Here are the facts.
Andrew Yang said “suicides, drug overdoses, depression, anxiety” are at “record highs.” He added, “It’s gotten so bad that American life expectancy has declined for the last three years.”
Facts First: Yang is overstating things. While it’s true that these rates have risen recently, it’s impossible to say they’re at record levels. It is true that life expectancy declined over a three-year period.
While overdose deaths increased between 1999 to 2017, provisional data posted by the CDC earlier this month suggest overdose deaths fell slightly last year — down to an estimated 68,000 from about 70,000 the year before.
As for depression and anxiety, mental health is harder to quantify, though studies do indicate an uptick in recent years, particularly depression.
Harris’ prosecutorial record for raising cash bail costs
Tulsi Gabbard questioned Kamala Harris’ record as a prosecutor in California, accusing her of keeping a “cash bail system in place that impacts poor people in the worst kind of way.”
Facts First: It’s true that, as a prosecutor, Harris advocated for higher bail amounts as a way to fight what she said was a public safety issue, supporting raising cash bail costs for gun-related crimes shortly after being elected San Francisco’s district attorney in 2004. But she also introduced legislation as a senator in 2017 to “reform or replace the practice of money bail.”
That same year, San Francisco’s Superior Court drastically increased cash bail costs for weapon-related felony charges. The cost doubled and even tripled in some cases.
In her book “The Truths We Hold,” Harris also writes that she knew, as a prosecutor, that lower-income families were affected by the cash bail system.
Al Qaeda since 9/11
Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard said that al Qaeda “is stronger today than 9/11.”
Facts First: The FBI says that the threat posed by al Qaeda and its affiliates is “still present and active,” but it is difficult to determine if Gabbard is right that al Qaeda is “stronger” today than it was on 9/11.
In January, Trump’s outgoing Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said, “Al Qaeda is showing signs of confidence as its leaders work to strengthen their networks and encourage attacks against western interests.”
Kamala Harris said, “On the Hyde amendment, you made a decision for years to withhold resources to poor women to reproductive health care and including women who were the victims of rape and incest.”
Facts First: Biden’s votes supporting the Hyde Amendment until 1994 most likely resulted in blocking some low-income rape and incest victims from accessing abortions.
How much the federal government has cut in taxes
Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet said: “Since 2001, we have cut $5 trillion worth of taxes. Almost all of that has gone to the wealthiest people in America. We have made the income inequality worse not better through the policies of the federal government.”
Facts First: It’s true that the US has cut taxes by roughly $5 trillion since 2001, and it is also true that most of it has benefitted wealthy Americans. On top of that, it’s true that income inequality in America has risen although tax cuts are only part of the story.
The wealthiest fifth of households received tax cuts equal to 4.8% of their income by 2018, more than other groups. The poorest 20% of people received the least amount of tax relief, at 3.4%, according to the ITEP.
By the end of 2025, the amount of taxes cut will grow to $10.6 trillion, with almost $2 trillion having gone to the richest 1%, the ITEP report says.
Harris visit to Homestead, a Florida facility
California Sen. Kamala Harris said, “I went to a place in Florida called Homestead, and there’s a private detention facility being paid for by your taxpayer dollars that houses 2,700 children,” Harris said.
Facts First: Harris is accurately describing the capacity of the housing facility, though numbers fluctuate and have dropped to less than 700 children as of July 28.
Late last month, Harris, along with a slew of other Democratic candidates, visited the Homestead facility, which is near Miami, Florida, the site of the previous Democratic debates. On June 25, days before Harris’ visit, just over 2,300 children were being housed at Homestead, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
As of July 22, there were just under 1,000 unaccompanied children at Homestead, according to HHS. As of July 28, that number was “approximately” 650.
The facility gained national attention after some Democratic candidates tried to enter the facility last month and claimed it was emblematic of President Donald Trump’s immigration policies. The administration says that “no children at Homestead are there due to” Trump’s controversial “zero tolerance” policy that led to the separation of thousands of families. (Trump signed an executive order ending the policy in June 2018.)
-Kay Guerrero and Priscilla Alvarez
Biden’s vote against child care tax credit in 1981
New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand criticized former Vice President Joe Biden for voting against expanding the child care tax credit in 1981 and said that he advocated against women working outside the home.
