By TOM KRISHER and RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Ahead of their first debate, President Donald Trump made exaggerated claims about economic gains in northeastern Ohio and falsely accused Democratic rival Joe Biden of wanting to provide free health care to immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally in a spate of events aimed at promoting his administration’s record.
Speaking Monday as he showed off an electric pickup truck to be produced in Lordstown, Ohio, by a new company, Lordstown Motors, Trump said the area 60 miles (95 kilometers) east of Cleveland was devastated when General Motors closed a small-car assembly plant in 2019, but now it’s booming.
The area isn’t booming.
Separately, Trump asserted that Biden wanted to foment uncontrolled immigration by offering free health care to people here illegally. Biden has proposed no such thing.
Trump repeated that claim in recent days at events in Pennsylvania and North Carolina, where he was trying to blunt criticism of his own record on health care, including his administration’s latest attempt to bring down the Obama-era Affordable Care Act.
A look at his statements and the facts:
TRUMP, on Lordstown: “Well, the area was devastated when General Motors moved out, and then we worked together, and we made the deal on the plant. But beyond the plant — I mean, it’s incredible what’s happened to the area. It’s booming now. It’s absolutely booming and really great.” — remarks Monday.
THE FACTS: Lordstown’s economy can hardly be described as booming.
Trump appeared on the South Lawn driveway with a Lordstown Motors Endurance pickup, touting its technology and boasting about the area’s comeback, which lost hundreds of jobs when GM closed the plant that made the Chevrolet Cruze compact car. Lordstown Motors bought the plant with financing help from GM.
But the unemployment rate in Trumbull County, where the village of about 3,000 people is located, was 11.4% in August, the third-highest in Ohio. It was 6.6% in March 2019, when GM closed the factory, and it rose to 6.8% in February 2020, just before the coronavirus pandemic took hold.
The GM plant employed 4,500 workers on three shifts in 2017, but that had dwindled to around 1,700 before the last car rolled off the assembly line. Many of the workers moved to other GM factories in order to keep jobs that paid around $30 per hour with great benefits. Those jobs will be difficult to replace.
At present, Lordstown Motors has 159 employees, with plans for 500 by the end of 2020. It expects at least 1,500 by the end of 2021. Full-scale production of the Endurance is scheduled to start sometime in the second half of next year. The company wouldn’t say how much the workers will make.
Ohio is a key swing state that helped Trump win the presidency in 2016, but he’s vulnerable there because of promises made about revitalizing the economy. At a July 2017 rally in Youngstown, he told people that all the jobs that left Ohio are coming back. “Don’t sell your house,” he said.
The Lordstown area in northeastern Ohio is now trying to remake itself into a hub for electric vehicles, aided by GM’s plans to build a new $2.3 billion battery cell assembly plant that’s expected to employ about 1,100 workers. But those jobs won’t pay as much as workers took in while making the Cruze in Lordstown.
TRUMP: “Now Biden is pledging to give federal health care to illegal aliens, which is decimating Medicare. Just so you understand, we all have heart; we want to help people. But the problem is, when you say that, people that never even thought of coming to the United States say, ‘Let’s go. We get free education, free medication, free health care.’” — rally Saturday in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
TRUMP: “On top of it all, former Vice President Joe Biden promised to give free federal health care to anyone in the world who illegally crosses our border. His plan to provide government health care to illegal immigrants would bankrupt our health care system, collapse our hospitals and destroy Medicare, while bringing millions and millions of people — lured — into our country.” — remarks Thursday in Charlotte, North Carolina.
THE FACTS: Biden has not promised to give free federal health care to people lacking legal authorization to be in the United States.
Biden’s health care plan would provide insurance subsidies to U.S. citizens, legal residents and the “Dreamers,” young adults brought to this country as children by their parents, who can now apply for work permits under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — which Trump wants to shut down.
But people without legal permission to be here would not be getting “free federal health care” as Trump asserts.
Biden would allow immigrants who are here illegally to buy health insurance policies on the “Obamacare” markets using their own money, which is a change in federal policy and would remove a prohibition in place currently. It would probably require congressional approval.
That’s a far cry from giving it away.
Krisher reported from Detroit.
EDITOR’S NOTE — A look at the veracity of claims by political figures.
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