FACT CHECK: 8 Claims From The 2nd Republican Primary Debate

Check Your Fact Staff | Contributor

The second Republican primary debate, moderated by Fox Business and Univision, saw seven Republican presidential candidates meet at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, on Sept. 27 where they debated over a variety of topics such as their records, foreign policy, former President Donald Trump and others.

“Our unemployment rate is the lowest amongst any big state.” – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis:

Florida has the 13th lowest unemployment rate in the United States at 2.7% as of August 2023, according to preliminary statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It is tied with states such as Arkansas, Rhode Island and Vermont. 

Florida has an estimated population of 22 million as of 2022, according to the Census Bureau. Florida has the third largest population, with California and Texas having larger populations. Florida has a lower unemployment rate than both of these states. 

The biggest state that has a lower unemployment rate than Florida is Virginia, which has an estimated population of 8.6 million and an unemployment rate of 2.5%. 

“You talk a really good game about cutting spending, but you’ve increased spending in Florida by 30%.” – Former Vice President Mike Pence to DeSantis. 

Florida’s budget increased from $88.7 billion in 2018 to $116.7 billion in 2023, an increase of 30%, though DeSantis wasn’t governor in 2018. Pence’s remarks also omit context about why Florida’s budget increased. Florida’s state legislature is required to pass a balanced budget and that tax revenue in Florida has increased over the past few years, PolitiFact reported

Florida’s revenue has increased due to its increased population and pandemic aid from the federal government, according to PolitiFact.

“Hard to blame someone for having spending roughly keep pace with the growth of the state’s economy. It is normal to expect a state’s spending to more or less grow at the same rate as its economy, so the rise in spending cited by Christie is nothing at all unusual given Florida’s growth,” Dean Baker, a senior economist at the liberal think tank Center for Economic and Policy Research told PolitiFact. 

“How can we be the best country in the world and have the most expensive healthcare in the world?” – Former Republican South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley

The average cost of healthcare per person in the U.S. in 2021 was $12,900 or a total of $4.3 trillion, according to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation,. Although the COVID-19 pandemic influenced trends in rising healthcare costs, spending was already increasing prior to the pandemic, the foundation indicated.

Data from Statista showing U.S. healthcare costs in 2021 also indicated the U.S. has the most expensive healthcare in the world, with an average of up to $12,318 per person.

A report from the Commonwealth Fund cited in a January 2023 CNN article found that in addition to having the most expensive healthcare, the U.S. also has the worst healthcare outcomes.

“We are using tax dollars to pay people more to stay home than to work,” – Businessman Vivek Ramaswamy

A study released by the Committee to Unleash Prosperity in December 2022 found that in 14 states, unemployment benefits and Affordable Care Act (ACA) subsidies were “the equivalent of the head of a household earning an $80,000 salary plus healthcare benefits.”

In addition, the study found that in 24 states, unemployment benefits and ACA subsidies for a family of four in which both parents were not working to be the “annualized equivalent of at least the national median household income and benefits.”

The study was cited in a January 2023 piece from the John Locke Foundation, which reiterated if welfare benefits pay just as much, if not more, than a middle-class job, there is less incentive to actually work. The Heritage Foundation also penned a similar article at the same time, pointing to expanded Affordable Care Act subsidies as a main factor in the increase.

“[Trump] said that he was going to build a whole wall across the border, he built 52 miles of wall.” – Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) report shows that 453 miles of border wall was completed between 2017 and January 2021. There was approved funding for 738 miles of wall at the time, according to the report.

Some news outlets indicated that Trump constructed 52 miles of what is considered by CBP as new primary wall systems. Primary walls are constructed as the first line, while secondary walls are built behind them as reinforced protection, according to the Government Accountability Office. During his administration Trump constructed 33 miles of secondary wall as well. Furthermore, Christie’s claim does not include the hundreds of miles of wall that was constructed to replace existing fences.

When Trump came into office there was a total of 654 miles of wall constructed using various types of fencing, according to BBC News. The CBP document reported that replacement walls were the primary focus at the time.

Haley: “On Day 2, you banned fracking, you banned off-shore drilling.”

DeSantis: “That’s not true.”

Florida voters passed a constitutional amendment in November 2018 that banned off-shore drilling. DeSantis was not governor when that constitutional amendment passed, having just won his first term. 

DeSantis campaigned in 2018 on pushing Florida’s legislature to ban hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, in the state. Two days after he took office, he issued an executive order that ordered the Department of Environmental Protection to “[t]ake  necessary actions to adamantly oppose all off-shore oil and gas activities off every coast in Florida and hydraulic fracturing in Florida.”

DeSantis also called for a ban on fracking in March 2019, according to WTXL. NPR reported in 2021 that DeSantis has been unable to get a fracking ban passed by the legislature and that Florida’s oil and gas industry does not use fracking.

“[Haley] offered a 10-cent gas tax increase in South Carolina” – South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott

Haley proposed a 10-cent tax increase over three years in 2015 to fix the state’s roads while governor at the time, according to local publication Greenville News. This was under the condition that lawmakers could reduce the state’s income tax and restructure the state’s highway commission, the outlet reported. In another instance, she told the Greenville News that she opposes any increase above 10 cents while she promised to keep the tax below other southeastern states such as Georgia and North Carolina.

The increase didn’t come until 2017 when Haley resigned as governor to become U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, local outlet The State reports. Pivoting from her original idea, Haley recently announced that she wants to eliminate the federal gas tax, a move that would first require approval from Congress, the outlet reports. The federal gas tax has remained at 18.4 cents per gallon since 1993 and has lost almost half of its value since it has not been adjusted for inflation, according to the Tax Foundation

“We’ll completely eliminate the federal gas and diesel tax. That’s 18 cents per gallon in savings on gas and 24 cents on diesel,” Haley stated last week in New Hampshire, according to Fox Business.  “That will help families struggling with record high gas prices.”

“China controls 85 percent of the world’s rare-earth minerals supply.”  – North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum.

A commentary piece from the Brookings Institute in December 2022 suggested that China has a 60% share of the global production of rare-earth minerals, while holding 85% of the world’s processing capability. Politico reported at the same time that China accounted for 63% of the world’s rare earth mining production and 92% of rare earth magnet production. The Heritage Foundation suggested China only had around 36% of the world’s known rare earth reserves as of March 2023

A November 2020 summary from the Congressional Research Service found that the United States also imported 80% of rare-earth compounds and metals from China, with most other exports also stemming from Chinese production. The same report found that, in 2017, China had half of the 10 active rare-earth mine exploration projects at the time, while the U.S. only had one.The Mineral Commodity Summaries study from the United States Geological Survey also found that China contributed to over half of global mine production in 2020 and 2021, while holding over a third of world reserves.

The New York Times published an article in May 2023 showing that China had notable control of the world’s cobalt and lithium supplies at 41% and 28%, respectively. In addition, China refines 73% of the world’s cobalt supplies and 67% of the world’s lithium supplies, while making over half of the world’s electric vehicle battery cells, anodes, cathodes and electric cars as a whole. The Financial Times published a similar article in April 2023, which documented China’s push for Africa’s lithium supplies, while suggesting that the continent will output over 400,000 metric tons of lithium by 2031.

Elias Atienza, Christine Sellers, Anna Mock, Joseph Caiseri and Jesse Stiller contributed to this report. 

Check Your Fact Staff