“When the Senate was debating middle class affordability for child care he wrote an op-ed,” Gillibrand said. “He voted against it — the only vote. But he wrote an op-ed that he believed that women working outside the home would ‘create the deterioration of family.’ He also said that women who were working outside the home were quote avoiding responsibility.”
Facts First: This needs context. Her claim about his vote is correct, yet she mischaracterized what he said.
Biden did vote against expanding the child care tax credit, but only for families making more than $30,000 ($88,00 today) in 1981. His quotes used by Gillibrand were about parents, not specifically mothers.
“I have no objection to the fact that if a mother and a father want to get together and say, ‘Hey, by the way, Joe, you take care of the child and I am going to pursue my career,’ that is fine. That is a personal decision, and I am all for it,” Biden said.
Number of prisoners freed due to Harris policy
Former Vice President Joe Biden criticized California Sen. Kamala Harris for her leadership during her tenure as San Francisco District Attorney.
Biden said that her staff urged her to turn over information to defense attorneys that could help their clients. “She didn’t do that. She never did it. What happened, along came a federal judge and said ‘enough’ and he freed 1,000 of these people. If you doubt me, Google, 1,000 prisoners freed, Kamala Harris.”
Facts First: It appears that Biden misspoke. He got the ballpark number correct but his characterization of what happened is off. Harris opted not to make a policy change favored by her staff early in her tenure. Years later, that decision led to roughly 1,000 cases being dismissed or dropped. There is no evidence to back up Biden’s claim that 1,000 people were released from prison.
In 2005, Harris’ staff recommended she implement a policy to disclose evidence that could help a defendant’s case, including misconduct by law enforcement, to ensure fair trials for criminal defendants, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said to former Vice President Joe Biden, “Your argument is not with me, it’s with science. And unfortunately your plan is just too late. The science tells us we have to get off coal in 10 years. Your plan does not do that. We have to have off of fossil fuels in 15.”
Fact First: Inslee is exaggerating the timeline.
Instead, the report explains there needs to be a 45% cut in human-caused carbon dioxide emissions by 2030, as compared to 2010 levels. If it doesn’t the planet could warm by 1.5 degrees Celsius between 2030 and 2052. The international community considers 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming to be catastrophic.
These are all estimates based on the best science. Any level of warming is dangerous and risks increase as the temperature does. At the current rates, the world could easily go far beyond the 1.5 degree goal by 2052.
Sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine
Facts First: Biden is right that he introduced in 2007 a bill to treat crack and powder cocaine equally, but he did not mention he supported legislation 21 years earlier that created the disparity in the first place.
And in 2018, President Donald Trump signed the First Step Act, which makes the reform retroactive, helping those convicted of crack offenses before 2010.
-Alex Rogers and Jeremy Herb
Cory Booker’s record as Newark mayor
While defending his record as mayor of Newark, New Jersey, against attacks from former Vice President Joe Biden, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker claimed that the leader of New Jersey’s American Civil Liberties Union “has said that I embraced reforms not just in action but in deeds.”
Facts First: This is true, but lacks important context.
Robots displacing more workers than immigrants
Andrew Yang said: “If you go to a factory here in Michigan, you will not find wall-to-wall immigrants, you will find wall-to-wall robots and machines. Immigrants are being scapegoated for issues they have nothing to do with in our economy.”
Facts First: Yang is right that robots have displaced more workers than immigrants.
Obama did not sign DACA into law
Former Vice President Joe Biden was the target of multiple attacks, from protesters and from others onstage, about the deportation record of President Barack Obama. Biden defended his former boss against New York Mayor Bill de Blasio by saying Obama “came up with the idea for the first time ever of dealing with the DREAMers. He put that into law.”
Facts First: That’s false. Obama didn’t put it into law — and that’s a hugely important point.
The “DREAMers” are undocumented immigrants who were brought into the United States as children and there has long been bipartisan support to give a pathway to legal status. The DREAM Act was a bill written by Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois. It never became law despite multiple efforts — but the name stuck.
But there was not enough support to put it into law. And when a comprehensive immigration plan failed in congress, Obama instead used executive authority to give DREAMers temporary protection with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.
If they met certain requirements, signed up for the program and stayed out of trouble, he promised they could stay in the country. But it was a temporary fix and not ever put into law.
