President Biden delivered his second “State of the Union” address on Tuesday night to Congress. It featured several bipartisan moments and points of discussion that were relatively uncontroversial.
But, like any State of the Union, it also contained its fair share of misleading claims and outright falsehoods meant to push a partisan narrative.
Here are 4 misleading claims from Biden’s speech.
- Job creation & unemployment
“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. The unemployment rate is at 3.5%, a near-record low. Jobs are coming back… pride is coming back, because of choices we made the last several years.”
First, President Biden and Congress, whom he was speaking to, did not create those jobs. Most came from the private sector, and most were simply jobs returning that we had before the pandemic and ensuing economic (mostly government forced) disruption. We have now, 29 months later, just about recovered all the pre-pandemic jobs. But the president is taking credit for creating millions of jobs that in reality are simply returning from before.
And yes, the unemployment rate is very low, but it’s similar to what it was right before the pandemic. Meanwhile, the labor force participation rate remains significantly lower than it was before the pandemic, meaning millions are still sitting out of the workforce on the sidelines. If the labor force participation rate had caught back up with where it was in February of 2020, 2.6 million more people would be employed right now.
Meanwhile, real wages for workers are down under President Biden after factoring in inflation. So, while there is some good economic news, the reality is not the rosy picture Biden paints.
- COVID results & freedom
“Two years ago, COVID had shut down our businesses, closed our schools, and robbed us of so much. Today, COVID no longer controls our lives.”
First, COVID didn’t close our businesses and schools, the government did.
And while it’s true to some degree that “COVID no longer controls our lives,” that is despite President Biden’s best efforts, not thanks to them. He has maintained the federal government’s COVID emergency declaration and tried to keep in place both federal vaccine mandates and air travel mask mandates—with them only ending because Biden lost in court. So, for Biden to try to take credit for COVID no longer controlling our lives is, erm, a tad ironic.
Oh, and don’t forget that President Biden promised he would “shut down the virus” if elected… but more Americans have died from COVID under Biden than did before he took office.
- Deficit reduction
“In the last two years, my administration has cut the deficit by more than $1.7 trillion… the largest ever reduction in American history.”
Reality check: The “decrease” in the deficit is only compared to 2020, the height of COVID-19, which was the highest-ever deficit. Biden still went on to run the second-highest-ever deficit in 2021, which is the “drop” he’s taking credit for. But this drop only occurred because COVID emergency spending expired. It would have dropped much more without Biden’s policies.
You don’t have to take my word for it. Try CNN… “The deficit has been bigger under the Biden administration than the nonpartisan federal Congressional Budget Office had projected it would be if the Biden-era federal government stuck with the laws that were in effect when Trump left office in early 2021.”
Or the Washington Post… “Biden is bragging about reducing budget deficits even as he increased the national debt about $500 billion more than originally projected.”
In reality, the Biden administration’s policies have added more than $4.8 trillion to the deficit over the next decade. Here’s WaPo’s list of Biden policies that will add to the debt:
- Biden’s covid relief bill ($1.85 trillion added to deficits).
- The fiscal 2022 spending bill ($625 billion).
- The bipartisan infrastructure bill ($370 billion).
- Health and disability benefits for veterans exposed to toxic substances ($280 billion).
- Boosting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits by 21 percent ($185 billion).
- Health-related executive orders ($175 billion).
- CHIPS Act for semiconductor manufacturing expansion in the United States ($80 billion).
- Assisting Ukraine in its war with Russia ($55 billion).
- Student loan debt relief and repayment pauses ($750 billion).
So, Biden’s claim about reducing the deficit is, as he loves to say, malarkey.
- Gun control & assault weapons ban
“Ban assault weapons. Ban them now! Once and for all. I led the fight to do that in 1994… in ten years that ban was law mass shootings went down. After we let it expire… mass shootings tripled.”
Here, President Biden renewed his push to ban “assault weapons,” claiming that doing so in the past reduced mass shootings. For context, we should point out that assault weapons are not driving murders in America—only 3% of homicides involve rifles of any kind. What’s more, almost all experts and research agree that the 1994 ban on assault weapons did not reduce mass shootings. As I previously reported:
“Criminologists from Northeastern University concluded that the 1994 ban had ‘virtually no effect.’ Their research isn’t an outlier. A comprehensive review of available research by the Rand Corporation found ‘no qualifying studies’ showing that banning assault weapons reduced mass shootings or violent crime. Even an analysis by the liberal outlet Vox admitted that there’s ‘not much empirical weight behind’ assault weapon bans and that ‘studies on assault weapons bans have generally ranged from inconclusive to unfavorable toward a ban.”
All in all, it was a typical State of the Union address. Lots of partisan fanfare, some surface-level appeals to bipartisanship, and a whole lot of misleading spin.