Fact-checking resources for the 2020 presidential debates
Before the candidates take the stage for the 2020 presidential debates, EPI has compiled resources that could be helpful in fact-checking the economic and political claims that are made. We’ve broken down our research into several themes and have highlighted some of our most important research in each area:
Workers most hurt by COVID-19
- Black workers face two of the most lethal preexisting conditions for coronavirus—racism and economic inequality
Persistent racial disparities in health status, access to health care, wealth, employment, wages, housing, income, and poverty all contribute to greater susceptibility to the virus—both economically and physically.
- Latinx workers—particularly women—have faced some of the most damaging economic and health effects of the coronavirus
As a group, Latinx workers face a double bind: They are the least likely to be able to work from home to avoid coronavirus exposure and the most likely to have lost their job during the COVID-19 recession.
- Who are essential workers? A comprehensive look at their wages, demographics, and unionization rates
Nearly every state governor has issued executive orders that outline industries deemed “essential” during the pandemic, which typically include health care, food service, and public transportation, among others. However, despite being categorized as essential, many workers in these industries are not receiving the most basic health and safety measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
- Young workers are the most likely to be unemployed and unable to work from home in the COVID-19 economy
Young workers have had the largest job losses since February 2020. Young workers have had disproportionate job loss, in part, because of their concentration in the hardest-hit industries and occupations.
- A coronavirus recovery: How to ensure older workers fully participate
Because older workers are more likely to be unemployed for long periods, have work-limiting disabilities, and live in areas of the country that were struggling even before the crisis, policies aimed at addressing these problems will especially benefit these workers.
- With millions of people out of work, the Senate’s inaction is not only cruel, it’s bad economics
Another 1.1 million people applied for unemployment insurance (UI) benefits last week. That includes 787,000 people who applied for regular state UI and 345,000 who applied for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). Last week was the 31st straight week total initial claims were far greater than the worst week of the Great Recession.
- Slowdown in jobs added means we could be years away from a full recovery
The U.S. economy is still down 10.7 million jobs from where it was in February, before the pandemic hit. Using average monthly job growth over the year ending February 2020 as the counterfactual, the jobs deficit is easily over 12 million. That’s 10.7 million fewer jobs we have than in February, plus 1.4 million jobs we would have added if the recession hadn’t occurred.
- Without federal aid to state and local governments, 5.3 million workers will likely lose their jobs by the end of 2021
If policymakers do nothing at the federal level to address these shortfalls, the United States could end 2021 with 5.3 million fewer jobs, with losses in every state.
- The Trump administration’s union election suspension at pandemic’s onset impacted nearly 17,000 workers
The Trump National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) suspension of union elections for a two-week period at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic impacted nearly 17,000 workers seeking to unionize, according to a new EPI report. The affected workers included many who were deemed “essential” during the pandemic, with one in six affected workers in health or emergency services.
- 50 reasons the Trump administration is bad for workers
The Trump administration’s mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic marks the administration’s most glaring failure of leadership. However, the administration’s response to the pandemic is in no way distinct from its approach to governing since President Trump’s first day on the job. The administration has systematically promoted the interests of corporate executives and shareholders over those of working people and failed to protect workers’ safety, wages, and rights.
- Unprecedented: The Trump NLRB’s attack on workers’ rights
Under the Trump administration, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has systematically rolled back workers’ rights to form unions and engage in collective bargaining with their employers, to the detriment of workers, their communities, and the economy.
- Why unions are good for workers—especially in a crisis like COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored both the importance of unions in giving workers a collective voice in the workplace and the urgent need to reform U.S. labor laws to arrest the erosion of those rights. During the crisis, unionized workers have been able to secure enhanced safety measures, additional premium pay, paid sick time, and a say in the terms of furloughs or work-share arrangements to save jobs.
Trade and manufacturing
- Investment in infrastructure and clean energy would create at least 6.9 million good jobs
The authors find that rebalancing trade by expanding exports, and expanding public investments in infrastructure, clean energy, and energy efficiency, are the keys to generating at least 6.9 million good jobs, rebuilding American manufacturing and the U.S. economy.
- We can reshore manufacturing jobs, but Trump hasn’t done it: Trade rebalancing, infrastructure, and climate investments could create 17 million good jobs and rebuild the American economy
While the Trump administration has claimed that the era of U.S. offshoring is “over,” the reality is that the United States has not begun to address the root causes of America’s growing trade deficits and the decline of American manufacturing. Decades of trade, currency, and tax policies that incentivized offshoring, combined with an utter failure to invest adequately in infrastructure and good jobs at home, have contributed to growing inequality and an eroding middle class.
- Trump’s ‘blue-collar boom’ is likely a dud
Globalization has reduced wages for working Americans by putting non-college-educated workers into a competitive race to the bottom in wages, benefits, and working conditions with low-wage workers in Mexico, China, and other low-pay, rapidly industrializing countries. The Trump administration’s two trade deals don’t change that reality. Workers counting on Trump to deliver a “great American comeback” have been left waiting at the station.
- Growing China trade deficit cost 3.7 million American jobs between 2001 and 2018: Jobs lost in every U.S. state and congressional district
Despite the tariffs and other restrictions imposed on China trade by the Trump administration, the bilateral trade deficit continued to grow between 2016 and 2018 because of the failure to address the fundamental flaws with the U.S.–China trade relationship.
