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Fact Checking the Democratic Speakers Fact Checking the Democratic Speakers

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Conventions 2012

Fact Checking the Democratic Speakers

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(AP Photos / Ralf-Finn Hestoft)

(In Case You Missed It: Fact Checking Day One)

Democrats hammered Republicans for blocking President Obama's jobs plan and proposing to give tax cuts to millionaires on the second day of their national convention in Charlotte. Here is a look at some of their statements and how firmly they are grounded in fact.

 

Former President Clinton on jobs:

“In the last 29 months the economy has produced about 4.5 million private sector jobs,” former President Clinton said. “But last year, the Republicans blocked the president’s jobs plan, costing the economy more than a million new jobs. So here’s another jobs score: President Obama, plus 4.5 million; congressional Republicans, zero.”

Clinton attributed the creation of 4.5 million private-sector jobs to Obama's policies. The number represents the growth in the jobs since the economy stopped sliding in February 2010, but that doesn't represent Obama's total record on jobs because it does not include the job losses of the first year of his presidency.

 

Also, estimates varied on the number of jobs that Obama’s 2011 American Jobs Act would have saved if passed. The White House insisted that 1 million jobs were at stake, but a Bloomberg survey of 34 economists last September found a median estimate of 270,000 jobs being saved or created over two years.

Clinton on welfare:

Clinton criticized a Republican attack line on welfare, saying that President Obama was not ending the welfare-to-work requirement the Clinton administration had put into place.

“They can keep the waivers only if they increase employment. The requirement was for more work, not less,” Clinton said.

 

According to the Health and Human Services Department, that statement is true. In a letter from HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the federal government is willing to waive work requirements for state welfare programs if they come up with their own plans to “test alternative and innovative strategies, policies, and procedures that are designed to improve employment outcomes.”

In other words, if states think they have a way of getting welfare recipients to work that is more effective than the federal rules—which can get as tedious as only counting a job search as “work” for four consecutive weeks—they can present that plan to Sebelius for approval. 

Clinton on health care spending:

Clinton delved into detailed health care policy, crediting Democrats' health reform law with slower-than-average growth in health care spending in 2010 and 2011.

“Health care spending has been under 4 percent in both years, for the first time in 50 years,” Clinton said.

It’s true that health spending only increased by 3.9 percent in 2010 and 3.8 percent in 2009. But economists don’t all agree that slow health care spending is the result of the health reform law. Some attribute the slow growth in health spending to the sluggish pace of growth in the economy as a whole.

Clinton on the health care reform law:

Clinton praised President Obama’s decision to cut $716 billion from Medicare hospitals and insurance companies as a move that helped save seniors money on their prescription drugs and added eight years to the solvency of the Medicare trust fund.

Both of those facts are true, but Republicans contend that Democrats are “double-counting” the Medicare savings, since they will go straight from the trust fund toward helping to pay for health insurance coverage for an estimated 30 million people.

Clinton was also correct when he said that GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan kept the same $716 billion in his most recent House budget. Ryan repealed the spending expansions in the health reform law, but kept the Medicare cuts.

Sen. Patty Murray on student loans and taxes:

To Romney and Ryan, "every problem is a nail, and the only hammer they have is cutting taxes for millionaires and billionaires,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. "They believe in this failed approach so deeply that they'll cut anything—from student loans to health care for seniors—to give the wealthiest Americans an even bigger break.... They would sell out our middle class to cut taxes for millionaires, billionaires, and big corporations.”

The student-loan assertion is misleading. Republicans sparred with Democrats over a bill extending low student-loan rates this spring—but the argument was over how to pay for the cut, not the policy itself, which was supported by both parties. The GOP said they wanted to pay for the extension using about $6 billion from the new health care law’s prevention fund. Democrats cried foul, arguing that the GOP was targeting women’s health (though the fund was not targeted to women), while the GOP said it was simply restoring money that had been diverted from student loans to begin with.

Not quite. When Democrats overhauled the student-loan subsidy program by eliminating private-lender middlemen in March 2010, the Congressional Budget Office projected savings of $19 billion over 10 years. As Politifact has confirmed, $10 billion of the savings was marked for deficit reduction, and the remaining $9 billion went to funding the health care law. But Republican assertions that Democrats were trying to divert money from student loans were inaccurate since the $9 billion was to have come from projected savings.

Still, the GOP’s push to use the prevention fund to pay for lower student-loan rates was not an attack on student loans per se. Republicans would also take issue with Murray’s suggestion that they are solely motivated by giving money to the wealthy. They contend that their spending and tax cuts are geared at deficit reduction and economic growth, not breaks.

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