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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Day 2: More Convention Canards

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — On the second night of their convention, Democrats misled viewers with claims about Republican economic and social policies. Among the convention canards:

  • Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy said the Republican platform would “take away a woman’s right to choose even if she is a rape victim.” The GOP platform strongly opposes abortion, but is silent on exceptions — leaving that up to the states.
  • The president of Planned Parenthood said Romney and Ryan “are committed to ending insurance coverage for birth control.” That’s not true. Both men have spoken against the government requiring employers to cover birth control at no cost to employees.
  • A venture capitalist claims that Obama is “more than 60 percent” toward his  goal of doubling exports by 2015. Government figures show the exports have increased by 29 percent since Obama announced his goal.
  • Several Democrats claimed the “Romney and Ryan budget” would cut domestic spending 20 percent across the board, crippling (fill in your favorite federally funded program). The Ryan plan doesn’t say what programs would be cut. And Romney has said he would not apply cuts evenly.

Note to Readers

Our managing editor, Lori Robertson, is on the scene in Charlotte at the convention center. This story was written with the help of the entire staff, based in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. We are vetting the major speeches at this convention for factual accuracy, holding Democrats to the same standards we applied in last week’s coverage of the Republican convention.

Coverage for Birth Control

Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, was wrong when she said Romney and Ryan “are committed to ending insurance coverage for birth control.” That’s not what the Romney-Ryan campaign has said at all. Instead, both men have spoken against a government mandate requiring most employers and insurance companies to cover birth control at no cost to employees.

Romney first came out against the Obama administration’s requirement that most employers, including religious-affiliated groups including Catholic hospitals, provide birth control coverage with no copays. Romney said in early February that the Obama rule “tramples on religious freedom, taking particular aim at Roman Catholics. The Obama administration is forcing religious institutions to choose between violating their conscience or dropping health care coverage for their employees, effectively destroying their ability to carry on their work.”

Ryan, too, lambasted the mandate on religious grounds.

The Obama administration later modified its rule to say religious-affiliated organizations wouldn’t have to provide such coverage. However, in those cases, insurance companies would have to provide birth control coverage for free.

Romney said he also supported an amendment from Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt (which was subsequently defeated) that would have given any employer the ability to opt out of the birth control mandate on religious grounds. Employers also could opt out of any requirement in the Affordable Care Act. That’s what Richards was referring to when she said Romney and Ryan “would turn women’s health care decisions over to our bosses.”

Romney’s campaign said he would eliminate the birth control mandate altogether. So, under a Romney presidency, employers wouldn’t be required to offer coverage that included contraception with no copay. But many employers already offered contraception coverage without such a mandate. A 2010 survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 85 percent of large firms offered coverage of birth control — though copays among the plans likely varied. And 28 states had already required insurance carriers to cover contraceptives, with exemptions.

There’s a big difference between ending a mandate that all employers and insurers provide free coverage of contraception and “ending insurance coverage for birth control” altogether, as Richards claimed.

Rape and Incest, Again

Gov. Dannel Malloy of Connecticut claimed that the Republican platform would “take away a woman’s right to choose even if she is a rape victim.” The GOP platform doesn’t say that.

It includes support for an unspecified human life amendment to the Constitution, and declares “the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed.” But the platform is silent on the issue of exceptions for rape or incest.

Malloy: Now, let’s talk about women’s rights. And this is personal. My wife ran a rape crisis center for 11 years.

The Republicans want to take away a woman’s right to choose even if she is a rape victim. That’s in their platform. That is what they believe.

As we’ve said before, there have been numerous versions of human life amendments proposed over the years, some of which include exceptions for rape and incest and some of which don’t. For details, see our July 31 item, “Falsifying Romney’s Abortion Stance, Again.” The GOP platform makes no mention for or against exceptions of any sort.

