Fact checking the ABC-Yahoo Republican presidential debate in Iowa
It may have been bad politics for Mitt Romney to offer a $10,000 bet to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, but it’s a good thing Perry didn’t take it. He would have lost a fair chunk of change. Here’s our round-up of misses and bloopers committed by the GOP candidates in Saturday’s ABC-Yahoo debate, held at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, in the order in which they made them.
“Well, I think that there’s a clear record, I worked with Ronald Reagan in the early ‘80s and his recovery program translated into today’s population of about 25 million new jobs in a seven-year period. As Speaker of the House, I worked with President Clinton and he followed with a very similar plan. And we ended up with about 11 million new jobs in a four-year period.”
The former House Speaker conveniently ignores the fact that Bill Clinton pushed through a major tax increase on the wealthy in 1993 which, combined with the boom in technology stocks, brought forth a gusher of tax revenue that helped eliminate the budget deficit. Gingrich at the time predicted economic disaster when Clinton won approval of his tax increase with not a single Republican vote.
“Because today, 47 percent of the American people pay nothing in federal income tax. Everyone benefits by the country, they need to pay.”
Rep. Bachmann loves to cite this statistic but it is misleading.
She is ignoring a key component of the federal tax system — payroll taxes. For many Americans, payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare are a much greater part of their tax burden than income taxes. When all federal tax liabilities are included, it is clear that only a small percentage pay no form of federal tax. Bachmann is proposing a solution — making everyone pay at least the cost of two Big Macs — for which there is no problem.
“We can cut government bureaucracy, which is ObamaCare. N.F.I.B. tells us, that’s the small business agency, that we will lose 1.6 million jobs over five years if we keep ObamaCare.”
The NFIB is the National Federation of Independent Businesses, a fierce foe of Obama’s health plan, so any of its data on the law should be considered carefully. (We are not singling out the NFIB; we would make the same point about data from any organization with a particular point of view, whether from the left or right.)
But in any case, Bachmann is citing a study that was produced before the health care bill was even crafted. The report looked at a hypothetical effect of a sweeping national employer healthcare mandate—not the law itself, which was narrower in scope because it exempted firms with fewer than 50 workers. Bachmann also does not mention that this figure only mentions job losses, not any potential job gains that would balance out the overall statistic.
“Let’s not forget, only one president has ever cut Medicare for seniors in this country and it’s Barack Obama.”
This is wrong. Presidents and lawmakers have frequently tried to rein in the soaring cost of Medicare. (In fact, Romney is on record of supporting the House Republican plan for Medicare which would make major changes in order to reduce its costs).
Gingrich could have helped clarify this point because he frequently brags about the Balanced Budget bill signed into law in 1997 by Bill Clinton, when Gingrich was House speaker. That law was projected to have cut $112 billion from the predicted growth of Medicare over five years, though not all of the cuts were implemented.
“The reason why this [the payroll tax cut] is so detrimental to the economy as well is that this blew a hole, in other words, it took away $111 billion away from the Social Security Trust Fund. This is a very real issue for senior citizens, because we have to pay the Social Security checks that are going out.”
Bachmann gets at a serious issue here, though not in a serious way. It depends in part on how one views the Social Security trust fund (see our Social Security primer for more information) but important questions have been raised about whether a continuation of the payroll tax is fundamentally changing the funding of Social Security. But, in any case, no “hole” has been blown in the trust fund that would affect the payment of Social Security checks.
“If you take one-half of the New York janitors who are unionized and paid more than the teachers, an entry-level janitor gets paid twice as much as an entry-level teacher. You take half of those janitors, you could give virtually-- you could give lots of poor kids a work experience in the cafeteria and the school library and-- and front office, and a lot of different things.”
This factoid is apparently true, according to the reporting of New York City media organizations. Here’s a New York Post article and a NBC News report. But at least one person, while saying teacher salaries are too low, argues that janitors are not overpaid.
UPDATE, Dec. 13: Our friends at PolitiFact did a bit more digging on this and determined Gingrich was mixing up entry-level “janitors” and “first-year custodial engineers,” which is supervisory position. Apples to apples, entry-level teachers earn more than entry-level janitors. Good catch by PolitiFact. They rated his claim “false.”
“I oppose cap and trade, I testified against it, the same day that Al Gore testified for it. I helped defeat it in the Senate through American solutions. It is simply untrue.”
Gingrich protests too much. As we wrote last week, Gingrich did express support for cap and trade in the past. He is trying to pretend that flip-flop never happened.
