Mitt Romney: Liar, Liar, Pants On Fire

After the first Presidential debate of 2012 there has been a whole lotta of fact checkin’. It’s an entire cottage industry now, that is for certain.

So here are some of my thoughts on some of the “factually challenged” stuff that was flyin’ around Wednesday night.

“The Challenger”

1. Romney: Obama is “cutting $716 billion” from Medicare
The verdict: “Mostly-False”
What’s true is the number — ObamaCare reduces the growth of Medicare spending by $716 billion over 10 years, primarily in what’s paid to hospitals and insurers, says PolitiFact.

But Romney “gives the impression that the law takes money already allocated to Medicare away from current recipients,” and that’s not true. In fact, cutting the growth of Medicare spending is a good thing — without these $716 billion cuts, Part A’s trust fund is expected to be depleted in 2016. But with them, that date is pushed back to 2024. At that point, Medicare’s payroll tax revenue would only be enough to cover 87 percent of benefits.

2. Romney: ObamaCare creates “an unelected board that’s going to tell people what kind of treatments they can have”
The verdict: “False”
This is “one of the biggest whoppers of the night,” says National Journal, a line Republicans “regularly and inaccurately” used when they warned that ObamaCare would create a “death panel.”

In fact, the Medicare board created by ObamaCare is “explicitly restricted from directly cutting Medicare benefits.” Its charge is to keep overall spending within a specific target. He doesn’t explicitly accuse the board of rationing, says PolitiFact, “but Romney’s claim can leave viewers with the impression that the board makes health-care decisions for individual Americans, and that’s not the case.”

3. Romney: Obama “doubled the deficit”
The verdict: False
When Obama took office in January 2009, the Congressional Budget Office had already estimated that the federal deficit in fiscal 2009 (ending in September) would be $1.2 trillion, says Jackie Calmes at The New York Times. It ended up being $1.4 trillion. For fiscal 2012, the deficit was $1.1 trillion lower than when he took office. And “measured as a share of the economy, as economists prefer, the deficit has declined more significantly — from 10.1 percent of the economy’s total output in 2009 to 7.3 percent for 2012.”

4. Romney: Obama “provided $90 billion in breaks to the green energy world,” and half the companies failed
The verdict: “Mostly-False”
The $90 billion, from the 2009 stimulus bill, isn’t really “breaks,” says Rachel Weiner at The Washington Post. It’s a combination of loans, loan guarantees, and grants, spread out over several years. “Furthermore, not all of the money went to the ‘green energy world'” — $23 billion went toward “clean coal,” cleaning up nuclear waste, and updating the power grid. And Romney’s claim that half the green-energy companies that received federal loans have failed is “a gross overstatement,” says John M. Broder at The New York Times.

Additionally, only three of the nearly three dozen loan recipients are currently in bankruptcy, “although several others are facing financial difficulties.”

5. Romney: The average family income has decreased under President Obama by $4,300
The verdict: “False”

As he has done a number of times recently, Romney inflated the loss of income for middle-income Americans under Obama.

Romney: Middle-income Americans have seen their income come down by $4,300. This is a — this is a tax in and of itself. I’ll call it the economy tax. It’s been crushing.

Romney didn’t clarify whether he was talking about household or family income, but either way, the number is inflated AND dates back to a start point of January 2007.  In essence he is tacking on the two worst years of the Bush presidency, ones that included a recession AND an economic collapse that put us on the verge of the second Great Depression onto Obama’s “bill”.

The latest figures from the Census Bureau for 2011 show that real household income (inflation-adjusted) fell by $2,492 during Obama’s first three years in office. Real family income (again, inflation-adjusted) fell by $3,290.

There’s also some reason to think the income decline bottomed out a year ago. Sentier Research, which Romney has in the past cited as his source, says in its latest report — issued Sept. 10, that household income rose in the year since September 2011, when Sentier’s Seasonally Adjusted Household Income Index hit its lowest point.

6. Romney: Six studies prove that Obama’s charge about him raising taxes is “completely wrong”
The verdict: “False”
The “studies” Romney cites include two Wall Street Journal editorials, an article in the same paper by one of his own economic advisers, and two analyses by conservative think tanks. And even those studies, says Glenn Kessler at The Washington Post, “do not provide much evidence that Romney’s proposal — as sketchy as it is — would be revenue neutral without making unrealistic assumptions.”

