There were enough questionable factual claims in this debate to make your head spin. I decided to address a few of them.
The Dreaded Job-Killing ObamaCare
BACHMANN: ObamaCare is killing jobs. We know that from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. But I know it first-hand from speaking to people.
If it seems like I’ve checked this claim before, it’s because I have. Michele Bachmann made the same factual error at the CNN Presidential Debate.
If I were in any way a cartoonist, I would depict this falsehood as a T-Rex labeled “ObamaCare” about to step on a group of people labeled “jobs” all of which would be covered by a giant red circle with a slash through it.
The Congressional Budget Office found that people who hold a job just to receive the health benefits that job provides may quit their job if they are able to receive a federal subsidy or a place in an expanded Medicaid. It in no way incentivizes businesses to offer fewer jobs or fire people. You can find the specific CBO findings in my earlier article.
Michele Bachmann: saving Americans from retiring early or quitting their second job they only have for the health insurance that job offers.
A Government Take-Over of Health Care
BACHMANN: Obamacare took over one-sixth of the economy.
This is a permutation of the “government take-over of health care” myth; health care takes up approximately 1/6th of the economy. Politifact chose “government take-over of health care” as its 2010 Lie of the Year. The phrase brings to mind Britain’s system where the government owns hospitals and doctors are government workers. At the very least it makes it sound like the government will enact a single payer system like Canada’s where the government is the primary provider of insurance. ObamaCare does none of these. It doesn’t even include a public option where citizens could choose to buy a health insurance plan from the government rather than a private company.
Obamacare has three main components. It has an individual mandate, which means that it requires citizens to buy health insurance. It puts regulations on insurance companies, including preventing discrimination against patients based on pre-existing conditions. It also has subsidies to help the poor afford health insurance.
Obamacare largely keeps in place the present health care and health insurance systems. It adds some new regulations and mandates, but nothing close to the take-over of health care our European cousins have chosen.
The Death of Keynesianism?
Between praising Obama for authorizing the mission to kill or capture Bin Laden and for keeping the Guantanamo Bay prison open, Rick Perry emphatically declared the death of Keynesianism. He went so far as to say that government spending will not create one job. Perry’s full quote is posted at the end of this section.
PERRY: he [Obama] has proven for once and for all that government spending will not create one job. Keynesian policy and Keynesian theory is now done. We will never have to have that experiment on America again.
Government spending hasn’t created one job? That would be a pitiful failure indeed.
The cornerstone of Obama’s Keynesian policy is the stimulus. Three private organizations have estimated that as of the first quarter of 2011, the Stimulus has saved or created around 2.5 million jobs. That number falls within the CBO range of 1.2 to 3.3 million jobs. I have not seen a breakdown of jobs saved vs. jobs created, but with the multiplier effect, it is impossible that none of those 2.5 million jobs were jobs “created.” Moreover, had the stimulus not been passed, those who had their jobs “saved” would be unemployed as well. The stimulus was 28% tax cuts, but those tax cuts couldn’t have been responsible for all the jobs that were saved or created, some of the spending went to state and local governments that allowed them to put off firing workers.
So no Perry, Keynesianism didn’t create (or save) one job, it created (or saved) 2.5 million jobs.
Here is Perry’s full answer.
PERRY: I was making a comment about a philosophy; I don't think America needs to be in the business of adventurism.
But let me just say something about the president of the United States. And I know he's -- he's taken lots of slings and arrows here today. But one thing that I want to say that he did do that I agree with is that he maintained the -- the chase and -- and we took out a very bad man in the form of bin Laden, and I -- and I tip my hat to him.
I give more props to those Navy SEALs that did the job, but -- and the other thing this president's done, he has proven for once and for all that government spending will not create one job. Keynesian policy and Keynesian theory is now done. We'll never have to have that experiment on America again.
And I might add that he kept Gitmo open against the will of his base, and I'm glad he did that. America's safer for it.
Reagan’s Huge Deficits
I am going to do something out of the ordinary for this blog. I am going to do a confirmation.
Rick Perry and Ron Paul debated the letter that Ron Paul wrote in 1987 where he resigned his membership in the Republican Party due to Reagan’s policies. The letter is a good read and shows you exactly where Ron Paul is coming from ideologically. The full exchange between Perry and Paul is posted at the bottom of this section.
PAUL: But in the 1980s, we spent too much, we taxed too much, we built up our deficits, and it was a bad scene. Therefore, I support the message of Ronald Reagan. The message was great. But the consequence, we have to be honest with ourselves. It was not all that great. Huge deficits during the 1980s, and that is what my criticism was for, not for Ronald Reagan's message. His message is a great message.
I will specifically be testing his comment that we had, “huge deficits during the 1980s.”
In order to do so, I will be using one of my favorite resources, usgovernmentspending.com.
I first used that website to factcheck Chris Matthews’ claim that, “Truman had surpluses, Eisenhower didn’t.” Matthews was wrong, Eisenhower and Truman both had surpluses.
I used the data compiled by that site to calculate the average federal deficit as a percentage of GDP for each of the decades since 1900.
Average Federal deficit as a percentage of GDP
The average for 2010-2016 is not for a full decade and includes estimated values from the 2012 budget. Some of the data for years before 1950 were interpolated between actual reported values.
As you can see, the average deficit as a percentage of GDP in the 1980s is greater than every other decade except the 1940s (see World War 2) and 2010-2016 (see Great Recession).
But wait! Reagan wasn’t responsible for the 1980 or 1981 budgets. How does that change his average? The average for 1982-1989 was 4.19. Ouch. Ron Paul nailed this one!
Here is the full exchange between Rick Perry and Ron Paul over Paul’s letter.
PERRY: Speaking of letters, I was more interested in the one that you wrote to Ronald Reagan back and said I'm going to quit the party because of the things you believe in.
PAUL: Oh, I need an answer on that.
HARRIS: You've got a 30-second rebuttal, Congressman.
PAUL: I strongly supported Ronald Reagan. I was one of four in Texas -- one of four members of Congress that supported Reagan in '76. And I supported him all along, and I supported his -- his -- all his issues and all his programs.
But in the 1980s, we spent too much, we taxed too much, we built up our deficits, and it was a bad scene. Therefore, I support the message of Ronald Reagan. The message was great. But the consequence, we have to be honest with ourselves. It was not all that great. Huge deficits during the 1980s, and that is what my criticism was for, not for Ronald Reagan's message. His message is a great message.
WILLIAMS: Funny thing about the mail. It kind of tends to live on forever.
Here are Politifact’s factchecks on the NBC-Politico debate. Make sure to read the one about Perry’s Social Security Ponzi Scheme comparison.
Originally Posted September 10, 2011