Here’s what he said just four years ago: “I think if you have mandatory carbon caps combined with a trading system, much like we did with sulfur, and if you have a tax-incentive program for investing in the solutions, that there’s a package there that’s very, very good. And frankly, it’s something I would strongly support.”
Rick Perry: “I’m listenin’ to you, Mitt, and I’m hearin’ you say all the right things. But I read your first book and it said in there that your mandate in Massachusetts which should be the model for the country. And I know it came out of the reprint of the book. But, you know, I’m just sayin’, you were for individual mandates, my friend.”
Romney: “You know what? You’ve raised that before, Rick. And you’re simply wrong.”
Perry: “It was true then. It’s true now.”
Romney: “I have not said, in that book, first edition or the latest edition, anything about our plan being a national model imposed on the nation.”
This is when Romney offered to make a $10,000 bet and Perry declined to take it. Smart man, because he would have lost the money.
Perry is making a phony claim.
It is clear that the hardcover edition was written when Obama’s health-care plan was still a work in progress. For instance, Romney spends some time denouncing the idea of a public option as “government-supplied insurance.” The paperback was published after the health-care law was passed, so the paragraphs on the public option — which had been abandoned by Obama — are dropped.
Romney also must have sensed that GOP anger at Obama’s health-care law might make his own signature legislative achievement less attractive to Republican voters, so he added a few paragraphs emphasizing how the Democratic governor who followed him made changes in the law that he did not approve of. But otherwise the changes are minimal — the standard updating that takes place in paperback nonfiction books.
“These people are terrorists. They teach terrorism in their schools. They have textbooks that say, ‘If there are 13 Jews and nine Jews are killed, how many Jews are left?’ We pay for those textbooks through our aid money. ”
During the debate, Gingrich reiterated his controversial claim the Palestinians are an “invented people,” which has been criticized in some Republican quarters. But he also raised a new charge about Palestinian textbooks, which he said the United States pays for “through our aid money.”
This funding claim is correct only in an indirect sense: The United States is the largest single-state donor for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), providing nearly $250 million in 2011. As a recent Congressional Research Service report made clear, this funding is closely scrutinized by Congress. But UNRWA underwrites the schooling of Palestinian refugees and thus provides money for textbooks
The issue of Palestinian textbooks is controversial, one the Palestinian Authority says it is addressing. We cannot immediately find evidence of the statement claimed by Gingrich, and it is not clear if he is referring to a statement in one of the newer textbooks.
There have been a number of reports by pro-Israel groups that say the textbooks in Palestinian schools reinforce hatred of Jews. But one Palestinian expert has argued that studies in English that claim to show such bias in Palestinian textbooks are “based on innuendo, exaggeration, and downright lies.”
Here is what the State Department’s human rights report said about the new Palestinian text books:
The PA Ministry of Education and Higher Education completed the revision of its primary and secondary textbooks in 2006. International academics concluded the textbooks did not incite violence against Jews, but showed imbalance, bias, and inaccuracy. Some maps in Palestinian textbooks did not depict the current political reality, showing neither Israel nor the settlements. Palestinian textbooks, used in Palestinian schools, as well as in Jerusalem municipality-administered schools in East Jerusalem, inconsistently defined the 1967 borders and failed to label areas and cities with both Arabic and Hebrew names.
But the Israeli media has reported that Israeli educational system “is hardly better than the Palestinian one when it comes to inserting political messages in textbooks.”
“This president decided he was gonna try and negotiate for Israel by sayin’, “Let’s go back to the ‘67 borders.” That’s not what Israel wanted to hear.”
Romney is greatly oversimplifying what President Obama said earlier this year, in an admittedly controversial speech. Obama made it clear his proposal included land swaps: “We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.”
We wrote at the time that, in diplomatic terms, this was a significant shift for a U.S. president, in part because of what he dropped various diplomatic code words of meaning to Israelis. But Romney is taking it a step too far, especially because Obama almost immediately clarified his statement in his response to Israeli concerns.
“The fact is, the Palestinian claim to a right of return is based on a historically false story. Somebody oughta have the courage to go all the way back to the 1921 League of Nations mandate for a Jewish homeland, point out the context in which Israel came into existence, and ‘Palestinian’ did not become a common term until after 1977.”
Let’s stipulate that both Israelis and Palestinians have their own historic narratives, and woe be the Fact Checker who tries to decide which narrative is right.
But Gingrich’s claim that “Palestinian” did not become a common term until 1977 is bizarre. The very League of Nations mandate that he mentions was called “The British Mandate for Palestine.” The text of the declaration mentions the word “Palestine” 45 times and “Palestinian” twice.
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