Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney accepted the Republican presidential nomination on Thursday with a speech ripping President Obama on policies from taxes to energy to health care. Some of the speakers who took the stage before Romney, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Massachusetts Lt. Gov Kerry Healey, focused on policy issues as well as Romney's own record. Here is a look at some of the statements and how firmly they are grounded in fact.
Mitt Romney on defense cuts:
Mitt Romney attacked President Obama for what the Republican presidential nominee says are “his trillion-dollar cuts” to the military that will “eliminate hundreds of thousands of jobs, and also put our security at greater risk.”
There are a few problems with this statement. The military is facing roughly $500 billion in cuts over the next decade because both Democrats and Republicans agreed to a plan that would cut nearly $1 trillion in federal spending—including roughly half from defense—as part of the debt deal last August. The military has maintained it can safely make these reductions. But the Pentagon won’t see another $500 billion in cuts unless the so-called sequestration mechanism takes effect. Both parties agreed to across-the-board reductions as a high-stakes incentive to find a compromise to reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion. Such a compromise on Capitol Hill remains elusive, and President Obama and his top military leaders have denounced the looming extra half-trillion dollars in defense cuts as bad policy. They agree with Republicans that such cuts would be potentially harmful to the military’s capabilities if they do take effect at the start of next year.
Mitt Romney on Obama's tax policies:
Romney told a roaring crowd that “unlike President Obama, I will not raise taxes on the middle class.”
The comment mischaracterizes Obama's position on taxes, with one caveat: the president's health care law. Obama has repeatedly said he would extend the Bush-era federal income tax cuts for families making less than $250,000 rather than let them expire at the end of the year. Republicans respond that the health care law -- especially now that the individual mandate has been ruled a tax -- amounts to a tax hike on all Americans. The numbers don’t support that claim: While middle-class hikes, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation, would total $64.6 billion, the $343 billion in subsidies and credits push the tally to a net decrease, The Washington Post fact-checkers pointed out last month. Still, Politifact in 2010 rated Obama’s campaign pledge that families making less than $250,000 a year would not see “any form of tax increase” as a “promise broken,” thanks to higher taxes on things like cigarettes and tanning beds and the penalty for not buying health insurance. The income tax, though, has not gone up.
Mitt Romney on Israel:
Continuing one of his usual attack lines, Mitt Romney claimed President Obama “has thrown allies like Israel under the bus.”
While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has a relatively frosty relationship with Obama, the numbers beg to disagree that Washington’s support is flagging when it comes to the Jewish state. The Obama administration requested more than $3 billion in security assistance funding for Israel this year—the largest such request in U.S. history. Top administration officials have also stressed Washington's commitment to implementing a 2007 memorandum of understanding with Israel allocating $30 billion in security assistance funding over 10 years, despite whatever budgetary challenges come in the next few years. On top of that, the Obama administration has allocated nearly $300 million for Iron Dome, an Israel-only short-range rocket shield, and is expected to set aside hundreds of millions of dollars more.
Romney has often claimed Obama threw Israel under the bus when he suggested the 1967 borders as the starting point for peace negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians, with mutually agreed-on land swaps. It’s true Netanyahu was unhappy with that speech, but Obama's statement was the framework that served as the basis of earlier negotiations -- even as U.S. presidents avoided saying so publicly. Obama insisted he simply said “publicly what has long been acknowledged privately.” While Obama has taken a tough stand on Israeli settlements, he has also strongly defended Israel's interests at the United Nations. The U.S. was the only country to veto a resolution last February in the U.N. Security Council calling for a halt in Israeli construction in the West Bank, and it pledged to veto the Palestinians' bid to join the United Nations. Netanyahu, for his part, hailed Obama's opposition as a "badge of honor."
Mitt Romney on Medicare:
Using an attack line employed by Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan on Wednesday, Romney said that Obama's “$716 billion cut to Medicare to finance Obamacare will both hurt today's seniors, and depress innovation --and jobs -- in medicine.”
Obama’s health care law wrings $716 billion in savings over 10 years from Medicare, mainly by slowing the rate of growth in payments to hospitals and reducing payments to insurance companies. That money will be used to expand health insurance to an estimated 30 million people. The savings will pay to expand coverage to uninsured Americans, but Democrats say that hospitals and insurers will benefit by the fact that more patients will be covered by insurance.
According to an annual report on Medicare’s financial health, the health care law actually preserves Medicare’s financial health, contradicting Romney’s claim that the law will “hurt” seniors. Government officials found that the health reform law extended the program’s solvency through 2024, up from 2016.
House Republicans have repeatedly tried to claim, like Romney, that the health reform law has hurt job creation. But jobs in the health care sector have continually grown during the country’s slow economic recovery. In August, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 12,000 new jobs were added in health care, out of a total 163,000 new jobs in July.
Mitt Romney on energy jobs:
Romney accuses Obama of an "assault on coal and gas and oil" that will "send energy and manufacturing jobs to China."
Environmental rules enacted under Obama that are adversely affecting the coal industry are not sending manufacturing jobs to China. In fact, stricter environmental regulations are actually helping sustain (for now) coal-mining jobs as the export market to Asia—including China—balloons. Over time, coal-mining jobs are expected to decrease, but that’s unlikely to send manufacturing jobs to China.
On natural gas, the Obama administration has not enacted policies that will have a sizable negative impact on the natural gas industry, which is exploding in the United States thanks to new discoveries of shale gas reserves. In fact, shale natural gas resources are helping restart the manufacturing industry in states that have seen their manufacturing bases disappear in recent years, including Ohio and Pennsylvania. To be sure, government policies aren’t responsible for this manufacturing reinvigoration—it’s as a result of the private sector harnessing the new shale resources. But it also means that Obama certainly isn’t causing manufacturing jobs to go to China.
