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Originally published October 16, 2012 at 9:31 PM | Page modified October 17, 2012 at 6:02 AM

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Fact-checking the presidential debate

A look at some of the claims made by President Obama and challenger Mitt Romney in their second debate.

The Associated Press

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WASHINGTON — In the rough-and-tumble of a town hall-style debate, not all of the presidential candidates' claims stood up to scrutiny Tuesday night.

A look at some of their claims:

Libya

PRESIDENT OBAMA: The day after last month's attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, "I stood in the Rose Garden and I told the American people and the world that we are going to find out exactly what happened. That this was an act of terror and I also said that we're going to hunt down those who committed this crime."

MITT ROMNEY: "I want to make sure we get that for the record, because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror."

OBAMA: "Get the transcript."

THE FACTS: Obama is correct in saying that he referred to Benghazi as an act of terrorism on Sept. 12, the day after the attack. From the Rose Garden, he said: "No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation ... We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act."

But others in his administration repeated for several days the belief that the violence stemmed from protests over an American-made video ridiculing Islam. It took almost a month before officials acknowledged that those protests never occurred. And Romney is right in arguing that the administration has yet to explain why it took so long for that correction to be made or how it came to believe that the attack evolved from an angry demonstration.

Taxes

ROMNEY: "I'm going to bring rates down across the board for everybody, but I'm going to limit deductions and exemptions and credits, particularly for people at the high end, because I am not going to have people at the high end pay less than they're paying now."

THE FACTS: Romney is proposing to cut all income-tax rates by 20 percent, eliminate the estate tax and the alternative minimum tax, maintain and expand tax breaks for investment income, and do it all without adding to the deficit or shifting the tax burden from the wealthy to the middle class. He says he would pay for the tax cuts by reducing or eliminating tax deductions, exemptions and credits, but he can't achieve all of his goals under the budget rules presidents must follow.

The Tax Policy Center, a Washington research group, says in a study that the tax cuts proposed by Romney would reduce federal tax revenues by about $5 trillion over 10 years. The study concludes that there aren't enough tax breaks for the wealthy to make up the lost revenue, so the proposal would either add to the deficit or shift more of the tax burden to the middle class.

Romney's campaign cites studies by conservative academics and think tanks that say Romney's plan will spur economic growth, generating enough additional money to pay for the tax cuts without adding to the deficit or shifting the tax burden to the middle class. But Congress doesn't recognize those kinds of economic projections when it estimates the budget impact of tax proposals.

ROMNEY: "A recent study has shown that people in the middle class will see $4,000 a year in higher taxes as a result of the spending and borrowing of this administration."

THE FACTS: Romney's claim is based on an analysis by the conservative American Enterprise Institute that examines the amount of debt that has accumulated on Obama's watch and in a potential second term and computes how much it would cost to finance that debt through tax increases. Annual deficits under Obama have exceeded $1 trillion for each year of his term.

However, Obama is not responsible for all of the deficits that have occurred on his watch. Most of the federal budget — like Medicare, food stamps, Medicaid and Social Security — runs on autopilot, and no one in a leadership position in Washington has proposed deep cuts in those programs. And politicians in both parties voted two years ago to renew Bush-era tax cuts that have contributed to the deficit. Even under the strict spending cuts proposed by Romney, the debt would continue to rise, just not as fast.

OBAMA: "What I've also said is, for (those earning) above $250,000, we can go back to the tax rates we had when Bill Clinton was president."

THE FACTS: Not exactly. The Bush tax cuts set the top income rate at 35 percent. Under Obama's proposal to raise taxes on households earning more than $250,000, the president would return the top rate to the 39.6 percent set during the Clinton administration. But he neglected to mention that his health-care law includes a new 0.9 percent Medicare surcharge on households earning more than that amount — and that tax would be retained. The health-care law also imposes a 3.8 percent tax on investment income for high earners. So tax rates would be higher for the wealthiest Americans than they were under Clinton.

Jobs

OBAMA: "And what I want to do is build on the 5 million jobs that we've created over the last 30 months in the private sector alone."

THE FACTS: As he has done before, Obama is cherry-picking his numbers to make them sound better than they really are. He ignores that public-sector job losses have dragged down overall job creation. Also, he chooses just to mention the past 30 months. That ignores job losses during his presidency up until that point. According to the Labor Department, about 4.5 million total jobs have been created over the past 30 months. But some 4.3 million jobs were lost during the earlier months of his administration. At this point, Obama has presided over net job creation, but only marginally.

Associated Press writers Tom Raum, Jonathan Fahey, Tom Krisher, Stephen Ohlemacher and Andrew Taylor contributed.

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