January 20th, 2012
12:59 AM ET

Truth Squad: 4 checks on Thursday's GOP debate

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.

soundoff (585 Responses)
  1. Jim

    I LOVE this area of CNN!! Being able to see a concise examination of the candidates comments and see the actual facts around the topics is excellent. Thanks!!

    January 20, 2012 at 2:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Oh please! There are a million "fact check" resources out there that actually don't editorialize.

      Typical CNN SLANT! Rick Santorum accuses of Obama of cutting the military and not cutting welfare and CNN's response......?

      “But Obama inherited the recession.” Wah Wah Wah!!!!

      HOW THE HELL IS THAT FACT? Sounds like slanted editorializing to me.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:44 am | Report abuse |
    • ninetyNinePercent

      Here's an example of fact checking

      Statement: ...CNN gave Obama 10 million dollars
      Correction: ...CNN actually gave Obama 7.3 million dollars
      CNN's method ...But we're better than fox so his statement is not true

      And all the CNN cronies said, "Oh we love CNN and how they do such great fact checking".

      January 20, 2012 at 2:51 am | Report abuse |
    • TexMan

      I wonder if Chris uses cream in his tea????

      January 20, 2012 at 2:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Nathan G.

      Typical CNN SLANT! Rick Santorum accuses of Obama of cutting the military and not cutting welfare and CNN's response......?

      “But Obama inherited the recession.” Wah Wah Wah!!!!

      @Chris – Did you even bother to read the article? The CNN response to that statement was that there are a wealth of cuts that *will* hit the DoD should both sides not be able to come to an agreement over other cuts. Obama inherited the recession? It doesn't say that. It merely states the facts that there is more to the need for cuts than a President arbitrarily screwing people for the hell of it. What it states are the facts that there were depressed tax revenues and conflict costs affecting the overall deficit.

      How about you try reading an entire article before you simply jump to attack something because someone points out how an individual's statements either ignore the facts or the facts simply fly in the face of them. But go right ahead – deny that the conflicst in Afghanistan and Iraq didn't cost billions, or that the recession has affected tax revenues. Just don't be surprised when your ignorance is called out.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:34 am | Report abuse |
    • MikeDeAng

      Yes, those pesky facts always ruin a raucous good time by the Republican leadership. Who could have anticipated that CNN would be checking up on them to see if they were inventing things again.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Ahhh

      I agree about the CNN Slant/Lies/Fabrications/-CNN is just another corporate greed machine who will sell the news to the highest bidder.

      January 20, 2012 at 8:27 am | Report abuse |
  2. lewtwo

    CNN failed to take Ron Paul to task over his statements.

    January 20, 2012 at 2:26 am | Report abuse |
    • HeroOfAll

      Thats cause everything he says is true, no need to corroborate it.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:42 am | Report abuse |
    • jimbo

      why don't you do it for them?

      January 20, 2012 at 2:44 am | Report abuse |
    • ninetyNinePercent

      PAUL IS A TARD!

      January 20, 2012 at 2:52 am | Report abuse |
    • MikeDeAng

      Ron who?

      January 20, 2012 at 4:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Ahhh

      LOL-"paul is a tard"--ahhh, 5th grade, the easiest times of my life...thank you for the memories. 🙂

      January 20, 2012 at 8:28 am | Report abuse |
  3. tylenol666

    I counted only three Visibile African Amercans in the crowd,, two well Suited gentlemen in the front seats and the cameraman, is that normal?

    January 20, 2012 at 2:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Duh

      Someone has to keep crime up so the police can keep their jobs... duh.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:03 am | Report abuse |
    • geraldjones

      so what? are you trying to say republicans are racist because you could only spot three african americans? been done before...keep reaching at straws..the fact is that unemployment in the black community is the highest it has ever been, and we have a black president...

      January 20, 2012 at 8:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Yellowmedia

      That is because the Obama team was no there to rearrange the audience as they typically do! Ask anyone who has been in an Obama audience. Is that your idea of truth and transparency?

      January 20, 2012 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Mike Brooks

    Here's a fact question for you to answer! Is CNN *trying* to become another FOX News? How is it that your dog and pony show can ignore the ONLY Republican candidate tied with Obama in today's polls? I mean, for god's sake, when your moderator walks away from him without even asking questions, forgets he;s there until the audience yells at him, your post "debate" crew of nitwits never mentioned his name, you wouldn't even think Ron Paul had been up on the stage! What's with you people, anyways? Is this some third world hick reporting crew you have there that wont even report on things the government or your owner doesn't understand, finds uncomfortable? Get your collective butts in geer! APOLOGIZE to the voters and hold an hour long interview with the man on SUNDAY accompanied by big splashy announcements so the nation knows what's coming and can tune in. And, just maybe, have someone intelligent about Paul's positions, like Pat Buchcannon, conduct the interview.

