Last night’s first presidential debate was memorable for many things, including the twisting of facts and data.

On the economy, both former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden painted themselves as better for the economy than each other. Some claims were true, some were embellishments, some needed context, and some were patently false. 

Check out these six times President Biden embellished his record or was dishonest about President Trump’s record:

  1. “the economy was flat on its back. Fifteen percent unemployment. (Trump) decimated the economy. There were no jobs.” FALSE
    The unemployment rate in January 2021 was 6.4%, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. In April 2020, the unemployment rate skyrocketed to near 15% due to COVID lockdowns but had been cut in half as workplaces and businesses reopened and jobs bounced back.
  2. “That’s why there was not inflation at the time.” FALSE 
    As recently as last month, President Biden falsely claimed inflation was 9% when he took office, as we’ve debunked. Now, he claims there was zero inflation because of the weak economy. He can’t have it both ways. In fact, inflation was 1.4% when President Biden took office, which was below the Federal Reserve’s 2% target rate.
  3. “Black unemployment is the lowest level it’s been in a long, long time.” FALSE
    The black unemployment rate was 6.1% in May 2024. This is higher than a record low of 4.8% in April 2023. The previous record low was set during the Trump administration at 5.3% in August 2019.
  4. “What I’m going to do is fix the tax system. For example, we have a thousand trillionaires in America.” FALSE 
    We don’t have a thousand trillionaires. The richest people are billionaires. Luckily, President Biden caught himself and corrected it to “I mean, a thousand billionaires.”
  5. A thousand billionaires are paying an 8.2% tax rate, and if they were taxed closer to 25%, it would raise billions of dollars in tax revenue to ease the nation’s debt burden and fund welfare programs. MISLEADING/QUESTIONABLE
    Biden used a tax rate that CNN noted previously as “the product of an alternative calculation, from economists in his own administration, that factors in unrealized capital gains that are not treated as taxable income under federal law.” That 8% tax rate is contested, with economists finding that the top billionaire families actually pay over 20% tax rates.
  6. “We came on in a position where we have 800,000 new manufacturing jobs.” MISLEADING
    Manufacturing jobs rebounded largely because of pandemic bounceback, not Biden policies. Only about 25,000 of the nearly 800,000 manufacturing jobs were created since January 2023, which was soon after Biden’s biggest policies were passed, such as the infrastructure bill.

Here are three claims that President Trump made about President Biden’s economy and policies:

  1. “The only thing he was right about is that I gave you the largest tax cut in history.” FALSE
    President Biden credited President Trump with delivering the largest tax cut in history. Trump’s 2017 tax cut was estimated to be about 1% of GDP. However, several presidents had bigger tax cuts: Reagan’s 1981 tax cut (3.5%) and Obama’s 2012 tax cut extension (1.7%) of GDP, respectively.
  2. “He wants to raise your taxes by four times.” EMBELLISHED
    Many elements of the 2017 tax cuts are set to expire at the end of 2025. If the president or Congress does not act, most Americans who received a tax cut will see their taxes increase. It just may not be a quadruple. President Trump promises to make the tax cuts permanent. President Biden said he would let the tax cuts expire, then backtracked and now proposes to extend the cuts for households earning below $400,000.
  3. The U.S. has “the largest deficit in the history of our country.” FALSE
    Both Trump and Biden’s records on deficits and debt are poor. Trump racked up deficits and debt, giving pandemic relief, but Biden’s deficits are larger. The Committee to Unleash Prosperity explained, ”Trump’s deficits are roughly $1.4 trillion a year, and Biden’s are closer to $2 trillion a year.” 

Last night’s debate was only the first of at least two more. We’ll keep tracking the policy proposals of the two men seeking the presidency.