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Fact Checking the Debate

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I don’t know if Washington Post’s Wonkblog, under the heading Footnoting the debate!, will continue to have on its blog the facts about each debate candidate’s assertions. So, I’ve copied their entire posted coverage. I realize many people will decide the winner or loser based on how the media covers it following the debate, but the most important thing about this debate is the facts. Any practiced candidate can use hyperbole and rhetoric and spin to their benefit, but facts are static.

Think of this as real-time context for the various statistics and ideas the two candidates will talk about this evening. We’ll be letting you know where you can find more andPresidential Candidates in Debate whether there are any red flags for how candidates are using various pieces of evidence. If Mitt Romney, for example, talks about his proposal to cap tax deductions, we’ll get you the link to background on that. If Obamacare’s $716 billion in Medicare cuts happen to come up, Wonkblog has you covered.

10:23pm: Romney is right that the Obama administration has spent about $90 billion on clean-energy programs in the stimulus. Here’s the breakdown: $29 billion for energy efficiency, including home retrofits; $21 billion for renewable generation such as solar and wind; $10 billion for modernizing the electric grid; $6 billion to promote advanced vehicles and a domestic battery industry; $18 billion for high-speed rail and other trains; $3 billion for research into coal carbon sequestration; $3 billion for job training; $3 billion for clean manufacturing tax credits. – Brad

10:15pm: Romney mentioned there are a number of ways to limit deductions. I recapped a few of them earlier today. None of them raise close to the $500 billion in a single year necessarily to make Romney’s plan revenue neutral; indeed, they’d all raise less under his rate cuts. – Dylan

10:12pm: Romney said his web site has a “lengthy description” of his health-care plan. In fact, it’s only 369 words. He also said it covers preexisting conditions. It doesn’t. Romney wouldn’t cover preexisting conditions for Americans who fall uninsured for periods of time, which happened to 89 million Americans between 2004 and 2007. – Ezra

10:12pm: Romney says that he’ll repeal and replace Dodd-Frank. He’s laid out a few principles but hasn’t put out a full plan for alternative financial reform. Here’s what that might look like under a Republican administration and Congress.—Suzy

10:12pm: Just a quick note. Mitt Romney mentioned that there are 23 million Americans “out of work.” This stat has come up a couple times, and it’s not quite true. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 12.5 million unemployed Americans. Then there are another 2.6 million Americans who are not in the labor force but want work. Romney’s number only makes sense if you add the 8 million Americans who are working part-time right now but would like full time work. The U.S. employment situation is bad! But it’s worth being precise about it’s badness. –Brad

10:06pm: Romney cited a McKinsey study finding that about 30 percent of companies would drop coverage because of Obamacare. That study is a bit of an outlier: Another recent survey, of 512 large companies, none of them said they would stop offering coverage. — Sarah

10:06 pm — Romney says that Dodd-Frank actually encourages Too Big to Fail. There’s been a vigorous debate on both right and left whether that could be true. —Suzy

10:00 pm: Earlier in the debate, Romney gave the PBS subsidy as the example of one federal program that he’d cut. (Though, as he quipped, “I love Big Bird.”) But that subsidy is just a tiny part of the budget, and he’s only spelled out a handful of other program cuts, leaving many blanks in his plan to make $7 trillion in non-defense spending cuts over the next 10 years.—Suzy

9:59 pm: As the debate moves to what the two candidates have agreed to call “Obamacare,” you might want to look through the Kaiser Family Foundation’s plain-English summary of the law. – Ezra

9:52pm – Romney says that he won’t change benefits for current retirees. That’s not exactly the case: Repealing the Affordable Care Act would mean that seniors would see higher premiums and those who are low income – and dually-eligible for Medicaid – would see less federal spending for their care. — Sarah

9:50 pm: The debt-ceiling deal that Obama and Congress passed included “about 70 percent of the ten-year total of $2.068 trillion in discretionary program cuts that Bowles-Simpson had assumed,” according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.—Suzy

