PolitiFact: Checking Nancy Pelosi, Donald Trump and Michael Moore

PolitiFact last week looked at claims by Rep. Nancy Pelosi on the mortgage tax deduction, President Trump on insurance company profits under Obamacare, and filmmaker Michael Moore on homicide victims killed with their own guns. Here are summaries of our findings. Full versions can be found at www.politifact.com.

The state and local tax deduction is a major benefit for moderate-income households because “50% of households that claim State & Local Tax deduction make under $100K.”

— Nancy Pelosi on Thursday, October 12th, 2017 in a tweet

We found Pelosi’s numbers are on target but the suggestion that this deduction primarily helps lower-earning Americans misses the mark.

Lower-income taxpayers are less likely to itemize their tax returns and benefit from the state and local tax deduction. But because there are so many more taxpayers in these income groups, they make up a majority of taxpayers claiming it. Higher-income households are much more likely than lower-income taxpayers to take the deduction.

But this is only part of the picture. Most other data show the deduction skewing toward higher-income taxpayers.

According to the report Pelosi’s office cited, between 91 percent and 93 percent of households earning $200,000 and up take the deduction. By contrast, 53 percent of taxpayers with between $75,000 and $100,000 in income used the deduction, and the lower income bands used it at rates significantly less than that. Also, the dollar amounts saved through the deduction skew heavily toward the upper end of the income spectrum. So, if anything, removing the deduction would disproportionately hurt higher earners.

Our ruling

The data says that 54 percent of taxpayers who claim the deduction make $100,000 or less. But, in reality this is a tax deduction that disproportionately benefits higher-income taxpayers, not the group Pelosi highlighted in her tweet. Pelosi’s claim is accurate, but it comes with that caveat.

We rate the statement Mostly True.

Insurance companies “have made a fortune with Obamacare.”

— President Donald Trump on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017 in a tweet

Was Obamacare the cash cow? Based on the the companies’ filings and the analysis of people on Wall Street, at universities and a respected neutral health policy group, the answer is no.

Despite the enormous attention paid to the Obamacare exchanges, they make up less than 4 percent of the insurance market for people under 65. And contrary to Trump’s assertion, they have dragged profits down, not boosted them up, experts say.

The bulk of insurance business lies in employer-based coverage, which accounts for nearly 60 percent of the under-65 insurance market. Over the years, companies have benefited by shifting more of the costs onto customers through higher deductibles and other out-of-pocket expenses.

Our ruling

Trump said insurance companies have made a fortune with Obamacare. The White House cited the companies’ surging profits as proof.

Every report we saw and every expert we reached said insurers made their huge profits elsewhere, largely through their work in the large group or employer-based market or through the Medicare Advantage program. The expansion of Medicaid, another part of Obamacare also helped, but to a smaller degree.

We rate this claim False.

“People who die from a home invasion make up a sad but minuscule .04% of all gun murders in the U.S. And over a third of them are killed by their own gun that the criminal has either stolen or wrestled from them.”

— Michael Moore on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017 in a Facebook post

Several experts on firearm statistics told us they hadn’t seen a recent study on either home invasions ending in homicide or who owned the weapon used, but Moore’s first point sounded somewhat reasonable. FBI figures for 22015, for example,showed 13,455 reported homicides, and 102 of those happened during burglaries. That’s 0.76 percent of all homicides — but there was no mention of the term home invasion, or the weapon used to commit the homicide. Nobody we contacted knew of any statistic that supported Moore’s second assertion about a third of people being killed with their own gun during these attacks at home.

Our ruling

The homicide rate during burglaries is a tiny fraction of overall gun deaths. But no one, including federal agencies that track crime, could independently verify Moore’s figures about the owner of the weapon used in those crimes the way he claimed.

We rate this statement Mostly False.

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