If you take Politifact.com as any guide, the Democratic Convention that just concluded spent a lot more time discussing facts than the Republican Convention in Tampa. There were only two statements tracked by Politifact that rated a “false”. One by Delaware Governor Jack Markell who used a Romney quote out of context about firing people who provide poor healthcare as indication of how Romney would respond to a potential factory closing. The other was the claim by Rep. James Clyburn that Republicans stood on the sidelines when Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid were created. While there was vigorous debate about all three programs, a majority of Republicans supported all three in the final vote.
That said there were still issues that should be mentioned because they weren’t entirely accurate.
On the debt, Obama said, “Independent analysis shows that my plan would cut our deficits by $4 trillion. Last summer, I worked with Republicans in Congress to cut $1 trillion in spending.”
The problem with this statement is that there was no mention of the timeline on the $4T which could give the impression that the current $1T deficit would be eliminated. The facts are that a the end of the most recent 10-year budget proposal, the debt would be 76% of GDP. That represents and increase of approximately 4% of the 74% debt figure today. Simpson-Bowles, by comparison, would reduce the debt as a percentage of the GDP over the same period to 60%. The bulk of the deficit reductions comes from tax increases on the wealthy rather than spending cuts.
On a related topic, Obama also said that savings from winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would be used to rebuild roads, bridges, schools and runways. The problem is that those wars were financed with “deficit” dollars. So ending those wars doesn’t magically free up money for other projects. Any infrastructure spending using the same model that funded the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will increase the deficit in the same way the wars have done.
Obama referenced trade agreements that he signed which will improve our exports. What he didn’t say is that the Bush administration negotiated those agreements. Obama still had to get those agreements through an obstructive Congress, but he can’t take full credit for the final product.
Obama implied that Romney would turn Social Security over to Wall Street. While Romney did support this position in 2008, he no longer does. Obama does get positive marks for including modest Social Security reform in his latest budget proposal.
Joe Biden and the film that aired before Obama spoke referenced an incident during Obama’s mother’s hospitalization for breast cancer. She did have a dispute with an insurance company, but it wasn’t over health benefits. It was for disability pay. So the clear line from the death of Obama’s mother to healthcare reform, is really a more complicated story than the Democrats have been telling.
Biden also repeated the line that Romney was willing to let Detroit go bankrupt. The actual WSJ opinion piece that Romney wrote didn’t say that. Only the headline, which Romney didn’t write. Romney did, however, support that headline in a TV appearance. What Romney was recommending a “managed bankruptcy” and claimed that the private sector could finance that. The Obama administration explored that concept but couldn’t find any private firms willing to participate, so the government essentially funded the managed bankruptcy and reorganization of GM and the sale of Chrysler to Fiat. They do, however, deserve credit for the results of this actio.
Biden claimed the the Romney plan would cause Medicare to go bankrupt. The inaccurate term here is “bankrupt”. The reference here was to Medicare Part A which is funded by a payroll tax paid by employees and employers. The administration negotiated a $716B savings in the ACA which would benefit this fund and extends its life well past the 2016 date. Romney wants to repeal the ACA which will eliminate this savings and shorten the life of the Medicare trust fund. The fund won’t technically go bankrupt, but if it does run low on fund, the government is going to have to respond to make up the shortfall or cut benefits.
Biden cited a new territorial tax as being part of Romney’s proposal and that it will create 800,000 overseas jobs. Romney does propose as part of his corporate tax reform initiative to exempt foreign corporate profits from domestic US taxes. The study cited by Biden does support Biden’s claim with regard to foreign employment gains, though it doesn’t specifically examine Romney’s proposal. The study does not suggest that these foreign jobs will come at the expense of US jobs.
Finally Biden claimed that Romney’s tax plan would include an effective tax increase of $2,000 for middle class families. This is based on an analysis of the Romney plan by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. Romney has claimed that his tax reductions would be revenue neutral because he would simultaneously close man tax loopholes, but he hasn’t said which ones he would close. The Tax Policy Center in their analysis said that the only way to make the math work, would be to close some tax loopholes like the deduction for mortgage interest that benefit the middle class. The Romney campaign disputes these findings but hasn’t provided an alternate explanation of how their math would work. In the absence of this explanation, Biden’s claim has to stand.
The quick summary is that the Republicans generally were significantly more fact-challenged than the Democrats and also shared far less detail about what they planned to do than the Democrats. The Democrats did their fair share of fact stretching, but none of these compared with the many “pants on fire” lies that were core portions of the Republican convention message.