Whoppers of 2012, Final Edition

FactCheck.org

Summary

With only days to go until Election Day 2012, we look here at the most egregiously false and misleading claims from the entire presidential campaign. Some examples:

  • President Barack Obama claimed Mitt Romney is planning to raise taxes by $2,000 on middle-income taxpayers and/or cut taxes by $5 trillion. Neither is true.
  • Romney claimed Obama plans to raise taxes by $4,000 on middle-income taxpayers. That’s not true, either.
  • It’s also not true that Obama plans “to gut welfare reform by dropping work requirements,” as Romney claimed.
  • Equally untrue is the Obama campaign’s repeated claim that Romney backed a law that would outlaw “all abortions, even in cases of rape and incest.”

So many false and twisted claims were made in the early months that we issued an “early edition” of our annual wrap-up of political whoppers in July. We noted then that the campaign had been nasty, brutish and long.

And it’s only gotten longer, not more truthful.

For example, Romney just claimed that the bailed-out Chrysler Corp. is thinking of moving all Jeep production to China. Chrysler quickly denounced that as a falsehood. Romney’s latest whopper is perhaps his payback for Obama’s earlier accusation that Romney personally “shipped jobs to China” at a time when, in reality, Romney was running the 2002 Winter Olympics, not Bain Capital. Thus one whopper begets another.

It’s been that sort of campaign, filled from beginning to end with deceptive attacks and counterattacks, and dubious claims. For a generous sampling of the worst of a bad lot, please read on to our Analysis section.

Analysis

When we issued our “early edition” of this annual wrap-up, we complained that “neither candidate speaks candidly of what he would actually do if elected.” We also expressed a hope that “the candidates will become less personal, more substantive, and more forthcoming about their plans.” But instead of a candid discussion of how to address pressing issues, including trillion-dollar annual deficits, rising health care costs and the needs of an aging population, we’ve seen even more exaggerations, distortions and falsehoods, on both sides.

We offer them here in no particular order, and with no attempt to judge which candidate strays furthest — or most often — from the facts. Readers may judge that for themselves. And we make no claim that this list is comprehensive. Rather, it represents a summary and sampling of our findings issued over the course of a long and not very illuminating campaign.

Obama: Romney Raises/Cuts Taxes

Obama has claimed at various times that Romney has proposed “a $5 trillion tax cut,” or that he wants to raise taxes by $2,000 on the middle class. Neither claim is accurate.

Obama, Oct 3: Governor Romney’s central economic plan calls for a $5 trillion tax cut — on top of the extension of the Bush tax cuts.

Obama, Sept. 17: I am not going to ask middle-class families with kids to pay over $2,000 more so that millionaires and billionaires get to pay less.

Romney’s plan is not a $5 trillion tax cut. He has always said he’d offset his rate cuts by eliminating deductions and taxing a wider base of income, producing no net loss of revenue.

Romney proposed cutting income tax rates by 20 percent, eliminating the estate tax, and eliminating taxes on interest, capital gains and dividends for those earning under $200,000 a year. That would indeed cost about $480 billion in 2015, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, or roughly $5 trillion if projected over a full decade.

But that’s not all Romney’s plan entailed. He has always said he’d pay for his tax cuts by reducing tax deductions and preferences — taxing more income — so no revenue is lost. If he delivers on that promise — a big “if” to be sure — it would be a $0 tax cut.

Romney’s plan doesn’t call for raising taxes by $2,000 on middle-income taxpayers, either. He has been most emphatic about that in recent debates. In the second debate at Hofstra University on Oct. 16, he said: “Middle-income people are going to get a tax break.”

The president bases his claim on a twisted reading of the Tax Policy Center’s study, which found that it was mathematically impossible for Romney to cut rates and hold revenue constant without also shifting the tax burden onto the shoulders of families, with children, making under $200,000 a year. TPC’s director, Donald Marron, disputed Obama’s interpretation of the study, saying, “I view it as showing that [Romney's] plan can’t accomplish all his stated objectives.”

