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Fact checking Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech at the GOP convention

at 06:02 AM ET, 08/31/2012

In his acceptance speech for the Republican presidential nomination, former governor Mitt Romney focused more on his biography than his policy positions. But there were moments when his facts went awry or were missing important context.

Let’s take a tour through the rhetoric.

“And unlike the president, I have a plan to create 12 million new jobs.”

This sounds like a pretty bold statement, especially considering that only two presidents — Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton — created more than 12 million jobs. Romney, in fact, says he can reach this same goal, in just four years, though the policy paper issued by his campaign contains few details. It is mostly a collection of policy assertions, such as reducing debt, overhauling the tax code, fostering free trade and so forth.

But, in fact, the number is even less impressive than it sounds. This pledge amounts to an average of 250,000 jobs a month, a far cry from the 500,000 jobs a month that Romney once claimed would be created in a “normal recovery.” In recent months, the economy has averaged about 150,000 jobs a month.

The Congressional Budget Office is required to consider the effects of the so-called “fiscal cliff” if a year-end budget deal is not reached, which many experts believe would push the country into a recession. But even with that caveat, the nonpartisan agency assumes 9.06 million jobs will be created between 2013 and 2017. (This is a revision downward; CBO had estimated 11 million in January.)

But Moody’s Analytics, in an August forecast, predicts 12 million jobs will be created by 2016, no matter who is president. And Macroeconomic Advisors in April also predicted a gain of 12.3 million jobs.

In other words, this is a fairly safe bet by Romney, even if he has a somewhat fuzzy plan for action. We have often noted that presidents are often at the mercy — or are the beneficiary — of broad economic trends, and Romney’s pledge appears to be an effort to take advantage of that.

“I will begin my presidency with a jobs tour. President Obama began with an apology tour.”

This is one of Romney’s signature lines, but in a lengthy column last year, we tracked down every statement Obama uttered that partisans claim was an apology, and concluded that each one had been misquoted or taken out of context. His comments overseas were not much different than those of his predecessor, President George W. Bush.

Indeed, on several occasions Bush apologized to foreign governments for actions taken by U.S. soldiers, such as for the shooting of a Koran or prisoner abuse in Iraq. “I told him I was sorry for the humiliation suffered by the Iraqi prisoners and the humiliation suffered by their families,” Bush said at a news conference with Jordan’s King Abdullah.

Despite earning Four Pinocchios for this claim for months, Romney keeps saying it.

“Does it [the economy] fail to find the jobs that are needed for 23 million people and for half the kids graduating from college? No.”

Romney is referring to an Associated Press survey earlier this year that concluded that about 1.5 million, or 53.6 percent, of bachelor’s degree-holders under the age of 25 last year were jobless or underemployed. This was the highest level in 11 years, since the dot-com bust in 2000.

“A weak labor market already has left half of young college graduates either jobless or underemployed in positions that don’t fully use their skills and knowledge,” the news agency said. “Young adults with bachelor’s degrees are increasingly scraping by in lower-wage jobs — waiter or waitress, bartender, retail clerk or receptionist, for example — and that’s confounding their hopes a degree would pay off despite higher tuition and mounting student loans.”

Romney often cites this fact but is generally careful to include the phrase “underemployed.” His phrasing in his speech might have led viewers to believe that 50 percent of college graduates cannot find jobs at all, which is incorrect.

“His trillion-dollar cuts to our military will eliminate hundreds of thousands of jobs, and also put our security at greater risk.”

Romney here attributes planned cuts to the military entirely to Obama, but they actually are the result of a 2011 budget deal between Obama and congressional Republicans, which avoided a default on the national debt.

Leaders agreed to include additional automatic cuts to the military as an incentive to reach a broader budget deal, but a congressional “supercommittee” failed to reach an agreement. Obama has proposed raising taxes on the wealthy to end the impasse, but congressional Republicans have rejected that proposal.

“Unlike President Obama, I will not raise taxes on the middle class.”

Romney appears to be referring to mandates in the health-care law, but overall Obama has cut taxes broadly for the middle class. He has extended Bush tax cuts, included a “Making Work Pay” credit in the stimulus bill, and reduced payroll taxes by two percentage points in the past two years.

Obama has called for raising taxes on people making more than $250,000 a year.

“His $716 billion cut to Medicare to finance Obamacare will both hurt today’s seniors, and depress innovation — and jobs — in medicine.”

Republicans have repeatedly used variations of this line, but as we have noted it is not factually correct.

This $700 billion figure comes from the difference over 10 years (2013-2022) between anticipated Medicare spending (what is known as “the baseline”) and the changes that the law makes to reduce spending. The savings mostly are wrung from health-care providers, not Medicare beneficiaries — who, as a result of the health-care law, ended up with new benefits for preventive care and prescription drugs.

While it is correct that anticipated savings from Medicare were used to help offset some of the anticipated costs of expanding health care for all Americans, it does not affect the Medicare trust fund. In fact, the Obama health-care law also raised Medicare payroll taxes by $318 billion over the new 10-year time frame, further strengthening the program’s financial condition.

“Family income has fallen by $4,000, but health insurance premiums are higher, food prices are higher, utility bills are higher, and gasoline prices have doubled.”

Romney mixes in a number of correct claims here — such as the fact that incomes have kept falling since the recession officially ended in June 2009 — with one misleading statistic: “Gasoline prices have doubled.”

Gasoline was an average of $1.83 a gallon the day before Obama took the oath of office, but that was because of the economic crisis. Exactly four years ago, the average price was $3.67 — not much different than today’s price of $3.72. Gas prices had plunged after the collapse of Lehman Brothers sparked the crisis, reaching $1.59 a gallon by the end of December. So the dip was largely a temporary aberration.

(NOTE: As is our practice, we generally do not award Pinocchios in these instant round-ups.)

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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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