FactCheck.org http://www.factcheck.org A Project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center Thu, 24 Jul 2014 18:38:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 More Carbon Tax Distortions http://www.factcheck.org/2014/07/more-carbon-tax-distortions/ Thu, 24 Jul 2014 18:38:34 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=87068 Crossroads GPS claims that Colorado Sen. Mark Udall “voted to enact a carbon tax.” Udall did no such thing. Republican Thom Tillis claims that Sen. Kay Hagan “supported a carbon tax” that would destroy “up to 67,000 jobs in North Carolina over the next ten years.” That’s not accurate, either.

In fact, Congress has never voted on a specific carbon tax proposal. Udall couldn’t have voted to enact such a tax even if he wanted. And the figure on North Carolina jobs comes from a scenario presented by a group opposed to such a tax.

To make these claims, Crossroads and Tillis twist the senators’ votes on amendments to a nonbinding budget resolution. We saw similar distortions early this year, when Americans for Prosperity ran an ad saying Sen. Mark Begich “is on record supporting a carbon tax … that will cost the average family over $2,000 annually.” Begich hasn’t backed a carbon tax proposal, and the $2,000 figure is based on general assumptions, not any specific plan. That figure has been used to attack Hagan, too, in an ad from the conservative advocacy group American Energy Alliance.

No Vote to ‘Enact a Carbon Tax’

Crossroads points to Udall’s March 22, 2013, vote for a budget resolution amendment to require any possible future carbon tax to be revenue neutral, with the money the government would receive from the tax being returned to the American people. In other words, Udall voted to support making a hypothetical tax revenue neutral.

Also, the amendment was to a nonbinding budget resolution, which sets spending and budget guidelines but doesn’t carry any force of law. The amendment was incapable of enacting anything, and at any rate, it didn’t call for the enactment of a carbon tax plan, which would be a direct tax on the carbon content of fossil-fuel energy, such as coal, oil and gas. The goal of such a tax — like other pollution-reduction strategies — would be to lower the amount of carbon dioxide released into the environment.

The amendment, which was defeated by a 41-58 vote, was written by Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, who, along with three other Democratic lawmakers, had previously released a “discussion draft” of a carbon tax, asking for comment on how a tax should be priced and structured, and how revenue could best be returned to the public. Whitehouse’s amendment said that all revenue from a “fee on carbon pollution” should be “returned to the American people in the form of federal deficit reduction, reduced federal tax rates, cost savings, or other direct benefits.” So, if such a tax were to exist, the Whitehouse amendment called for the revenue to be returned to the public in some form.

The Crossroads ad, however, goes on to wrongly say that Udall voted for a carbon tax proposal that “could have led to higher electricity prices, squeezing middle-class budgets,” vaguely adding: “A carbon tax could squeeze local businesses and hurt Colorado employment.”

Such a tax could do those things, depending on how it was structured. But, again, Udall didn’t vote on a specific proposal.

In general, a fee on carbon is designed to raise the price of fossil fuels, prompting consumers to switch to renewable energy options and consume less energy, and leading businesses to develop new energy-reducing products and technology. But whether that would lead to “squeezing middle-class budgets” or businesses and by how much depends on many details that would have to be addressed in carbon tax legislation.

And such legislation faces a steep uphill battle amid much political opposition. As Charles Komanoff, director of the Carbon Tax Center, told us in February, “To my knowledge, there has never even been a hearing, even just an informational hearing on anything that is or resembles a carbon tax bill.”

The most recent Senate legislation was introduced by Sens. Bernie Sanders and Barbara Boxer and referred to committee on Feb. 14, 2013. The bill, which called for a $20-per-ton carbon fee with 60 percent of the revenue returned to households, has no other cosponsors and hasn’t moved since. In the House, Rep. Jim McDermott introduced a carbon tax bill on May 28 of this year. It, too, was referred to committee with no action since. McDermott introduced the same bill in 2012, and it died in committee. In addition to the lack of traction of such bills, the White House opposes a carbon tax.

The Crossroads ad cites a study released in February 2013 by the anti-carbon-tax National Association of Manufacturers, which looked at two hypothetical scenarios, finding they would reduce productivity, lower wages and increase the price of fossil fuels. NAM’s scenarios use the revenue from a tax to reduce the debt and personal income tax rates. But the revenue from the tax could also be used to give households rebates, as the Sanders-Boxer bill proposed, or lower corporate tax rates to ease the impact on businesses.

“The ultimate economic effects of a carbon tax, however, would depend on how the revenues from the tax were used,” said a May 2013 Congressional Budget Office report, with deficit or tax-rate reduction lowering the total cost to the economy and other methods directing relief to consumers or businesses.

But, again, Udall didn’t vote to enact a carbon tax — or even to support a specific proposal.

 False Attacks on Hagan, Too

Hagan’s Republican opponent, Tillis, twists another vote on an amendment to the 2013 budget resolution to wrongly claim on his website that the Democratic senator “has supported a carbon tax that would cause gas prices and utility bills to skyrocket, while destroying up to 67,000 jobs in North Carolina over the next ten years.” Tillis’ site refers to “Hagan’s carbon tax” and call this her “energy policy.” But simply reading that Web page shows Tillis doesn’t have support for such claims.

The American Energy Alliance, a conservative group that doesn’t disclose its donors but has been linked to the Koch brothers by Politico, also launched an ad early this month that uses the same supposed evidence to claim that Hagan wasn’t telling the truth when she said she opposed a carbon tax and that she had “worked to make it a priority.”

Both the Tillis camp and AEA point to Hagan’s March 2013 vote against an amendment sponsored by Republican Sen. Roy Blunt to require 60 votes to approve any potential carbon tax in the future. The amendment failed. It wasn’t a vote for a carbon tax; it was a vote against a nonbinding resolution requiring a high threshold for passing such a tax at some unknown point in the future.

There was no proposal that would have “destroy[ed] up to 67,000 jobs in North Carolina” over a decade, as the campaign says. Instead, that number comes from the NAM analysis of two scenarios, and it’s the upper-most estimate for NAM’s high-end scenario. Technically, NAM didn’t say up to 67,000 jobs would be lost. Its figure is for reduced labor income. NAM notes: “This does not represent a projection of the number of workers who may need to change jobs and/or be unemployed, as some or all of the lost labor could be spread across workers who remain employed.”

AEA’s ad also claims that Hagan supported a tax that “could cost the average family over $2,000 a year,” but that figure comes from a January 2013 Heritage Foundation analysis of carbon-tax scenarios presented in the Energy Information Administration’s 2012 Annual Energy Outlook. Heritage’s maximum-impact scenario estimated a cut in income for a family of four of $1,900 in 2016. The scenarios didn’t include any method of returning revenue to the public.

But that’s all a moot point anyway. Hagan didn’t support — or decline to oppose — any specific carbon tax plan with her 2013 vote.

The Tillis camp and AEA provide another weak link to a carbon tax, mentioning a letter Hagan and other freshman Democratic senators (including Begich and Udall) wrote to the Senate majority leader in July 2010, a few months after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The letter expressed support for comprehensive energy legislation that would include “making polluters pay through a price on greenhouse gas emissions.”

As the Tillis camp acknowledges on its site, the letter didn’t provide any specifics as to whether that policy should be a carbon tax, cap-and-trade or some other method of penalties and incentives. The letter gives general ideas of what energy legislation should include, such as “tax incentives, grants, loans and other assistance to help American manufacturers create jobs, cut their energy consumption, retool for a clean energy economy and remain competitive in the global market.”