Dubious Denver Debate Declarations, Oct. 4

Obama’s Stump Speech, Sept. 19

FactChecking Obama and Biden, Sept. 7

Romney: ‘Six Studies’ Support Tax Plan

Romney, on the other hand, is wrong when he claims that “six studies” show he can do what he promises on taxes.

Romney, Oct. 3: There are six other studies that looked at the [Tax Policy Center] study you describe and say it’s completely wrong.

Only one of the six items (some of which are blog posts and one of which is a campaign white paper) was done by someone not advising Romney. The Princeton professor who wrote that study was on President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers, and he uses an aggressive assumption for economic growth, assuming an extra 3 percent economic growth from Romney’s tax rate cuts. The average total year-to-year growth under President Bush, including any boost from his large tax cuts, was just over 2 percent.

Since we issued our findings (cited below) two new analyses have come out. A paper by Gerald Prante of the pro-business Tax Foundation concluded that what Romney proposes is possible, without raising taxes on middle-income taxpayers — if it produced at least an extra 1 percent annual growth in economic output.

Leaving aside whether that’s a likely outcome of a revenue-neutral tax shift, it wouldn’t stack up against Romney’s statement at the Hofstra debate, when he said: “I’m not looking to cut taxes for wealthy people. I am looking to cut taxes for middle-income people.” The Tax Foundation analysis found that assuming an extra 1 percent economic growth, those making over $1 million would get a cut of $113,792, while middle-income households making between $50,000 and $75,000 a year would see an average cut of $36.

An even more recent analysis by economist Michael R. Strain of the pro-business American Enterprise Institute, published in The Atlantic magazine, said flatly that Romney’s plan “doesn’t add up.” Strain wrote: “[T]he underlying analysis in the TPC study is sound, and it should be taken seriously. … [I]f you take Mr. Romney’s three promises literally then something has to give.” Nevertheless, Strain sees merit in Romney’s general approach — broadening the tax base while bringing down rates. He suggests that Romney would cut rates less than the promised 20 percent to keep revenues constant while holding middle-income taxpayers harmless.

Dubious Denver Debate Declarations, Oct. 4

Romney’s Impossible Tax Promise, Aug. 3

Romney: Obama’s $4,000 Tax Hike

Romney also has claimed that Obama “will raise taxes on the middle class by $4,000,” but that’s bogus. The figure is an estimate of how much it would cost to service the debt incurred in Obama’s term — and in later years as well — if taxes were increased across the board. Obama isn’t proposing to do that any more than Romney is.

Romney campaign ad, October: [Obama] will raise taxes on the middle class by $4,000.

Romney, Oct. 16: The middle class will see $4,000 per year in higher taxes …

The figure is based on a study by the conservative American Enterprise Institute, which looked at servicing the debt incurred since Obama took office, plus future debt projected under Obama’s most recent budget. One set of figures assumed all federal taxes would be increased across the board, preserving the progressivity of the overall federal tax code (that is, with different income groups bearing the same share of the total burden as they do now).

Based on that, an AEI blogger wrote an Oct. 2 post with the headline: “Obama’s big budget deficits could mean a $4,000 a year middle-class tax hike.” That was an average figure over the next 10 years, including the cost of servicing both the debt run up since Obama took office and debt to be run up in the next four years under the president’s budget projections.

One problem with this view is that debt will continue to rise for years no matter who wins the presidency. By the same logic employed by Romney, we calculated that the House budget proposed by his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, would “raise taxes” on the middle class by $2,732 — even assuming Ryan’s aggressive spending cuts could be accomplished.

The AEI study makes a valid point. Debts being run up today and in the future will require future taxpayers to cover very large interest payments for years into the future, especially when today’s low interest rates return to historically higher levels, as expected. But that will be true no matter who’s president, and neither candidate is proposing an across-the-board personal income-tax increase to cover those payments.

Romney’s $4,000 Tax Tale, Oct. 10

FactChecking the Hofstra Debate, Oct. 17

Obama: Romney Would Ban All Abortion

The Obama campaign pushed a bogus claim in a TV ad that said “Romney backed a law that outlaws all abortions, even in cases of rape and incest.”