    January 20, 2012 at 2:33 am | Report abuse |
  5. Chris

    Are you kidding me? Instead refuting the facts, you editorialize? Give me a break!

    January 20, 2012 at 2:36 am | Report abuse |
  6. ninetyNinePercent

    Let me help you understand what fact checking in reporting is supposed to be.

    Here's an example: This is just an example

    Statement: ...CNN gave Obama 10 million dollars
    Correction: ...CNN actually gave Obama 7.3 million dollars
    CNN's method ...But we're better than fox so his statement is not true

    And all the CNN cronies said, "Oh we love CNN and how they do such great fact checking".

    January 20, 2012 at 2:51 am | Report abuse |
  7. zimbot

    John King was pretty lame as a moderator. His comment to Ron Paul of " Would you like to get in on this?" was pathetic.

    January 20, 2012 at 3:27 am | Report abuse |
  8. Lefty smart house

    So Romney tells the truth and the others don't. Seems about right.

    January 20, 2012 at 3:30 am | Report abuse |
    • A-PIFF-A-KNEE

      YUP. People will eventually figure that out. Or maybe not 🙁

      January 20, 2012 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
  9. wilson

    This just proves that politicians, especially republicans, are liars.

    January 20, 2012 at 3:34 am | Report abuse |
    • geraldjones

      and it proves you are going down on Obama's schlong...

      January 20, 2012 at 8:36 am | Report abuse |
  10. REG in AZ

    Jan. 19, 2012 Debate: The smaller group was a noticeable improvement; Cain, Bachmann and Perry were really negative distractions and their elimination was a definite plus. Personally I find it difficult to trust Gingrich or Romney, as their personalities and history provide significant doubt without ever truly impressing. Then there is the obvious overall strategy that just concentrates on faulting and discrediting Obama, aimed to make him seem incapable and incompetent, with it always dependent on just getting an emotional response. That really fails to survive any rational and objective viewing when actually: Obama inherited the problems from Bush-Cheney; the Republican / Tea Party has aggressively worked at blocking all efforts; what they blame Obama for has been the result of policies they implemented / supported; they have irresponsibly refused to offer any bipartisanship / cooperation (how our government is suppose to work); and instead the Republicans have stubbornly put their political ambitions first, without conscientious regard for anything else.

    It is hard to have any confidence in them when they are completely dependent on attacking Obama to gain an emotional reaction and fail to ever acknowledge Bush-Cheney’s total focus on “the few” (1%), those who strongly supported them and “pulled their strings”, while they gave the majority (99%) only apathy, the costs and an abundance of subterfuge to rationalize and deceive – and then they fail to ever declare their own departure from that self-serving behavior. It is said that the current Republican Party is owned and controlled by “the money” and as such that they are totally incapable of ever responsibly governing – there is nothing they say, or more importantly demonstrate, that dispels that thinking – and everything indicates they seek to return to “more of the same”, Bush-Cheney style. They attempt to play people’s emotions but offer nothing real, only a history that should really scare.

    We have significant problems that, as Bush-Cheney so greatly proved, will never be resolved but will actually get worse with a continued concentration on “the few”. Obama and the Democrats leave real room for improvement but still provide more honesty, are more focused on the people and are not owned by “the money”, are not just depending on the power, influence and money of their supporters to overtly and covertly con the voters and manipulate public opinion. It would be nice to have a clear choice that responsibly represents the total middle-class but we don’t, and the Republican / Tea Party has proven repeatedly that they favor only the very wealthy and just strive to con the majority – the only way to break that ownership by “the money” is to firmly reject their words and their candidates.

    January 20, 2012 at 3:39 am | Report abuse |
  11. rob

    What is wrong with the media? CNN wrongly used the completely bogus number of 500,000 employees for Apple Corporation in China, and nobody calls them out? Foxconn has 500K employees in China. Yes, Foxconn makes iPods, iPhones, and the like. But they make much of everything else you buy in consumer electronics too. They are a Taiwanese company operating in the PRC (Commie China to Republicans).

    Apple merely outsources production to them. For that function Apple would be lucky to have a few hundred people on the Chinese side. Domestic sales in China would add more, but that is retailing, not production. So CNN misuses the number of employees of an outsourcer, only a fraction of whom work on Apple products, calls them Apple employees while none of these head up the but "fact checkers" smelling a rat?

