Dems Debating, the Sequel
June 4, 2007
No whoppers, but hype springs eternal.
Amid barbs on Iraq, there were exaggerations on energy, insurance and other issues in the second debate of candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination. Among those we found:
The June 3 debate, at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., was sponsored by CNN, WMUR-TV and Manchester's Union Leader. All eight of the 2008 Democratic presidential primary contenders took part.
Biden’s Iranian Oil Spin
Sen. Joseph Biden made Iran sound thirsty for oil.
Iran is actually a net exporter of refined petroleum products. It does import quite a bit of refined oil in the form of gasoline – the most recent report from the Department of Energy said imports accounted for about 41 percent of the gasoline consumed in the country in 2006. But Iran is building additional refineries that could result in an end to gasoline imports by 2010.
While Back on the Home Front...
During the debate there was much talk of gasoline price manipulation and gouging.
The report also found no evidence of oil companies intentionally reducing inventory or increasing prices. A concurring statement within the FTC's report, however, mentioned another culprit.
OPEC, obviously, is beyond the reach of U.S. law. Leibowitz went on to write that this is "a complicated issue" and that increased demand in China and India, along with environmental requirements, over-dependence on foreign oil and energy-inefficient vehicles contributed to the price spike that year. The FTC also mentions that specific "price gouging" legislation could hurt more than it could help.
The FTC report did agree with Edwards, however, that antitrust laws play an “important role” and that the Department of Justice and FTC are key in pursuing “actions to investigate and prevent collusive conduct."
Moderator Wolf Blitzer: But, Governor Richardson, you're a former secretary of energy. Are the oil companies, the big oil companies, engaged in price gouging of the American consumer?
Still More Over-Energized Claims
Richardson brags about renewable energy incentives in New Mexico, but he goes too far.
The differences between those on the stage were few, Sen. Hillary Clinton emphasized, compared with their differences with all the GOP candidates.
Well, not quite. There is an overtly anti-war Republican option, but he has the lowest approval rating of all the candidates. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas has consistently voted against the war. However, Paul isn't popular, at this stage, with voters: His approval rating is 14 percent according to Rasmussen, and a meager 1 percent according to CNN. In fact, some GOP activists took such exception to his remarks on terrorism in the second Republican debate that they tried to have him removed from the remaining debates.
Overstating the Uninsured
Several candidates invoked the large number of Americans without health insurance.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich: [T]he American people should know that with half the bankruptcies in the country connected to people not being able to pay their doctor bills or hospital bills, premiums, co-pays and deductibles going so far through the roof – 46 million Americans, no health care; another 50 million underinsured, there is only one way to get health care coverage for all Americans, and that is to have a universal single-payer, not-for-profit health care system, Medicare for All.
Sen. Chris Dodd: It is shameful that in the 21st century we have 47 million of our fellow citizens without heath care coverage, 9 million children, and the number's growing every single day.
Kucinich and Dodd are both basing their numbers on the 2005 census, which reported 46.6 million uninsured, 8.3 million of them children. However, the Census Bureau subsequently revised these estimates. Its old system had counted as "insured" only those who had insurance policies in their own names. Revising the numbers to account for covered dependents, the bureau found 44.8 million uninsured, including 8 million children. The difference of less than 4 percent hardly makes the issue go away, of course.
Another Insurance Crisis?
Did Sen. Barack Obama confuse people and cars when discussing auto insurance in California?
The Insurance Research Council, a research firm funded by insurance companies, does indeed place the number of uninsured drivers at 25 percent. However, according to a study commissioned by the California Department of Insurance, between 25.5 and 30.9 percent of vehicles in that state don't have insurance. The department estimates that approximately 10 percent of vehicle owners own at least one uninsured vehicle, and of those, only about 42 percent have no insured vehicles. That translates into approximately 4 percent of drivers who do not have auto insurance. Obama is correct to say that of the pure uninsured, most cite cost as their reason for not carrying auto insurance.
- by Viveca Novak, with Justin Bank, Jessica Henig, Emi Kolawole, Joe Miller, Lori Robertson, Carolyn Auwaerter and Allie Berkson
Update, June 8: In the Analysis portion of our article, we describe 2005 Census Bureau research that found 8.3 million children were uninsured, later recalculated and put at 8 million. A reader points out to us, and we think it's worth noting, that the Census Bureau defines a "child" as being within the age range of 0-17. If one were to make it 0-18, which is the range used by some government programs like Medicaid, the number of uninsured children would obviously be higher.
United States Department of Energy. Iran Country Analysis Brief. Washington: GPO, 2007.
Mouawad, Jad, et al. "West Adds to Strains on Iran's Lifeline." New York Times. 13 Feb. 2007.
Office of New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. "Governor Bill Richardson Enacts Landmark Clean Energy Bills to Create Jobs, Keep Air Clean." 5 Mar. 2007.
U.S. Census Bureau. "Census Bureau Revises 2004 and 2005 Health Insurance Coverage Estimates." 23 Mar. 2007.
Rasmussen Reports. "Republican Candidates Running in 2008 Presidential Election." 4 June 2007.
CNN.com. "2008 Candidates." 4 June 2007.
Office of Sen. Sam Brownback. "Brownback Comments on Troop Surge." 10 Jan. 2007.
Rep. Ron Paul. "Statement Opposing the Use of Military Force Against Iraq." 8 Oct. 2002.
Hunstad, Lynn. "Characteristics of Uninsured Motorist." State of California (1999).
Hunstad, Lynn. "Estimating Uninsured and Unregistered Vehicle Rates." State of California (1999).
IRC Estimates More Than 14 Percent of Drivers Are Uninsured. 28 Jun. 2006. Insurance Research Council. 4 Jun. 2007.
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