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Sunday, September 2, 2012


"Facts Take a Beating in Acceptance Speeches" - New York Times
"FACT CHECK: Romney's deficit vow lacks specifics" - AP 
Top 5 Fibs In Paul Ryan’s Convention Speech - Talking Points Memo

Paul Ryan’s brazen lies  - Salon

FACT CHECK: Romney's deficit vow lacks specifics - Yahoo


Fact Checkers, the Watchmen of our political arena seek to help us find the truth among a sea of lies; or so they say.  In theory, there is probably not a need for such a thing as a fact check.  But like the question of the title, who watches the watchmen?  In a media world where finding a non-partisan is not only impossible, but actually un-American, where do we go?  Well, sometimes there is no oracle who can simply step in and give you the anwers you seek.  I, for one, am definitly a partisan part of the conservative right, but I will do my best to simply lead you to the evidence and let you decide.

In the final headline above you will notice that Yahoo's fact check attacked vagueness.  I'm not sure how that is a fact check unless, Romney stated, "My plan is not vague in anyway."  Some of these fact checks have gotten out of hand as they no longer check statements for factual content, but for intents, impressions and ineptitude.  Fact checks should stick to, well...you know, facts.  So I will attempt to do Fact Check the Fact Checkers.  Follow at your own discretion.

The majority of all the fact checks for both Romney and Ryan's speeches at the RNC found these to be the facts in question.
1.  As part of Obamacare,  $716 B was cut from Medicare to pay for the health care reform law.
2.  Obama pledged to keep the Janesville, WI plant open yet it closed under Obama.
3.  Obama failed to listen to his own deficit commission.
4.  Ryan attacked Obama for the credit rating downgrade.
5.  Romney said Obama went on an apology tour.
6.  The 2009 Stimulus failed.

Let's get started with these quick ground rules.  I will do my best to keep my 'opinion' to a minimum and will attempt to note where it appears.  I will simply do my best to quote authoritative sources or the subjects own words.

1.  Was $716 B cut from Medicare?  Here's President Obama in his own words being interviewed by Jake Tapper:
TAPPER: “One of the concerns about health care and how you pay for it — one third of the funding comes from cuts to Medicare.”
TAPPER: “A lot of times, as you know, what happens in Congress is somebody will do something bold and then Congress, close to election season, will undo it.”
OBAMA: “Right.”
TAPPER: “You saw that with the ‘doc fix’.”
OBAMA: “Right.”
TAPPER: “Are you willing to pledge that whatever cuts in Medicare are being made to fund health insurance, one third of it, that you will veto anything that tries to undo that?
OBAMA: “Yes. I actually have said that it is important for us to make sure this thing is deficit neutral, without tricks. I said I wouldn’t sign a bill that didn’t meet that criteria.”
Obama's main argument for the cuts is that they are only cuts to provider payments which will extend the life of the program.  But that is not true as the cuts that he says pay for health care reform are the same money he says is to be used for strengthening medicare.  Here's HHS Sec'y Kathleen Sebellius under questioning before a Congressional subcommittee (when the cuts were estimated to be $500 B),
In her first appearance before the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee since the health-care law passed, Kathleen Sebelius responded to a line of questioning by Republican Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois about whether $500 billion in Medicare cuts were used to sustain the program or pay for the law.
“There is an issue here on the budget because your own actuary has said you can’t double-count,” said Shimkus. “You can’t count — they’re attacking Medicare on the CR when their bill, your law, cut $500 billion from Medicare.”
He continued: “Then you’re also using the same $500 billion to what? Say your funding health care. Your own actuary says you can’t do both. […] What’s the $500 billion in cuts for? Preserving Medicare or funding the health-care law?
Sebelius’ reply? “Both.”
Did the actuary really say that there was double counting going on?  Actually, yes and that even if not, they concluded that any lower payments to providers would be unsustainable in the long term.
"We estimate that the aggregate net savings to the Part A trust fund under the PPACA would postpone the exhaustion of trust fund assets by 12 years—that is, from 2017 under prior law to 2029 under the proposed legislation.
The combination of lower Part A costs and higher tax revenues contributes to a lower Federal deficit based on budget accounting rules. However, trust fund accounting considers the same lower expenditures and additional revenues as extending the exhaustion date of the Part A trust fund. In practice, the improved Part A financing cannot be simultaneously used to finance other Federal outlays (such as the coverage expansions under the PPACA) and to
extend the trust fund, despite the appearance of this result from the respective accounting conventions.