For the record, Hagan voted against the Whitehouse amendment, a vote her campaign cited last fall as evidence of her opposition to a carbon tax. The Hill newspaper quoted Hagan campaign spokeswoman Sadie Weiner as saying: “She opposes it (as evidenced by the act she voted against it).” But The Hill noted, as we have, that the “vote was largely symbolic, as the underlying bill was nonbinding. The Whitehouse amendment also didn’t exactly address the concept of carbon tax directly.”

Neither of the votes cited by these groups would have enacted a carbon tax, or even demonstrated support for a certain plan. The votes are distorted in these attacks and then linked to conservative analyses of general scenarios, not proposals that the Democratic senators actually had supported.

– Lori Robertson

]]>
Wisconsin Trek-ery http://www.factcheck.org/2014/07/wisconsin-trek-ery/ Wed, 23 Jul 2014 20:51:18 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=87054 Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker claims his wealthy Democratic opponent is “sending jobs overseas.” But Mary Burke says the family company, Trek Bicycle Corporation, is “making more bikes in the U.S. than anyone.” Both are at least partly correct, but neither is telling the whole story.

Walker’s Attack

Walker started the latest round with a TV spot July 16 claiming Burke “[made] millions” sending jobs “that could have been done in Wisconsin” to “countries where women and children might work up to 12 hours a day, earning only $2 an hour.” 

Burke’s brother John, Trek’s CEO,  said the ad is wrong to blame his sister: “Mary had nothing to do with sourcing decisions at Trek. Those decisions were made by my father [the company's founder] and myself,” he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. However, a 2005 state Department of Commerce press release announcing Burke’s appointment as Wisconsin’s commerce secretary said she was responsible at Trek for “helping to start and oversee companies in the UK, Germany, France, Switzerland, Spain, Austria, and the Netherlands.”

During her time at the family business, Mary Burke was director of European operations and later director of forecasting and planning. She left in 2004.

It’s questionable, though, whether the jobs in question, as a practical matter, “could have been done in Wisconsin” as the ad claims. All but a very few of the bikes sold in the U.S. by Trek’s competitors are made overseas. The National Bicycle Dealers’ Association estimates that 99 percent of all bikes sold in the U.S. last year were imported.

Generally, industry experts say only very high-end bikes with carbon-fiber frames, costing thousands of dollars each, can be made profitably in the U.S. “Trek would not be at all competitive in the U.S. market if they weren’t in China,” said Ray Keener, executive director of the Bicycle Product Suppliers Association, in an interview with the Journal Sentinel.

Still, it’s a fact that Trek produces the vast majority of the bicycles in China and other foreign countries. And there’s no question that Mary Burke, who has been an executive of the company, is wealthy enough to have donated more than $400,000 to her own campaign as of July 1. So the Walker ad is accurate at least to that degree.

Burke’s Response . . .

If you can’t dispute the facts, political strategists advise, “Change the subject.” And that’s what Burke’s response tried.

It calls Walker’s ad “an outrageous attack on a great Wisconsin company,” even though Burke herself was the specific target. It says “almost 1,000 Wisconsin people” work at Trek — avoiding any mention of how many Chinese, Taiwanese or German people also work at Trek’s overseas facilities. Founded in 1976, Trek remains a privately owned company that does not have to make public reports of its financial results or business operations.

Burke’s ad also says that Trek “makes more bikes in the U.S. than anyone.” That long-standing company claim may be accurate; the  Journal Sentinel wrote that one researcher described it as “plausible, but difficult to verify.” Even if true, however, it doesn’t contradict the Walker ad.

. . . And Counter-Attack

The Burke ad also counter-attacked Walker on the outsourcing issue. “It’s Walker’s agency that gave millions in tax breaks to companies that relocated jobs overseas, the narrator says. The ad cites an Associated Press item that in turn refers to a July 9 investigative story by Madison, Wisconsin TV station WKOW.

The station reported that the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation — an agency created and chaired by Walker himself — gave financial awards to two companies, Ireland-based Eaton Corporation and Wisconsin-based Plexus Corp., that later laid off a total of 279 workers in Wisconsin and relocated the work overseas.

Walker’s Renewed Attack

Walker then renewed his attack July 22 with another TV spot saying Burke “forgot to mention that they [Trek] make 99 percent of their bikes overseas, in places like China.”  On screen, the percentage is given as “over 99.5%.”

That statement is based on an interview with Trek company public relations manager Eric Bjorling, published Jan. 9, 2011 by the digital magazine OnMilwaukee.com. Although Bjorling was reluctant to give specific figures — the subject was a sore point with the company even then — the persistent interviewer wormed out of him that Trek’s U.S. production — exclusively carbon-fiber bikes — is “somewhere in the 10,000 range,” depending on the year. The rest of the bikes are made in Germany, China and Taiwan. How many? “Again, it’s tough to say,” Bjorling responded. “We do sell roughly 1.5 million bikes every year, so that gives you an idea.”

So if Trek made exactly 10,000 bikes in the U.S. and 1.5 million worldwide, that would figure out to 99.3 percent of its bikes made overseas.

And the percentage could be higher today, because last year a state agency, petitioning on behalf of Trek workers, stated that the company had shut down most of the second and third shifts at its Waterloo, Wisconsin bike-frame production facility. “Production has been shifted to China,” the petition stated, adding that a total of 15 to 20 workers were laid off. The U.S. Department of Labor reviewed the matter and determined on Nov. 7 last year that all Trek workers laid off after August 12, 2012 are eligible for federal trade adjustment assistance.

In fact, it’s the second time that Trek workers have qualified for such assistance. In 2004, Trek petitioned the Department of Labor on behalf of its workers, and DOL determined that an increase in imports “contributed importantly” to a decline in employment at the company.  As the second Walker attack as says, Trek “has outsourced jobs for years.”

Hypocrisy

But what should voters make of all this? We find each side is telling only part of the story while accusing each other of hypocrisy — and each with some merit.

In fact, only two years ago, the agency Walker created and chairs chose Trek as one of the companies featured in a marketing campaign to encourage others to do business in Wisconsin. WEDC featured Burke’s brother John, the company CEO, in a two-minute promotional video and said Trek “has developed into a global leader in the design and manufacturing of bikes and biking equipment.”  The WEDC described Trek as a company that embodies the state’s “pioneering spirit and heritage of innovation, key attributes of our state’s business climate.” 

So Walker’s now faults Burke for her role at a company his state agency once held up as a shining example. Meanwhile Burke’s campaign attacks Walker’s agency for providing state aid to companies that outsource hundreds of jobs — just as her family company has done.

As the Walker campaign likes to point out, way back in 1995 Trek got an $875,000 state loan to help finance expansion of its new $6.3 million factory in Whitewater, Wisconsin. According to a Wisconsin State Journal article dated June 29, 1995, the company then envisioned adding 400 new workers to the 875 workers it employed at the time. And now some of that work has gone to China.

The economic reality that neither side is addressing squarely is that in today’s global economy, like it or not, U.S. workers compete for jobs with workers in rising economies around the world. Both Walker’s development agency and Burke’s family business have struggled with that, and their TV attacks and counter-attacks tell voters little about what Wisconsin’s next governor can do about it.