There was no such law — at all. Instead, the ad referred to a hypothetical question from an audience member during a 2007 debate. The audience member asked, “If hypothetically Roe versus Wade was overturned, and the Congress passed a federal ban on all abortion, and it came to your desk, would you sign it? Yes or no?”

Romney said, “I’d be delighted to sign that bill,” but added that a consensus for something like that didn’t exist in the country now. “That’s not where America is today.”

During that exchange there was no mention or discussion of rape, incest or the usual exceptions to abortion bans. And the fact is, Romney has been clear — both before and after that 2007 debate — that he supports exceptions for rape, incest and to save the life of the mother. He has opposed abortion with those exceptions since 2005.

The Obama campaign also falsely claimed that the Republican Party’s platform called for banning abortions even in cases of rape or incest. But the 2012 platform is silent on exceptions, just as it was in 2008 and in previous election years.

The Obama camp made the claim on its website, saying that Romney “also supports the Republican Party platform, which includes a Human Life Amendment that bans abortion without those exceptions.” That’s baloney. The plain fact is, the only human life amendment that ever came to a vote in either house of Congress allowed exceptions.

James Bopp, one of the authors of the GOP abortion plank, confirmed our own reading of its plain language. Bopp said it “does not take a position on which version of a Human Life Amendment should eventually be adopted. We leave that decision to Congress and the people of the United States at that time.”

Twisting Romney’s Abortion Stance, July 9

Another Abortion Falsehood from Obama’s ‘Truth Team,’ Aug. 23

Romney: Obama Dropping Work Requirements

The Romney campaign made false claims about an Obama administration move to give states flexibility regarding welfare work requirements.

Romney TV ad, Aug.: President Obama quietly announced a plan to gut welfare reform by dropping work requirements. Under Obama’s plan, you wouldn’t have to work and wouldn’t have to train for a job. They just send you your welfare check.

There’s no such plan, and work requirements aren’t being “dropped.” The Obama administration announced in July that states may apply for a waiver to revise or eliminate certain requirements in order to increase job placement. As of Sept. 6, only eight states had expressed interest in such waivers, and none had applied.

The claim that “you wouldn’t have to work and wouldn’t have to train for a job” is also misleading. There was never a requirement for all welfare recipients to work. In fact, only 29 percent met the work requirement when Obama took office.

Romney’s claim that the plan would “gut welfare reform” is “very misleading,” said Ron Haskins, a former Republican House committee aide who was instrumental in the 1996 welfare law. “I do not think it ends welfare reform or strongly undermines welfare reform,” he told FactCheck.org.

The Romney campaign continued to run this ad, despite several fact-checking organizations, including ours, finding it to be false. The dust-up over the ad led to Romney pollster Neil Newhouse saying: “We’re not going let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.”

In an interview with CNN, Romney also made a misleading claim that Obama had caused a doubling of able-bodied persons on food stamps by taking “work out of the food stamps requirement.” Obama’s 2009 stimulus law did grant a temporary suspension of a work requirement for single, working-age adults without dependents, but the Bush administration had already granted such waivers covering all or some residents of 46 states and the District of Columbia. More waiver requests were pending, too, as the economy faltered. These working-age adults without kids still make up less than one in 10 on food stamps.

Does Obama’s Plan ‘Gut Welfare Reform’? Aug. 9

Romney’s Food Stamp Stretch, Sept. 27

Romney: Obama Robbed Medicare

We’ve seen our share of “senior scare” in political campaigns, and this one has been chock full of it. The truth is that both campaigns want to cut Medicare spending — a necessary step to prolong the life of the program — and neither proposes major changes that would impact current seniors.

The Romney campaign claimed that Obama was “robbing” the Medicare “piggy bank,” and that the “money you paid” for Medicare was being used for the Affordable Care Act. But the law doesn’t take money out of the existing trust fund — and it can’t take Medicare’s trust fund money in the future, either.

Romney, Aug. “60 Minutes” interview: There’s only one president that I know of in history that robbed Medicare, $716 billion to pay for a new risky program of his own that we call Obamacare.

Romney TV ad, Aug.: Now, when you need it, Obama has cut $716 billion from Medicare. … So now the money that you paid for your guaranteed health care is going to a massive new government program that’s not for you.

