Romney Loses Debate On Fact Checks

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In their first of three debates, President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney “traded barbs” and stretched some facts, say the nonpartisan watchdogs at PolitiFact.com.

Similarly, the researchers at the Annenberg Public Policy Center’s FactCheck.org found examples of truth-stretching by both men.

Overall, it was a debate packed with facts, a wonk’s delight. From the very first remarks, with President Obama saying 5 million jobs have been created in the private sector over the last 30 months, the debate was very number focused. So there were some things to check. And because Romney made more factual assertions, he’s getting dinged more — at least in the early hours after the debate — by the fact checkers.

Here is a sample of what’s being reported about the truthiness of what Obama and Romney had to say Wednesday night on stage at the University of Denver:

— One of the biggest disputes was over tax cuts. Obama argued that Romney’s plan to stimulate the economy includes a tax cut totaling $5 trillion that, Obama said, isn’t possible because the Republican nominee is also promising to spend money in other places.

Romney flatly disputed that number. “First of all, I don’t have a $5 trillion tax cut,” he said.

Who’s right? The Washington Post‘s Fact Checker says the facts on this one are on Obama’s side. The New York Times notes that Romney “has proposed cutting all marginal tax rates by 20 percent — which would in and of itself cut tax revenue by $5 trillion.”

FactCheck.org has weighed in too, tweeting during the debate that “Romney says he will pay for $5T tax cut without raising deficit or raising taxes on middle class. Experts say that’s not possible.”

PolitiFact has given a “mostly true” rating to the charge that “Romney is proposing a tax plan “that would give millionaires another tax break and raise taxes on middle class families by up to $2,000 a year.”

— Has the president put in place a plan that would cut Medicare benefits by $716 billion? Romney says yes. The president says no. According to PolitiFact, Romney’s charge is “half true.”

“That amount — $716 billion — refers to Obamacare’s reductions in Medicare spending over 10 years, primarily paid to insurers and hospitals,” says PolitiFact. So there is a basis for the number. But, it adds, “the statement gives the impression that the law takes money already allocated to Medicare away from current recipients,” which is why it gets only a “half true” rating.

The New York Times writes that Obama “did not cut benefits by $716 billion over 10 years as part of his 2010 health care law; rather, he reduced Medicare reimbursements to health care providers, chiefly insurance companies and drug manufacturers. And the law gave Medicare recipients more generous benefits for prescription drugs and free preventive care like mammograms.”

Still, as NPR’s Julie Rovner has reported, “some of the money does indeed reduce future Medical spending, and the fact is, you can’t reduce health care spending and preserve Medicare for 78 million baby boomers without slowing its growth.”

— In listing his objections to the Affordable Care Act, Romney said it “puts in place an unelected board that’s going to tell people, ultimately, what kind of treatments they can have. I don’t like that idea.”

But the Times and National Journal have reported that the board in question wouldn’t make treatment decisions, a point Obama made during the debate. National Journal called Romney’s characterization of what this board would do “one of the biggest whoppers of the night.” PolitiFact gave Romney’s claim a “mostly false” rating.

Under the law, the board’s job would be to keep Medicare spending within a particular target (not a dollar figure, but as a factor of GDP) but the board is prohibited from choosing the benefits to be restricted to achieve savings, so it cannot make treatment decisions.

FactCheck.org, which has likened the charge about this panel to the earlier claim from Republicans that Obama would create “death panels,” writes that “the board, the Independent Payment Advisory Board, cannot, by law, ‘ration’ care or determine which treatments Medicare covers. In fact, the IPAB is limited in what it can do to curb the growth of Medicare spending.”

— On cutting the federal deficit, PolitiFact writes, “Romney claimed that Obama had said he would ‘cut the deficit in half.’ That’s the case. … Obama said he put forward ‘a specific $4 trillion deficit reduction plan.’ That’s true if you combine the 10-year impact of his budget with the 10-year impact of cuts already approved. (For that reason, we’ve previously found his claim that his budget plan would ‘cut our deficits by $4 trillion’ Half True.)”

— As for Obama’s claim that under his watch the economy has created 5 million jobs in the past 30 months, NPR’s John Ydstie says that’s true. But it also ignores an inconvenient truth (for the president), that about the same number of jobs were lost during Obama’s first year in office.

— And on a lighter note, the debate opened with a tender moment and a fact that soon was disputed on Twitter. In acknowledging his wedding anniversary, Obama said that “20 years ago I became the luckiest man on Earth because Michelle Obama agreed to marry me.” An astute tweeter noted that 20 years ago, the first lady’s last name was Robinson.

Many thanks to NPR for this story and a hat tip to Julie as well.

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Posted by on October 4, 2012. Filed under NEWS. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
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6 Responses to Romney Loses Debate On Fact Checks

  1. Bill Formby Reply

    October 4, 2012 at 8:51 am

    I think the Republicans and Romney may be premature in their celebrations over their debate “win” last night. Or, maybe I am wrong in my assessment of the President’s campaign staff. Romney was far more energetic and forceful last night and swinging for the fences than the President. On the other hand, the President challenged him in a calm very controlled manner, which may have come across as too cool. Or, could the President been playing Br’er Rabbit and being comfortable in the briar patch and letting Romney make as many absolute statements as he could which he will not be able to walk away from the next day. It is virtually impossible for a candidate to walk back from statements make during the debates. So, when Romney has clearly said that he does not have a $5 trillion tax cut on the table he will have a lot of trouble walking away from that now. He refused to give any specifics on the deductions and loop holes, do people truly trust him and Paul Ryan. He would not be specific on what he would replace Obama Care with. Again, it is, just trust the states with no oversight for medicaid. And trust the private sector with everything because they can do it better, just like Bain Capital did.
    Watch for the campaign ads beginning this week. My bet is that you will see some of Romney’s debate words coming back to haunt him.

    • Michael John Scott Reply

      October 4, 2012 at 9:50 am

      Bill I hope you’re right. I think my expectations for the president were too high but I also think that at times he (Obama) plays things a little too cool. There were any number of points the president could have called Romney on and yet failed to do so and that puzzles me.

      • Bill Formby Reply

        October 4, 2012 at 12:17 pm

        That’s my point Mike. There were too many places where Obama could have nailed Romney but did not. He pretty well let Romney ramble on and on. I expect to see campaign ads showing the various sides of Mitt Romney and asking “Which One Is The Real Romney?”
        The other thing is that there are two more debates. Don’t expect the President to be so passive in the next two. I also expect Joe Biden to disassemble Paul Ryan next week.

  2. Tom Gee Reply

    October 4, 2012 at 12:30 pm

    I sort of agree with Bill here. For the president to have done what you wanted, Mike, would have required him to be equally rude and unpresidential. This will all play out in the ads and subsequent debates. Stay tuned. I know, I know, some think of this as just theater or a sporting contest, but it is much more serious than that.

    • Michael John Scott Reply

      October 4, 2012 at 6:04 pm

      Actually Tom I think televised debates do require a lot of theater, because, they are, in and of themselves just that. I heard today that president plans to make some “changes” for the next debate.
      I wish it were tomorrow :-)

    • Michael John Scott Reply

      October 6, 2012 at 4:29 pm

      I never said that’s what I wanted Tom. I just wanted to see him involved. He screwed up and admitted it.

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