To be sure, it’s possible to argue that saying an unborn child has “a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed” amounts to a call for an abortion ban without exceptions. But that opinion is not shared by the authors of the platform language. James Bopp, who co-chaired the party platform’s Subcommittee on Restoring Constitutional Government, told us the committee “[did] not take a position on which exceptions should be included in a Human Life Amendment.”

Moreover, as we’ve noted again and again in response to false Obama TV ads, Romney has consistently said — as far back as 2005 — that while he opposes abortion and would seek to overturn Roe v. Wade, he would allow abortions in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.

Entrepreneur’s Exaggerated Exports Claim

Steve Westly, a venture capitalist and former California state controller, exaggerated Obama’s progress toward his goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2015.

Westly: Four years ago, President Obama pledged to double American exports by 2015. Today, we’re more than 60 percent of the way there.

First of all, Obama made that pledge during his 2010 State of the Union address — not four years ago. The president said: “So tonight, we set a new goal: We will double our exports over the next five years…” Obama launched a National Export Initiative to help farmers and small businesses export more goods.

In March, the Obama administration released a report on the two-year anniversary of the initiative. The administration referred to figures from the Bureau of Economic Analysis that showed the value of U.S. exports of goods and services increased by 34 percent between 2009 and 2011.

Monthly figures, which are more up to date, also fail to show a 60 percent increase in U.S. export values.

In January 2009, exports of goods and services (see “Trade in Goods and Services, 1992 to present”) were about $125 billion. Export values increased to about $185 billion in June of this year, the last month the BEA updated its numbers. That’s an increase of 48 percent.

The increase is even less — 29 percent — counting from the month Obama made his pledge during the State of Union in January 2010, when goods and services equaled nearly $144 billion.

Cutting Everything 20 Percent?

Several convention speakers claimed the “Romney and Ryan budget” would cut domestic spending 20 percent across the board, crippling (fill in your favorite federally funded program).

It’s true Ryan’s budget resolution for fiscal year 2013 would sharply cut non-defense discretionary spending, but it does not say what programs would be cut. And Romney has said he would not apply cuts across the board. He says he would eliminate and cut some, while sparing others.

Ken Myers, a deputy sheriff from Carroll County, Iowa: The Romney-Ryan budget could cut federal funding for first responders by nearly 20 percent.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan: Under the Romney-Ryan budget, education would be cut — cut by as much as 20 percent. Now, take a minute and think about what that would really mean: 200,000 fewer children in Head Start, fewer teachers in the classroom, fewer resources for poor kids and students with disabilities, fewer after school programs and 10 million students could see their Pell Grants reduced, putting higher education further out of reach.

Gov. Dannel Malloy of Connecticut: Education would be slashed by 20 percent — from Head Start through college, and everything in between.

This has been a Democratic talking point since March, when Ryan introduced the House budget resolution for fiscal year 2013. The administration claims that the budget resolution would reduce non-defense discretionary spending 19 percent by 2014.

“What would it all mean? The Budget doesn’t say,” Jeff Zients, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, wrote March 21 on the OMB website. “But what could the resolution mean? Since the House has refused to specify what would be cut, we consider the impacts if the cuts are distributed equally across the Budget.”

Zients goes on to list possible cuts — including Duncan’s unqualified claim that it “would really mean … 200,000 fewer children in Head Start.”

But, as we wrote when Obama repeated the same claim during an economic speech in April, Romney and Ryan both rejected the assumption that the cuts would be done across the board.

“But, of course, you wouldn’t cut programs on a proportional basis,” Romney said. “There would be some programs you would … eliminate outright.” On his Facebook page, Ryan said Obama’s assumption that the budget “makes these kinds of indiscriminate cuts is false.”

This dispute is typical of election-year spin. Romney and Ryan want it both ways: credit for cutting spending without detailing what programs would suffer. That allows Obama to fill in the blanks and scare voters by warning that their favorite federally funded program will be decimated.

— Lori Robertson, with Ben Finley, Eugene Kiely, and Robert Farley