TV News highlights: stimulus package, global food demand, carbon emissions, and more

By Katie Dahl

In this week’s TV News highlight reel, fact-checkers looked into claims about construction projects resulting from former President Barack Obama’s stimulus package, global food demand, carbon emissions, a state law that may seem counter to federal law on health care protections, and how the unemployment rate is actually calculated.

Claim: Nothing was built as a result of the stimulus package (mostly false)

In a town hall for CEOs at the White House, President Donald Trump made these comments about former President Barack Obama’s 2009 stimulus package. “You know, there was a very large infrastructure bill that was approved during the Obama administration, a trillion dollars. Nobody ever saw anything being built. I mean, to this day, I haven’t heard of anything that’s been built. They used most of that money—it went and they used it on social programs and we want this to be on infrastructure.”

FactCheck.org’s Robert Farley reported that “Trump distorted the facts about President Obama’s stimulus package,” of which infrastructure projects was just one part: “[T]he overriding goal…which Trump praised at the time—was to jump-start the economy through a combination of tax cuts to spur spending, federal contracts and grants to create private-sector jobs, and federal aid to local and state governments to ease the effects of the Great Recession.”

Jon Greenberg and Louis Jacobson wrote for PolitiFact, “the idea that nothing was built is wrong. Among many other projects, the Recovery Act helped push to completion the $1 billion DFW Connector highway in Dallas-Fort Worth; a $650 million elevated truck route to the Port of Tampa; a new Cleveland Interbelt Bridge; a tunnel connecting Oakland and Contra Costa County, Calif.; a veterans’ facility at Fort Bliss in Texas; and new headquarters for the Department of Homeland Security and the Coast Guard.”

Claim: Global food demand is expected to increase by 50-90 percent by 2050 (mostly true)

On March 21, National Agriculture Day, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that exports from “farm production have been declining due to unwise trade policies.” He juxtaposed that with a prediction, “Global food demand is expected to increase by 50 to 97 percent by 2050.”

Gabrielle Healy reported for PolitiFact, “Both the data the White House showed us and research we found supports the claim that food demand will increase in the coming decades. Yet estimates vary surrounding the level to which it will increase.” A study in the journal Agricultural Economics, as reported by Healy, “stated food demand might increase by 59 percent to 98 percent between 2005 and 2050.” She reported on another study connected with National Academy of Sciences, which said “crop demand might rise by 100 to 110 percent between 2005 and 2050.”

Claim: Fracking helped reduce carbon emissions (yes, and)

On a Sunday program on Fox NEWS, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt said about carbon emissions, “we are pre-1994 levels, and do you know why? Largely because of innovation and technology, hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, because there’s been a conversion to natural gas in the generation of electricity.”

Michelle Ye Hee Lee from The Washington Post’s Fact Checker confirmed Pruitt’s claim about overall emissions levels being at pre-1994 levels, but pointed out these are not only due to greater reliance on natural gas and fracking: “The [Energy Information Administration] attributes reduction in coal emissions to the switch from coal-powered plants to more efficient natural-gas-powered plants, and the growth in renewable energy (especially wind and solar).”

Claim: In NY you can’t be charged more for health care because of your age (true)

On CNN, discussing a key element of the failed American Health Care Act plan, Rep. Chris Collins, R., N.Y., asserted, “In New York under our state insurance commissioner, we have what we call a one to one. You cannot charge an older person even one dollar more than a younger person.”

Dan Clark reported for PoltiFact, “New York state has had what’s called a ‘community rating’ model of health insurance since 1993. It requires health insurance companies to charge the same price for coverage in select regions regardless of age, gender, occupation or health status.”

Clark also examined whether federal law could override this state law. According to Rachel Morgan of the National Conference of State Legislatures, “Federal law preempts state law, but sometimes it creates a floor instead of a ceiling for actions that can be taken by the states…” Clark concluded, “The floor, in this case, is the federal cap on age-based health care premiums. New York state’s law stands because its added restriction does not change federal law but supplements it.”

Claim: When you give up looking for a job, you’re statistically considered employed (false)

Again speaking at the town hall for CEOs, President Trump said, “When you look for a job, you can’t find it and you give up, you are now considered statistically employed. But I don’t consider those people employed.”

The Washington Post’s Fact Checker Glenn Kessler explained, “In the most common unemployment rate, known as the U-3, you are considered unemployed only if you are actively looking for a job.” But goes on to report, “You are not considered ‘statistically employed’” if you have given up looking, but still want to be working. “[Y]ou are considered not in the labor force.”

Greenberg and Jacobson added, “There is an official statistical category for people who want and look for a job but then give up: They are called ‘discouraged workers.’ Specifically, these people ‘want and are available for a job and who have looked for work sometime in the past 12 months’ but are ‘not currently looking because they believe there are no jobs available or there are none for which they would qualify.’” This subset of people who want jobs and have stopped looking make up “only about one-half of 1 percent of the ‘out of work’ Americans Trump seems to have been referring to.”

About Nancy Watzman

Nancy Watzman is Managing Editor, Television Archive.
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