Fact Check: Paul Ryan’s Jimmy Carter Comments

Sep 3, 2012 7:41pm

GREENVILLE, N.C. — Paul Ryan is not only the GOP vice presidential nominee, he’s also the House Budget Chair, and obsessed with data and numbers, but despite his passion for math, some numbers he threw out with a new attack line today need some fact checking.

Let’s start at the beginning. In comparing President Obama to Jimmy Carter, Ryan said in July 1980 the unemployment rate was 7.8 percent and “for the past 42 months it’s been above 8 percent under Barack Obama’s failed leadership.”

Both parts of this sentence are true according to the Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, but in July 1983, when Ronald Reagan was president, unemployment was at 9.4 percent. In July 1982 it was higher at 9.8 percent.

In July 1992, when George H.W. Bush was president, unemployment was at 7.7 percent.

Is what Ryan said factually correct? Yes, but it leaves out some important data.

The next statement Ryan made was that in 1980 “330,000 businesses filed for bankruptcy. Last year, under President Obama’s failed leadership, 1.4 million businesses field for bankruptcy.”

This is not true. According to American Bankruptcy Institute, under Carter 331,264 businesses and non-businesses filed for bankruptcy. That number includes not just businesses, but personal bankruptcies as well. In 1980, there were 43,694 business bankruptcies and 287, 570 non-business bankruptcies.

Ryan also got it wrong with regard to the number of business bankruptcies last year. In 2011, there were 1, 410, 653 total bankruptcies. Of that number 47,806 were business bankruptcies and 1,362,847 were non-business bankruptcies.

So did he misspeak or purposefully manipulate the data to make it sound worse?

“He obviously misspoke, but it’s still an apples to apples comparison,” Ryan spokesman Brendan Buck said. “The point remains: bankruptcies are up dramatically under President Obama compared to the Carter years.”

Yet it’s important to note that bankruptcies are down dramatically under President Obama, compared to the Bush years.

Business bankruptcies hit a record 71,549 in 1991, when George H.W. Bush was president, second only to 1985, under Reagan, when 71,277 businesses filed.

A record number of Americans — more than 2 million — filed for personal bankruptcy in 2005.

Ryan’s next line looks to be correct: “Take a look at people who are having a hard time making their mortgage payments: 77,000 delinquent mortgages by the time Jimmy Carter left office; under President Obama, 3 million.”

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, in the third quarter of 1980 there were 76,885 delinquent mortgages, while in the second quarter of this year there were 3,107,247.

Politicians are known to both misspeak and fudge the data, but not all are as close to the numbers as Ryan, who in Congress studies them himself, instead of leaning on aides to do it for him.

ABC News’ Susanna Kim, Elizabeth Hartfield, and Chris Good contributed to this report.

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