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Fact-checking the first night of the first Democratic presidential debate

Posted at 7:54 PM, Jun 26, 2019

The first 2020 Democratic presidential debate kicked off in Miami with 10 candidates trying to stand out in a crowded field . They took on taxes, equal pay, health insurance and immigration reform.

Here are the facts .

Income inequality

When responding to a question about income inequality, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said: "It is not right that the CEO of McDonald's makes 2,100 times more than the people slingin' hash at McDonald's."

Facts First: While technically true, it's worth noting that this includes the wages of part-time employees working abroad, not just US-based employees.

McDonald's reported that CEO Stephen Easterbrook's total 2018 compensation was $15.9 million, while its median employee earned a total compensation of $7,473. That median employee however is a part-time employee located in Hungary.

Still, that dynamic resulted in a pay ratio of 2,124 to 1, according to a financial filing the company posted in April.

-Katie Lobosco

Insurance companies

Cory Booker said: "The overhead for insurers that they charge is 15%, while Medicare's overhead is only at 2%"

Facts First: This is roughly true, although an apples-to-apples comparison is difficult to make.

According to the 2019 annual report from the Boards of Trustees for Medicare, administrative expenses come to $9.9 billion, or about 1.3% of Medicare's total expenditures in 2018.

According to a report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office in 2016, as a share of premiums per enrollee, the administrative costs of private insurance companies ranged between 11% and 20% depending on whether they serve large employers, small companies or the individual market.

Some of Medicare's overhead costs are paid by the Social Security system, so the actual administrative expenses are likely higher, but it is true that Medicare's administrative costs are lower as a share of overall expenditures than they are in the private market.

-Lydia DePillis


Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro suggested that the Trump administration's policy of limiting asylum at ports of entry led to the deaths of the Salvadorian father and child found face down in the Rio Grande that is the subject of a now infamous photo .

Facts First: 'Metering' has led to longer waits, but it's unclear if those wait times resulted in the family deciding to cross illegally

"They have been playing games with people who are coming and trying to seek asylum at our ports of entry. Oscar and Valeria went to a port of entry and then they were denied the ability to make an asylum claim so they got frustrated and they tried to cross the river and they died because of that," Castro said.

The Trump administration's policy, called "metering," has led to longer wait times, though it's difficult to ascribe motive behind a migrant's decision to cross the border illegally.

In the case of the father and child who died trying to cross the Rio Grande river, the man's mother told CNNE that they left the country in April in hopes of making it to Dallas to work. She said the family wanted to buy their own house and better their financial situation.

Customs and Border Protection has said it doesn't know how many migrants have been turned away as a result of metering.

-Priscilla Alvarez


Former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke said that Congress passed "a $2 trillion tax cut" that favored corporations which were sitting on record piles of cash and the very wealthiest in the country at a time of historic wealth inequality.

Facts First: Though there are a variety of estimates projecting the cost of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, according to the Congressional Budget Office, O'Rourke's statement appears to be roughly accurate.

Last year, the Congressional Budget Office projected that when incorporating the additional debt service costs, the tax cut would add $1.9 trillion to the deficit over the ten-year window.

But other cost estimates varied. According to an estimate by Congress' Joint Committee on Taxation before the law passed, it would cost $1.4 trillion over ten years, or just over $1 trillion when incorporating a broader look at its economic impacts.

A year after the law passed, the conservative-leaning Tax Foundation found that the cost was even less, at $1.47 trillion on a conventional basis and $448 billion over the ten-year window when taking into account its effect on the economy.