– Brooks Jackson

]]>
Stretching the Truth in Arkansas http://www.factcheck.org/2014/07/stretching-the-truth-in-arkansas/ Mon, 21 Jul 2014 21:28:25 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=86831 The conservative group Americans for Prosperity stretches the truth to attack Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas for “higher gas and grocery bills.”

  • AFP blames Pryor’s vote to ban drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) for higher gas prices. But the Energy Information Administration says drilling in ANWR would translate to little, if any, drop in prices at the pump.
  • As for higher grocery bills, AFP cites Pryor’s vote to increase ethanol production, which raised the demand for corn and the price of livestock. But the Department of Agriculture says the impact on overall retail food prices was less than 1 percent.

The Arkansas race is one of nine competitive races considered critical to whether Republicans can regain control of the Senate. Already, there has been more than $7.5 million in outside money spent on the race, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The ad from Americans for Prosperity claims Pryor has “made things harder” for the state’s unemployed and working families “living paycheck to paycheck.” It shows images of downcast men and women, who could be “your neighbor, your friend, your daughter.”

AFP TV Ad: You know who they are. Your neighbor, your friend, your daughter. Maybe it’s you. 84,000 Arkansans out of work. Families living paycheck to paycheck. And Mark Pryor has made things harder. Voting with Barack Obama 90 percent of the time. Higher gas and grocery bills. Higher healthcare costs from Obamacare. Driving up the debt we owe China. Tell Mark Pryor Arkansas families need jobs, not bigger government.

It’s true, as the ad claims, that were 84,000 Arkansans out of work in May, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But that’s the fewest number since November 2008.

As for the claim that Pryor has voted with President Obama 90 percent of the time, that was true last year, according to a vote analysis by CQ Weekly. But as we noted once before, Pryor also voted against Obama more than any other Senate Democrat last year.

More importantly, AFP provides weak evidence to support its claims that Pryor is responsible for such things as “higher gas and grocery bills” and “higher healthcare costs from Obamacare.”

Gas Prices

AFP cites three votes Pryor cast against domestic drilling to support its assertion that Pryor is responsible for higher gas prices. The three votes were for amendments which would have banned drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

ANWR covers over 19 million acres of land and water in northeastern Alaska. In 1980, the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) designated most of the area as protected wilderness, except for a section of about 1.5 million acres. This area along the coast — since referred to as the “1002 Area” after the section of the bill that defined it — is subjected to studies that relay to Congress the potential impacts of oil and gas exploration and development. ANILCA placed the area in limbo, and whether or not to authorize drilling in ANWR has been a political issue for nearly 40 years.

A 2008 report by the Energy Information Administration examined the impact of drilling in ANWR and concluded that oil production in that area would not significantly influence world oil prices. The projected potential price reduction would be around 41 cents to $1.44 per barrel of low-sulfur, light (LSL) crude oil in 2026/2027. The price of oil is currently a little over $100 per barrel. According to EIA, U.S. refineries produce about 19 gallons of motor gasoline from one barrel of crude oil. So, that translates to pennies per gallon at the gas pump. But since oil is a global commodity, EIA warned that there may not be any impact at all.

EIA, 2008: Assuming that world oil markets continue to work as they do today, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) could neutralize any potential price impact of ANWR oil production by reducing its oil exports by an equal amount.

For some context, the average price of regular conventional gasoline was $2.34 per gallon when Pryor cast the last of the three votes cited by AFP, and it was $3.56 on July 14, according to EIA data. The price of gasoline fluctuated a good deal between those dates, and was $1.83 per gallon when Obama took office in January of 2009. In 2011, we looked into some of the claims about whether Obama was to blame for higher gasoline prices and found that much of the rhetoric was misplaced.

Finally, the claims about higher gas and grocery bills come immediately after the ad blames Pryor for “voting with Barack Obama 90 percent of the time.” That may leave the false impression that Pryor voted with Obama to raise prices, but, in fact, the ANWR votes cited by AFP were cast in 2003 and 2005, long before Obama became president — although then-Sen. Obama voted in favor of the two bills in 2005.

Grocery Bills

How was Mark Pryor responsible for “higher grocery bills”? Because he voted for the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, according to AFP. This, too, is a stretch.

In 2005, a section of the Energy Policy Act created the Renewable Fuel Standard program. That program mandates that a specified level of renewable fuel be blended into gasoline. In 2007, the program was expanded, increasing the required volume of renewable fuel. The rapid increase in demand for ethanol, which increased prices of livestock and corn products.

However, increased renewable fuel mandates were not the only cause of rising food prices. Other factors, such as “low global stocks, droughts, exchange rates, policy responses by some major trading countries, and rising incomes in some countries such as India and China, have also contributed to price increases,” according to the USDA.

In fact, the USDA said, in 2008, that the inflated price of corn had very little affect on overall retail food prices. According to the USDA’s Economic Research Service, “higher corn prices increase animal feed and ingredient costs for farmers and food manufacturers, but pass through to retail prices at a rate less than 10 percent of the corn price change.” Because food using corn as an ingredient makes up less than one-third of retail food spending, the report states, “overall retail food prices would rise less than 1 percentage point per year above the normal rate of food price inflation when corn prices increase by 50 percent.”

In April 2009, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that about 10-15 percent of the rise in food prices in 2008 could be attributed to ethanol subsidies. Food prices that year rose 5.1 percent, so the effect of ethanol subsidies was responsible for less than a 1 percent increase in the price of food that year.

CBO, April 2009: CBO estimates that from April 2007 to April 2008, the rise in the price of corn resulting from expanded production of ethanol contributed between 0.5 and 0.8 percentage points of the 5.1 percent increase in food prices measured by the consumer price index (CPI). Over the same period, certain other factors — for example, higher energy costs — had a greater effect on food prices than did the use of ethanol as a motor fuel.

The retail cost of food has, historically, risen about 2.5 percent to 3 percent a year, said Ephraim Leibtag of the USDA’s Economic Research Service. Factors such as weather, production issues and changing consumer demand, all effect the overall price of food, he said. And a spike in the price of any single commodity, such as corn, generally translates to only a small overall increase in retail food prices.

It is worth noting that the Energy Independence and Security Act passed the Senate with bipartisan support, 86-8. (Seven Republicans and one Democrat opposed it; and then-Sens. Obama, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, as well as John McCain, did not vote). And it was signed by then-President George W. Bush, not Obama, although the ad implies otherwise.

Food prices are up under Obama, but not as much as they were before he took office. The index measuring the average consumer price of all food and beverages (including restaurant meals) was 10.7 percent higher in May than it was when Obama took office five and a half years earlier, according to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For some perspective, food prices rose by 21.9 percent in the five and a half years prior to Obama taking office.

Health Care Costs From Obamacare

The ad also claims Pryor’s vote for the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, is responsible for higher health care costs. AFP cites a Forbes story reporting on an analysis from the conservative Manhattan Institute that concluded that individual market premiums would rise by an average of 49 percent due to the new health care law.

But the ad does not mention that it is referring only to those who buy insurance on their own as opposed to through an employer. Just over 120,000 Arkansans, or 4 percent of the state’s population, purchased insurance on the individual market in 2012, according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

A couple other big qualifiers (which we have noted previously when the Manhattan Institute report has been cited in attack ads): The institute didn’t adjust for the fact that the ACA requires certain minimum benefits, which many pre-ACA individual market plans didn’t meet. By and large, the post-ACA plans are more robust (whether purchasers like or want that or not). So it is not comparing similar types of plans before and after the ACA. And the institute’s figures don’t account for federal subsidies, which the Congressional Budget Office estimated would be extended to 80 percent of all those buying exchange plans nationwide.

