Fact Checking the Presidential Debate in Denver

By ABC News

Oct 3, 2012 11:40pm
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Win McNamee/Getty Images

Here’s a look at some of the facts thrown around during the debate. We found some facts, some fictions, some not quite facts and some mostly fictions.

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Romney Fact Check #7: Romney’s Bipartisan Record — 10:36 p.m.: Governor Romney: First of all, I liked the way we did it in Massachusetts.  I like that in my state we had Republicans and Democrats come together and work together.  

Shush Walshe has the facts:

Did Romney work across the aisle for his health care plan in Massachusetts?

Michael Widmer, from Massachusetts Taxpayer Foundation (non-partisan group) says both the Massachusetts legislature and Romney DID come together to get everyone in the state insured. They had the same goal and were successful. Yes, Romney put out the idea, but the legislature helped to craft the plan.

Is Obamacare based on Romney’s plan?

Romney worked with the legislature, yes, but he spearheaded two parts of it that are essential to the president’s plan: the individual mandate and the health care exchanges.

The administration did use Romney’s advisors as the president said. MIT’s Jonathan Gruber is the biggest name who worked with both.

But health care was a rare exception where he worked with the legislature in his state, according to  Widmer.

Widmer says the legislature was “frustrated usually” with Romney because he wanted to govern like a “CEO” and “didn’t pay heed to the legislature and they resented that.”

He says it was very different than one of his predecessors and now a big support, Bill Weld who did work with Democrats in the state.

Romney was also bragging about Massachusetts being number one in education. Widmer says those reforms actually took place ten years before in 1993 under Weld.

 

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Romney Fact Check #6: Oil and Gas Only on Private Lands — 10:29 p.m.: Governor Romney: Mr. President all of the increase in natural gas and oil has happened on private land. Not on government land on government land, your Administration has cut the numbers of permit and licenses in half.

Arlette Saenz has the facts:

Mitt Romney claimed that under the Obama administration, the number of drilling permits and licenses on government lands has been cut in half, but that estimate is not quite factual according to data from the Bureau of Land Management.

Data from the BLM shows that the number of drilling permits on federal lands approved during the fiscal years President Obama has been in office has decreased somewhere between 20 and 37 percent compared to the years before he became president -  not the 50 percent Romney claimed.

Read it here.

 

 Fact Checking the Presidential Debate in Denver

Obama Fact Check #5: Seniors Would pay $6,000 More for Medicare Under Romney— 10:25 p.m.: President Obama: The problem is that because the voucher wouldn’t necessarily keep up with health care inflation, it was estimated this would cost the average senior $6,000 a year

Chris Good has the facts:

This figure is based on an outdated analysis of Paul Ryan’s Medicare-reform plan.

Looking at Ryan’s 2011 plan, the Congressional Budget Office estimated seniors would pay more for their health care under Ryan’s plan. The CBO projected that by 2022, seniors would pay 61 percent of their health care costs, versus 27 percent under current law. At the time, Ryan questioned the CBO’s assessment.

The $6,000 figure comes from a Center for Budget and Policy Priorities study, based on the CBO’s analysis, which projected that seniors’ out-of-pocket costs would rise from $6,150 to $12,500 per year on average under Ryan’s plan.

Since then, Ryan has made some changes to his plan, including a catastrophic-care benefit, more generous growth of “premium-support payments,” and a government health plan as an alternative to private plans, from which seniors would choose on an exchange. It is the more recent plan that Romney supports.

So, while the $6,000 estimate applies to a previous iteration of Ryan’s plan, and while that plan bears the same basic features, both the Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein have said it’s wrong to apply that number to Ryan’s current Medicare proposal.

 

 

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Romney Fact Check #5: Millions Losing Health Care Under Obama — 10:22 p.m.:

Part one: Governor Romney: Right now the CBO says up to 20 million people will lose their insurance as Obamacare goes into effect next year.

John Parkinson has the facts:

That claim that millions are losing health care under Obama is based on a report from CBO. Politfact says it’s FALSE.

