“What if I told you that this man’s big government-mandating health-care included $50 abortions and killed thousands of jobs. Would you ever vote for him? What if I told you he supported radical environmental job-killing cap-and-trade and the Wall Street bailout? And what if I told you he dramatically raised taxes and stuck taxpayers with a $1 billion shortfall? One more thing. What if I told you the man I’m talking about wasn’t him [Obama]? It’s him [Romney]”
— narrator of a new Rick Santorum TV ad, as a photo of Barack Obama morphs into one of Mitt Romney
Desperate for a win in Tuesday’s Wisconsin primary, former senator Rick Santorum has begun running a tough ad there that takes only 30 seconds to throw just about everything, including the kitchen sink, at his chief rival, the former Massachusetts governor.
So do these claims add up? Let’s take them in the order in which they were made.
The individual mandate included in Romney’s health-care bill was originally a conservative idea, pushed by such groups as the Heritage Foundation. (That is a simplified version of a long and torturous path, which was best explained in articles by Forbes and The Washington Post.)
President Obama, who had opposed the individual mandate when he was a candidate for president, adopted it as a national mandate in his health-care law. As we have documented, Romney, when he ran for the GOP nomination in 2008, said he would leave it up to individual states to decide the best course for achieving universal coverage.
Massachusetts does pay all but a $50 co-pay for an abortion for low and moderate--income patients, but that is the result of a 1981 Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling, not the Romney health-care law. The court decision was reaffirmed in 1997 after Romney’s plan was signed into law. An independent body, the Commonwealth Connector, decides what should be covered under the health plan. (Romney’s opponents also levied this charge against Romney in the 2008 campaign, so it’s old news)
Santorum’s claim that the Romney health-care law “killed thousands of jobs” is similar to an assertion made in an ad run by Texas Gov. Rick Perry when he was still in the race. We had previously documented that this is a dubious statistic, drawn from studies produced by a group opposed to Romney’s law.
The next charge combines the “Wall Street bailout” — we presume the ad means the Troubled Asset Relief Program started by then-President George W. Bush during the 2008 economic crisis — and what it calls “radical environmental job-killing cap-and-trade.” Romney did support the now-unpopular TARP, though to be fair, it was Bush’s initiative.
“Cap and trade” refers to an idea — which also had once found favor in conservative circles — of setting caps on pollutants and letting companies trade emission credits.
As governor, Romney did propose to New York Gov. George Pataki that they embark on a “cooperative northeast process” to deal with climate change, but nothing came of the idea. Romney eventually backed away from signing on to a regional cap and trade plan, citing a lack of economic safeguards. As governor, in 2005, he enacted a cap on carbon dioxide emissions. Romney now says he opposes any sort of cap and trade plan.
We have also previously examined Romney’s record on taxes. While Romney likes to say he did not raise taxes, he accomplished this through aggressive closing of tax loopholes and new fees, but it’s a stretch for Santorum to claim that Romney “dramatically raised taxes.” Most people would assume Santorum is talking about higher tax rates, which is not the case with Romney’s fees and loophole closings.
The claim that Romney left office with a $1 billion “shortfall” is also misleading. Our colleagues at PolitiFact and Factcheck.org have previously called out a pro-Santorum SuperPAC when it accused Romney of leaving Massachusetts $1 billion in debt; this wording is not much better.
The $1 billion figure comes from a projection of a possible budget deficit — between $400 million and $1.1 billion — as Romney was nearing the end of his term. Taxpayers weren’t “stuck with” a $1 billion shortfall because the revenue picture improved before Romney left office. In fact, the new governor was able to reverse some of the budget cuts Romney had made in order to keep the budget balanced, as required by state law.
The Pinocchio Test
Each one of these claims is based on something somewhat or slightly true, but they are all exaggerated, misleading, taken out of context or simply false. Sometimes, throwing even the kitchen sink is not the best way to build credibility.
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