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'Just The Facts' In TX-17

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Both candidates for the TX-17 congressional district spent a great deal of time in their only televised debate and in a live stream candidate forum arguing which was using "their own facts" and which was using the actual facts.

During both debates, one of the major points of contention was over Republican Bill Flores' proposed private accounts for Social Security constitute "privatization."

"In terms of privatization, having private accounts does not necessarily include privatizing all of Social Security," Flores said. "But we've got to fix it. We need to protect these programs for today's recipients as well as for those not even born yet. We should look at how to better handle the trust fund."

As Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Waco, pointed out, siphoning money from the system does not improve the long-term solvency of Social Security. Social Security works by taking money in the form of a payroll tax from current workers and being given to current retirees. If current workers put their money into private accounts, the difference would have to be made up with higher taxes or cuts in current benefits. The cost of privatization would be roughly $2 trillion according to President Bush himself.

Edwards also hammered Flores on his comments that he is "not philosophically opposed to raising the retirement age." Flores claims he "misspoke" due to a "headache" but that doesn't explain why he has said he was not opposed to raising the retirement age several times before, including later on in that same interview. Politifact Texas calls this one a Full Flop from his earlier position.

A headache doesn't explain the central thesis of Flores' campaign: That Congress cannot create jobs, only the private sector can do that. Therefore he must be elected to Congress to create jobs.

In both debates the issue of the Recovery Act came up. At the Monday night candidate forum Flores said "The federal government doesn't create private sector jobs." Shortly after that definitive statement he also said "The stimulus has cost us over $200 thousand per job created." Flores never felt the need to clarify whether the jobs were non-existent or if they cost $200 grand for each one.

Economist Ray Perryman, a conservative in the district, has stated that 150,000 jobs in Texas - 3,000 in TX-17 - were likely created or saved thanks to the Recovery Act. A Recovery Act that Mr. Flores has said failed.

"The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said the private market sector desperately needed a jumpstart," Edwards said. "By opposing the stimulus bill, Mr. Flores would have voted no on a $1600 tax cut for 95 percent of working families in our district, 2,000 new jobs and most importantly, a much-needed, much-deserved hospital for our Fort Hood soldiers."

Many other Republicans are running against the Stimulus while simultaneously posing with over-sized novelty checks from the Stimulus in their districts.

Mr. Flores also defended his stance against an additional COLA for Social Security recipients saying it would not be "fiscally prudent" while simultaneously arguing for making all the "Bush Tax Cuts" permanent. Flores was vehemently opposed to leaving the top 2% of earners out of any continuing tax cuts. He said Sunday night that "48% of small business jobs and 60% of small business employees" fall into the top two brackets of earners.

It turns out though, that many of these "small businesses" aren't so small in size. They include Bechtel, accounting giant PriceWaterHouseCooper and the Tribune Company.

Flores has also claimed that we've lost more than 3 million jobs since the Recovery Act passed. Here again it is quite misleading. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, private sector job growth in 2010 has been greater than in all eight years of the Bush Administration.