It is true that many people will probably have different health insurance in the years ahead as Obamacare is implemented. But they will not lose health insurance. Some employers are expected to opt out of insuring their employees.

Part two: Governor Romney: McKinsey and Company of American businesses said 30% of them are anticipating dropping people from coverage.

Here’s that study.

KEY PART: Overall, 30 percent of employers will definitely or probably stop offering employer-sponsored health insurance  in the years after 2014.

 

 

 

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Romney Fact Check #4: Pre-Existing Conditions — 10:20 p.m.:  Governor Romney: Number one, pre existing conditions are covered under my plan.

Z. Byron Wolf has the facts:

Here is an extremely detailed fact check on pre-existing conditions.

Mitt Romney’s plan would not guarantee coverage for everyone with pre-existing conditions who have not had continuous health care coverage.

The Affordable Care Act, on the other hand, created special health care plans in 2010 for people who have  pre-existing conditions, and by 2014 it will prohibit  insurance companies from denying coverage to anyone because of a pre-existing condition.

It is not a small population who would be cut from health care coverage  under a proposal similar to what Romney has suggested. A Health and Human Services  report published in January 2011 estimated that between 50 million and 129 million people currently have a pre-existing condition in the eyes of  insurance companies. Twenty-five  million of those do not have health insurance, according to the report.  That number does not take into account those who have had gaps in coverage, suggesting a much larger number of people have pre-existing conditions but have not had continuous coverage.

Continuous coverage generally means having nonstop coverage.  Gaps of no more than 63 days can be allowed when changing insurance companies.

But as the Washington Post pointed out, people who have health insurance and a pre-existing condition are largely protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, which was enacted in 1996, and limits how employer-sponsored plans can deny coverage  because of pre-existing conditions, and how far back they can search for them.

 

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Romney Fact Check #3: Government Expenditures are Excessive Like Spain — 10:17 p.m.:  Governor Romney: Spain — Spain spends 42 percent of their total economy on government. We’re now spending 42 percent of our economy on government. I don’t want to go down the path to Spain. I want to go down the path of growth that puts Americans to work with more money coming in because they’re working.

Dana Hughes has the facts:

According to the non-partisan CBO, and Mitt Romney’s own website, U.S. federal government spending is about 23 percent of GDP.

A table produced by the White House Office of Management and Budget that includes federal, state, local and Medicare and Social Security spending is a bit closer to Romney’s 42 percent. That table suggests total government expenditures at 35 percent for 2010. Still seven percent below what Romney suggested.

Romney seems to get his numbers at the debate from the 2012 Index of economic freedom put out by the Wall Street Journal and the Heritage Foundation:

United States: “Government expenditures have grown to 42.2 percent of GDP,”
Spain: “Government spending has increased to a level equivalent to 45.8 percent of GDP”

But according to that report, guess who else spends 42%+ on government? New Zealand, The United Kingdom, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, hardly countries in economic decline. The key seems to be not on what a country spends on government alone, but how it balances with the country’s deficit and public debt.
For example, Niger only spends 25.5% of its economy on government, is Governor Romney saying the United States wants to go down that path?

 

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Romney Fact Check #2: Obama Wants to Cut Medicare — 10:14 p.m.:  Governor Romney: What I support is no change for current retirees and near retirees to Medicare. And the President supports taking $716 billion out of that program. 

Serena Marshall has the facts:

Romney’s claim that Obama wants to cut Medicare by $716 billion dollars is somewhat misleading. The Obamacare law controlled future Medicare spending and seeks to save that amount of money. Those savings help pay for the Obamacare law. And the savings will have some implications for programs like Medicare Advantage. What Obama did was, through the Affordable Care Act, reduce growth of Medicare over 10 years. This reduction in growth would actually benefit Medicare beneficiaries by extending the life of Medicare. Obama’s reduction plan comes through at payments to hospitals as part of Medicare Part A.

Find a longer explanation from Fact Check.

