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Previewing the ‘facts’ in Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech

at 11:30 AM ET, 08/30/2012


(Brian Snyder/Reuters)

The details of Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention on Thursday night are not known, but he’s been road-testing various claims about President Obama’s record for months. Here are five dubious assertions that he frequently makes on the campaign trail or in his campaign advertisements. (Republicans, no worries! We will also do this exercise for Obama next week.)

“If the President is reelected, he will succeed in raiding $716 billion from Medicare — from the trust fund you have paid into all your lives – to pay for Obamacare.”

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 the law makes to reduce spending. But the savings are mostly wrung from health-care providers, not Medicare beneficiaries.

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.

We have generally considered this to be a two-Pinocchio claim, though if Romney says Obama raided the trust fund, that would likely push it to three.

“President Obama gutted welfare reform. My plan for a stronger middle class will put work back in welfare.”

This highly inaccurate Four Pinocchio claim is at the center of what the Romney campaign considers its most effective ad. At issue is a memo issued in July by the Department of Health and Human Services, encouraging states to consider “new, more effective ways” of meeting employment goals. As part of that, the HHS Secretary would consider issuing waivers to states concerning worker participation targets.

The administration’s move was a surprise, though it claims it reacted in response to requests from both Democratic and Republican governors. Even supporters suggest that the administration violated the spirit of the law, but no waivers have been issued and Obama has taken no action to weaken work requirements. Romney is asserting an extreme interpretation of what might happen under these rules.

“Obama went around the world and apologized for America. ... Do you want a president who will never, ever apologize for the greatest nation on Earth?”

Romney frequently says that Obama apologized overseas for the United States. He even titled his campaign book “No Apology.”

Even more, Romney suggests, Obama does not believe in American strength and greatness. The assertion feeds into a subterranean narrative that Obama, with his exotic, mixed-race background, is not really American in the first place.

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

“President Obama has amassed five trillion dollars of debt — nearly as much debt held by the public as all other presidents combined.”

The number is certainly correct, and the Romney campaign points to similar remarks made by Obama during the 2008 about the growth of debt under President George W. Bush, using the same metric.

But The Fact Checker considers this a One Pinocchio violation because it is simplistic to pin all of the debt increase on Obama’s policies. The debt has gone up because of mismatch between government spending and revenues — and the explosion of spending and decline in revenues both began at the start of the recession, a full year before Obama took office.

“We will cut spending, shrink deficits and put America on track to a balanced budget.”

This is more of a promise, rather than a fact, but Romney thus far has failed to show how he will achieve these goals. He has not identified enough spending cuts to balance the budget, and tax analysts have said that his plan to overhaul the tax code does not add up, without either cutting revenue even further or requiring new taxes.

Interestingly, Romney does not promise to achieve a balanced budget, merely to put the nation “on track” to a balanced budget — which could be decades away.

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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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