As we have said repeatedly, premiums in the individual market can go up or down, perhaps significantly, depending on the individual.

And most Arkansans — 40 percent of the population — have insurance through their workplaces. Nationwide, employer-sponsored premiums for family plans went up 3.8 percent, on average, in 2013, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s annual employer health benefits survey. Since the ACA was passed in 2010, those premiums have gone up 5.9 percent, on average, per year, while in the five years before the ACA, premiums went up 4.8 percent, on average, per year.

When we have explored this issue in the past, we noted that experts attributed a small increase in work-based premiums directly to the ACA. When family premiums jumped 9 percent from 2010 to 2011, for example, experts told us that the law was responsible for a 1 percent to 3 percent increase, with the remainder due to higher medical costs. That was expected, as the law required the elimination of preexisting condition exclusions for children, the coverage of dependents on their parents’ plans up to age 26, free coverage of preventive care, and an increase in caps on annual coverage. Since that initial jump, however, the yearly employer-based premiums have risen at historically low rates.

Another 38 percent of Arkansans have government-sponsored health insurance, primarily Medicare or Medicaid, which would not be affected by the changes in the individual market.

– Eden Everwine and Robert Farley

]]>
Surge of ‘Unaccompanied Children’ http://www.factcheck.org/2014/07/surge-of-unaccompanied-children/ Fri, 18 Jul 2014 20:39:50 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=86887 Q: Did the Obama administration advertise in January to transport 65,000 foreign children apprehended at the border? Did it expect a surge of illegal immigration?

A: Yes. There’s been a sharp increase in unaccompanied children from Central America since FY 2012, and the U.S. projected a bigger increase this year.

FULL QUESTION

Is it true that the US government advertised for “escort services for unaccompanied alien children” back in January, 2014. And, if so, how did they know there would be this influx of children from Guatemala? (Or, some other country?)

FULL ANSWER

The recent wave of publicity concerning the tens of thousands of unaccompanied children from Central America being apprehended at the southwest border has unleashed a flood of emails from readers. Many of the emails refer, directly or indirectly, to a request for information submitted Jan. 29 by the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on the Federal Business Opportunities website titled “Escort Services for Unaccompanied Alien Children.”

Some have asked if Homeland Security is paying to bring foreign children across the board illegally, based on some conservative websites that misinterpreted the request for information (RFI). Infowars, for example, claimed that the Obama administration is using “taxpayer money to escort illegal minors into the United States.”

Other readers, such as the one above, asked if the Obama administration placed the advertisement “back in January,” and wonder how the administration knew months ago that there would be a crisis at the border.

First of all, ICE did not solicit bids for vendors to bring children across the border, as Infowars claimed on its website. The request for information was referring to children who illegally crossed the border and were apprehended by Border Patrol agents. The private escorts would transfer “approximately 65,000″ unaccompanied foreign children from Border Patrol facilities to Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement shelters.

The request for information says:

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a component of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has a continuing and mission critical responsibility for accepting custody of Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) from U.S. Border Patrol and other Federal agencies and transporting these juveniles to Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) shelters located throughout the continental United States.

HHS is required by law to take custody and provide care for unaccompanied foreign children who illegally enter the United States from countries that do not border the United States. The law — known as the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 — allows for the expedited deportation of most child migrants from Mexico and Canada when they are apprehended at the border. But there is a complex resettlement process for other children.

These children — who are mostly from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras — are first held at Border Patrol facilities for a maximum of 72 hours for screening. After that, the DHS must hand them over to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) for placement under its Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) program. Options may include foster care, living with a relative in the United States (if available), or deportation back to the child’s home country.

The law was designed to prevent human trafficking and reduce the risk of abduction and exploitation. The extra scrutiny and time given to these children is to ensure their safe and accurate repatriation.

Anticipating the Surge

ICE posted its RFI for “escort services” on Jan. 29. The deadline for submissions was Feb. 19. We could not locate a Request for Proposal (RFP) to hire an escort service, so we don’t know the current status of the request.

Many readers expressed surprise at the scope and timing of the January request — one reader put JANUARY in all caps to underscore the point — since the issue didn’t capture the public’s attention until relatively recently. President Obama himself didn’t speak to the issue until delivering remarks in the Rose Garden on June 30, when he called the situation “an actual humanitarian crisis” and urged Congress to work with the administration to address it.

“In recent weeks, we’ve seen a surge of unaccompanied children arrive at the border, brought here and to other countries by smugglers and traffickers,” Obama said.

But the number of unaccompanied children — specifically from the Central American countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — has been rising steadily since fiscal year 2012,  as we wrote in a June 27 article, and the administration late last year projected a significant spike for this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, 2014.

In fiscal year 2012, the administration was initially caught off guard by a surge of illegal border crossings by children. In its FY2012 report to Congress, HHS said there was “a rapid, unanticipated, and unprecedented increase in UAC referrals from DHS.” In a separate report on its activity in FY2012, the Office of Refugee Resettlement said it served “a total of 13,625 children for the year — more than double FY2011, and far exceeding the 8,200 projected.”

Referrals nearly doubled again in FY2013. ORR’s annual report for FY2013 said the UAC program “continued to experience increasing referrals.” The report said, “There were 24,668 UAC placed in care, as compared to 13,625 UAC in FY12. The annual average prior to the influx was 6,700 UAC.”

By the end of fiscal year 2013, the administration projected the number of unaccompanied children referred to the ORR for placement would more than double to 60,000.

In a November 2013 report titled “Mission to Central America: The Flight of Unaccompanied Children to the United States,” the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said DHS, HHS and the Office of Refugee Resettlement anticipated 60,000 unaccompanied children in fiscal year 2014 — only 5,000 less than the 65,000 figure used in the administration’s January request for information.

Conference of Catholic Bishops, November 2013: Whereas the number of children apprehended averaged 6,800 between federal fiscal years (FY) (October 1-September 30) 2004 and 2011, the total jumped to over 13,000 children in FY2012 and over 24,000 children in FY 2013. HHS/ORR, as well as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) estimate that more than 60,000 unaccompanied minors could enter the United States during 2014.

HHS confirmed that figure in a budget document submitted to Congress that said “as of January 2014, the FY 2014 estimate for UAC is approximately 60,000.”

Department of Health and Human Services: From FY 2005 through FY 2011, the UAC program served between 7,000 to 8,000 children annually with an average length of stay in the program of 75 days. In FY 2012, however, the number of children entering the program began to increase, and by the end of the fiscal year, ORR served approximately 14,000 UAC. In FY 2013, the number of UAC served was almost 25,000, and as of January 2014, the FY 2014 estimate for UAC is approximately 60,000. The majority of children are fleeing from violence in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador with the goal of reuniting with parents or other family members already living in the United States.

By late January, DHS’ Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued its request for information to transport “approximately 65,000″ unaccompanied children to HHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement. That would represent an 813 percent increase from fiscal year 2011, when there were about 7,120 children placed in ORR’s care, according to the office’s FY2011 report to Congress.

