Dubious claims from President Joe Biden's press conference. In a televised press conference yesterday, the president talked about a wide-ranging set of issues, from the failure of Democrats' voting bill to America's withdrawal from Afghanistan to his own mental fitness. Over the course of the nearly two-hour event (which you can watch in full here, if you're a masochist), Biden spewed a lot of his typical half-truths and exaggerations. Fact-checkers have taken Biden to task for comments he made about the pandemic, economic growth, and other subjects.
For instance, Biden made the dubious claims that his "Build Back Better" plan wouldn't "raise a single penny in taxes on people making under $400,000 a year"—a proposition that folks at the Tax Foundation dispute—and that it would cut the deficit. However, the Congressional Budget Office says the version passed by the House of Representatives would actually raise the deficit by $158 billion over 10 years.
Glenn Kessler at The Washington Post pointed out several Biden statements that were misleading or lacked context, including claims about inflation, jobs, wage growth, and taxes.
And here's some of the Associated Press fact check:
BIDEN: "We just made surprise medical bills illegal in this country."
THE FACTS: He ignores the fact that President Donald Trump signed that consumer protection into law before leaving office in December 2020. The achievement is Trump's….
BIDEN: "We created 6 million new jobs, more jobs in one year than any time before."
THE FACTS: He's taking too much credit. As Trump did before him, Biden makes some grandiose economic claims that gloss over one central reason for historic growth — the U.S. population is far larger than in past decades (and continued to grow last year, despite COVID-19 deaths).
The economy added 6.4 million jobs in 2021, the most on government records dating back to 1939, but part of that is just a natural rebound from what had been the steepest job loss on record in 2020, when 9.4 million jobs were cut.
And since the late 1970s, the U.S. population has grown by more than 100 million people, so any hiring surge under Biden will be larger in raw numbers than that achieved by his predecessors. On a percentage basis, the number of jobs in the U.S. grew 4.5% in 2021. That is still a sizeable increase — the biggest since 1978 — but not a record-breaker.
Reviews of Biden's press conference are predictably mixed. Partisan media outlets have rushed to defend their usual positions, with Democrats praising the president's performance and conservatives mocking it mercilessly.
The conference was "filled with shrewd observations" and "displayed a mastery of the realities of power," claimed The New Republic. Meanwhile, the New York Post called it "an exercise in self-delusion" and "an utter disaster" and Fox News host Jesse Watters called it "a political field sobriety test — that he failed."
The truth is probably somewhat less dramatic than either of these sides suggests. Biden fumbled, exaggerated, and at times sounded a lot like former President Donald Trump, whining that his opponents wouldn't let his party get whatever it wanted and blaming this on some personal anti-Biden agenda rather than just, you know, differing values and goals. ("I did not anticipate that there'd be such a stalwart effort to make sure that the most important thing was that President Biden didn't get anything done," Biden said.)
Biden also made some eyebrow-raising statements, like suggesting that if the Democrats' voting rights legislation didn't pass (and it didn't), the legitimacy of this year's elections—or at least people's sense that they're legitimate—couldn't be assured. From Roll Call:
[Biden] was asked multiple times whether he thought upcoming elections would be viewed as legitimate without the voting rights bills reaching his desk.
"Well, it all depends on whether or not we're able to make the case to the American people that some of this is being set up to try to alter the outcome of the election," Biden said.
Later in the news conference, he said, in reference to the midterms, that "the increase in prospect of it being illegitimate is in direct proportion to us not being able to get these reforms passed."
Biden also did a few more admirable things, like standing firm on withdrawing American troops from Afghanistan ("I make no apologies for what I did") and semi-admitted that the Democratic talking point about corporate concentration causing our current inflation woes doesn't quite cut it. ("It's not been the reason we've had high inflation today," said Biden. "It's not the only reason.")
Mostly, however, Biden seemed to spew a lot of the types of platitudes that his base likes to hear.
Reason's Nick Gillespie talks to First Amendment lawyer Bob Corn-Revere, author of the new book The Mind of the Censor and the Eye of the Beholder:
Corn-Revere tells me that although no one cops to being a censor these days, attempts to delegitimate the First Amendment are everywhere around us, especially when it comes to limiting speech in the name of supposedly protecting the feelings of religious, ethnic, and sexual minorities. "If you look at the history of this, you find it is the protection of individuals' speech rights that has made all of the mass movements by minorities and previously marginalized people possible," says Corn-Revere. "There wouldn't have been a gay rights movement or a women's movement. Certainly the civil rights movement was a defining time for protecting the speech of individuals."
He also talks about worrying shifts away from robust defenses of the First Amendment among Millennials and Gen Z, why every plan to put elected officials in charge of speech would be worse than trusting the relatively unregulated marketplace of ideas, and why he's ultimately optimistic about the future of free expression.
The SHOP SAFE Act is being sold as protection from counterfeit products sold via the internet. Don't buy it. There are ample problems with the SHOP SAFE Act, including the fact that its supporters exaggerate the problem it sets out to solve and the fact that it would resonate far, far beyond the specific issues it aims to address. Reason's Robby Soave has more details on this bad bill, which Democrats are considering adding to the bipartisan Endless Frontier Act.
• Drone footage of a U.S. military strike that killed 10 civilians (including seven kids) last August clearly shows that children were nearby prior to the strike.
• Some good news on omicron:
Since early last week, new cases in Connecticut, Maryland, NJ and NY have fallen by more than 30%. They're down by more than 10% in Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. In California, cases may have peaked.
By @DLeonhardt https://t.co/a4Haov8epK
— Cliff Levy (@cliffordlevy) January 19, 2022
• Reason's Ron Bailey explains the "ginned up tempest of online moral outrage" over an Elon Musk exchange about artificial wombs.
• Efforts by Democrats in the Senate to change filibuster rules have failed, as has their voting bill. "The twin defeats were never in doubt," notes The New York Times. "They did succeed in forcing the Senate for the first time to debate the bill, leading to hours of raw and emotional arguments on the floor over civil rights, racism and how elections are conducted."
And there it is: the vote to change the filibuster rules for this legislation fails 52-48 pic.twitter.com/a1qXxHZPwP
— Grace Panetta (@grace_panetta) January 20, 2022
• A Supreme Court decision yesterday means the National Archives can turn over Trump documents to Congress' January 6 committee that the former president asserted were covered under executive privilege.
• Biden's approval rating is now at a low for his presidency. Less than a third of those surveyed say they want him to run for reelection in 2024 (though 48 percent of Democrats say so). And a majority—56 percent—disapproves of how he's now doing as president.
• New legislation in Kentucky would "make operating a charitable bail organization unlawful."
• It never fails…
The @LASheriffDept is using debunked human trafficking myths to justify a massive increase in policing of Inglewood in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl.
Sex workers, be careful out there.https://t.co/MdEYWHt4pg
— Mike Stabile (@mikestabile) January 19, 2022