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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Recycled Spin at New Hampshire GOP Debate

At the latest debate, the Republican presidential candidates repeated several claims they’ve made before. The candidates participated in a roundtable-style discussion at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, where they reiterated false and misleading lines about the federal health care law, the debt ceiling debate, job creation and more:

  • Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney repeated his talking point that the health care law in his state only affected 8 percent of the population — or just the uninsured — while the federal law “takes over health care for everyone.” But that’s wrong on several levels. Both laws affect everyone by requiring that all residents have insurance or pay a penalty; both also focus on helping the uninsured gain coverage. And, just like the federal plan, the Massachusetts law set up an exchange where individuals buying their own insurance can select from various private health plans. That affects more than just those who were uninsured when the law was passed.
  • Romney also made the misleading assertion that “raising taxes is one of the big problems, something we didn’t do in Massachusetts.” The state actually raised the cigarette tax by $1 per pack, but the tax was implemented by the current governor, Deval Patrick. Also, the original law instituted fines for residents who don’t have insurance and businesses that don’t provide coverage. Is such a “fine” a “tax”? Romney’s camp thought so of similar provisions in the federal law, when they sent us a list of “taxes” in that legislation.
  • Texas Gov. Rick Perry took his job-creation boasting too far again, claiming that “while this country was losing two-and-a-half million jobs, Texas was creating 1 million jobs.” That’s an apples-to-oranges comparison. Texas has created a little more than 1 million jobs during Perry’s time in office, but the nation lost 1.4 million in that same time frame — not 2.5 million. To make the national picture look even worse, Perry goes back to January 2009. The nation has lost 2.4 million jobs since then, but Texas created only 95,600 jobs in that time period.
  • Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann once again claimed that the resolution to the debt ceiling debate gave President Obama a “$2.4 trillion blank check.” But Obama can’t spend this any way he wants. The money is used to pay obligations Congress already has authorized or will authorize. And besides, a check for a set amount is not a “blank check.”
  • Bachmann falsely claimed that a Medicare advisory panel created by the federal health care law “will make all the major health care decisions for over 300 million Americans.” Hers is a new twist on a false Republican talking point that the Independent Payment Advisory Board will ration health care for seniors. The board is specifically barred from rationing care on page 490 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. It’s true that the board will consist of 15 “political appointees,” as Bachmann said, and they will recommend ways to slow the growth of Medicare. But board members must be medical providers and other professionals with experience in health care finance, actuarial science, health care management and other related fields. And the board’s recommendations can be rejected by Congress, as we have explained before.
  • Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman dredged up an old partisan exaggeration in claiming that the IRS was planning on hiring “19,500 new employees to administer that mandate” in the health care law. We knocked down this inflated claim in March 2010, when it was about 16,500 IRS employees. The truth is that the claim comes from a report by Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee who made several false assumptions to come up with that number. Plus, the IRS’ primary role isn’t to “administer that mandate,” as Huntsman claims. It will mainly administer subsidies and tax credits. And so far, the IRS has requested 1,269 full-time equivalent employees, according to its fiscal year 2012 budget request, to help implement the law.
  • Huntsman also repeated his claim that when he was governor, Utah was No. 1 in job creation, while Massachusetts ranked 47th under Romney. Huntsman’s statistic is true according to data based on household surveys by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But according to the most commonly used yardstick for job growth, payroll data, Utah was actually No. 4. How common is the payroll data method? Huntsman cites a report that used the payroll data numbers to arrive at Massachusetts’ No. 47 ranking under Romney.
  • Bachmann reiterated a common Republican exaggeration, claiming that the deficit is larger than it really is. She said: “We are spending 40 percent more than what we take in.” That’s not true. The actual figure is 37 percent, according to the most recent monthly statement of the U.S. Treasury, covering the first 11 months of the fiscal year that just ended. (Final figures won’t be available for a few more days.) For the first 11 months, outlays were $3,296,399,000,000 and the deficit was $1,234,052,000,000 (rounded to the nearest million). So we spent 37.4 percent more than receipts. Furthermore, the deficit for the previous fiscal year was also 37.4 percent more than we took in.
  • Bachmann also said the deficit for the year was $1.5 trillion, which is untrue. In fact, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates (based on daily Treasury statements) that the deficit for fiscal 2011 was $1.294 trillion, just $3 billion less than the year before. The final, official Treasury figures may change those figures by a few billion, but not nearly enough to justify Bachmann’s inflated claims. (Update, Oct. 14: Final figures for fiscal 2011 (issued Oct. 14) later showed that the actual deficit for the full 12 months was $1.299 trillion, and the deficit amounted to 36.1 cents of every dollar.)

We will be vetting new claims from the candidates as well. Please check our site tomorrow for more on the debate.

— Lori Robertson, Brooks Jackson, Eugene Kiely and Robert Farley