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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

FactChecking Rand Paul

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is now the second major Republican candidate to officially declare he will run for president. Paul made the announcement April 7 on his campaign website.

We present here a sampling of some past claims from Paul that we have reviewed on our site:

  • Earlier this year, Paul overstated the amount of fraud in a tax credit program for low-income workers. He said the earned income tax credit has a “fraud rate” of 25 percent and costs taxpayers “$20 billion to $30 billion.” Actually, Paul was referring to the “improper payment error rate” — which includes fraud, but also represents mistakes made by taxpayers when filing tax forms and the IRS when processing payments. The errors, according to the Government Accountability Office, cost taxpayers $14.5 billion — which is less than half of the high-end estimate provided by Paul.
  • Last year, Paul claimed 20 million jobs were created after President Reagan cut taxes in the 1980s, saying it was the “last time” such job growth took place. Reagan added a net total of 16.1 million new jobs during his eight years in office. Even ignoring the jobs lost during the early part of Reagan’s time in office, the economy gained 18.4 million jobs from the low point in December 1982 to the end of his presidency – still well short of Paul’s “20 million” claim. More importantly, the economy added far more jobs — 22.9 million of them — under President Clinton, who raised taxes during his eight years in office from 1993 to 2001.
  • In 2013, Paul claimed that “black unemployment in America is double white unemployment” and “hasn’t budged” under President Obama. He was right about black unemployment being double white unemployment, but the ratio of black-to-white unemployment rates was actually below the historical average at the time and remains so. As for black unemployment not budging under Obama, that was wrong in 2013 and remains wrong today. It reached a high of 16.8 percent in March 2010 and dropped to a low of 12.5 percent in November 2013, which was the most current month for which data was available when Paul made his remark. The black unemployment rate since then has fallen even further, dropping to 10.1 percent in March.
  • In 2013, Paul incorrectly claimed that under the Affordable Care Act “you will go to jail” if you don’t buy health insurance and refuse to pay the tax penalty. The law specifically states that those who do not pay the penalty “shall not be subject to any criminal prosecution” and the IRS commissioner at the time said the law precludes jail.
  • In February, Paul repeated the false assertion that “many” children have developed “profound mental disorders” after vaccinations. Though severe reactions have occurred in extremely rare cases, there is no evidence that any currently recommended vaccine causes brain damage or other mental disorders in otherwise healthy children. Paul later walked back his comments, saying in a New York Times story that he believes vaccines are safe and effective.
  • Also in February, Paul falsely claimed that the budget for the National Institute of Health has been increasing “for years and years,” when the NIH’s budget had in fact decreased over the last decade when adjusted for inflation. Even when using figures unadjusted for inflation, the NIH budget was lower in 2014 and 2015 ($30.1 and $30.3 billion, respectively) than it was in 2010, when it reached a high of $31.2 billion.

We will continue to monitor statements made by Paul and all potential 2016 presidential candidates. Our full file on Paul is available here.

— Alexander Nacht