    January 20, 2012 at 3:39 am | Report abuse |
  12. Food Stamp Economy

    As far as I can tell, all of the Republican campaigns (except possibly Paul's) are based on one BIG lie – that the Bush recession and its after-effects are President Obama's doing. This is the lie Gingrich is selling when he calls Obama a "food stamp president". This is the lie Santorum is selling when he talks of "the economic squalor President Obama has visited on the American economy". This is the lie Romney is selling when he claims as he constantly does that Obama made the recession worse. Romney's lie is particularly absurd because it blatantly contradicts the facts (job losses were at their most severe (820,000) in January 2009, the month Obama took office! In the last 2 years the economy has added back about 2.7 million jobs; GDP has grown for 9 quarters straight after shrinking by about 9% the quarter before Obama took office; corporate profits are back to pre-recession levels; the Dow has added 4000 points since Obama took over; etc). This whole Republican strategy of blaming the Bush recession on Obama stinks to high heaven. It's not something you'd have to resort to if you actually had a legitimate argument.

    January 20, 2012 at 3:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Motoman

      On the recession, Obama DID make it worse. Few will disagree with this unless they receive their daily bread from his taxpayer handouts.

      On the foodstamp economy, numbers speak for themselves. Have you even compared the foodstamp benificiary numbers from Bush vs Obama? They even give out awards to states who can get the most people signed up for the programs.

      On Unemployment, you fail to cite the numbers that matter.
      -How many people were full-time employed at the end of Bush's term? How many are EMPLOYED mid-way through Obammy's term (with all his stimulus and bailouts included?) ..remember, they quit counting people after a while, doesn't mean they are EMPLOYED.

      On the DOW, employment, and other indicators, your numbers are misleading. Government jobs (or government subsidized jobs) do not contribute to GDP or the tax base (they are paid out of it.) ...he's spent how many trillions of dollars borrowed from our children and that is what he has to show for it? A few points on the DOW and a bunch of people who fell off the unemployment rolls and made the numbers look better through closed eyes?

      Oh my, talk about a pathetic return on your investment. And to think they want to run our medical system?!?!

      January 23, 2012 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
  13. Food Stamp Economy

    Any honest appraisal of the state of the economy under Obama must acknowledge the horrible state of affairs he inherited. If he is a "food stamp president" as the always classy Newt Gingrich puts it, it is because he inherited a food stamp economy. Any honest appraisal must also acknowledge the indisputable fact that the economy is recovering: jobs have been returning at a rate of 100,000 per month for the past 2 years, we've had 9 straight quarters of GDP growth, corporate profits are back to pre-recession levels, and the Dow is up 4000 points from where it was when Obama took office. Any economic story that ignores these two facts is a lie – plain and simple.

    January 20, 2012 at 4:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Nathan G.

      While one must acknowledge that President Obama inherited a mess, one cannot ignore the fact that the economy still is a mess. Are there other mitigating factors? Of course – obstruction in Congress, general lack of confidence, lies, pandering, etc. The economy is recovering – and it does have a long way to go. It is a shame that the President has been unable to push through much of the other legislation that could have helped (note "could", not "would"). If politicians (and on both sides of the aisle) were more focused on actually helping people we would see less posturing and more positive action.

      Don't get me wrong; I like the President. I think he genuinely means well. There is however a part of me that wishes he wouldn't settle on half-measures (however helpful some of those have been) simply to be able to at least stick a band-aid on the gaping sore years of mismanagement have left. Maybe it wouldn't accomplish much, but I'm a fan of idealism – I like the idea of staring down the face of corporate greed and saying, "No, that's not good enough."

      January 20, 2012 at 4:28 am | Report abuse |
    • ljmel

      Maybe something should be said about the positives of actually having food stamps available to those who qualify to receive them. Maybe those who don't need them now, and yell about them, might in the future. Perhaps having millions underfed or starving in other countries is something the Republicans are willing to accept. Maybe food riots and increased crime is OK with them. Let them eat cake...right Newt.

      January 20, 2012 at 9:18 am | Report abuse |
  14. migeli

    I just love when republican politicians avoid giving a forthright answer to a legitimate question by saying "we should leave the government out of this and leave that decision to the states." Well if the federal government was not involved in our lives and we left big decisions up to the "states" we'd still have slavery would'nt we?Something it seems the one percent would enjoy having back in this country. That' s what they did with all those tax cuts that were supposed to create jobs.They sent those jobs to countries where they could pay slave wages.TAX the rich. OBAMA 4 MORE Years.!

    January 20, 2012 at 4:22 am | Report abuse |
  15. Antonio Gonzalez

    God bless the world and President Obama.

    January 20, 2012 at 5:21 am | Report abuse |
    • geraldjones

      yep, antonio jump that border...

      January 20, 2012 at 8:37 am | Report abuse |
    • A-PIFF-A-KNEE

      YES! Food stamps for all! Can I have my allowance now uncle sam??

      January 20, 2012 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
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