The estimated postponement of asset exhaustion for the Part A trust fund does not reflect the relatively small impact on HI payroll taxes due to economic effects of the legislation or the increase in administrative expenses resulting from the HI provisions. As noted in our April 20, 2010 memorandum on the estimated financial and other effects of the PPACA, reductions in Medicare payment updates to Part A providers, based on economy-wide productivity gains, are unlikely to be sustainable on a permanent annual basis. If such reductions were to prove unworkable within the period 2010-2029, then the actual HI savings from these provisions would be less than estimated, and the postponement in the trust fund exhaustion date would be shorter."

Read the evidence and decide for yourself if Ryan lied about Obama's cuts to Medicare.

2.   In his RNC speech, Ryan noted that Mr. Obama had visited the plant in 2008 and said,
“I believe that if our government is there to support you, this plant will be here for another hundred years.

“Well, as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day.”

When did the Janesville plant close?  That's not the issue because he never said when, only within a year of Obama's speech.  The point was about auto bailouts, but about a false promise and failed policies. Here's the timeline:

* On February 13, 2008 Obama said in Janesville : “I believe that if our government is there to support you, and give you the assistance you need to re-tool and make this transition, that this plant will be here for another hundred years.”

* In June 2008 GM announced that the Janesville plant would stop production of medium-duty trucks by the end of 2009, and stop production of large SUVs in 2010 or sooner.

* In October 2008 Obama doubled down on his promise to keep Janesville plant open: “As president, I will lead an effort to retool plants like the GM facility in Janesville so we can build the fuel-efficient cars of tomorrow and create good-paying jobs in Wisconsin and all across America.”

* In December 2008 GM idled production of GM SUVs at the Janesville plant. Medium-duty truck assembly continued.

* In April 2009, four months after Obama was inaugurated, GM idled production of medium-duty trucks.

* In September 2011, more than two years after Obama was inaugurated, GM reiterates that Janesville plant is on “stand by status.” Auto industry observer David Cole, tells the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel it would be premature to say the Janesville plant will never reopen.

* Today the GM facility in Janesville still has not been retooled “so we can build the fuel-efficient cars of tomorrow and create good-paying jobs,” as Obama promised

Again, you decide if Ryan told the truth here.

3.  Ryan never said whether he supported the final report from Obama's appointed commission, only that the president ignored it.  Some Fact Checks have stated that because Ryan voted against the final report, this as a lie.

Here is what the Democratic co-chair of Obama's deficit commission and Clinton's former WH Chief of Staff, Erskine Bowles had to say about Paul Ryan.
“Have any of you met Paul Ryan? We should get him to come to the university. I’m telling you this guy is amazing, uh. I always thought that I was OK with arithmetic, but this guy can run circles around me. And, he is honest. He is straightforward. He is sincere. And, the budget that he came forward with is just like Paul Ryan. It is a sensible, straightforward, serious budget and it cut the budget deficit by $4 trillion…just like we did.
The President came out with his own plan and the President came out, as you will remember, with a budget and I don’t think anyone took that budget very seriously. Um, the Senate voted against it 97 to nothing. He, therefore, after a lot of pressure from folks like me, he came out with a new budget framework and, in the new budget framework, he cut the budget deficit by $4 trillion over 12 years. And, to be candid, this $4 trillion cut was very heavily back-end loaded. So, if you looked at it on a 10 year basis and compared apples-to-apples, it was about a $2.5 trillion cut.”
 So did the President try to ignore the commission?  Did Ryan try to put together a proposal similar to the commission?  You decide.

