Fact Checking Huntsman’s fact-free announcement speech

at 06:00 AM ET, 06/22/2011


(Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
“I'm Jon Huntsman, and I'm running for President of the United States.”

--Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman(R)

Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman delivered his presidential announcement speech Tuesday, and we were prepared to fact check it as we have the other presidential announcement speeches.

 But not only was his speech fairly content-free, it was also fact-free. No slashing attacks on the president to check. No hyperbolic claims to debunk. No strange statistics seemingly conjured out of thin air.

 This certainly is in keeping with Huntsman’s strategy of being an unconventional candidate. Perhaps the former envoy to China believes that facts spouted by politicians are so devalued these days that it doesn’t make much sense to use them?  Anyway, here are a few things we found.

 

We are the most productive society on earth. We have the finest colleges and universities.”

The Huntsman campaign says these lines are just “figures of speech” and are not intended to be factual.

Still, we found it interesting that Huntsman’s former boss, President Obama, used virtually the same phrasing a few months ago—remarks that earned him a Pinocchio.

Both Obama and Huntsman are guilty of excess boosterism. You can look at our previous story for the full details but in sum, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics actually ranks the United States as the third most productive country (after Norway and Ireland). On education, the United States ranks in eighth place when countries are measured by the number of world-class universities per million people.

 

"If we don't [makes hard choices about spending], in less than a decade, every dollar of federal revenue will go to covering the costs of Medicare, Social Security and interest payments on our debt."

 

These three items do not seem to add up to “every dollar of federal revenue” in 2020 but Huntsman, according to his campaign, left out a key word here—Medicaid, the federal/state health care program for the poor. That’s an important item to forget, especially for a former governor. Medicaid would add another $600 billion in estimated spending that year.

 That still does not quite add up to 100 percent of federal revenues in 2020, if you look at the White House budget tables. The campaign says Huntsman obtained his statistic from a news article about a Government Accountability Office report. We’re not going to argue with the GAO’s math, but that report actually said 92 percent—not 100 percent--of federal revenue would be spent on these programs and interest on the debt by 2020. So this a slight exaggeration about a serious problem.

 

The Pinocchio Test

 We realize this is pretty small beer for an announcement speech, barely worth assigning Pinocchios. So we are not even going to try. It will be interesting to see if this low-key approach actually wins votes in our hyper-partisan age.

 

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    About the Blogger

    Glenn Kessler has covered foreign policy, economic policy, the White House, Congress, politics, airline safety and Wall Street.

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