PolitiFact Wisconsin's most clicked items for August 2019

Law enforcement officials block a road at the scene of a mass shooting at a shopping complex Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019, in El Paso, Texas. (AP)
Law enforcement officials block a road at the scene of a mass shooting at a shopping complex Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019, in El Paso, Texas. (AP)
China's President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump shake hands on Nov. 9, 2017, during a meeting in Beijing. The two are now at the center of a trade war with tariffs imposed on both sides.  (Artyom Ivanov/Tass/Abaca Press/TNS)
China's President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump shake hands on Nov. 9, 2017, during a meeting in Beijing. The two are now at the center of a trade war with tariffs imposed on both sides. (Artyom Ivanov/Tass/Abaca Press/TNS)

The issue of mass shootings took center stage in August. 

On Aug. 3, 2019, a gunman walked into a packed Walmart in El Paso, Texas, and opened fire, killing at least 22 and injuring 24.

Then, in the wee hours of Aug. 4, a gunman opened fire on the street in a Dayton, Ohio, entertainment district, killing nine and injuring 27.

The month ended in similar fashion when, on August 31, 2019 a mass shooting incident in Midland, Texas, left seven people dead and 22 wounded. 

Which brings us to a state lawmaker, who claimed that such shootings are down under Trump. 

It was our most-clicked item in August, and tops our "High Five" for the month.

 

1. "Less mass shootings under Trump!"  

Wisconsin state Rep. Ron Tusler on Facebook claimed mass shootings are down under President Donald Trump. Tusler, R-Harrison, made the statement in the wake of the shootings in El Paso and Dayton: 

"Less mass shootings under Trump! His base doesn't hate anyone," Tusler wrote in a since-deleted post.

A chart Tusler based his claim on is both incomplete and outdated — including only half of Trump’s time in office. And it’s absurd to use a raw tally of shootings to compare just over two years under Trump to eight years under President Barack Obama.

Using more comprehensive data and a reasonable criterion like shootings per year, we see that mass shootings have risen steadily in recent decades regardless of who is in the White House. 

So shootings are up — not down — under Trump.

We rated Tusler’s claim Pants on Fire.

 

2. U.S. farmers are receiving $16 billion "out of the tariffs that we’ve gotten from China."

President Donald Trump’s administration announced in May that help was on the way for some in the form of a $16 billion farm aid package.

But it was the President’s repeated description of funding for that bailout that caught our eye.

"We are doing great with farmers now in a lot of ways. One way is we’re giving $16 billion out of all the tariffs we’re collecting," Trump told WTMJ-TV’s Charles Benson in a July 12, 2019, interview in Wisconsin. "Sixteen billion dollars all comes out of the tariffs that we’ve gotten from China."

That $16 billion is paid out through the Commodity Credit Corporation, a government institution supervised by the USDA that can borrow up to $30 billion annually from the U.S. Treasury and distribute it to farmers without specific Congressional approval.

But Trump’s claim simply does not reflect how tariffs work.

The tariffs imposed by Trump have been paid almost entirely by U.S. importers, who pass much of that on to consumers through price increases.

We rated Trump’s claim False.

 

3. "More Americans are uninsured today than when (President Donald) Trump took office."

Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin made the claim in a June 24, 2019, tweet

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics report on health insurance shows there were 28.6 million people uninsured in 2016, the year before Trump took office. That represents 9% of the population.

In 2018, that number showed 30.4 million people, or 9.4% of people all ages were without insurance. 

In addition, Trump campaigned on the issue of repealing the Affordable Care Act. Since taking office in January of 2017, his administration has steadily taken steps to roll back the law.

On Jan. 20, 2017, Trump issued an executive order that directed federal agencies to use their administrative powers to begin dismantling the Affordable Care Act "to the maximum extent permitted by law." 

We rate Baldwin’s statement True.

 

4. "Elected officials draw (legislative redistricting) maps. That’s it."

Skewed maps orchestrated by Wisconsin Republicans after the 2010 Census drew numerous legal challenges but survived to give the GOP a stranglehold on the state Legislature.

With the 2020 Census looming, redistricting is again a hot topic, particularly for the Democrats who garnered more statewide votes but claimed just over one-third of the Assembly seats last fall.

Opponents of gerrymandering proposed in July 2019 to have the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau draw the maps without giving an advantage to either party. Republican leaders who control the state Legislature have said the bill is going nowhere.

Former state Rep. Adam Jarchow, R-Balsam Lake, retweeted coverage of the proposal July 16, 2019, calling it "non-sense" and insisting elected officials should draw maps. When another user asked if he felt gerrymandering is an issue, the two-term lawmaker responded:

"My answer is the same as it’s been for 250 years in this country. Elected officials draw maps. That’s it. If people don’t like how they drew them, kick them out of office."

Jarchow’s statement simply is not true.

State legislatures still draw the majority of maps around the country. But a growing number of states have turned to an independent or bipartisan commission of some kind to establish legislative boundaries.

Eleven states currently give the Legislature no direct involvement in drawing or approving maps.

We rated Jarchow’s claim False.

 

5. "1 out of every 4 car accidents in the U.S. is caused by texting and driving."

Gov. Tony Evers, while advocating safe driving on Twitter, urged state residents to buckle up, ditch distractions, drive sober and obey traffic laws. 

One of the distractions mentioned by the governor caught the eye of PolitiFact: "1 out of every 4 car accidents in the U.S. is caused by texting and driving."

Amid all the potential causes for a crash — weather, impaired driving, other technology-related distractions — does texting really account for a full 25%?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration — while noting data concerns about inconsistent reporting between police agencies — reported in April 2019 that distracted driving accounted for 9% of fatal crashes in the U.S. in 2017.

A 2015 safety council analysis, based on 2013 data, found cellphones were a factor in 26% of all crashes, the same as the prior year.

But texting accounted for only 6% of crashes. The other 20% were classified as "talking."

The general point is right that distracted driving is a significant and deadly problem. And cellphone use is a core piece of that. But the statistic he used to make that point is wrong.

We rated this claim False.