- U.S.–Mexico–Canada Agreement—Weak tea, at best
The revised U.S.–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA) represents a significant improvement on the draft agreement first released in 2017. Negotiators for labor and House Democrats strengthened the provisions on labor rights, environmental standards, and the enforcement of these rules, and also removed costly and egregious new protections for corporations, including giveaways by the Trump administration to pharmaceutical companies. But the changes embodied in the USMCA still constitute Band-Aids on a fundamentally flawed agreement and process.
Taxes and spending
- The Trump administration was ruining the pre-COVID-19 economy too, just more slowly
Long before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trump administration was squandering the pockets of strength in the American economy it had inherited.
- The first big gash of austerity: The cutback to the $600 boost to unemployment benefits reduced personal income by $667 billion (annualized) in August
Data released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis showed that the expiration of enhanced unemployment insurance (UI) benefits pulled $667 billion in purchasing power out of the economy in August alone (expressed as an annualized amount).
- Still terrible at two: The Trump tax act delivered big benefits to the rich and corporations but nearly none for working families
Despite the Trump administration’s claims of success, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) did not increase wages for working people, failed to spur business investment, decreased corporate tax revenues, and boosted stock buybacks in its wake.
- U.S. Tax & Spending Explorer
How do taxes and spending work, and where do you fit in? Incomes in the United States are wildly unequal. But the federal government acts as an equalizer—by spending more at the bottom and taxing more at the top.
- Health insurance and the COVID-19 shock: What we know so far about health insurance losses and what it means for policy
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and shock to the economy, job losses have been consistent with roughly 6.2 million workers losing access to health insurance that they previously got through their own employer. For each person who is covered under their own employer’s plan, roughly two people on average are covered through employer-sponsored insurance (ESI) once spouses and dependents are included. This means that closer to 12 million people have been cut off from ESI coverage due to job losses in recent months.
- The $33 billion hidden tax in the American Health Care Act—higher deductibles and copays
Despite false rhetoric that current law burdens American households with high out-of-pocket costs, the replacement plan put forth by President Trump and Republicans in Congress, known as the American Health Care Act (ACHA), would substantially increase out-of-pocket costs.
- Policy solutions to deal with the nation’s teacher shortage—a crisis made worse by COVID-19
Some estimates have put the shortage of teachers relative to the number of new vacancies in classrooms across the country that go unfilled at more than 100,000—a crisis exacerbated by the pandemic. But policy changes can go a long way in addressing this shortfall.
- COVID-19 and student performance, equity, and U.S. education policy: Lessons from pre-pandemic research to inform relief, recovery, and rebuilding
While we do not yet know the exact impacts, we do know that the interruption and disruptions have certainly affected children’s learning, along with their progress on other developmental skills. We also know that, given the various ways in which the crisis has widened existing socioeconomic disparities and how these disparities affect learning and educational outcomes, educational inequities are growing. Both aspects will need to be made up for in the aftermath of the pandemic.
- Teachers are paid almost 20% less than similar workers: When including benefits, teachers still face a 10.2% total compensation penalty
When adjustments are made for education, experience, and demographic factors, teachers earned weekly wages 6.0% less than comparable workers in 1997. In 2019, the penalty was 19.2%, which, notably, was a 2.8-percentage-point improvement compared with a wage penalty of 22.0% a year earlier.
- Schools are still segregated, and black children are paying a price
Well over six decades after the Supreme Court declared “separate but equal” schools to be unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education, schools remain heavily segregated by race and ethnicity.
- Cost of child care by state
Center-based care for four-year-olds ranges from $4,493 a year in Arkansas to nearly $18,980 a year in D.C.—while ECE for infants ranges from $5,760 in Mississippi to $24,081 in D.C. All told, parents currently spend about $42 billion on early care and education, while federal, state, and local governments spend just $34 billion.
- Who’s paying now? The explicit and implicit costs of the current early care and education system
The current early child care and education (ECE) system is substantially “funded” through low teacher pay and inadequate supports for ECE teachers, who are primarily women, specifically women of color. Nationally, the median hourly wage for ECE teachers is just $12.12—and nearly one in five live below the official poverty line.
- How much would it cost consumers to give farmworkers a significant raise?
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced that it would not collect the data on farmworker earnings that are used to determine minimum wages for H-2A workers, which could further reduce farmworker earnings.
- Trump’s ban on temporary work visas is an attempt to scapegoat immigrants during an economic collapse
The practical impact of Trump’s proclamation on temporary work visas appears to be minimal—for now. But the ultimate message inherent in Trump’s two immigration proclamations on green cards and temporary work visas has been communicated loud and clear: Immigrants can and will be used as scapegoats to distract from the administration’s failings.
- Trump administration looking to cut the already low wages of H-2A migrant farmworkers while giving their bosses a multibillion-dollar bailout
The Trump administration, which recently deemed farmworkers essential to the economy, is considering lowering the wages of the 205,000 migrant farmworkers employed in the United States through the H-2A temporary work visa program, according to published reports.
Wages and inequality
- Raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2025 will restore bargaining power to workers during the recovery from the pandemic
Had policymakers met the original demands of the 1963 March on Washington, the minimum wage in 2020 would already be nearly $15 per hour.
- CEO compensation surged 14% in 2019 to $21.3 million: CEOs now earn 320 times as much as a typical worker
In 2019, CEO compensation at the United States’ top 350 firms grew 14% to $21.3 million on average. From 1978 to 2019, CEO compensation grew by 1,167%; the compensation of a typical worker, meanwhile, rose just 13.7%.
- State of Working America Wages 2019: A story of slow, uneven, and unequal wage growth over the last 40 years
Wage growth was strongest for the highest-wage workers while median hourly wages grew just 1.0% last year.