4.  Who's to blame for the credit rating downgrade?  Was it because of a debt limit fight?  Or is it because the Obama administration was preventing a serious discussion about getting our debt in order as Ryan suggests?

Here is what S&P said.
  • We have lowered our long-term sovereign credit rating on the United
    States of America to 'AA+' from 'AAA' and affirmed the 'A-1+' short-term
  • We have also removed both the short- and long-term ratings from
    CreditWatch negative.
  • The downgrade reflects our opinion that the fiscal consolidation plan
    that Congress and the Administration recently agreed to falls short of
    what, in our view, would be necessary to stabilize the government's
    medium-term debt dynamics
  • More broadly, the downgrade reflects our view that the effectiveness,
    stability, and predictability of American policymaking and political
    institutions have weakened at a time of ongoing fiscal and economic
    challenges to a degree more than we envisioned when we assigned a
    negative outlook to the rating on April 18, 2011.
  • Since then, we have changed our view of the difficulties in bridging the
    gulf between the political parties over fiscal policy, which makes us
    pessimistic about the capacity of Congress and the Administration to be
    able to leverage their agreement this week into a broader fiscal
    consolidation plan that stabilizes the government's debt dynamics any
    time soon.
  • The outlook on the long-term rating is negative. We could lower the
    long-term rating to 'AA' within the next two years if we see that less
    reduction in spending than agreed to, higher interest rates, or new
    fiscal pressures during the period result in a higher general government
    debt trajectory than we currently assume in our base case.

We lowered our long-term rating on the U.S. because we believe that the
prolonged controversy over raising the statutory debt ceiling and the related
fiscal policy debate indicate that further near-term progress containing the
growth in public spending, especially on entitlements, or on reaching an
agreement on raising revenues is less likely than we previously assumed and
will remain a contentious and fitful process. We also believe that the fiscal
consolidation plan that Congress and the Administration agreed to this week
falls short of the amount that we believe is necessary to stabilize the
general government debt burden by the middle of the decade.
S&P blames a contentious fight that failed to cut spending and entitlements heavily enough to instill confidence that the government's debt would be stablilized in the next few years.

So which side do you blame for not cutting spending or entitlements?  Was it the fight, or that the fight was unsuccessful for the side that wanted to cut spending?  So who deserves any blame for the downgrade?  You decide.

5.  This one isn't even worth mentioning.  Rhetoric is just that rhetoric.  We don't fact check rhetoric.

6.  Do we really need to fact check whether the stimulus failed?  Well here we go.  Here's a good summation from a year ago.  Let me know if anything since then has changed enought to consider the stimulus a success.

The president's economic advisors projected that in the stimulus would halt unemployment at eight percent.  In its absence, they warned, unemployment could reach as high as nine percent.  This was a major selling point of the bill.  Two years and hundreds of billions of dollars later, the national unemployment rate remains above nine percent, and the numbers aren't improving.  If the active labor force were the same size as it was when Obama took office (it has shrunk considerably due to discouraged workers), the national unemployment rate would be approaching 12 percent.
(2) The president said the stimulus would "lift two million Americans from poverty."  US poverty levels have now reached all-time highs.  In the year after the stimulus passed, 2.6 million Americans fell into poverty.
(3) The president said middle class family incomes would soar by thousands of dollars thanks to his stimulus.  As reported above, the national median income (a good measure of the middle class' collective financial standing) has dipped to its lowest level since 1997.
(4) The president incessantly trumpeted the promise of countless "shovel-ready" projects to sell the public on the stimulus.  Earlier this year, Obama himself joked that such projects didn't really exist. 

On top of all that, just last week the Wall Street Journal had a report that median income was down $4019 since the beginning of the recession in 2007, but that over half of that decrease came after the recession ended.

Once again, you decide whether to call the stimulus a failure is a lie.

I've heard a lot of people on TV claim that Romney and Ryan have lied.  I'm still waiting for any of them to present a solid case for it.  Disagree with me if you want. Think you have the facts to back it up? 

Then as my new favorite Republican would say,

"Make my day."

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