The surge in unaccompanied children from Central America is largely due to increased violent crime in the “northern triangle” (Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador). A July 3 report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service says 48 percent of apprehended children “said they had experienced serious harm or had been threatened by organized criminal groups or state actors, and more than 20 percent had been subject to domestic abuse.” Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world.

The CRS report also cites economic stagnation and poverty as catalysts. El Salvador, for example, has the lowest GDP growth rate in Central America. Republicans, however, have blamed the crisis on Obama’s immigration policies, specifically the president’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy.

In congressional testimony on July 10, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said his department is “preparing for a scenario in which the number of unaccompanied children apprehended at the border could reach up to 90,000 by the end of fiscal year 2014.” But, as HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell said at the same hearing, that includes Mexicans and the “vast majority” of those children are returned to their country without being placed in HHS’s care. As we noted earlier, the law allows for the expedited deportation of children from Mexico and Canada — although there are exceptions for those children who express a fear of torture in their home country.

As of June 30, Customs and Border Patrol had apprehended 57,525 unaccompanied children in the first nine months of this fiscal year. That includes 43,933 from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador — which is 76 percent of the total. CBP apprehended 12,614 from Mexico, most of whom would be deported without having to be transported to a resettlement shelter.

At the July 10 hearing, which was held by the Senate Appropriations Committee to discuss the president’s request for $3.7 billion in emergency funding to address the crisis, Burwell said HHS has “enough money” in the current fiscal year to handle 54,000 unaccompanied children placed in its care.

It remains to be seen if the 65,000 figure cited in the January RFI for “escort services” proves to be an accurate projection. But certainly the administration anticipated a surge of unaccompanied children at the border.

Lauren Shapiro and Eugene Kiely

Sources

General Services Administration, “Escort Services for Unaccompanied Alien Children.” 29 Jan 2014.

Watson, Paul Joseph. “DHS to Pay for Illegal Immigrants to be Escorted into U.S.” Infowars. 19 Jun 2014.

Department of Health and Human Services. Fact Sheet. “Unaccompanied Alien Children Program.” May 2014.

U.S. House. “H.R. 898, William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2013.” (as introduced 8 Apr 2013)

White House. “Remarks by the President on Border Security and Immigration Reform.” 30 Jun 2014.

Kiely, Eugene and Eden Everwine. “Misassigning Blame for Immigration Crisis.” FactCheck.org. 27 Jun 2014.

Department of Health and Human Services. “FY2012 Report to Congress: Office of Refugee Resettlement.” Undated, accessed 18 Jul 2014.

Department of Health and Human Services. “ORR Year in Review – 2012.” 20 Dec 2012.

Department of Health and Human Services. “Office of Refugee Resettlement Year in Review – FY2013.” Undated, accessed 18 Jul 2014.

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. “Mission to Central America: The Flight of Unaccompanied Children to the United States.” Nov 2013.

U.S. Administration of Children and Families. “Refugee and Entrant Assistance: FY 2015 Budget.” Jan 2014.

Department of Health and Human Services. “FY2011 Report to Congress: Office of Refugee Resettlement.” Undated, accessed 18 Jul 2014.

Goodlatte: Surge of children at border an administration-made disaster.” Press release. Rep. Bob Goodlatte. 2 Jun 2014.

Department of Homeland Security. “Statement by Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson Before the Senate Committee on Appropriations.” 10 Jul 2014.

Department of Homeland Security. “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.” 2 Jul 2013.

Press release. “Southwest Border Unaccompanied Alien Children.” Customs and Border Protection. Updated as of 30 Jun 2014.

Citizenship and Immigration Services. “Asylum Division Training Programs.” 5 Mar 2012.

Citizenship and Immigration Services. “Chapter 5 – United States Chapter.” 2006.

Senate Committee on Appropriations. “Full Committee: Review of the President’s Emergency Supplemental Request.” 10 Jul 2014.

White House. President Obama letter sent to House Speaker John Boehner. 8 Jul 2014.

Congressional Research Service. “Unaccompanied Alien Children: Potential Factors Contributing to Recent Immigration.” 3 Jul 2014.

Congressional Research Service. “Unaccompanied Children: An Overview.” 23 Jun 2014.

Customs and Border Protection. “U.S. Border Patrol Juvenile and Adult Apprehensions.” 4 Feb 2013.

U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement. “What We Do.”

White House. “Fact Sheet: Emergency Supplemental Request to Address the Increase in Child and Adult Migration from Central America in the Rio Grande Valley Areas of the Southwest Border.” 8 July 2014.

 

]]>
Cherry-Picking Season in Illinois http://www.factcheck.org/2014/07/cherry-picking-season-in-illinois/ Thu, 17 Jul 2014 20:24:34 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=86855 Republican Bruce Rauner falsely claims in a TV ad that Illinois leads the Midwest in “job losses” under Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn. In fact, Illinois has experienced job growth — albeit small — since Quinn took office.

The Illinois governor’s race is one of the most closely watched in the nation. Rauner, a businessman, is making a strong bid to defeat Quinn, a former lieutenant governor who was elevated to the top spot on Jan. 29, 2009, when then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich was removed from office. Real Clear Politics, which aggregates polling data, shows Rauner up by 2.7 percentage points with less than four months to the November general election. The race is considered a “toss up” by the Cook Political Report.

Rauner’s latest TV ad, titled “Remember This,” shows Quinn promising to create 400,000 jobs and then cuts to a narrator who says: “Under Quinn Illinois leads the Midwest in job losses.” Those same words are superimposed over an image of an empty warehouse that emphasizes the “job losses.” But the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which the ad cites as the source of this claim, shows Illinois had 5,803,600 total non-farm jobs in January 2009, when Quinn took office, and had 5,804,000 in May 2014, which is the most recent month with available employment data. That represents a net gain of 400 total jobs under Quinn as governor.

Certainly, 400 jobs in a state as large as Illinois (population 12.9 million) is not a lot. In fact, we calculate that the state had the lowest job growth during that period of the 12 states considered to be part of the Midwest by the BLS. Still, Illinois saw total job gains, not losses, and the state’s unemployment rate is down from 8 percent to 7.5 percent under Quinn.

How did the Rauner campaign arrive at “job losses”? By cherry-picking BLS data.

According to a document provided by the Rauner campaign to support the ad, the “job losses” claim refers to a drop in private sector jobs only in 2014 — a five-month period — not Quinn’s entire time in office. The campaign document says that Illinois has lost more than 26,000 private sector jobs so far in this calendar year. That’s accurate. Illinois had 4,996,800 private sector jobs in December 2013 and that number has shrunk to 4,970,500 in May 2014, a loss of 26,300 jobs. The Rauner campaign also is correct in saying that this is the largest job loss of any state in the Midwest during this period.

But the ad doesn’t say — so viewers don’t know — that the ad is referring to job losses only for 2014 and only in the private sector.

If we were to consider just private sector jobs, Illinois has gained 23,700 jobs since Quinn took office. That still ranks Illinois at the bottom of job growth when comparing it with the 11 other Midwestern states. But, again, it is a job gain, not a job loss.

The TV ad makes its claim about “job losses” immediately after viewers hear the governor promising to create 400,000 jobs. Quinn made that statement about a $31 billion economic recovery plan that he signed into law in July 2009. That statewide stimulus plan promised to create and retain “over 439,000 jobs over the next six years” through public works projects, such as road construction, school repairs and park improvements. Since July 2009, Illinois has added 179,900 total jobs.

