Fact-Checking Night 2 of the 2020 Democratic Debates

Ten candidates vying for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination took the stage on Thursday in Miami for the second of back-to-back debate nights. The 10 other candidates who qualified for the debates appeared on the same stage on Wednesday.

Here is how the candidates’ remarks stacked up against the truth.

Senator Michael Bennet

“Bernie mentioned the taxes that we would have to pay. Because of those taxes, Vermont rejected Medicare for all.”

Vermont enacted a law in 2011 to establish something close to a single-payer health care system. The plan was not rejected by voters or the legislature, but it was abandoned in 2014 by then-Gov. Peter Shumlin, a Democrat. He blamed the “enormous” new taxes the plan would have required, including an 11.5 percent payroll tax on all Vermont businesses and a sliding-scale income tax of up to 9.5 percent. In all, he said, the plan would require about $2.5 billion in taxes annually, in a state that raises only about $2.7 billion in taxes annually. “These are simply not tax rates that I can responsibly support or urge the Legislature to pass,” Mr. Shumlin said at the time.


Andrew Yang

“We automated away 4 million manufacturing jobs due to automation.”

Mr. Yang’s figure likely comes from a 2015 study from Ball State University. It estimated that the United States lost 5.6 million manufacturing jobs from 2000 to 2010, about 4.9 million of which were due to increases in productivity.

Other research, however, shows other factors were in play. The left-leaning Economic Policy Institute has contended that trade is the main culprit. A 2018 Bureau of Labor Statistics brief cited competition with China, a skills mismatch between employers and workers, and a decline in cross-regional migration.


Follow along with our reporters’ live commentary during the debates or read on for more fact-checks.

Senator Bernie Sanders

“Under that system, by the way, vast majority of the people in this country will be paying significantly less for health care than they are right now.”

There are widely varying estimates of how much a single-payer health plan like Mr. Sanders’s would cost, but most conclude that patients would spend far less than they do now, and the federal government would spend far more, likely with new taxes. For some people, any tax increase might be more than offset by reductions in their spending on premiums, co-payments and other health care costs. But others could end up paying more in new taxes than they save. So far, none of the Medicare-for-all proposals include a detailed tax plan. But there would be minimal out-of-pocket expenses for medical care under Mr. Sanders’s plan, which would offer more generous benefits than Medicare currently does.


Senator Bernie Sanders

“We have a new vision for America and at a time when we have three people in this country owning more wealth than the bottom half of America.”

Mr. Sanders is referring to a 2017 Institute for Policy Studies report that found Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Warren Buffett have more wealth — nearly $250 billion — than a total of 160 million people, or 63 million households, which had wealth of about $245 billion. That gap has likely increased in the last two years as the national income gap has continued to widen.

Fact-checks by Abby Goodnough, Alan Rappeport and Linda Qiu.

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