 

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Obama Fact Check #4: Under Romney’s Plan, Donald Trump is a Small Business— 10:11 p.m.:  President Obama: But under Governor Romney’s definition, there are a whole bunch of millionaires and billionaires who are small businesses. Donald Trump is a small business. Now, I know Donald Trump doesn’t like to think of himself as small anything, but — but that’s how you define small businesses if you’re getting business income.

Greg Krieg has the facts:

The Trump Organization has 22,450 employees, according to this CNN Money article. That’s a very large business indeed.

The point Obama, erroneously, was probably trying to make is that under Mitt Romney’s plan, all “small businesses” would receive a 20 percent tax cut. By one common definition, the size of a business is defined solely by the amount of people it employs. Any company with 500 or fewer workers is deemed “small.”

By that definition, Trump does have some  “small businesses” like Trump’s Trump Tower Sales & Leasing (20 employees, nearly a million dollars in annual profits). Or, for example, an NFL team like the Dallas Cowboys could be called “small businesses.”

(This rating was updated to make it fully fiction).

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Obama Fact Check #3: Romney Would Raise Defense Spending — 10:04 p.m.:  President Obama: This is where there is a difference because Governor Romney’s central economic plan calls for a 5 trillion dollar tax cut on top of the extension of the Bush tax cuts so that is another trillion dollars. (11) And two trillion dollars in additional military spending that the military hasn’t asked for.

Luis Martinez has the facts:

The Romney campaign has said that it would like to see spending for Defense increased to 4% of GDP.   In May, Travis Sharp from the Center for  a New American Security worked for CNN Money to calculate that raising defense spending to that percentage of GDP would be the same as $2.1 trillion in additional spending over the next 10 years.

Obama appears to be saying that the military hasn’t asked for that spending because the Department of Defense has submitted budgets based on strategic interests that are in line with Obama administration cuts over the next decade.

On the Romney campaign website you find this quote:

“This will not be a cost-free process. We cannot rebuild our military strength without paying for it. Mitt will begin by reversing Obama-era defense cuts and return to the budget baseline established by Secretary Robert Gates in 2010, with the goal of setting core defense spending — meaning funds devoted to the fundamental military components of personnel, operations and maintenance, procurement, and research and development — at a floor of 4 percent of GDP.”

Current Defense spending levels are estimated to be 3.5 for what’s called base Defense spending.

Previous supporters of increasing that to 4% GDP include former Defense Secretary Gates and Adm. Michael Mullen.

On November 26, 2007 at the Alf Landon lecture then Defense Secretary Gates said military spending then by adding the costs of the wars pushed military spending to 4% .  He called that percentage serves as a benchmark,as a rough floor of how much we should spend on defense.”  Here’s the full quote “Overall, our current military spending amounts to about 4 percent of GDP, below the historic norm and well below previous wartime periods. Nonetheless, we use this benchmark as a rough floor of how much we should spend on defense. We lack a similar benchmark for other departments and institutions.

On February 1, 2008  Adm. Mike Mullen said;

I believe that we need to have a broad public discussion about what we should spend on defense. I’ve been very clear about my belief that a 4 percent floor, a 4 percent of GDP floor is really that, and I am concerned and I — this comes from my evolution as a service chief, where we worked very hard to efficiently and effectively invest for the future, and in that development, I’ve gotten to a point where I think — I really do believe — this 4 percent floor is important. And it’s — and it’s really important, given the world we’re living in, given the threats that we see out there, the risks that are, in fact, global, not just in the Middle East, and that we as a nation need to be very careful about how we’re going to invest in defense in order to handle these kinds of challenges which are going to — while will persist for the foreseeable future.

 

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Romney Fact Check #1: Health Care Costs Rose $2,500 per Family Under Obama — 9:41 p.m.: Governor Romney:  Health care costs have gone up by $2500 a family.

ABC News’ Serena Marshall reports:

Factcheck.org labeled this claim false. Read their assessment from September here. From their assessment:

 ”Romney appears to have mixed up two statistics here: Obama’s promise to reduce health insurance premiums by $2,500 (an optimistic claim we have questionedseveraltimes, ever since the soon-to-be president first made the promise on the campaign trail) and the actual rise in insurance premiums. As we reported in March, the average cost of a family policy rose by $1,300 between 2010 and 2011, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s annual survey (Exhibit 1.110). (Even if you include the year before — so 2009 to 2011 — the increase was $1,700, not $2,500.)