It would be fair for the Rauner campaign to say that current job growth is well below what Quinn promised. It also would be fair to say that, under Quinn, Illinois has the lowest job growth in the 12-state Midwest region, and its unemployment rate is well above the national average of 6.1 percent.

Instead, the Rauner campaign cherry-picks job statistics from a five-month period to make a false claim and compounds its deception by using a powerful image of a vacant warehouse to illustrate “job losses.” The campaign — and voters — would be better served if it just stuck to the facts.

– Carolyn Fante and Eugene Kiely

]]>
Kingston’s False ‘Amnesty’ Connection http://www.factcheck.org/2014/07/kingstons-false-amnesty-connection/ Thu, 17 Jul 2014 18:20:03 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=86856 Less than a week before the Republican runoff election for Senate in Georgia, Rep. Jack Kingston is falsely claiming that his opponent, David Perdue, “sat on a board promoting amnesty for illegal immigrants.” Perdue did not sit on the board in question, and he had nothing to do with the group’s endorsement of a 2006 immigration bill.

The ad also repeats a misleading claim about the Common Core State Standards Initiative and distorts Perdue’s nuanced position on it.

Kingston, an 11-term congressman, is facing Perdue, a businessman, in a July 22 runoff. Kingston and Perdue were the two top vote-getters in the May 20 primary, but neither received the requisite 50 percent of votes required to win. Recent polls show the race is close.

A new ad from the Kingston campaign claims that Perdue “sat on a board promoting amnesty for illegal immigrants, a bill Obama supported.” The ad refers to a May 25, 2006, press release from the National Council of Chain Restaurants. The press release praises the Senate for passing the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act.

Perdue, however, was never a board member of the National Council of Chain Restaurants, whose board is wholly “comprised of senior executives from the nation’s leading chain restaurant companies,” according to the NCCR website. Perdue was never an executive of a chain restaurant.

Instead, Perdue, a former CEO of Dollar General and top executive with Reebok International, served on the board of the National Retail Federation from 2005-2007, according to Stephen Schatz, senior director of media relations for the NRF. The NRF, according to its website, is “the world’s largest retail trade association” and an umbrella organization to more than 100 retailer groups, including the National Council of Chain Restaurants.

Schatz told FactCheck.org in an email that the “National Council of Chain Restaurants Board is separate from the National Retail Federation Board. Mr. Perdue did not sit on the NCCR Board, and therefore did not participate in any decisions related to legislative positions endorsed by representatives of the NCCR.”

Also, Perdue has expressly stated throughout the campaign that he does not support the approach taken in the comprehensive immigration legislation.

On July 24, 2013, when Perdue formally entered the race, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote that Perdue said “he would have voted against the bill recently passed by the Senate, and he said any discussion of the issue is ‘counterproductive until we secure the border.’”

In a more recent interview with the Athens Banner-Herald, Perdue was asked if he would have voted for the 2013 bipartisan immigration bill that passed the Senate before stalling in the House.

Perdue, July 4: I would not have, and the reason is, there are several reasons. One, it had an amnesty in there that I didn’t support. Secondly, it gave the head of the national homeland security discretion over enforcing the laws related to the border. My feeling on this thing is, in business, when you get a complicated problem, we break it down into its components. And the first component is to secure the border.

We also should note that we have written in the past that the 2013 bill was not strictly amnesty, a term that generally means immediate, permanent legal status for those who are in the country illegally. And, for that matter, neither was the 2006 bill, which would have required individuals to pay thousands of dollars in penalties and fees in order to become legal residents.

Nevertheless, Perdue does not support amnesty, and he had nothing to do with the National Council of Chain Restaurants’ endorsement of the 2006 immigration bill.

Common Core Comeback

The ad also repeats a misleading claim about Perdue’s position on the Common Core State Standards Initiative, saying that Perdue “has no problem with Obama’s Common Core.”

As we explained in May, the Common Core Standards Initiative is neither Obama’s doing nor a federal mandate, but rather a set of standards developed by states for what children from kindergarten through 12th grade should know in English and math. Perdue’s cousin, Sonny, helped launch the standards when he was governor of Georgia, and 43 states and the District of Columbia have voluntarily adopted them. Obama has endorsed them.

Perdue has distanced himself from Common Core. He told the Marietta Daily Journal in February that he agrees with the “original intent” of the standards, but has a problem with how they are being implemented. In a later radio interview, he said: “I want to clear the air, I think Common Core is overreaching right now and should be abandoned in its current form.” His campaign website more strongly states: “We should dismantle unnecessary federal bureaucracy, including the push for Common Core, and get that funding into the classrooms.” As we noted, Common Core is a state initiative.

Finally, the ad claims that Perdue “rolled back into Georgia only a few years ago” and “backed the Wall Street bailout.” Both claims are accurate.

Perdue, a Georgia native who attended Georgia Tech, did indeed move out of the state while in charge of Reebok and Dollar General, both of which have their headquarters out of state. Perdue’s campaign website says he “has happily settled back in his home state of Georgia. He currently sits on the Board of Directors of five major corporations and is active in Perdue Partners, a Georgia-based global trading company that he co-founded.”

As for supporting the Wall Street bailout, this claim comes from a January YouTube video, which captures comments Perdue made at a campaign event at the Fayette County GOP, responding to a question regarding corporate welfare.

Perdue, Jan. 4: I believe in capitalism. I believe when companies fail, there are bankruptcy laws to deal with that. I do not support the bailout of Detroit. Now the liquidity that we put into the financial system, we got a return on that. That money came back to us. Because it was a decent investment and it came back to us.

Perdue is correct to say that the government made a return on its investment in the financial sector. According to the Treasury: “TARP’s bank programs earned significant positive returns for taxpayers. As of June 30, 2014, Treasury has recovered $273.6 billion through repayments and other income — $28.5 billion more than the $245.1 billion originally invested.”

– Alexander Nacht, with Lori Robertson

]]>
Who Supports Obamacare in Georgia Race? http://www.factcheck.org/2014/07/who-supports-obamacare-in-georgia-race/ Wed, 16 Jul 2014 21:51:54 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=86808 Both candidates seeking the Republican nomination in a Georgia House race have repeatedly called for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. But you wouldn’t know it from the competing ads from Bob Johnson and Buddy Carter, in which each tries to paint the other as a closet fan of “Obamacare.”

Both ads use deceptive tactics to make their case.

  • An ad from the Johnson campaign claims “Carter said Obamacare was ‘not so bad.’ ” That’s a cherry-picked quote. Carter said that “some of the things that have happened so far are not so bad,” but he immediately added that “the worst part is yet to come.” And he has repeatedly called for repeal of the law.
  • A Carter ad, meanwhile, blasts Johnson for “membership in and endorsement from groups that support Obamacare.” The ad is referring to Johnson’s membership in the American Medical Association, which has been generally supportive of the Affordable Care Act. Johnson, a surgeon, has made clear he disagrees with the AMA on that issue.

Carter and Johnson were the top vote-getters among a field of six in Georgia’s 1st Congressional District Republican primary on May 20, with Carter getting 36 percent of the vote and Johnson 23 percent. The two will now face each other in a primary runoff election on July 22.