Paul Ryan, Aug. 21: What they will not tell you is that they turned Medicare into a piggy bank to fund Obamacare. They took $716 billion from Medicare to pay for their Obamacare program.

Obama’s Affordable Care Act cuts an estimated $716 billion over 10 years in the future growth in spending, primarily by reducing the future growth of payments to hospitals. Spending less money than was otherwise expected is a good thing for Medicare’s finances — as it is for most people on a budget. By reducing the growth of spending, the health care law stretches out the budget for Medicare Part A, which pays hospitals and is funded by payroll taxes.

Romney’s claim about Obama taking “money you paid” is wrong because taxes paid in the past don’t come close to paying for projected costs in the future. “It’s misleading to tell Medicare beneficiaries that they’ve already paid for Medicare, because in the future, that’s going to be less and less true,” says Alice Rivlin, founding director of the Congressional Budget Office and now an economist with the Brookings Institution. Seniors “will be getting more benefits than they paid for.”

And Medicare doesn’t have a “piggy bank” that can be robbed or raided. Payroll money that goes into the trust fund is Medicare’s money. The program gets a trust fund bond for whatever money it doesn’t need right away, and Treasury has to honor that bond, whenever Medicare needs to cash it in.

Medicare’s ‘Piggy Bank,’ Aug. 24

A Campaign Full of Mediscare, Aug. 22

Obama: Ryan Plan Would Raise Seniors’ Costs $6,400

But the Obama campaign was in on “Mediscare,” too, misleading seniors into thinking they’d pay $6,400 more under Romney and Ryan’s plan to have private insurers compete for seniors’ business. That figure came from an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office of an old plan from Ryan that has now been discarded. His latest plan, which Romney has adopted, is more generous in how subsidies, or “premium-support payments,” for seniors grow.

Obama, Aug. 15: It was estimated that Governor Romney’s running mate, his original plan would force seniors to pay an extra $6,400 a year.

Obama campaign TV ad: Experts say Ryan’s voucher plan could raise future retirees’ costs more than $6,000.

The Romney/Ryan plan wouldn’t change anything for those age 55 and older. For future beneficiaries, they’d have their pick of private plans, or traditional Medicare. They’d buy them with the help of a subsidy that would be tied to the cost of the second-cheapest plan, and that plan can’t rise faster than GDP plus 0.5 percent. The CBO said that under the new plan, “beneficiaries might face higher costs,” but it didn’t analyze how much.

A Campaign Full of Mediscare, Aug. 22

‘Tragic’ Misquoting

The Obama campaign has claimed that Romney called ending the war in Iraq “tragic.” Not true. Romney called the pace of withdrawal “tragic,” not the ending of the war in general.

Obama, Sept. 6: My opponent said it was “tragic” to end the war in Iraq.

Obama campaign website: Mitt Romney criticized the end of the Iraq war as “tragic” …

The real quote from Romney, made during a veterans roundtable in South Carolina on Nov. 11, 2011, clearly shows that he was criticizing the pace at which Obama withdrew the troops. Here’s the full quote, as reported by the New York Times:

Romney, Nov. 11, 2011: It is my view that the withdrawal of all of our troops from Iraq by the end of this year is an enormous mistake, and failing by the Obama administration. The precipitous withdrawal is unfortunate — it’s more than unfortunate, I think it’s tragic. It puts at risk many of the victories that were hard won by the men and women who served there.

Vice President Joe Biden also misrepresented Romney’s words at the convention — and at the vice presidential debate — when he claimed that Romney said of Osama bin Laden, “It’s not worth moving heaven and earth and spending billions of dollars just to catch one person.” That’s taking his words out of context.

Romney made the comment back in 2007, when bin Laden was alive, and he went on to say he favored a broader strategy against “global, violent Jihad.”

Here’s the transcript of Romney’s 2007 interview with the Associated Press. The conservative website Townhall obtained the transcript from the Romney campaign:

[AP reporter] Liz Sidoti: Why haven’t we caught bin Laden in your opinion?

Romney: I think, I wouldn’t want to over-concentrate on Bin Laden. He’s one of many, many people who are involved in this global Jihadist effort.