9:49pm: Here’s more information on these Medicare cuts the candidates are talking about. there are indeed $716 billion in Medicare cuts in the Affordable Care Act, which cut how much private insurers and providers get paid. The research on what that will mean for seniors is a bit mixed, although there is some research suggesting that lower payments to doctors could reduce quality of care. – Sarah

9:38pm: Obama says he made some adjustments and sent Simpson-Bowles to Congress. That’s largely true. His deficit-reduction plan shares quite a bit with Simpson-Bowles, and mainly differs in including less in tax increases, less in defense cuts, and no Social Security changes. You could make a very good case that Obama’s plan is actually more conservative than Simpson-Bowles. – Ezra

9:34pm Romney says that Obama can’t take any credit for the rise in U.S. oil and gas production. He argues that oil production is up on private lands and down on public lands. That’s somewhat true. Oil production was actually growing rapidly on public lands during the Obama years until the BP oil spill, when the administration put a moratorium on offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. But energy experts say that the president can’t take much credit for the boom in oil and gas spending, which owes a lot to new drilling techniques. – Brad

9:32pm: Obama has repeatedly said he’ll bring tax rates back to their Clinton-era levels. This isn’t actually true. His tax plan would have middle-income taxpayers paying much less than under Clinton’s tax code, and the rich paying much more. – Ezra

9:28pm: Obama said that Romney wants to increase military spending by $2 trillion, and that it’s more than the military has asked for. The Center for a New American Security ran the numbers and calculated that Romney’s defense proposal would increase military spending by $2.2 trillion by 2022. In 2013 alone, Romney would defense spending by 17 percent over 2012 levels—significantly higher than what the Defense Department has requested.—Suzy

9:24pm: Romney says he saw a study suggesting Obama will raise taxes by $3-4,000. That’s the projected cost in tax revenue of servicing the debt incurred under Obama’s budget, according to AEI’s Aspen Gorry and Matt Jensen. That said, Obama has promised future spending cuts and revenue raisers that would reduce that debt burden. It’s also possible to avoid tax increases to pay for new debt by cutting spending, or focusing revenue raisers on high earners. It’s worth noting that Gorry and Jensen found the debt burden is highly progressive. High earners would pay most of it but middle-class families would pay much less. Indeed, a family making between $40-50,000 (the median household income as of last year) would see a tax hike of $530.85, not $3-4,000 as Romney stated. – Dylan

9:18pm: President Obama says Mitt Romney has a $5 trillion tax cuts. That’s the cost of Romney’s tax plan if you assume he doesn’t close any tax breaks to pay for it. Romney has said he’ll close tax breaks to pay for all of it — but he hasn’t named any of those tax breaks. Romney says he deserves credit for the offsets he hasn’t named. Obama isn’t giving him credit for any of them. It’s also the case, as Dylan noted earlier, that his various tax promises don’t add up. – Ezra

9:17pm: Obama stated that he cut taxes by $3,600 for a typical family. That figure is accurate but potentially misleading – by his own admission it covers cuts over 4 year, not in a single year. – Dylan

9:09pm: Mitt Romney says he’s not going to cut taxes for the rich. According to the Tax Policy Center, even if he were to cut all tax breaks – save for those he’s promised to preserve – for high-income people, people making over $1 million a year would get an average tax break of $87,117. – Dylan

8:15pm: It’s probably worth having a few things on hand before the debate starts. President Obama’s deficit-reduction plan, for instance, which you can download here. And Mitt Romney’s tax and spending plans. Expect the Tax Policy Center’s analysis of Romney’s tax plan to come up more than once, so here that is. And here’s Dylan’s look at the various counter-analyses the Romney campaign has pushed. Then, of course, there are the jobs plans. Here’s Obama’s American Jobs Act, and here’s Romney’s jobs plan. That should do it. —Ezra

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Written by Valerie Curl

October 3, 2012 at 7:41 PM

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