Clinton lays out economic agenda: CNN's Reality Check Team vets the claims

Story highlights

  • CNN's Reality Check Team put her statements and assertions to the test
  • The team selected key statements, rating them true; mostly true; true, but misleading; false; or it's complicated

Washington (CNN)Hillary Clinton on Wednesday laid out her economic agenda and has taken some swipes at presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump in recent days, and CNN's Reality Check Team put her statements and assertions to the test.

The team of reporters, researchers and editors across CNN listened throughout the speech and selected key statements, rating them true; mostly true; true, but misleading; false; or it's complicated.
    Reality Check: Clinton says U.S. is only developed country without paid family leave
    By Sonam Vashi, CNN
    Clinton said, "Over the past several decades, women have entered the workforce and boosted our economy, yet we are the only, the only developed country that doesn't provide paid family leave of any kind."
    The United States is the only developed economy that doesn't pay maternity benefits or family leave, according to a 2014 International Labor Organization (ILO) report.
    Most U.S. employees -- about 60% -- are covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act to take 12 work weeks of unpaid leave. But just 13% of workers get paid family leave, according to a 2015 Bureau of Labor Statistics survey.
    Four states -- California, New Jersey, Rhode Island and New York -- provide guaranteed paid family leave insurance programs, in which employees must pay a premium for benefits. Washington passed a paid parental leave law 10 years ago, but it has been left unfunded.
    However, not every developed country provides benefits that the ILO deems acceptable to its standards, which include 14 weeks of leave and providing at least two thirds of previous earnings. Some countries, such as Canada and Japan, exclude some types of workers from these benefits.
    The U.S. is still the only developed economy that provides no nationwide family leave program. Clinton's claim is true.
    Reality Check: Clinton on the costs of childcare in the U.S.
    By John Newsome, CNN
    Clinton addressed minimum wage families and single parents who are dealing with the cost of childcare.
    "Two parents earning the minimum wage have to spend up to 35% of their income on child care. For a single parent, it could be 70%," she said.
    While minimum wages are more-or-less the same throughout the country, the cost of childcare varies, according to the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute.
    In Clinton's home state of New York, EPI says infant care can top $14,000, and childcare of a 4-year-old $11,000. For a federal minimum-wage single parent with an infant, this represents 75% of their income. For a dual minimum-wage household, it is 39%.
    While the costs fluctuate from state-to-state, there are a number of states that fit the percentages she referenced. We therefore rate Clinton's statement as true.
    Reality Check: Clinton on Trump's climate change views
    By Laura Koran, CNN
    In her speech Tuesday, Clinton took on her Republican opponent, saying Trump "has no clean energy plan."
    "He just says that climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese," Clinton said. "Well, I'll give him this -- it's a lot easier to say a problem doesn't exist than it is to actually try to solve it."
    Not only has Trump suggested climate change is a Chinese hoax, he's repeated the claim many times over the course of at least four years.
    On November 6, 2012, Trump tweeted, "The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive."
    Over a year later, Trump tweeted in response to weather reports, "Snowing in Texas and Louisiana, record setting freezing temperatures throughout the country and beyond. Global warming is an expensive hoax!"
    And Trump's doubts have continued into the campaign season.
    Last September, when he was seeking the Republican nomination, Trump told CNN that while he supports clean air and water, "I am not a believer in climate change."
    Trump went on to refute the connection between climate change and a rise in extreme weather phenomenon.
    "Weather changes," said Trump. "And you have storms, and you have rain, and you have beautiful days, but I do not believe that we should imperil the companies within our country. And by the way, China is doing nothing."
    In March, Trump took a more nuanced approach, telling a Washington Post editorial board that he doesn't believe climate change is the result of man-made causes.
    "I think there's a change in weather," he said. "I am not a great believer in man-made climate change. I'm not a great believer."
    And while Trump has repeated the hoax line on multiple occasions, he's walked back the assertion that it was created by the Chinese, saying he meant that as a joke ... sort of.
    "I often joke that this is done for the benefit of China," Trump said on Fox News' "Fox & Friends." "Obviously, I joke, but this is done for the benefit of China, because China does not do anything to help climate change."
    While Trump doubts the validity of climate change, his company has prepared for it. According to a Politico report, Trump International Golf Links applied for a permit to build a sea wall at his golf course in Ireland to protect it from "global warming and its effects."
    Verdict: True. While Trump has wavered on the cause of climate change, he has repeatedly denied its existence and called it a hoax.
    Reality Check: Clinton on unemployment gap
    By Kate Grise, CNN
    In her campaign speech in Raleigh, North Carolina, on Wednesday, Clinton said, "You know, it's not by accident that the unemployment rate now among black Americans is twice as high as among whites. Back in the '90s, we were closing that gap."
    Today, the unemployment rate for African Americans is 9.6% -- twice as high as the unemployment rate for white Americans, which sits at 4.6%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
    So we rate that claim as true.
    Clinton then claimed that the gap was shrinking in the 1990s.
    In the 1990s, the total unemployment rate did drop dramatically -- from 7.5% in 1992 to 4% in 2000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
