This post has been revised to clarify Paul Ryan’s inaccurate statement about the Janesville GM plant.
It was Paul Ryan’s big moment in Tampa tonight, and he sure didn’t lack for passion. But do the claims he made hold up? Wonkblog went about sorting the true from the misleading and the downright false.
Obama cut Medicare - Ryan blasted the cuts to Medicare reimbursements and Medicare advantage included in the Affordable Care Act. “They just took it all away from Medicare,” Ryan declared. “Seven hundred and sixteen billion dollars, funneled out of Medicare by President Obama.” That much is correct – the Affordable Care Act contained over $700 billion in cuts to Medicare reimbursement rates and Medicare advantage. The Obama administration insists the cuts will not hurt quality and are necessary to control costs, while the Romney-Ryan campaign disputes this, but the underlying claim is correct.
Obama didn’t fix the housing crisis – Ryan claimed Obama’s presidency, “began with a housing crisis they alone didn’t cause; it ends with a housing crisis they didn’t correct.” It is true that Obama did not cause the financial crisis and true that it has still not fully recovered almost four years later, as Ezra detailed in a recent column.
A GM plant in Ryan’s district shut down on Obama’s watch – From Ryan’s speech:
My home state voted for President Obama. When he talked about change, many people liked the sound of it, especially in Janesville, where we were about to lose a major factory.
A lot of guys I went to high school with worked at that GM plant. Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said: “I believe that if our government is there to support you … this plant will be here for another hundred years.” That’s what he said in 2008.
Well, as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day.
The decision to close the plant was made in June 2008, when George W. Bush was president. Ryan says that Janesville was “about to” lose the factory at the time of the election, and Obama failed to prevent this. This is false, as Ryan knew in 2008 when he issued a statement bemoaning the plant’s impending closing.
The stimulus was the biggest expenditure in government history – The stimulus, Paul Ryan writes, “cost $831 billion – the largest one-time expenditure ever by our federal government.” This is false any way you cut it. By comparison, the Congressional Research Service estimates (pdf) that World War II cost $4.1 trillion in 2011 dollars. That was the biggest one-time expenditure ever, not the stimulus. Ryan is simply incorrect.
The Affordable Care Act increases taxes on millions of small businesses – Paul Ryan declared that the Affordable Care Act would impose “new taxes on nearly a million small businesses.” The Act changes taxes for small businesses in three ways. It provides a tax credit (pdf) to subsidize insurance coverage for which between 1.4 and 4 million small businesses are eligible. It imposes a tax on medical device manufacturers, of which there were only 5,300 (pdf) in the United States in 2007. Finally, it imposes an employer mandate on businesses that do not provide coverage, which will not affect (pdf) businesses with under 50 employees. Most small businesses, then, get a tax cut, and the number of small businesses facing tax increases is about five thousand, far under a million. Ryan’s claim is just false.
The stimulus was full of fraud – “The stimulus was a case of political patronage, corporate welfare, and cronyism at their worst,” Ryan boomed. No it wasn’t. According to TIME’s Michael Grunwald, whose new book The New New Deal is the definitive history of the stimulus, only 0.0001 percent of stimulus funds were wasted on fraud. Grunwald quotes the stimulus’s head watchdog, Earl Devaney: “We don’t get involved in politics, but whether you’re a Democrat, Republican, communist, whatever, you’ve got to appreciate that the serious fraud just hasn’t happened.” Even in the notorious case of Solyndra, House Republican investigation chair Darrel Issa found no evidence of undue political influence. Ryan is wrong to say that the stimulus was unusually corrupt or devoted to political patronage.
The Affordable Care Act was a government takeover – ”We got a long, divisive, all-or-nothing attempt to put the federal government in charge of health care,” Ryan stated. Nope. The Affordable Care Act greatly expands private insurance rather than implementing a truly government-run insurance system, like those in Canada and Australia, or a government-run hospital system, like that in the United Kingdom. As Jonathan Oberlander, a health policy expert at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, put it, “The label ‘government takeover’ has no basis in reality, but instead reflects a political dynamic where conservatives label any increase in government authority in health care as a ‘takeover.’”
Obama doesn’t have a debt plan - On the debt, Ryan says, “Republicans stepped up with good-faith reforms and solutions equal to the problems. How did the president respond? By doing nothing – nothing except to dodge and demagogue the issue.” Wrong again. President Obama has released a comprehensive debt reduction plan (pdf), in response to the brewing debate in Congress. You don’t have to like it but Ryan is incorrect in stating it doesn’t exist.
Obama didn’t support Bowles-Simpson’s report – “[Obama] created a bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent report,” Ryan stated. “He thanked them, sent them on their way, and then did exactly nothing.” But the bipartisan debt commission itself didn’t come back with a report. There were not enough votes to agree upon recommendations, in part due to opposition from committee member, er, Paul Ryan. The statement misleads viewers by implying that Ryan supports the proposal, when he aggressively opposed it, and by using the third person to avoid noting that Ryan was on the commission and voted no.
Obama caused the debt downgrade – Paul Ryan said in his speech that Obama’s presidency “began with a perfect Triple-A credit rating for the United States; it ends with a downgraded America.” This implies that Obama was responsible for Standard and Poor’s downgrading of U.S. debt. That is false. In its report announcing the downgrade, S&P was clear that blame rested with House Republicans for making the debt ceiling increase conditional on deficit reduction. “The political brinksmanship of recent months highlights what we see as America’s governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective,and less predictable than what we previously believed,” the report reads. “The statutory debt ceiling and the threat of default have become political bargaining chips in the debate over fiscal policy.” It also faults Congressional Republicans for “continu[ing] to resist any measure that would raise revenues.”
Obama added more to the deficit than any other president – “President Obama has added more debt than any other president before him,” Ryan stated. As Ezra has explained, the vast majority of this debt was due either to the Bush tax cuts or the Iraq war, and only a tiny sliver due to the stimulus and other recovery measures. It is misleading to imply that Obama’s policies are primarily responsible for the size of the deficit.