He’s by no means the only leader. It’s a very diverse group – Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, Muslim Brotherhood and of course different names throughout the world.

It’s not worth moving heaven and earth and spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person. It is worth fashioning and executing an effective strategy to defeat global, violent Jihad and I have a plan for doing that.

FactChecking Obama and Biden, Sept. 7

Obama’s Inflated Jobs Claim, Oct. 23

Veep Debate Violations, Oct. 12

Romney: Jeep Production to China

Romney falsely told voters in the key swing state of Ohio on Oct. 25 that Chrysler’s Jeep division “is thinking of moving all production to China.” Not true. Chrysler says it may add new production sites in China to meet rising demand in that market, and states: “U.S. Jeep assembly lines will continue to stay in operation.”

But despite Chrysler’s admonition, Romney made a similar claim in a new TV ad that said, “Obama took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy, and sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China.” That’s a lot of misinformation in a single sentence.

Romney has struggled to undercut the success of Obama’s bailout of GM and Chrysler, especially in key auto-making states in the Midwest that account for crucial votes in the Electoral College.

Romney’s running mate, Ryan, made one such attempt in his acceptance speech at the Republican convention. Ryan cited the closing of a General Motors plant in his hometown of Janesville, Wis., as evidence of Obama failing to live up to his campaign promises. But the car plant closed before Obama became president.

Ryan, Aug. 29: 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.

The plant didn’t last. But it essentially closed on Dec. 23, 2008, according to the Business Journal in Milwaukee, a month before Obama was sworn in. The Associated Press reported that about 100 workers were kept on into 2009 to help shut down the plant and finish a truck order. GM’s website states that the main production line ceased operations in December 2008, and the last remaining line closed April 23, 2009, barely three months after Obama took office.

Romney Distorts Facts on Jeep, Auto Bailout, Oct. 29

Ryan’s VP Spin, Aug. 30

Baffling Benghazi Claims

The deadly terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, spawned some baffling claims by both candidates.

Immediately after the attack in September on U.S. embassies in Libya and Egypt, Romney wrongly claimed that the Obama administration had issued an “apology for American values” after the attacks. Romney referred to a statement issued in response to an anti-Muslim video and before mobs attacked either embassy, and the statement doesn’t contain the word “sorry” or “apology.” Instead, the U.S. embassy in Cairo put out a statement several hours before the attack. It said that the embassy “condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. … Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.” That was a reference to an anti-Islamic movie that was garnering attention in the Middle East.

For its part, the Obama administration initially rejected and then played down the notion that it was a premeditated terrorist attack. Instead, it focused on the anti-Muslim video as the root cause, claiming extremists took advantage of a spontaneous protest to the film in Benghazi to attack the consulate. Libyan President Mohamed Magariaf said on Sept. 16 — five days after the attack — that the idea that the Benghazi attack was a “spontaneous protest that just spun out of control is completely unfounded and preposterous.” Yet, Obama and others continued to describe the incident in exactly those terms — including during the president’s Sept. 18 appearance on the “Late Show with David Letterman.” The next day, Matt Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, called it “a terrorist attack” at a congressional hearing — becoming the first administration official to do so. On Oct. 9, nearly a month after the attack, the State Department disclosed that there weren’t any protesters in Benghazi before the terrorist attack.

Romney Gets It Backward, Sept. 12

Benghazi Timeline, Oct. 26

Obama: Romney Shipped Jobs Overseas

The Obama campaign launched various attacks on Romney for how he became wealthy at the venture-capital firm Bain Capital. Television ads claimed that Romney was a “corporate raider” who “shipped jobs to China and Mexico.”

Obama campaign TV ad, June: [A]s a corporate raider, [Romney] shipped jobs to China and Mexico.

Obama campaign TV ad, June: Romney’s never stood up to China. All he’s ever done is send them our jobs.

Bain Capital did invest in companies that outsourced work to others, both overseas and here in the U.S, and in companies that manufactured goods abroad. But the Obama campaign has failed to show that Romney was in charge of Bain when outsourcing decisions were made. The Obama camp’s examples pertain to companies in which Bain invested after Romney left the company in February 1999 to run the 2002 Winter Olympics. Official filings and contemporary news accounts show Romney was in charge in name only and never returned to Bain while he negotiated the financial terms of his severance.