Moreover, the $1,300 rise in premiums between 2010 and 2011 is the total cost for both employers and employees — not $1,300 out of pocket for the average family. In fact, the Kaiser Family Foundation report said that the increase in what workers contribute wasn’t “a statistically significant increase over the 2010 values.”

Romney often implies that Obama’s health care law is to blame for the rise in premiums, but when we looked into that issue last October, experts told us it was only responsible for a small portion of the increase. Specifically, they said, more generous coverage requirements in the law caused premiums to go up by 1 percent to 3 percent, while all told, premiums went up 9 percent. The bulk of the increase was tied to rising health care costs.”

 

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Obama Fact Check #2: Obama Could Cut $4 Trillion — 9:38 p.m. President Obama: I put forward a specific $4 trillion deficit reduction plan. It’s on a website. You can look at all the numbers. What cuts we make and what revenue we raise. 

Jon Karl’s Rating:

Does President Obama have a plan to cut the deficit by $4 trillion?

No.  The “$4 trillion plan” he is referring to includes about $1 trillion Congress has already agreed to and $1 trillion in savings from ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which are already ending.

This would be Mostly Fiction.

Greg Krieg has the facts:

The $4 trillion figure achieved a certain status in Washington when the much-disputed, ultimately ignored, Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction commission pegged it as the cuts their proposals would have yielded over ten years.

So does Obama manage to get there on his own?

The first $1 trillion in cuts are already on the books. As he noted in his speech, the president negotiated them with Congress last summer. More cuts are banked by letting the Bush tax cuts expire (the top marginal rate would return to 39.5 percent from 35 percent) and closing a number of arcane loopholes, all of which, in theory, would have a multiplier effect as the resulting interest payments on the national debt would be lessened.

Then there’s the issue of military spending. The Congressional Budget Office has already worked nearly a trillion dollars of war expenses into its long-term deficit projections. President Obama, by ending the war in Iraq and winding combat operations in Afghanistan (by 2014), is subtracting that as-yet-unspent money from the future debt load.

 

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Obama Fact Check #1 — 9:35 p.m.: President Obama: This is where there is a difference because Governor Romney’s central economic plan calls for a 5 trillion dollar tax cut on top of the extension of the Bush tax cuts so that is another trillion dollars. And two trillion dollars in additional military spending that the military hasn’t asked for. That is 8 trillion dollars. How we pay for that, reduce the deficit and make the investments that we need to make without dumping those costs on the middle class Americans is one of the central questions of this campaign.

Jon Karl’s Rating:

Obama is not accurate when he says Romney’s plan includes a $5 trillion tax cut.  Romney has said his tax plan will be revenue neutral.  Romney has not provided the details on how he will pay for his tax rate cut, but that does not mean the President can make the details up for him.

This claim would be Mostly Fiction.

Amy Bingham has the facts:

Mitt Romney has said repeatedly, and said again from the debate stage tonight, that his tax plan will be revenue-neutral and will not add to the deficit. But he has yet to outline exactly how he would pay for his plan.

So far the only specifics he has offered on how to pay for his 20 percent across-the-board rate reduction and collection of other tax cutting measures is to eliminate tax “loopholes” for high income earners.

Without these specifics, an analysis by the non-partisan Tax Policy Center estimated that his tax cuts would strip $5 trillion from federal revenues over the next decade, or $456 billion per year.

Romney’s tax plan could add $5 trillion to the deficit. But that is an estimate on an incomplete tax plan. Romney insists that when his plan goes from an election-year outline to a Congress-ready proposal he will include provisions, closing tax loopholes and broadening the tax base, that will ensure it will not add to the deficit. The issue is that no one knows what those provisions are just yet. Recently he has suggested a maximum $17,000 deduction.

Source: Mitt Romney’s website

 

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