”

Trump has tended to overstate crime numbers — he spent most of his Republican National Committee speech using cherry-picked data to tell an exaggerated story about crime in America. The facts don’t back him up.

The latest FBI report — released just today — do show a small increase of 3.9 percent in violent crime in 2015 as compared to the previous year. However, that number is still a bit lower than the 2011 crime level, and much lower — 16.5 percent — than the 2006 violent crime level.

Homicide and manslaughter rates are also on an overall downward trend, according to the FBI.

CREDIT: The Federal Bureau of Investigations

There has been an uptick in crime rates in certain cities, which has been eagerly seized upon by the press — and Trump — to make dire pronouncements. Trump is right that the homicide rate increased in the nation’s 50 largest cities in 2015, but violent crime has been on the decline for decades.

As detailed by a Congressional Research Service report debunking the hyperbolic headlines, statistically speaking, it’s not good practice to look at a one-year uptick.

From the report:

In general, crime data should be viewed over longer time periods in order to determine trends. For example, even though violent crime and homicide rates have been on a downward trend since the early 1990s, there were years where one or both increased, but those year-to-year increases did not portend a break in the overall trend.

There’s always noise in the data, and this year’s uptick does not definitively indicate a reversal of a two-decade long downward trend. And, just as the overall crime and homicide rate has decreased nationwide, it has also decreased in both large and moderate sized cities across America.

CREDIT: Congressional Research Service
CREDIT: the congressional research service

Trump: “Hillary wants to abolish — essentially abolish the Second Amendment.”

Hillary Clinton has never endorsed the repeal of the Second Amendment. She has advocated for stronger background checks prior to gun purchases and a federal prohibition on “straw purchases” to keep guns out of the hands of terrorists, domestic abusers, other violent criminals, and the severely mentally ill. She has also opposed special immunity for the gun industry.

Clinton disagreed with a 2008 Supreme Court ruling that found for the first time that the right to bear arms was an individual right, rather than a class right, but has also made clear that she does not want to see that case overturned.

Trump, who in the past backed new gun control measuressaid last week that he thinks police officers should simply disarm citizens if they find them carry guns — though he later claimed that he only would do that to people in Chicago. His statement after the Orlando Pulse shootings, suggesting that more bar owners should have been armed and firing back, drew criticism even from the National Rifle Association. He later changed his position, claiming he only had meant more armed security guards and employees.

Trump: “Our country doesn’t win… We don’t win. We can’t beat ISIS.”

ISIS lost significant ground in 2016. Experts familiar with the groups workings say the execution of foreign attacks in places like Istanbul and Baghdad were responses to military failures in Syria and Iraq.

“ISIS is reeling and their fighters are fleeing the battlefield,” a senior officer of the U.S. Central Command (Centcom), told Politico in July.

They group lost so much ground in Syria and Iraq that some analysts believe they are preparing for the collapse of their self-proclaimed caliphate.

“They’re not trying to be clever about it,” Will McCants, an expert at the Brookings Institution and author of a recent book about ISIS told the Washington Post, “but they’re really trying to prepare their followers to cope with a ‘caliphate’ that is no longer a caliphate.”

Meanwhile, Trump’s strategy to defeat ISIS is a little more straightforward. His solution to defeating ISIS? “I would bomb the shit out of them,” he told a rally.

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