The U.S. economy and job creation has been a central theme of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney's attacks on President Barack Obama. The Huffington Post has fact-checked a number of Romney's economic claims and found them wanting. Read the list below, and click the video above to watch Romney's misleading comments.
7. "Republicans haven't cut Medicare. [Obama] cut it by $500 billion, and he cut it to pay for Obamacare." -April 11, 2012, in an interview with Fox News
Romney's comment here lacks important context. Under the health care law, Medicare spending will continue to grow. What Romney meant when he said that Obama "cut" Medicare is that the Affordable Care Act reduces the amount spent on the program by $500 billion over a 10-year period. Moreover, as the conservative Heritage Foundation points out, the health care law raises the payroll tax for Medicare for certain tax brackets, which would bolster the program.
In addition, Romney himself has called Medicare "inefficient," and (as HuffPost's Sam Stein points out) a large portion of the $500 billion would come out of Medicare Advantage, which has had trouble controlling costs in the past.
Romney's statement that "Republicans haven't cut Medicare" suggests the GOP wants to preserve the program. In fact, Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) proposed budget, which Romney has endorsed, would fundamentally alter Medicare by giving seniors the choice to buy private insurance instead.
6. "The president, by the end of his four years, will have put in almost as much debt on this country as all the prior presidents combined." -March 23, 2012, in Metairie, La.
This is unlikely. When Obama took office, the national debt stood at about $10.6 trillion. Today, that figure hovers around $15.7 trillion, meaning that under Obama, the debt has risen by $5.1 trillion. That number would have to double by the end of Obama's term for Romney's claim to hold water.
5. "Government at all levels now consumes about 38 percent of the economy, and if Obamacare is installed, that'll rise to about half of the economy." -May 8, 2012, Lansing, Mich.
This is another example of Romney exercising his talent for hyperbole. As the Los Angeles Times points out, government spending consumed about 38 percent of the economy in 2010. About 8 percent of our current GDP is spent on health care. Under the Affordable Care Act, that number will rise to 10 percent (according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid). This means, hypothetically, government would consume 40 percent of the economy if the health care law is fully implemented (not 50 percent, as Romney suggested.)
There are two other important things to keep in mind here. First, in 2010 government spending was abnormally high because of the recession and the economic stimulus package. Second, as Mother Jones notes, to reach 50 percent in his calculation, Romney is counting both public and private health care expenditures, suggesting that after the health care law is fully implemented, all health insurance will essentially be public.
4. "[In Massachusetts] we were able to cut back on the size of government. Actually, we didn't just slow the rate of growth of our government, we actually cut it." -May 12, 2012, in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network
This is an over-simplification. PolitiFact posted the amounts spent each year in Massachusetts while Romney was governor, and found that, if adjusted for inflation, it's true that spending decreased by a small amount (0.3 percent) over the five years Romney had some influence on the budget.
However, if state spending in Massachusetts is viewed as a percentage of income, it actually rose during the same period of Romney's governorship by 0.13 percent. And if you look at the unadjusted numbers, PolitiFact goes on to show, the Massachusetts budget increased by at least 14 percent during Romney's tenure.
3. "92.3 percent of all the jobs lost during the Obama years have been lost by women." -April 11, 2012, Hartford, Conn.
Factually, this statement is true. The Bureau of Labor Statistics confirmed it to FactCheck.org. But it only tells a fraction of the story. The Washington Post points out that millions of men lost their jobs when the recession first hit (when George Bush was still president), since male-majority jobs like construction and manufacturing were the first to be affected. But the Post goes on to explain that the second phase of the recession -- which coincided roughly with Obama's presidency -- was harder on industries that employ a greater number of women.
In addition, the Atlantic points out that Romney's statistic includes female layoffs that occurred the day Obama took office. Obviously it would be problematic to link a president's first day in office to job losses that happened on that same day. So even though the statistic is not false, the startling rise in female layoffs can only be partially attributed to the Obama administration's policies.
2. "The number's over 100,000, and that comes from a number of businesses, start-up businesses, as well as businesses that were already operating." -March 13, 2012, in Kirkwood, Mo., after being asked during an interview with NBC affiliate KSDK Channel 5 how many jobs he was able to create at Bain Capital.
This statement, which Romney has made multiple times, is hard to fact-check because private equity firms are not required to disclose much of their activity. But one of the problems with this claim is that Romney is counting the jobs created after he left the company in 1999.
For example, as the New York Times points out, Staples had about 42,000 employees when Romney left Bain to lead the organizing committee for the Salt Lake City Olympics. But Romney takes credit for the 89,000 employees the office-supply franchise had in 2010.
Moreover, as Bloomberg explains, most of the jobs Romney created are low-hourly-wage gigs that don't pay enough to put a worker above the federal poverty level for a family of three.
Also, there's been some doubt over whether Romney's calculations included job losses at companies Bain invested in which went bankrupt or closed their doors, and it's very unlikely that his calculations include the job losses sustained by his competitors.
1. "[The president] has made it harder for new businesses to start up. As a matter of fact, the number of start-ups, per year, has dropped by a hundred thousand." -April 19, 2012, in an interview with Fox News
To check Romney's statement, HuffPost reached out to Scott Shane, an economics professor at Case Western Reserve University, who sent us the latest Business Dynamics Statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau. The report includes data through 2010 on the number of firms whose age is listed as "zero." Here are the numbers by year:
2008: 491,559 new firms
2009: 410,723 new firms (the number fell by 80,836)
2010: 394,632 new firms (the number fell by 16,091)
While the decline is dramatic, it's a far cry from the 100,000-per-year figure that Romney used. Moreover, a report by the non-partisan Kaufmann Foundation of Entrepreneurship, based on the Census Bureau data, states that the "pace of business startups has exhibited a long-run decline that dates back to the 1980s." In other words, these latest numbers represent only a small portion of a decades-long trend.
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Stay tuned for 7 of Obama's most misleading comments.