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Candidates after the conclusion of the second night of the first U.S. 2020 presidential election Democratic candidates debate in Miami, Florida, U.S.

Fact check: Night 2 of the 2020 Democratic debate

Editor’s note: This story first appeared on PolitiFact.

Democrats let loose their anti-Trump passions while attempting to showcase their diverse vantage points on gun control, race relations, immigration, healthcare, tax reform and more during the second night of debates at Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center.

Sen. Joe Biden and former Vice President Bernie Sanders were the two most recognizable men positioned center-stage. But eight lesser-known candidates in the race to be the next president of the United States sparred with them.

Sen. Kamala Harris of California and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg delivered passionate remarks that especially sought to challenge Biden as the face of an old-guard lacking the progressive vision the party needs to move America forward.

But when passions flare, sometimes facts fizzle. Here’s a look at some of the statements that got our attention as we monitored the second night of the 2020 Democratic debates.

WATCH: Candidates face off in second night of 2020 Democratic debate


Bernie Sanders: “Today the worker in the middle of our economy is making no more money than he or she made 45 years ago.”

This is exaggerated.

For instance, according to data analyzed by the left-of-center Economic Policy Institute, the median hourly wage in 1973 was $16.96. Adjusted for inflation, the median wage rose to $18.80 by 2018.

While that’s not a dramatic rise — especially over 45 years — it amounts to an 11% increase beyond inflation.

Another study, by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, found that the cumulative growth in inflation-adjusted income for those in the middle 60% of the income distribution rose by 46% between 1979 and 2015. That was much slower than it was for the top 1% (which was a whopping 242%), but it was still an increase beyond inflation.

— Louis Jacobson


John Hickenlooper: “I share the sense of urgency. I’m a scientist, so I recognize that we’re within 10 or 12 years of actually suffering irreversible damage (of climate change).”

While over 90% of publishing climate scientists say humans are causing global warming, the idea that scientists agree on a hard deadline lacks nuance. (Sanders also made reference to a 12-year deadline)

A 2018 United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report notes 2030 as a benchmark to deal with climate change “because signatories to the Paris agreement have pledged emission cuts by then,” according to the Associated Press.

The panel’s report predicts that, if warming continues at its current rate, global temperatures are likely to reach 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels between 2030 and 2052.

James Skea, a co-chairman of the report and sustainable energy professor at Imperial College London, told the Associated Press that the panel “did not say we have 12 years left to save the world.”

And scientists have not agreed that humans have until 2030 to address climate change.

Kristie L. Ebi, director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the University of Washington in Seattle, told the Associated Press that, while adding greenhouse gases into the atmosphere will result in a continued rise in temperatures, “the earth does not reach a cliff at 2030 or 2052.”

— Sophie Austin


Bernie Sanders: “President Trump, you’re not standing up for working families when you try to throw 32 million people off the health care that they have.”

This is one of Sanders’ favorite lines, but it falls short of giving the full story of the Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare. We rated a similar claim Half True.

Scrapping the Affordable Care Act was a key campaign promise for President Donald Trump. In 2017, as the Republican-led Congress struggled to deliver, Trump tweeted, “Republicans should just REPEAL failing Obamacare now and work on a new health care plan that will start from a clean slate.”

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that would lead to 32 million more people without insurance by 2026. But some portion of that 32 million would have chosen not to buy insurance due to the end of the individual mandate, which would happen under repeal. (It happened anyway, but that was part of the 2017 tax law.)

In the end, full repeal didn’t happen. Instead, Trump was only able to zero out the fines for people who didn’t have insurance. Insurance coverage has eroded. The latest survey shows about 1.3 million people have lost insurance since Trump took office.

— Jon Greenberg


Michael Bennet: “Bernie mentioned that the taxes that we would have to pay — because of those taxes, Vermont rejected Medicare for All.”

This is true, though it could use some context.

Vermont’s effort to pass a state-based single-payer health plan — which the state legislature approved in 2011 — officially fell flat in December 2014. Financing the plan ultimately required an 11.5% payroll tax on all employers, plus raising the income tax by as much as 9.5%. The governor at the time, Democrat Peter Shumlin, declared this politically untenable.

That said, some analysts suggest other political factors may have played a role, too — for instance, fallout after the state launched its Affordable Care Act health insurance website, which faced technical difficulties.

Nationally, when voters are told Medicare for All could result in higher taxes, support declines.

— Shefali Luthra, Kaiser Health News


Marianne Williamson: “So many Americans have unnecessary chronic illnesses — so many more compared to other countries.”

There is evidence for this, at least for older Americans.

A November 2014 study by the Commonwealth Fund found that 68% of Americans 65 and older had two or more chronic conditions, and an additional 20% had one chronic condition.

No other country studied — the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Sweden, Norway, France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, or Canada — had a higher rate of older residents with at least two chronic conditions. The percentages ranged from 33 percent in the United Kingdom to 56 percent in Canada.

An earlier study published in the journal Health Affairs in 2007 found that “for many of the most costly chronic conditions, diagnosed disease prevalence and treatment rates were higher in the United States than in a sample of European countries in 2004.”

— Louis Jacobson


Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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