It’s not surprising that the candidates might accuse each other of being soft on the health care law. According to a poll from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution last September, 89 percent of Republicans in the state hold an unfavorable opinion of the law. But both ads mislead in their attempts to create daylight between the candidates on this issue.

The Johnson Ad

An ad from the Johnson campaign labels Carter a “professional politician” and a “liberal.” According to the ad’s narrator, “Carter said Obamacare was ‘not so bad.’ ”

The quote comes from a speech Carter gave announcing his candidacy for the House. But it is lifted out of context.

Here’s the fuller context of Carter’s comments:

Carter, March 13, 2013: Another area that is of great concern to me, and of which I have just a little bit of experience, is health care. You know, we’re at a crossroads in our country today. We’re about to undertake Obamacare. So far it started, and some of the things that have happened so far are not so bad. But the worst part is yet to come. We are blessed in the United States with the best health care system in the world. And I want to make sure we keep that. Now, there are going to be drastic changes that take place with Obamacare. As a health care professional and a leader in health care, we need someone with experience, someone with health care experience, in Washington, D.C., to make sure that our health care system in the state of Georgia remains the very best in all the world, and I will commit to you I will make certain that happens.

Carter, a pharmacist and Georgia state senator, has repeatedly called for repeal of the Affordable Care Act, as his campaign website makes clear.

Carter campaign website: Obamacare became law of the land because too many conservative politicians remained quiet and chose to sit on the sidelines rather than fight President Obama.

That’s not Buddy Carter’s style.

As a Georgia legislator and as a pharmacist who treats thousands of Coastal Georgians as patients annually, Buddy is a strong supporter of repealing Obamacare and bringing real conservative reform with market-driven solutions to our health care system.

In an undated post on his campaign website titled “Stopping the Train Wreck That Is Obamacare,” Carter calls the law a “job-killing, budget-busting disaster.”

Johnson claims on his campaign website that Carter “left the door open to ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion in Georgia.” That claim is followed by this quote from a Carter op-ed in the Savannah Morning News on July 10, 2012.

Carter, July 10, 2012: Why shouldn’t we take advantage of these federal funds that are available? After all, Georgians pay federal taxes and that’s just as much our money as anybody’s. Why should we sit back and watch New Jersey and other states expand their Medicaid rolls with our federal tax dollars while we do nothing?

…Wow, money for the taking. How can we turn that down?

That, too, is lifted grossly out of context. Carter makes clear that those are the views of “others” with whom he disagrees. The sentence immediately preceding the out-of-context excerpt on Johnson’s website says, “While many of us would agree that we should say no, others bring up a different view.” In the op-ed, Carter calls federal support for Medicaid expansion “cheese in the trap” and argues against Medicaid expansion as too expensive for the state.

In fact, Carter sponsored SB 334,”The Georgia Health Care Freedom and ACA Noncompliance Act,” which prohibits state and local governments “from engaging in an activity that aids any agency in the enforcement of provisions of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010.” Specifically, it prevents the state and local governments from “advocating for the expansion of Medicaid coverage in Georgia” and from “establishing or operating a health care exchange or navigator program, or accepting any money to operate an exchange.” Its provisions were folded into another bill and ultimately became law.

The Carter Ad

Carter, meanwhile, went on air with an ad that mimics a prescription drug ad. “Thinking about trying Bob Johnson?” the narrator asks amid soothing piano music. “Know the risks. Common side effects of Bob Johnson include, membership in and endorsement from groups that support Obamacare.”

The Carter campaign told us that refers to Johnson’s membership in the American Medical Association. Independently, there are two accuracies in the claim. First, the AMA has supported the Affordable Care Act and has opposed its repeal. And second, Johnson, a surgeon who specializes in head and neck cancer surgery, is a member of the AMA. And while the AMA itself does not endorse political candidates, the AMA’s political arm, AMPAC, has donated $10,000 to Johnson’s campaign.

But the implication that since Johnson is a member of the AMA, and the AMA supports the Affordable Care Act, therefore Johnson must support Obamacare is simply false. As AMA President Ardis Hoven said in an interview on C-SPAN in July 2013, among members of the AMA, “[s]ome supported, some did not support it.”

Johnson, who is endorsed by former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, has called for a full repeal of “destructive” Obamacare, and he once went on a “Repeal and Replace ObamaCare Tour.”

The Carter campaign also cites Johnson’s support from other medical groups and their political arms — such as the Medical Association of Georgia, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Academy of Neurology, and American Academy of Dermatology Association, all of which the campaign says either support the Affordable Care Act or its expansion of Medicaid. But none of those associations changes the fact that Johnson has been an outspoken opponent of the Affordable Care Act.

For the record, both candidates in the July 22 runoff in the Democratic primary for Georgia’s 1st District — Amy Tavio and Brian Reesedo generally support the Affordable Care Act and oppose its repeal.

– Robert Farley

]]>
Legal Immigration Down, Not Up http://www.factcheck.org/2014/07/legal-immigration-down-not-up/ Wed, 16 Jul 2014 18:50:55 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=86785 Rick Santorum said that the United States is “accepting more legal immigrants than we ever have.” Actually, the number of people being granted lawful permanent resident status has decreased consecutively for two fiscal years.

In 2013, there were 990,553 foreign individuals who became lawful permanent residents of the United States, or “green card” holders, according to figures from the Department of Homeland Security. That’s a 4 percent drop from the 1,031,631 people obtaining LPR status in 2012 and a near 7 percent decline from the 1,062,040 who obtained such status in 2011.

The historical high for lawful immigration was back in 1991, when 1,826,595 people obtained permanent resident status, which DHS attributes to the legalization of 2.7 million previously unauthorized immigrants under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986.

Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania who ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, made the claim on NBC’s “Meet the Press” during a roundtable discussion on immigration.

Santorum, July 13: First off, we are accepting more legal immigrants than we ever have in the history –

Detroit Free Press Editorial Page Editor Stephen Henderson: From some countries.

Santorum: It’s all chain immigration. And it’s from the very countries that people have been coming from, because most of the immigration is tied to people who are already here.

LPR_flowAs this DHS chart illustrates, the general trend has been an increase in LPR admissions since the mid-1940s. However, the data behind the chart show that, more recently, fewer people were granted permanent resident status in 2013 than at any time since 2004. And historically speaking, beyond the peak years of 1990 and 1991, there were more people who gained LPR status in 1905, 1906, 1907, 1910, 1913 and 1914, than did so in 2013.

Admission Categories

But Santorum’s other point, that “most of the immigration is tied to people who are already here,” is accurate, although he originally erred by saying that all of the legal immigration was “chain immigration.”

Family-sponsored immigrants, or so-called “chain immigrants,” represented almost 66 percent of the lawful permanent residents admitted in 2013. Of those, more than 44 percent were of immediate relation — spouses, parents, children — to U.S. citizens.

The other main LPR admission categories in 2013 included employment-based preferences (16.3 percent), refugees and asylees (12.1 percent), and diversity programs (4.6 percent).

So not all of the new lawful permanent residents gained that status based on a family relation to someone already living in the United States.

– D’Angelo Gore

]]>
July 11: ACA, Social Security, Exports http://www.factcheck.org/2014/07/july-11-aca-social-security-exports/ Fri, 11 Jul 2014 21:36:14 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=87031
]]>
More Senior Scare in Montana http://www.factcheck.org/2014/07/more-senior-scare-in-montana/ Fri, 11 Jul 2014 20:52:43 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=86674 Turning the tables on a traditionally Democratic attack line, a new ad from Republican Montana Senate candidate Steve Daines falsely accuses his Democratic opponent, Sen. John Walsh, of wanting to privatize Social Security.