Romney does not mention the one sector of energy that is seeing its manufacturing jobs go to China, and that’s the renewable industries of solar, wind, and battery technologies. These nascent sectors are struggling to keep up with China because its government is pouring billions of dollars into the industries to help them succeed. There is an ongoing dispute between China and the U.S. over whether American solar manufacturers are at a disadvantage because Chinese companies are illegally dumping their heavily subsidized solar panels into the U.S. market. But by acknowledging this issue, Romney would have to acknowledge that Solyndra, the notorious solar manufacturer that went bankrupt after receiving a half-billion dollars from the Obama administration, was facing stiff global competition—from China.
Romney on Obama's "apology tour":
Romney revived one of his signature attack lines by promising to begin his presidency with a jobs tour--as compared to Obama, who "began with an apology tour."
Fact-checker Glenn Kessler at The Washington Post has thoroughly investigated this often-repeated claim by Romney. In a post last February, Kessler awarded him "four Pinocchios"--or, a "whopper" of a falsehood--for the assertion. After Romney's speech on Thursday night, Kessler pointed out that "we tracked down every statement Obama uttered that partisans claim was an apology, and concluded that each one had been misquoted or taken out of context. His comments were not much different than his predecessor, former President George W. Bush." You can read the full article here.
Romney on energy independence:
Romney promised that by 2020, North America would be “energy-independent by taking full advantage of our oil and coal and gas and nuclear and renewables.”
For the last few decades, presidents have been promising to make the United States “energy independent.” It is and always will be an elusive goal because the country can never be truly energy-independent in the sense that it would produce and use only energy created within its own borders. Even if the country produced enough oil, coal, and natural gas to sustain itself without energy from other countries, two out of the three energy resources are priced on a global market (oil and coal). That means that no matter how much oil drilling occurs within the United States, prices at your neighborhood gas station would still be affected by disruptions in the Middle East, for example. In order to truly become energy-independent, the country would have to either disentangle itself from the global oil and coal markets—a move that is very unlikely to ever happen—or not use any coal or oil.
Romney on Obama's campaign against 'success'
Romney opened his direct criticism of Obama by saying the president centered his campaign on slamming “success,” presumably in business.
“And yet the centerpiece of the President’s entire reelection campaign is attacking success. Is it any wonder that someone who attacks success has led the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression? In America, we celebrate success, we don't apologize for it,” Romney said.
In reality, Obama has been pitching his case for a second term by saying his policies would benefit middle-class voters, especially in contrast to the platform Romney offers.
Republicans say attacks by the Obama campaign and its supporters on Romney’s record at Bain amount to attacks on business. But the Obama campaign contends that Romney’s Bain record is fair game, because the GOP presidential nominee touts his business experience as the reason he would be an effective steward of the economy.
To drill home the point, Republicans have made Obama’s now-infamous “you didn’t build that” comment a centerpiece of the GOP convention. That snippet of an Obama speech does not include the full context of Obama’s remarks in Roanoke, Va., on July 17. The full speech indicates 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. 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."
Kerry Healey on Romney’s Massachusetts:
Former Massachusetts Lt. Gov Kerry Healey touted Romney’s employment record, noting that when Romney took office as Massachusetts governor, unemployment was “soaring” and when he left, it was 4.7 percent. This is true -- the unemployment rate in Massachusetts dropped from 5.6 percent in January 2003, when Romney assumed office, to 4.6 percent in January 2007, after his term ended. It was 4.7 percent for his last full month in office, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Still, that drop reflected a nationwide trend.
Healey also highlighted Romney's fiscal achievements in the state: “He turned around a three-billion dollar budget gap, and created a two-billion dollar rainy-day fund,” she said, leading to an improvement in Massachusetts’ credit rating.
This is mostly true: Massachusetts’ credit was upgraded from AA- to AA in July 2005. Romney entered office when the state, recovering from the 2001 recession, had a $3 billion shortfall, based on projected spending. He left it with a $2.2 billion stabilization fund -- though the fund had a little over $500 million when he came in, so he didn’t “create” it.
Healey trumpeted Romney’s record on education, too: “Governor Romney gave parents more choices, insisted on tough standards for both teachers and students, and Massachusetts schools became the best in the nation.”
Politifact has rated a similar statement by Romney as “half true” -- schools did improve in Massachusetts during Romney's term, but many of the reforms responsible, including a landmark education reform passed in 1993, were already in place before Romney advocated charter schools and tougher testing standards.
Newt Gingrich on Obama’s energy policies:
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich on Thursday accused President Obama of having “crippled American energy production.”
The statement is untrue. Production of oil, natural gas, and coal have increased under Obama, according to data from the federal Energy Information Administration.
Coal production hasn’t increased by much since Obama took office, but it has gone up—by a small 0.93 percent. Oil production has gone up 5.7 percent. And natural-gas production, thanks in large part to the vast new reserves of shale natural gas found in many parts of the country, is up almost 22 percent.
Obama has been taking credit for the increases, but energy output would likely have grown no matter who was in the White House. Market changes and new discoveries of unconventional oil and natural gas sources have driven the increases. Coal production is up because high demand in Asia is creating a booming export market for the resource. Also, sizable impacts from government policies usually show up with a time lag of several years in the energy sector.
Gingrich on welfare:
Gingrich kept up the Republican attack on the Obama administration’s changes to the welfare program, echoing a Romney campaign ad that has accused the Obama administration of ending the program’s work requirements.
“Tragically, President Obama gutted this achievement,” Gingrich said.
Gingrich’s statement is false. The Obama administration issued a memo in July informing 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 Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for approval. The move was an effort to offer flexibility, not an attempt to gut the work requirements.
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