CNN examines statements by Republican presidential candidates during Monday night's CNN Southern Republican Debate in Charleston, South Carolina.
Rick Santorum on President Obama's budget cuts
The statement: "We have the president of the United States who said he is going to cut veterans benefits, cut our military, at a time when these folks are four, five, six, seven tours, coming back, in and out of jobs, sacrificing everything for this country.¬† And the president of the United States can't cut one penny out of the social welfare system and he wants to cut a trillion dollars out of our military and hit our veterans, and that's disgusting."
The facts: The Obama administration has struggled to bring down a staggering - and growing - budget deficit since taking office in 2009. Depressed tax revenues due to the 2007-2009 recession, spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, increased aid to the unemployed and the last of Obama's 2009 economic stimulus bill helped the deficit swell to a projected $1.3 trillion for the fiscal year 2011.
The 2010 election put added pressure on the administration as anti-tax, anti-spending Republicans took control of the House of Representatives, resulting in three budgetary standoffs between Congress and the White House in 2011.
Obama has in fact proposed a series of budget cuts, to the dismay of many of his own supporters. In September, he proposed wringing more than $300 billion from Medicare and Medicaid - the federal health-care programs for the poor and elderly - as part of an effort to reduce the deficit by $3 trillion over the next decade. In August, his budget chief warned government agencies to brace for cuts of 5% to 10% for 2013. And in January 2010, the administration proposed savings of $250 billion by freezing all nonsecurity discretionary spending for three years.
The departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs were exempted from that proposal. But the administration projects it will save $1.1 trillion on defense in the coming 10 years - largely because the war in Iraq is over, and U.S. troops are being pulled back from Afghanistan.
And Obama has proposed increases in federal spending on veterans. Its 2012 budget request was up 10.6% "to meet increased need" by Americans who have served in the military over the past decade, and a 3.5% increase is projected for 2013.
One cloud on the horizon is the $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts now hanging over the heads of Congress. Half of that will fall on the Pentagon unless negotiators come up with a different plan.
But that won't happen until 2013 and can be averted if lawmakers can cut projected deficits by an equal amount.
The verdict: False. Santorum is wrong on two counts. Obama has proposed cuts to significant portions of the U.S. safety net, while adding spending on veterans benefits to accommodate the large number of returning American veterans. And a big portion of the planned defense cuts come from the end of two long-running wars.
Newt Gingrich on distrust of government and possible health care repeal
Newt Gingrich said the country's distrust of Washington and fear of centralized medicine would create pressure to repeal the health care act.
The statement: "The American people are frightened of bureaucratic, centralized medicine. They deeply distrust Washington. The pressure will be to repeal it."
The facts: Americans generally "distrust Washington," according to a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll conducted in September. Only 2% of Americans said they could "just about always" trust the federal government, while 77% said they could only trust it some of the time.¬† Another poll earlier this month found President Barack Obama's approval rating at 49%, while approval of Congress had plunged to 11%.
By comparison, in 1958 - before the war in Vietnam, Watergate and the revelations that spilled out of Washington in their aftermath - 73% of Americans said they could trust the federal government all or most of the time.
But Gingrich is off when he characterizes public opinion as building up pressure behind a promised repeal of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the law Republicans call "Obamacare."¬† A CNN/ORC poll in November found that while the bill remains unpopular, some of the opposition comes from people who don't think it went far enough toward establishing universal health insurance.
Asked whether they approved or disapproved of the health-care law, much of which has yet to take effect, only 38% said they favored it; 56% said they were opposed. But only 37% said they opposed it because it went too far; an additional 14% said they opposed it because it wasn't liberal enough.
And while the public remains divided over the idea of requiring all Americans to buy health insurance - the cornerstone of the law - opposition has softened over the past year. Another November poll by CNN found 52% favored mandatory health insurance, up from 44% in June; opposition dropped from 54% in June to 47% in November.
The verdict: Misleading. Gingrich is right that there is a widespread distrust of Washington, but that doesn't appear to be translating into more support for repealing one of the most controversial acts of the Obama administration to date.
Mitt Romney defends his record on abortion
The statement: "What came to my desk was a piece of legislation that said, 'We're going to redefine when life begins.' In our state, we said life began at conception. The Legislature wanted to change that to say, 'no, we're going to do that at implantation.' I vetoed that. The Legislature also said, 'We want to allow cloning for purposes of creating new embryos of testing.' I vetoed that. They didn't want abstinence education; I pursued abstinence education. There was an effort to have a morning-after pill provided to young women in their teens; I vetoed that. I stood as a pro-life governor."
The facts: Romney ran two statewide campaigns in Massachusetts - an unsuccessful bid for Senate in 1994 and a winning one for governor in 2002 - as a supporter of abortion rights. But in 2005, he vetoed an emergency contraception bill and declared in the pages of the Boston Globe that he was an opponent of abortion, though he "respected the state's democratically held view" in favor of abortion rights.
Romney went on to veto the other bills he mentioned as well, though state lawmakers overrode his veto of a bill that would have allowed the creation of embryos for stem-cell research.
In April 2006, he announced $800,000 in grants for abstinence education programs, which are supported by many religious conservatives as an alternative to sex education.
The verdict: True. Romney's opposition to abortion is still viewed suspiciously by many conservatives, but his record supports the claims he made Thursday night.
Does Ron Paul's WWII anecdote ring true?
The statement: "After World War II, we had 10 million come home all at once.¬† But what did we do then? There were some of the liberals back then that said, 'Oh, we have to have more work programs and do this and that.' And they thought they would have to do everything conceivable for those 10 million. They never got around to it because they came home so quickly. And you know what the government did?¬† They cut the budget by 60%. They cut taxes by 30%.¬† By that time, the debt had been liquidated. And everybody went back to work again, you didn't need any special programs."
The facts: The end of World War II did see a sharp decrease in federal spending as the United States demobilized. The U.S. budget grew nearly tenfold between 1940 and 1945, peaking at about $93 billion - $1.2 trillion in today's dollars. By 1948, it had fallen to $30 billion, or about a third of 1945 outlays, according to federal records.
Taxes went down as well during that period, though rates stayed high. The top tax rate in 1945 was 94%. The rate was cut to 91% by 1948, and the threshold for paying that rate went up from about $200,000 to more than 1.8 million in current dollars, according to the Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan Washington research group.
But demobilization was not as smooth as Paul portrays. The U.S. economy saw two recessions between 1945 and 1950 as veterans returned home and factories retooled for civilian work. The war bonds sold to finance the conflict weren't retired until the early 1980s, according to the Treasury Department, though revenue from the eventual postwar boom kept the debt manageable. The top tax rate stayed at 91% until the Kennedy administration.
Most significantly, the libertarian congressman underplays the role of the federal government in helping veterans coming home. The Employment Act of 1946 "committed the federal government to take all practical measures to promote maximum employment, production, and purchasing power," according to a 2003 study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Then there is the law many historians consider one of the most significant pieces of legislation of the 20th century: the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, better known as the G.I. Bill. It sent millions of veterans to college, provided government backing for home loans and is credited with laying the foundations of the modern middle class.
The verdict: Misleading. Paul is correct that spending and taxes came down after 1945, as would be expected at the end of a conflict that saw the entire might of the United States thrown into the war effort. But he leaves out both the long-term debt and high tax rates left behind as Washington paid off the war and gives short shrift to the efforts made to resettle veterans who came home.