    However, the gap in unemployment between whites and blacks didn't shrink as Clinton suggested. The unemployment rate for African-Americans was consistently double that of white Americans throughout the decade.
    The unemployment rate for white Americans dropped from 6.6% in 1992 to 3.5% in 2000.
    For African-Americans, it dropped from 14.2% in 1992 to 7.6% in 2000.
    We rate Clinton's claim as false.
    Reality Check: Clinton on North Carolina teachers and blame
    By Eve Bower, CNN
    Speaking in Raleigh Wednesday about both economic conditions and the quality of public education in the state of North Carolina, Clinton blamed the state's Republican governor, Pat McCrory, and Republican-majority legislature for low teacher salaries.
    "For many years," Clinton said, "North Carolina was a leading state when it came to education. Now, unfortunately, thanks to your governor and the legislature, the average teacher salary can barely support a family."
    Clinton's claim about current teacher salaries, on average, appears true. Using numbers from the last Census, the average North Carolina household has 2.48 people. For the purpose of this analysis, we will use the Living Wage Calculator developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Department of Urban Studies and Planning, and explore how two different possible family structures would fare on a public school teacher's salary.
    First, assuming a family consists of one adult and two children, using the Living Wage Calculator, this household in North Carolina requires $54,197 in annual pre-tax income in order to cover basic expenses including things like food, housing, and medical care.
    If we instead assume that a family consists of two adults -- only one of whom earns an income, and one who is responsible for child care -- this household in North Carolina requires $43,033 in annual pre-tax income to cover basic expenses.
    The major difference between the two consists of the average $9,611 per year a single parent spends on child care for two children. But neither amount affords teacher-headed families a luxurious life: according to the National Education Association's latest data, in the 2015-16 school year, the average salary for classroom teachers in North Carolina was just $47,985 -- more than $6,200 less than what is required for a "living wage" for the first family, and just a few thousand dollars more than what is required by the second.
    But Clinton's claim is misleading where it places the blame for this solely on the Republicans currently in North Carolina state government. A recent report from the National Education Association found North Carolina third among states with the largest real decline in average teacher salaries over the decade from 2004-2015, with an inflation-adjusted decrease in salary of 10.2%. McCrory may be partially responsible for this, as he was elected in 2012, but he has only had influence over teacher salaries since 2013. McCrory was preceded by almost 20 years of Democratic governors, during which time the Senate was controlled by Democrats the entire time, and Democrats controlled the state House from 1999-2010.
    Clinton was correct that public school teachers, on average, have a difficult time making ends meet today in North Carolina. We rate that portion of her claim true. But by placing the blame for this exclusively on the state's current Republican leadership, when the trends have existed through several Democratic administrations, we must rate the second portion of her claim as false.
    Reality Check: Clinton on Democratic presidents cleaning up after their predecessors
    By Tami Luhby, CNNMoney
    Positioning herself as the presidential candidate with the better plan for strengthening the economy, Clinton slammed the trickle-down economics theory favored by many Republicans
    "Twice now in the past 30 years a Republican president has caused an economic mess and a Democratic president has had to come in and clean it up," Clinton said.
    While George H.W. Bush suffered a recession in the middle of his presidency, the economy grew nicely in 1992, his final year in office. So while Bill Clinton enjoyed a strong economy during his administration, he didn't quite "clean up" his predecessor's mess, leading us to rate this claim false.
    But George W. Bush ended his second term during the nation's darkest economic times since the Great Depression. The economy rebounded during his successor, Barack Obama, though the recovery remains fairly weak. Still, we rate this claim true.
    However, we caution that many experts say a president has little influence over the economy. A recent paper by Princeton economists Alan Blinder (who was one of Bill Clinton's economic advisers) and Mark Watson found that historically, the economy performs better under Democratic presidents than Republican ones, but they attribute the differences to factors that are less closely tied to U.S. economic policy, such as oil prices, defense spending and productivity changes.
    Reality Check: Clinton says Trump presidency a top risk to global economy
    By Tony Marco, CNN
    Clinton said economists consider a Trump presidency a top risk to the the global economy. "That is just astonishing, and it's no wonder that the group called the Economist Intelligence Unit, one of the leading firms that analyzes the top threats to the global economy now ranks a Trump presidency number three right behind problems in China and volatility in the commodities markets," explained Clinton.
    The UK-based Economist Intelligence Unit did, in fact, list a Trump presidency in its top global risks this month, saying the chances of this happening have increased since he became the Republican Party's presumptive nominee. The EIU cited terrorism on U.S. soil, international trade, his militaristic tendencies towards the Middle East, a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. and how he would deal with an economic downturn as concerns.
    '"Although we still do not expect Mr. Trump to defeat Ms. Clinton, there are risks to this forecast, especially given the terrorist attack in Florida in June," says the risk report, issued last week. "It is worth noting that the innate hostility within the Republican hierarchy towards Mr Trump, combined with the inevitable virulent Democratic opposition, will see many of his more radical policies blocked in Congress -- albeit such internal bickering will also undermine the coherence of domestic and foreign policymaking," concluded the report.
    Verdict: True.