It’s also false to call Romney a “corporate raider.” Bain Capital did make money while loading some companies with debt. But a corporate raider is “one who mounts an unwelcome takeover bid by buying up shares (usu. discreetly) on the stock market.” Bain didn’t engage in hostile takeovers under Romney. Rather, it invested in new companies or in struggling businesses that it attempted to turn around and sell at a profit, with mixed success.

Obama’s ‘Outsourcer’ Overreach, June 29

FactCheck.org to Obama Camp: Your Complaint is All Wet, July 2

Romney’s Bain Years: New Evidence, Same Conclusion, July 12

Beyond Bain-Bashing

A pro-Obama super PAC made the shocking implication that Romney is responsible for the death of a steelworker’s wife, who had cancer.

The Priorities USA Action TV spot — which aired only twice on Aug. 14 but garnered plenty of media attention — features Joe Soptic, who says his wife died of cancer “a short time after” Romney closed the steel plant where he worked and left him, and his wife, without health insurance. But that’s misleading. Soptic’s wife, Ranae, died five years after the plant closed. She also still had her own employer-sponsored insurance through a job at a thrift store for a year or two longer after the plant shut down, Soptic told CNN.

Joe Soptic in Priorities USA ad: When Mitt Romney and Bain closed the plant, I lost my health care, and my family lost their health care. And a short time after that my wife became ill. … And then one day she became ill and I took her up to the Jackson County Hospital and admitted her for pneumonia. … And she passed away in 22 days. I do not think Mitt Romney realizes what he’s done to anyone, and furthermore I do not think Mitt Romney is concerned.

It’s fair to argue that Romney bears some responsibility for the plant shutting down. Bain Capital did buy it and saddle it with debt while Romney was head of Bain. But Romney was running the 2002 Winter Olympics when the plant actually shut down.

Priorities USA Action claimed that it would be “overstating the point of the ad” to suggest that the steelworker was blaming Romney for his wife’s death. But we disagree. Soptic says in the ad, “I do not think Mitt Romney realizes what he’s done to anyone, and furthermore I do not think Mitt Romney is concerned.”

Is Romney to Blame for Cancer Death? Aug. 8

Romney: Obama Went on an Apology Tour

Romney has repeatedly claimed that Obama embarked on an “apology tour” after he became president. But we have found no evidence of that.

Romney, Oct. 22: And then the president began what I’ve called an apology tour of going to — to various nations in the Middle East and — and criticizing America.

Romney, Aug. 30: I will begin my presidency with a jobs tour. President Obama began with an apology tour.

We went through Obama’s speeches that Romney points to in his book “No Apology,” and we didn’t see anything that rose to the level of an apology.

For instance, Romney points to Obama’s June 4, 2009, speech in Cairo, Egypt. But there’s no apology there. Instead, Obama talked about “tension” between the U.S. and the Muslim world and called for a “new beginning.”

Obama, June 4, 2009: Violent extremists have exploited these tensions in a small but potent minority of Muslims. The attacks of September 11, 2001, and the continued efforts of these extremists to engage in violence against civilians has led some in my country to view Islam as inevitably hostile not only to America and Western countries, but also to human rights. All this has bred more fear and more mistrust.

So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, those who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. And this cycle of suspicion and discord must end.

I’ve come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect, and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition.

False Claims in Final Debate, Oct. 23

Romney’s Sorry ‘Apology’ Dig, Aug. 31

Romney: Stimulus Rife With Cronyism and Waste

The Romney campaign has claimed the stimulus program was filled with cronyism and waste, and even spent money in Finland.

Romney campaign TV ad, May: More than $16 billion have gone to companies like Solyndra that are linked to big Obama and Democrat donors. The inspector general said contracts were steered to “friends and family.”

Ryan, Oct. 11: Was it a good idea to spend taxpayer dollars on electric cars in Finland … ?

Gregory Friedman, the inspector general for the Department of Energy, did not say that contracts were “steered to ‘friends and family.’ ” He said the office was investigating that, but no charges have been made.

