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Democrats' claims have some holes

Published: Friday, Sep. 7, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 16A
Last Modified: Tuesday, Sep. 11, 2012 - 9:08 am

A fact check of some of the assertions by President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday:

Obama: "I'll use the money we're no longer spending on war to pay down our debt and put more people back to work – rebuilding roads and bridges, schools and runways."

The facts: The idea of taking war savings to pay for other programs is budgetary sleight of hand since the wars were paid for with increased debt. Obama can essentially "pay down our debt," as he said, by borrowing less, but he still must borrow for the new projects he envisions.

Obama: "We will reform and strengthen Medicare for the long haul, but we'll do it by reducing the cost of health care, not by asking seniors to pay thousands of dollars more."

The facts: Some of the proposals the Obama administration has floated in budget negotiations with Congress would ask Medicare beneficiaries to pay more. Among them: revamping co-payments and deductibles in ways that could raise costs for retirees and increasing premiums for certain beneficiaries.

Obama: "And now you have a choice: We can give more tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas or we can start rewarding companies that open new plants and train new workers and create new jobs here in the United States of America."

Biden: "Governor Romney believes that in the global economy, it doesn't much matter where American companies put their money or where they create jobs. As a matter of fact, he has a new tax proposal – the territorial tax – that experts say will create 800,000 jobs, all of them overseas."

The facts: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's proposal is actually aimed at encouraging investment in the United States, not overseas. Whether Romney's plan would spur investment here is debatable, but it's not a plan aimed at dispersing profits abroad.

Biden: "After the worst job loss since the Great Depression, we've created 4.5 million private sector jobs in the past 29 months."

The facts: This seems to be a favorite statistic, because many speakers at the convention cited it. But it's misleading – a figure that counts jobs from when the recession reached its trough and employment began to grow again. It excludes jobs lost earlier in Obama's term, and masks the fact that joblessness overall has risen over Obama's term so far.

As well, in the same 29 months that private sector jobs grew by 4.5 million, jobs in the public sector declined by about 500,000, making the net gain in that period about 4 million.

Biden: "What they didn't tell you is that the plan they've put down on paper would immediately cut benefits to more than 30 million seniors already on Medicare. What they didn't tell you is the plan they're proposing would cause Medicare to go bankrupt by 2016."

The facts: Biden wasn't referring to any Medicare plan of Romney or running mate Paul Ryan, but to the consequences of fully repealing Obama's health care law. A Medicare plan put forward by Ryan in Congress would have no immediate effect because it would apply only to future retirees.

Fact-checkers find little to fault in Clinton's talk

Former President Bill Clinton's exhaustive endorsement of President Barack Obama's re-election Wednesday night was stocked with statistics on nearly every major campaign issue, from health care to job creation and the national debt.

For the most part, the fact police gave Clinton high marks.

Bloomberg TV succinctly declared: "No False Claims in Clinton's Speech." The assertion, for example, that since 1961 there were 24 million private-sector jobs created during Republican presidencies and 42 million created during Democratic ones checked out.

Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post took exception to Clinton's claim – also asserted by Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. – that Obama's proposed budget would reduce the deficit by $4 trillion. Kessler said that calculation included $1 trillion in cuts already agreed upon in budget negotiations with Congress last year.

Factcheck.org deemed Clinton's winding speech a "fact-checker's nightmare" but ultimately found fault with few of the many statistics.

– Tribune Washington Bureau

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