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Fact check: Joe Biden and his most important speech

No balloon rain, no roaring arena, no orgy of hugs. Instead, zoom applause sounding somewhat tinny, from people on their couches at home. Then cut to a drive-in cinema, where a horn concert accompanied by orange hazard warning lights begins. Continue with people on pick-up platforms waving blue flashing lights and the US flag. And finally: fireworks over the Wilmington evening sky, plus the sounds of Coldplay.

After Joe Biden's speech, the directors of the US Democratic Party congress made every effort to also use the emotions of their supporters, to loosen up the line-up of "talking heads" a little. Much is different in times of Corona, including the election campaign. But some things are exactly as always: the challenger was an alternative to the incumbent. Biden presented himself as anti-Trump in his speech.

Image of a united America

Biden flourished in what many observers call the most important speech of his life. The now officially elected Democratic presidential candidate spoke forcefully and decisively and this time did not provide his critics with a Strauchler as a template. In his speech, the candidate tried to paint a picture of another, united America, in clear contrast to the America that incumbent Donald Trump had created through his policy of division.

As is often the case in inaugural speeches, there were many promises that US voters can either trust or not. In his more conciliatory speech, however, there were also some statements worth checking - here, the most important of them in the fact check:

Trump's devastating corona balance sheet

As expected, Biden reckoned with Trump's crisis management in the corona pandemic. Trump failed in his duty to the nation - and gave figures that should prove this: "Five million people infected with COVID-19, more than 170,000 Americans have died. By far the worst failure of any nation in the world." Indeed, the US continues to top the global pandemic horror list. The World Health Organization lists 5.43 million infected Americans and 170,640 deaths, the Johns Hopkins University comes to 5.57 million infected and 174,255 deaths (as of August 21). In absolute numbers, Biden is right with his argument, but if you put the numbers in relation to the population, the picture is somewhat different. In the statistics of corona-related deaths per 100,000 population, the USA ranks fifth behind Peru (83), Spain (62), Chile (56) and Brazil (53) with 53 cases. When it comes to mortality, the USA ranks twelfth in the Johns Hopkins University statistics with 3.1 percent.

The effects of the corona crisis

On the other hand, Biden's statement on growing unemployment is beyond doubt: "More than 50 million Americans have applied for unemployment benefits this year" - correct. The US Department of Labor recently spoke of a good 54 million applications. With his forecast that "More than ten million Americans lose their health insurance" Biden apparently relies on a report by the Urban Institute, which predicts 10.1 million people without health insurance from April to December. A study by the Henri J Kaiser Family Foundation even assumes around 27 million cases. It is a prediction, but based on serious research.

Another statement about the massive economic effects of the pandemic is somewhat misleading: "Almost one in six small businesses had to close this year", so Biden. In fact, according to a survey by the US Chamber of Commerce, 13 percent of small businesses have shut down since the pandemic broke out, or almost one in six small businesses. But only one percent had to close permanently, twelve percent had only closed temporarily, the survey shows.

A nationwide mask requirement

In his speech, the 77-year-old candidate also accused Trump of failing to protect America from the pandemic and renewed a promise: "We will introduce a national mask requirement, not as a burden, but as a patriotic duty." He had made a similar statement a week earlier, but experts doubt whether he can keep his promise. The Congressional Research Service said it was "difficult to predict whether the courts will decide this way".

The mask as a symbol of responsibility: Biden and Harris want a national mask requirement

Opponents of the mask requirement had insisted in advance on their rights to freedom according to the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution and see the obligation to wear the mask as a breach of the constitution. A US court has already rejected this line of argument. However, the legal assessment of Biden's plan still appears to be open.

Rebuilding the economy with job program

Biden knows he has to show the badly wounded US economy how he wants to help it grow again. So he can hope for voices from employers and workers. "Together we can rebuild our economy. And not only will we rebuild it, we will rebuild it better”he promised and announced "five million new jobs in production and technology" to accomplish. He is referring to a planned 300 billion dollar package with which he wants to promote future technologies such as biotech, artificial intelligence and sustainable energy generation. For such a large funding package, Biden will need broad political support. Most recently, government spending on research and development has declined significantly, also because there was often no consensus on such projects between the organs of US policy.

On a cuddle course with dictators?

Foreign policy issues hardly appeared in Biden's speech. Hardly surprising, because it seldom wins elections. But Biden gave Trump a powerful swipe: "He is a president who takes no responsibility, who refuses to lead, instead blames others and ingratiates himself with dictators", so Biden. This is a statement with a strong share of opinion, but it has a certain truth content. During his tenure, Trump sought to get close to North Korea's dictator Kim Jon Un and claimed himself: "I have a good relationship with him. And you know, when they say: 'Isn't that terrible?' Then I say, 'No, this is great' ".

Trump's good relationship with the autocratic rulers of Saudi Arabia and, at times, with Russia or China is well documented and also supported by corresponding statements by Trump. Not to forget Trump's confession with regard to the Turkish head of state Recep Tayyip Erdogan: "I am a big fan of the president," said Trump, addressing Erdogan as "my dear friend" and praising the "great relationship". Similarly, in the case of Viktor Orbán, whom Trump received in the White House and praised Orbán's "great work". "He's a tough man, but he does good for people." Not all Hungarians are likely to agree.

Even if not all of the people mentioned can be called dictators, Trump repeatedly sought proximity to those in power who do not always maintain a democratic leadership style.

Conclusion: Biden mostly sticks to facts

Unlike Trump likes to do, Joe Biden is not looking for any "alternative facts" in order to gain the power of interpretation in the election campaign. The figures he gives are verifiable and sometimes rather conservative. In a few places his information is a bit misleading. Biden's promises are big, but not unworldly, but realistic to ambitious. Incumbent Trump is likely to try to outdo his challenger in his nomination speech next week - in every way.