7. Romney: “the CBO says up to 20 million people will lose their insurance as Obamacare goes into effect next year.”
The verdict: “False”

The Congressional Budget Officesaid that may happen under a very pessimistic scenario. But the agency said it is more likely that about 3 million to 5 million fewer people, on net, would obtain health insurance from their employer under the law. The CBO also said that it was possible that more people would be covered by employers, not fewer, under a more optimistic scenario.

What’s more, these individuals wouldn’t necessarily “lose … insurance” entirely. Many would qualify for federal subsidies to buy policies offered through the new state exchanges established by the law, or qualify for Medicaid.

8. Romney: the number of unemployed Americans when he said that there were “23 million people out of work.”
The verdict: “False”

There were 12.5 million unemployed Americans in August, the most recent figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Romney would like you to think he meant to refer to the unemployed, plus those working part-time who want full-time work (8 million) but in the end he chose his words for a reason and made the number seem TWICE what it really is.

“The Champion”

1. Obama: Romney’s plan “calls for a $5 trillion tax cut”
The verdict: “True”
Romney flatly denied that he’s proposing a $5 trillion tax cut, but “he has proposed cutting all marginal tax rates by 20 percent — which would in and of itself cut tax revenue by $5 trillion,” says Annie Lowrey at The New York Times.

Where this gets tricky, says PolitiFact, is that Romney claims he will make up the lost revenue through ending unspecified tax deductions and closing unspecified loopholes.

In other words, “the president made a misleading statement about an incomplete plan, but he did describe what the plan was missing and that Romney would not fill in the gaps.”

So basically, the numbers show that the tax rate cuts Romney is very specific about will cut $5 trillion in revenue and he offers ZERO data and/or details to explain how his unspecified deductions will make the thing “revenue neutral”.

The Tax Policy Center concluded earlier this year that it wasn’t mathematically possiblefor a plan such as Romney’s to cut rates as he promised without either favoring the wealthy or increasing the federal deficit.

Except for saying that his plan would bring in the same amount of money “when you account for growth,” Romney offered no new explanation for how he might accomplish all he’s promised. He just repeated those promises in some of the strongest terms yet.

Romney: My number one principal is, there will be no tax cut that adds to the deficit. … I will not reduce the taxes paid by high-income Americans. … I will lower taxes on middle-income families.

But he didn’t say how he’d pull off all those things at once. Simply “taking him at his word” on something so large is no different at taking him on his word that he once saw Sasquatch riding a unicorn.

2. Obama: Romney wants to turn Medicare into a “voucher system”
The verdict: “True”
The idea behind turning Medicare into a “premium support” system is that seniors would get a fixed amount to spend on health care, says PolitiFact. So “generally, we think ‘voucher program’ is a fair way of describing to voters the vision for Medicare under a Romney-Ryan administration.” Where Obama’s claim is “misleading,” says, is that it “ignores the plain fact that Obama supports other, popular health-care programs that work the same way,” including one created by ObamaCare for under-65 beneficiaries.

3. Obama: Romney “would give millionaires another tax break and raise taxes on middle class families by up to $2,000 a year”
The verdict: “True”
This claim is based on a reputable analysis of Romney’s incomplete plan by the Tax Policy Center.

Number-crunchers agree that to meet Romney’s stated goals of cutting taxes by 20 percent while not increasing the deficit, the closed loopholes and scrapped exemptions can’t just hit the wealthy. The Tax Policy Center‘s view that middle class families would lose exemptions of up to $2,000 fits with what we know of Romney’s proposal.

4. Obama: The economy has created 5 million private sector jobs in the past 30 months
The verdict: True”
That number is accurate, and the most significant argument I could find AGAINST it’s validity was where NPR‘s John Ydstie added this caveat “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.”

What NPR fails to observe by saying that is…the first year he was in office he was stuck with the policies of the previous administration.

So you decide? Is that first crappy year all on Obama?

Didn’t think so.


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