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Fact check: 5 facts about the third Democratic debate of 2019

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The Democratic Party held its third presidential debate on Thursday night. The 10 hopefuls made at least five proposals that were based on erroneous premises or that would harm the country.

1. Wealth inequality is destroying the world.

Senator Bernie Sanders said he felt it was “unfair” to compare his version of democratic socialism with the version practiced in Venezuela. But he distinguished himself from most of the field by promising to combat wealth inequality:

To me, democratic socialism means we deal with an issue we do not discuss enough, Jorge – it’s not in the media and not in Congress. You’ve got three people in America owning more wealth than the bottom half of this country. You’ve got a handful of billionaires controlling what goes on in Wall Street, the insurance companies and in the media. Maybe, just maybe, what we should be doing is creating an economy that works for all of us, not one percent. That’s my understanding of democratic socialism.

Sanders’ statistic comes from a recurring Oxfam report. But the study’s methodology is flawed. Oxfam does not include government benefits in its analysis, and it evaluates “the wealthy” by subtracting a person’s net liabilities from net assets. Thus, a financial speculator who is currently in debt would be considered “poor,” while a farmer making two dollar a day free-and-clear would not.

Democratic socialists and other interventionists (see below) propose a wealth tax to equalize fortunes. Venezuela just enacted a wealth tax on July 3, calling into question how “unfair” the comparison is.

2. A wealth tax will “build an America that reflects our values”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren touted her wealth tax as a panacea for funding an expansive welfare state. She said:

I have proposed a two-cent wealth tax on the top one-tenth of one percent in this country. That would give us enough money to start with our babies by providing universal child care for every baby age zero to five, universal pre-K for every three-year-old and four-year-old in this country, raise the wages of every childcare worker and preschool teacher in this country, cancel student loan debt for 95 percent of the folks who’ve got it, and strengthen our unions. This is how we build an America that reflects our values, not just where the money comes from with the billionaires and corporate executives.

Aside from income tax hikes, Warren has proposed a two-percent tax on any individual who with wealth (not income) estimated at $50 million, or three percent for those with net assets of more than $1 billion.A wealth tax would tax the same income twice, cost the nation jobs , reduce investment, lower tax revenue, and is plainly unconstitutional. A wealth tax encourages the wealthy to emigrate and, studies find, actually lower the amount of taxes a nation collects. Sweden’s wealth tax raised $500 million but cost the nation an estimated $166 billion; France’s wealth tax costs the government an average of €5 billion a year in tax revenue.

Because of the negative effects, nine OECD nations – including Denmark, Germany, Finland, and Sweden –have abolished their wealth tax since 1990. But, as mentioned, Venezuela’s collapsing dictatorship just imposed one this summer.

3. “Universal pre-K” benefits children …

In her answer about the wealth tax, Warren proposed that the government care for “our babies” by instituting “universal pre-K.” Julian Castro and Bernie Sanders also promised to deliver government-funded daycare-for-all.

Warren proposed a detailed plan for universal daycare, which structurally resembles ObamaCare. A family of four making up to $51,200 a year would qualify for “free” preschool, while others could pay a sliding scale not to exceed seven percent of their income. The program will cost at least $700 billion over 10 years.

Warren has said these programs save $7.16 for every dollar invested by reducing the participants’ crime and unemployment rates. These claims are based on two unrepresentative studies that went well beyond typical daycare. The results have never been replicated by any traditional preschool programs.

Worse yet, multiple studies show more time spent in pre-K increases “assertiveness, disobedience, and aggression” and future criminal convictions, while possibly decreasing academic performance.“The most methodologically rigorous evaluations find that the academic benefits of preschool programs are quite modest, and these gains fade after children enter elementary school,” writes David J. Armor of the Cato Institute writes, “This is the case for Head Start, Early Head Start, and also for the ‘high-quality’ Tennessee preschool program.”

The proposal for government employees to raise “our babies” lends credence to the statists’ contention that “kids belong to whole communities.” This ideology strikes threaten parental rights and undermines the family, the fundamental building block of society. “Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children,” according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. “Following the principle of subsidiarity, larger communities should take care not to usurp the family’s prerogatives or interfere in its life.”

4. … But charter schools do not.

Julian Castro said: “It is a myth that charter schools are better than public schools. They’re not. And so while I’m not categorically against charter schools, I would require more transparency and accountability from them than is required right now.”

Numerous studies show the benefit of charter schools. The most comprehensive study of charter school studies found that “charter schools are producing higher achievement gains in math relative to traditional public schools in most grade groupings. … A tiny but growing literature on nonachievement outcomes suggests positive influences of charter schools on educational attainment and behavioral outcomes.”

For instance, New York City charter schools outperform public schools in English and math. “In math, the proficiency rate for black students in New York City charters is 24.1 percentage points higher than that of black students in all other public schools in the state,” notes the Manhattan Institute. Teenage girls who attended charter schools were less likely to end up pregnant, and teen boys were less likely to be incarcerated.

Castro’s rival, Cory Booker, defended charter schools by saying as mayor of Newark, “dagnabbit, we expanded high-performing charter schools.”

5. Poor children will hear four million fewer words by age five

Joe Biden repeated a well-known allegation that poor children fail in school, because they enter with a word deficit. “A kid coming from a very poor school — a very poor background will hear four million words fewer spoken by the time they get there.”

The actual figure is not four million words; it is 30 million words. However, as NPR explainedlast year (at your expense):

[D]id you know that the number comes from just one study, begun almost 40 years ago, with just 42 families? That some people argue it contained a built-in racial bias? Or that others, including the authors of a new study that calls itself a “failed replication,” say it’s just wrong?

Bonus: Joe Biden tells parents to put the needle on the record.

Biden gave poor families child-rearing tips to compensate for the word gap. “Play the radio, make sure the television – excuse me, make sure you have the record player on at night,” he said. “Make sure that kids hear words.”

Biden was right to correct himself from suggesting parents expose their children to too much television, which has been shown to harm academic performance. However, evidence shows listening to music can boost performance during high-stress events, including tests.

While some claimed that Biden’s reference to turntables made him seem out of touch, a growing share of people – especially young people – are enjoying music the old school way. Vinyl has rebounded from an all-time low of 0.7 percent of all music sales to over four percent today, and climbing.

 

 

 

One day, vinyl may again be number one with a bullet.

Related:

Fact check: 5 facts about the fourth Democratic debate of 2019.

(Photo credit: Dori Chronicles / Shutterstock.com. Editorial use only.)

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Rev. Ben Johnson Rev. Ben Johnson is Senior Editor at the Acton Institute.

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