And both candidates trade jabs in competing TV ads on Medicare — a political hot-button issue that our regular readers know is rife with distortions from both sides.

The Daines ad features a 67-year-old woman claiming that “Walsh also believes that privatizing Social Security should be on the table,” a proposal she considers “just too risky.” On screen, we see the quote, “Privatize Social Security, Walsh Says.”

Except, Walsh did not say that. The small print attributes that quote to a Dirk Adams letter to the editor of the Missoulian on May 26. Adams was Walsh’s opponent in the Democratic primary, which Walsh won the following week on June 3.

In that letter, Adams claimed Walsh is “open to privatizing Social Security for young workers” based on an answer Walsh provided to a reporter’s question at a roundtable meeting with seniors about Medicare and Social Security in Great Falls, Montana, on April 17. Here’s the entirety of the question and Walsh’s response (which you can listen to by clicking here):

Reporter: Congressman Ryan is still sort of pushing for the privatization of Social Security. Do you think there would ever be a circumstance where the privatization of Social Security would make sense?

Walsh: You know, I’d have to take a look at all the options — but not for those that are currently in Social Security right now. I can see, you know, maybe if there may be an option where they look at it for new employees coming into the workforce — that they may look at that — but it’s not something that I’m going to support with those that are currently on the program or currently working in the program.

The reporter was referencing Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. And it’s true that, back in 2005, Ryan co-authored a plan to partially privatize Social Security. Ryan’s bill would have given workers under the age of 55 the option to allocate about half of their payroll tax contributions to a private account invested in bonds and stock funds. The plan enjoyed widespread support among Republicans, at the time, but ultimately fizzled due to near unanimous opposition from Democrats (which makes the claim of Walsh’s support so unorthodox).

Ryan, who has chaired the House Budget Committee since 2011, persisted with his partial privatization plan, including a version in his “Roadmap for America’s Future” plan in 2010. But his more recent budget plans have been silent on personal accounts. In fact, Ryan’s most recent 2015 budget plan calls on Congress to offer legislation “to ensure the sustainable solvency” of Social Security, but specifically states, “[t]o be clear, nothing in this budget calls for the privatization of Social Security.”

More germane to the ad’s claims, however, is that Walsh’s answer never endorsed privatization. Rather, when asked about Republican efforts to partially privatize Social Security, Walsh responded that he would oppose any such plans for current workers. To be sure, Walsh could have been more unequivocal that he opposed any kind of privatization for everyone, including new employees coming into the workforce. But the Daines camp makes the leap that Walsh saying he would oppose privatization for current employees was the same as saying it “should be on the table”  for new employees. His comments could be interpreted to mean that it “could” be on the table, but not that it “should” be.

In an attempt to clear up any confusion on the point, Walsh’s campaign told us that Walsh opposes privatization of Social Security, period, even for new employees.

The campaign emailed us this statement from Walsh: “We need to reduce the national debt and cut our spending, but it absolutely cannot come at the expense of Medicare and Social Security and I will not support efforts to privatize these programs.”

The campaign further notes that Walsh was endorsed by the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, a group that adamantly opposes privatization of Social Security.

We would also note that the woman featured in the ad, Pat Lawrence of Billings, Montana, is 67 years old, and even the partial privatization plans offered by Republicans in the past would not have affected current seniors.

A Dollop of Mediscare from Both Camps

In addition to Social Security, the Daines ad, and a competing ad from the Walsh campaign, exchange accusations about Medicare — with each claiming the other would weaken it.

We’ll start with the Daines ad. Lawrence, a 67-year-old breast cancer survivor, warns that Walsh would put her Medicare benefits at risk.

Lawrence in Daines ad: I’m a breast cancer survivor. That’s why I dyed my hair pink. I really depend on Medicare. When I heard that John Walsh said Obamacare wouldn’t hurt seniors, I couldn’t believe it. Obamacare cuts billions of dollars from Medicare, putting my care at risk.

Walsh, who was not in the Senate when the Affordable Care Act was passed, has been cagey about his thoughts on the controversial law. He has said that he does not support repeal, but adds that he thinks it ought to be fixed.

The Daines campaign bases its claim that “Walsh said Obamacare wouldn’t hurt seniors” on an April 17 interview in which — in response to a question about the most important thing seniors should know about the Affordable Care Act — Walsh said, “Well most of the seniors would be involved with Medicare so really there should not be that much impact to our seniors with regards to the Affordable Care Act.” But that wasn’t his full response. He went on to say in the next sentence, “But we want to make sure it stays that way. We don’t want our seniors to have to pay higher premiums or higher medical costs out of their pocket. That’s one of the concerns I have with the Affordable Care Act. I want to make sure it’s not going to have a negative impact on Montana seniors.”

The Daines campaign claim about the Affordable Care Act hurting seniors is chiefly based on the tired attack that Democrats cut more than $700 billion from Medicare to pay for Obamacare. It’s a line that we deemed a whopper in 2012, and before. As we repeated when a similar claim was made recently in the Kentucky Senate race, the Affordable Care Act doesn’t slash $700 billion from the current Medicare budget; instead, this is a cut in the future growth of spending over a decade.

Furthermore, the reductions apply to payments made to hospitals and other non-physician providers, and it remains to be seen whether those would translate into reduced services.

The reductions would, however, extend the solvency of the program. Indeed, Daines has voted twice in favor of Republican budget proposals from Ryan, in 2013 and 2104, both of which included the same $700 billion in “cuts.”

In terms of breast cancer, the ACA expanded benefits for breast cancer screenings. Before the ACA, mammograms were also covered by Medicare, but with 20 percent cost-sharing. Now, they’re free. Traditional Medicare began fully paying for mammogram screenings (one every 12 months) in 2011, and all Medicare Advantage plans were required to do so as of 2012.

The ACA also stipulated (see section 3601) that guaranteed Medicare benefits can’t be reduced by the law. That would exclude extras offered by private Medicare Advantage plans.

The Walsh ad, meanwhile, features three senior women also worried about Medicare.

One claims: “We were so disappointed when Congressman Daines voted to cut Medicare benefits.” That’s a reference to Daines’ vote in April for this year’s Ryan plan. The plan would nix the ACA’s free preventive care — including mammograms, other screenings and flu shots — and the law’s closing of the prescription drug doughnut hole.

But, as we explained recently, relatively few seniors have drug costs high enough to place them in the Part D doughnut hole coverage gap.

Under the doughnut hole this year, Medicare Part D covers prescription costs, minus a deductible and copays, up to $2,850 in total costs for a beneficiary. Coverage doesn’t pick back up again until a beneficiary reaches $4,550 in total out-of-pocket expenses, or $6,691 in total drug costs. The ACA began offering discounts on drugs purchased in the gap in 2011 and slowly closes the gap by 2020.

So far, this increase in drug coverage has affected roughly 16 percent of Medicare beneficiaries. Of the more than 49.4 million covered by Medicare, about 7.9 million saved money on prescriptions because of the ACA, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. In Montana, in 2013, the ACA discounts saved 10,952 beneficiaries an average of $785, HHS said.

– Robert Farley and Lori Robertson

]]>