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Conventions 2012 / CONVENTIONS 2012

Fact Checking the GOP Speakers

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie arrives to speak to delegates at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012.(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

August 28, 2012

The economy and budget were top issues in many of the speeches at the Republican convention on Tuesday. Speakers from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who delivered the keynote address, to Democrat-turned-Republican Artur Davis criticized President Obama for presiding over rising debt and deficits and accused him of seeking to expand the role of government in the economy. Here is a look at some of the statements and how firmly they are grounded in fact.

Chris Christie on entitlements

Christie continued Republicans' attack on entitlements, accusing Democrats of avoiding hard questions on entitlement programs such as Medicare.

 

“They believe seniors will always put themselves ahead of their grandchildren. So they prey on their vulnerabilities and scare them with misinformation for the cynical purpose of winning the next election,” Christie said.

Democrats, including Obama himself, are guilty of using talking points on Medicare that bend the truth. They have repeatedly told seniors that a plan from Mitt Romney and vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan of Wisconsin would end up costing seniors an additional $6,400 over their current health care costs. That number comes from a Congressional Budget Office analysis of Ryan’s first budget plan, which would convert Medicare into a voucher program. It is also not a number that CBO’s economists offered themselves. Instead, it is an interpretation of CBO’s analysis. Liberal thinkers took CBO’s first estimates of Ryan’s Medicare plan and used simple subtraction to arrive at the $6,400 figure—taking the difference between what seniors would have to pay for the estimated cost of a private Medicare plan in 2022 and what traditional Medicare would cost seniors that same year.

Chris Christie on his New Jersey record

Christie blasted critics for insisting it was impossible to cut taxes and balance his state’s budget at the same time, with an $11 billion deficit. “Three years later, we have three balanced budgets in a row with lower taxes,” he said.

Christie did in fact balance the budget for a third straight year. But Politifact New Jersey last month gave the caveat that Christie, as governor, is actually required to do this under the state’s constitution. Touting the accomplishment essentially “pats the governor on the back for following the law,” according to Politifact, which assessed the same claim highlighted in earlier pro-Christie ads hailing a balanced budget as part of his reform movement.

The fact-checking group said that Christie was wading into “murky territory” when he claimed his state had no tax increases. Rates for gross income, sales, and corporation business taxes—New Jersey’s three major taxes—did not go up during Christie’s tenure, but the state did reduce funding for property-tax credit programs and the State Earned Income Tax Credit between fiscal 2010 and 2011, according to Politifact. It cited several experts as saying “reductions in at least one of those programs could represent a tax hike.”

John Kasich on Ohio’s budget

Ohio Gov. John Kasich said that when he took office in January 2011, the state’s “rainy day fund” had $0.89 – a statement Politifact has rated as true – and now boasts nearly “half a billion dollars.” He’s right: As of July this year, the Budget Stabilization Fund had $482 million to its name.

“We took our problems head on, we balanced our budget,” Kasich said. “That $8 billion deficit was eliminated without a tax increase.” While the statement is technically true – state taxes were not increased – Democrats point out that local taxes were sometimes raised in Ohio communities as a way of offsetting some of the budget cuts that Kasich imposed.

John Kasich on the national debt

“President Obama has doubled the national debt,” Kasich said, adding, “Each year he’s increasing that by $1 trillion.” Actually, the nation’s gross debt has increased by roughly 50 percent under the Obama administration: When the president took office on Jan. 20, 2009, the debt clocked in at $10.63 trillion. As of Monday, it was $15.98 trillion – a gain of $5.35 trillion.

The second part of Kasich’s claim is true — more than $1 trillion is tacked on each year – but the White House would point out that the economic downturn that Obama inherited meant that extra federal spending was already baked into the cake.

Artur Davis on Obama's health care reform law

Artur Davis, a former Democratic congressman from Alabama who is now a Republican, slammed Obama for his health care reform law. Davis was one of 34 House Democrats to vote against the law in 2010.

Davis said the president was forcing middle-class Americans to buy health insurance “whether they can afford it or not.”

Not exactly. The Affordable Care Act‘s insurance-coverage requirement has an exemption for people with incomes below the tax-filing threshold ($9,350 for a single or $18,700 for a married couple in 2009) or if premiums exceed 8 percent of income.

He also said that the health care law took over “one-sixth of our economy.” While the health reform law puts the federal government squarely in the role of regulating what products private health insurance companies offer and how much profit they generate, doctors and hospitals will not be government-run. In addition, people will be able to buy health insurance plans from exchanges that will be manned by state governments and officials, should they choose to run them.

Davis said the law did not include “a single Republican idea,” a statement that is false. The policy that individuals must buy insurance originated with Republican think tanks during the Clinton administration, and insurance exchanges—marketplaces where private companies vie for customers—are built on the principle that competition will lower health care costs. Many Republican lawmakers also got some of their pet projects included in the mammoth law. For example, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, got a provision requiring doctors to report the income they get from pharmaceutical companies to the federal government into the law.

Finally, Davis says that Democrats’ health reform law got no votes from Republicans. Former Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao, R-La., voted for the House version of the Affordable Care Act, but ultimately voted against the final law. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, voted for the law in a markup of the bill in the Senate Finance Committee, but voted against the bill on the Senate floor.

Rick Santorum and Artur Davis on welfare

Former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., and Artur Davis echoed the themes of a Romney campaign ad that has accused the Obama administration of trying to gut the law requiring that welfare recipients to work.

Davis said that Obama “guts the welfare work requirement.”

Santorum said: “And this summer he showed us once again he believes in government handouts and dependency by waiving the work requirement for welfare. I helped write welfare reform; we made the law crystal clear — no president can waive the work requirement.”

Davis’s statement is false and Santorum’s comment mischaracterizes a memo issued in July by the Obama administration’s Health and Human Services Department. The memo informed states that the administration was willing to waive federal work requirements for state welfare programs, but only if the states 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 better way of getting welfare recipients to work than the federal rules — which can get as specific as only counting a job search as “work” for four consecutive weeks — they can present that plan to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for approval. The move was an effort to offer flexibility, not an attempt to gut the work requirements.

GOP on Obama's 'You didn’t build that'

References to Obama’s now-infamous “you didn’t build that” comment were everywhere at the GOP convention. But, while excerpts of the comments preceding the line were included in montages played on the jumbotron, the full context was not. The line is from Obama’s remarks in Roanoke, Va., on July 17 and Republicans have seized on it to accuse Obama of being antibusiness. The full remarks indicate Obama was trying to point out that entrepreneurs benefit from education, good infrastructure to move goods, and so on. The Obama campaign has said that Republicans took the “you didn’t build that” phrase out of context. The president’s aides say the phrase referred to infrastructure and bridges, not businesses. Here is the phrase in context.

"If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business -- you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

"The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.

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