So no, Obama did not put anything for the DREAMers into law. And that’s part of the point of his record on immigration that frustrates immigration advocates.
-Z. Byron Wolf
Profits in the pharmaceutical and insurance industries
While criticizing former Vice President Joe Biden’s health care plan, California Sen. Kamala Harris said, “Let’s talk about the fact that the pharmaceutical companies and the insurance companies last year alone profited $72 billion, and that is on the backs of American families.”
Not all of these profits came from the companies’ operations in the United States.
US law allowing for family separations
Several candidates criticized the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the border, citing a long-standing US law that can result in such action.
Facts First: This is true — and the law has been a flashpoint in the immigration debate.
Democratic candidates remain divided over the law, referred to as Section 1325, with some wanting to instead make crossing the border illegally a civil offense, instead of a criminal offense.
Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro shot the issue into the national dialogue at the last round of debates and hammered in on his position Wednesday night.
“The only way that we’re going to guarantee that we don’t have family separations in this country again is to repeal section 1325 of the immigration nationality act,” Castro said Wednesday. “That is the law that this President, this administration is using to incarcerate migrant parents and then physically separate them from their children.”
Former Vice President Joe Biden added: “The fact of the matter is, when people cross the border illegally, it is illegal to do it unless they’re seeking asylum. People should have to get in line. That’s the problem. And the only reason this particular part of the law is being abused is because of Donald Trump. We should defeat Donald Trump and end this practice.”
Biden’s health care plan leaving out 10 million Americans
Sen. Kamala Harris attacked former Vice President Joe Biden’s health care plan, saying it “leaves out almost 10 million Americans.”
Facts First: Harris is right.
Biden’s plan — which builds on the Affordable Care Act by creating a government-backed health insurance option and increasing Obamacare’s federal subsidies — would insure more than an estimated 97% of Americans, according to his plan.
However, it’s unclear exactly who would be uninsured. But under Biden’s plan, families buying coverage on the Obamacare exchanges would spend no more than 8.5% of their income on health insurance — a sum that might be too pricey for some Americans.
-Donna Borak and Tami Luhby
The current high cost of health care
Attacked by former Vice President Joe Biden for the high cost of her “Medicare for All,” plan, California Sen. Kamala Harris said that America already spends trillions on health care.
“We are now paying $3 trillion a year for health care in America,” she said. “Over the next 10 years, it’s probably going to be $6 trillion.”
Later on, she said that the US is on its way “in just a handful of years of literally spending 20% of our economy, one out of every $5 spent on health care.”
Facts First: This is true. If anything, Harris underestimated the numbers. According to the most recent data, America spends $3.5 trillion on health care, which equates to nearly 1 in 5 dollars of total GDP.
The nation shelled out $3.5 trillion on health care in 2017, according to the most recent data available from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. That’s expected to rise to nearly $6 trillion in 2027.
Health care spending accounted for 17.9% of the economy in 2017,according to the report. It’s expected to hit 19.4% by 2027.
Democrats voting for a pathway to citizenship
Sen. Michael Bennet said that all Democrats voted to back a pathway to citizenship for 11 million people and spending $46 billion on border security.
Facts First: This is true. All Senate Democrats and 14 Republicans voted for the Senate immigration bill that passed in 2013.
Bennet was one of eight senators — four Republicans and four Democrats — who became the bipartisan group known as the “gang of eight” that hammered out an immigration compromise bill in 2013. The legislation, which included a pathway to citizenship, passed the Senate, 68-32, and Bennet is correct that all 54 Senate Democrats voted for it, along with 14 Republicans. A majority of Republicans, 32, opposed the bill.
While the bill passed the Senate, then-House Speaker John Boehner did not take it up in the Republican controlled House, and the legislation died at the end of 2014. It’s not clear whether Bennet and the other senators in the 2020 presidential race could strike a similar compromise or another major immigration bill in today’s Senate.
Amazon’s effect on retail commerce
Andrew Yang said: “Raise your hand in the crowd if you’ve seen stores closing where you live. It is not just you. Amazon is closing 30% of America’s stores and malls.”
Facts First: Yang is right that up to 30% of malls may close in the next few years, but that’s not all because of Amazon.
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to accurately describe changes to the Hyde Amendment in 1994.