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Fact Check: Biden Falsely Claims U.S. Economy Is Worse Off than Europe, Japan

Fact Check: Biden Falsely Claims U.S. Economy Is Worse Off than Europe, Japan
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Joe Biden claimed in a speech Friday that President Trump’s “mismanagement” of the pandemic is holding back the U.S. economy.

CLAIM: “First, the president’s chaotic mismanagement of the pandemic is still holding us back. Compared to other major industrial countries in Europe and Asia, during the pandemic, our unemployment rate is still more than double, while other nations have only gone up by half. Why? Because the president has botched the COVID response, botched it badly,” Biden said in a speech about the economy on Friday.

VERDICT: False.

The U.S. economy shrank in the second quarter by less than most other major industrial countries in Europe and was not much worse than that of Japan.

  • The U.S. economy shrank by 9.5 percent in the second quarter compared with the first quarter.
  • The eurozone economy shrank 12.1 percent.
  • The broader European Union economy shrank by 11.9 percent.
  • The U.K.’s economy shrank 20.4 percent.
  • Spain’s economy shrank by 18.5 percent.
  • Portugal’s economy shrank 14.1 percent.
  • France’s economy shrank 13.8 percent.
  • Germany’s economy shrank 10.1 percent.
  • Japan’s economy shrank by 7.8 percent.

Compared with the second quarter a year earlier, the contrast between U.S. performance and those of other industrialized countries is even more favorable to the Trump administration.

  • The U.S. GDP was 9.5 percent smaller.
  • Spain’s GDP shrank 22.1 percent.
  • The U.K.’s shrank 21.7 percent.
  • France’s 19 percent.
  • Germany’s 11.7 percent.
  • Japan’s economy was ten percent smaller.
  • Portugal’s was 16.3 percent smaller.

Biden misleadingly focused on unemployment in his statement, but this is not an accurate way of measuring the management of the pandemic or the economy. Many European and Asian countries have economic systems designed to make laying off employees difficult and cultural mores that can hurt a company’s reputation if it downsizes its workforce. In the face of the pandemic, many adopted policies to sustain employment by having the government pick up the tab for wages even when work was suspended or employees furloughed.

The U.S. adopted some policies designed to maintain employment, such as the Paycheck Protection Program of loans to small businesses, but for the most part it relied on enhanced unemployment benefits to cushion the blow from the coronavirus. This meant that although workers lost their jobs, most were able to continue receiving income through unemployment insurance. In fact, a significant portion of those who lost their jobs were able to receive more in income from unemployment than they did for working.

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