FACT CHECK: Six Claims From Biden’s 2023 State Of The Union Address
President Joe Biden delivered his 2023 State of the Union before a joint session of Congress Tuesday night.
Here are six checks on his claims made throughout the speech.
Claim 1: “As I stand here tonight, we have created a record 12 million new jobs – more jobs created in two years than any president has ever created in four years.”
Since Biden has taken office, the U.S. economy has added around 12 million jobs, according to the St. Louis Fed. This included 517,000 jobs in January 2023, which was more than the 187,000 estimated, according to CNBC.
Biden has seen greater job growth over his first two years in office than any other president has seen in four years of office, according to PolitiFact. However, using percentage increase instead of raw numbers, Biden is in the middle, trailing behind presidents like Lyndon B. Johnson and Ronald Reagan, the outlet reported.
In addition, before the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. economy had 152 million jobs in February 2020. It then proceeded to lose around 20.7 million jobs in April 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. There are now 155 million jobs and Bloomberg reported that employment numbers exceeded pre-pandemic levels in September 2022.
EJ Antoni, an economist at the right-wing Heritage Foundation, wrote in Fox Business on Feb. 6 that Biden was “cherry-picking” data.
“The economy lost 20.5 million jobs in March 2020, an unprecedented decline. But the recovery was also unprecedented, as businesses reopened, and lost jobs were restored. Recovering lost jobs is hardly the same as job “creation” however, a word that the president uses frequently,” Antoni wrote.
Karl W. Smith, a Bloomberg columnist and former vice president of the Tax Foundation, wrote Feb. 5 that Biden was well on his way to “becoming the greatest jobs-producing president in U.S history.”
“Of course, presidents are given too much of the credit when times are good and too much of the blame when times are bad. And much of the stage was set for a rebound in the labor market in 2020, before Biden took office. That was when the government quickly provided fiscal stimulus designed to support the economy and businesses through the pandemic.”
Claim 2: “30 million workers had to sign non-compete agreements when they took a job. So a cashier at a burger place can’t cross the street to take the same job at another burger place to make a couple bucks more.”
Around 30 million workers have signed non-compete agreements, according to NPR. Non-compete agreements range from software engineers to lower-income workers like security guards and cafeteria workers, the outlet reported.
In 2014, Jimmy John’s, a sandwich chain, was sued for non-compete agreements it made its workers signed and it dropped the practice in 2016 in a settlement agreement, according to CNBC. Several fast food companies dropped “no-poach” agreements, which prevented workers from working in different franchises in the same chain, Food and Wine reported.
Orley C. Ashenfelter, a Princeton University economics professor, told Factcheck.org in 2020 that fast-food restaurants do not require workers to sign non-competes.
Claim 3: “The idea that in 2020, 55 of the biggest companies in America made $40 billion in profits and paid zero in federal income taxes?”
Biden previously made the claim that 55 of the biggest companies in America “used various” loopholes to avoid paying federal income taxes during an April 2021 speech he gave on the American Jobs Plan. During that speech he cited a study from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), which indicated that “at least 55 of the largest corporations in America paid no federal corporate income taxes in their most recent fiscal year despite enjoying substantial pretax profits in the United States.”
The study further found that corporate tax avoidance is a decades-long trend and “appears to be the product of long-standing tax breaks preserved or expanded by the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) as well as the CARES Act tax breaks enacted in the spring of 2020.” Ecolab, FedEx, HP, Nike, and Xcel Energy were among the 55 companies who avoided all federal income taxes in 2020, according to the same study.
Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the center-right American Action Forum, challenged Biden’s idea that companies found “loopholes” to avoid paying federal taxes, asserting that while people can disagree over a given tax provision, these were “deliberate policy choices, not rifle shots,” Politifact reported.
William Gale, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, disagreed, saying the idea that corporations pay zero in federal income taxes is “by now well-established,” the outlet indicated.
Claim 4: “Instead of cutting the number of audits of wealthy taxpayers, I signed a law that will reduce the deficit by $114 billion by cracking down on wealthy tax cheats.”
Biden signed into law the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which increased funding to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by $80 billion over the next 10 years, according to NPR. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates that the IRS’s increased funding will see an increase of $204 billion in revenue collections, meaning it would reduce the deficit by $124 billion over 10 years.
Biden was likely referring to a Congressional Budget Office projection of a Republican bill that would repeal $70 billion of the $80 billion passed in the IRA. If the funding was repealed, the deficit would increase by $114 billion, according to CNN.
Claim 5: “Since we launched our new border plan last month, unlawful migration from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela has come down 97%.”
The Associated Press (AP) reported that U.S. authorities saw a 97 percent decline in illegal border crossings among migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela on Jan. 25. The decline in border crossings is attributed to a lawsuit filed by 20 Republican states including Texas over a proposed policy from the Biden administration that would allow 360,000 people from the aforementioned countries enter the U.S., despite turning away more migrants, according to a previous article from the outlet.
Mexico’s agreement to “take back the same amount [of migrants] from those countries who enter the U.S. illegally and are expelled under Title 42” has also played a role in the decline in border crossings, the outlet indicated.
The highest number of illegal border crossings were recorded in December 2022, with authorities stopping Cuban and Nicaraguan migrants 251,487 times along the Mexican border. Authorities also stopped migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela an average of 115 times a day along the Mexican border in the same month, according to the AP.
U.S. Customs and Border and Protection (CBP) reported that it processed 868,867 passengers and pedestrians, including 58,549 passengers and crew arriving by ships or boats on a typical day in fiscal year 2022.
Claim 6: “Thanks to the law I signed last year, millions are saving $800 a year on their premiums.”
The American Rescue Plan expanded Affordable Healthcare Act health insurance subsidies for individuals and enacted tax credits for premiums, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. These subsidies resulted in a $67 per month reduction in premiums –adding up to more than $800 a year–, according to a March 2022 White House fact-sheet.
Kaiser Family Foundation reported that in “the 33 states using HealthCare.gov, premium payments in 2022 would have been 53% higher (more than $700 per year more” if the ACA enhanced subsidies expired. The IRA extended these subsidies until 2025.
Elias Atienza and Christine Sellers contributed to this report.