And it’s not true that stimulus money went for “electric cars in Finland,” as Ryan said at the vice presidential debate. Fisker Automotive, which received about $500 million in government-backed loans, does build cars in Finland. But the loan money went for engineering, sales, and design and marketing in the U.S. “All of the DOE loan money that we got for the Karma project [the first line of cars] had to be spent in America,” Fisker spokesman Roger Ormisher told us back in May.

Most of the $840 billion in stimulus funds went for tax credits to individuals (a total of $236 billion) and grants to states for Medicare, Medicaid and education. Furthermore, 80 percent of economic experts surveyed by the University of Chicago Booth School of Business agreed that the unemployment rate was lower at the end of 2010 than it would have been without the stimulus, while only 4 percent disagreed.

Romney’s Solar Flareout, June 1

Veep Debate Violations, Oct. 12

And There’s More

We also found whoppers on popular topics such as the federal health care law, jobs and the debt:

  • Romney has repeatedly claimed that health insurance premiums have gone up $2,500 under Obama. That’s wrong. Family premiums for employer-sponsored insurance have gone up $1,975 from 2010 to 2012. That’s the total paid by employer and employee, and the reports on this from the Kaiser Family Foundation said the amount paid by employees hadn’t gone up much. Besides, experts told us the federal health care law was responsible for a 1 percent to 3 percent increase, due to more generous coverage requirements.
  • Obama said his policies were responsible for “about 10 percent” of the deficits “over the last four years.” But two of the laws he signed, the stimulus and 2010 tax cut, account for nearly a third of the cumulative four-year deficit of $5.2 trillion. Obama was referring to a Treasury analysis covering 2002 to 2011, including all eight years of the Bush administration but excluding the 2012 fiscal year that just ended Sept. 30. He also was referring not to cumulative deficits but to the difference between the Congressional Budget Office’s projected surpluses and the deficits that actually happened.
  • An ad in Florida from the conservative American Crossroads reminded us of the notorious “death panel” falsehood. The ad said Medicare benefits could be “rationed” and seniors denied treatment by the new health care law. But the law specifically forbids rationing or a cut in benefits.
  • Obama has said that he would return the top two tax rates to the “same rate we had when Bill Clinton was president.” But that’s not right. While Obama does want to let the Bush tax cuts expire for those earning more than $200,000 a year ($250,000 for couples) — which would put the top marginal rates back to where they were under Clinton — the Affordable Care Act put additional taxes on these earners. Next year, they’ll face an additional 0.9 percent Medicare payroll tax, and a 3.8 percent tax on investment income.
  • A Romney ad wrongly claimed that “your share of Obama’s debt is over $50,000.” That’s attributing all of the $16 trillion total federal debt, most of which was accumulated under previous presidents. The total public debt was $10.6 trillion when Obama took office; plus, he inherited a deficit that was already running at $1 trillion-plus on the day he took office.
  • Obama has tried to make job growth in his term look better than it actually is by saying that “this country has created over half a million new manufacturing jobs in the last two-and-a-half years,” and claiming that he has added 5.2 million new jobs. Manufacturing jobs have rebounded by 512,000 since hitting a low point a year after Obama was inaugurated. But all told, there are still 582,000 fewer manufacturing jobs than there were when Obama took office. As for the 5.2 million new jobs claim, those are private-sector jobs only, and growth only since February 2010. Total jobs — private and government jobs — are up about 325,000 since Obama’s inauguration.
  • Romney, too, puffed up his record on jobs as governor of Massachusetts. A campaign ad said he “reduced unemployment to just 4.7 percent.” That’s true — Massachusetts’ unemployment rate declined from 5.6 percent to 4.6 percent — but the state’s rate was lower than the national rate when Romney took office and about the same when he left.
  • Romney was wrong when he said 47 percent of Americans pay no federal income taxes and are “dependent on the government.” The true figure is 46.4 percent. More important, most of those Americans work, but don’t make much money. Twenty-two percent are seniors, and 15.2 percent receive tax credits for children and the working poor that bring their income tax liability to zero.

– Lori Robertson

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