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. Christina

    Did you fail to notice that it was a GOP debate?

    January 20, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Rogelio

    Santorum is a liar! Cause that's what he did.

    January 20, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Ray

    Its pretty bad when you have to check the facts of a fact check. I urge anyone to read up on the Employment Act of 1946 and show me how that act has anything to do with either direct or indirect infusion of taxpayer money into the economy as a way to increase employment. The tax rate is also taken out of historical context. In 1945 the entire economy was focused on the war effort. For someone to be in the top tax bracket, they were making money from the war. At that point war profiteer was still frowned upon and therefor the justification for the high tax rate.

    This is a pathetic article and is far short of a "fact check". CNN should be ashamed.

    January 20, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • PatSJ

      You are sadly mistaken. It was not all "war-profiteering" that caused people to make money. They made money all kinds of honest ways, just by selling goods to civilians and the military, investing wisely, etc.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ray


      Sorry but you are wrong. When 40% of the economy was directly related to the war and the other 60% was geared towards sustaining a country to maintain that 40% effort, anyone making enough to be in the top tax bracket was there because of the war. Either directly or indirectly.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  4. PA_outwork

    one big thing we learned is how useless John King and CNN really is!

    January 20, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Michael

    This is the best the Republican / Tea Party can come up with Romney the flip flopper who hides his money in the Cayman Islands or Newt the born again lobbist and then there is Ron Paul the nutty uncle and last but not least
    Santorum who hates Gay's and compares them to Beastulality.
    Obama looks better to me after taking a hard look at thease clowns.

    January 20, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Scott F

    The only thing that is fact is that these Republican politicians could not pass a polygraph or psychiatric examination. All I hear from them is ideology with no solutions. They are the definition of Monday morning quarterbacks. They simply cannot and should be trusted.-Period.

    January 20, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      have you looked at the back log of bills that have been presented to the Senate from the house and our House Majority Leader is just sitting on them.

      January 20, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      whoops and my bad, I should've said Senate leader. So sorry

      January 20, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Don

    I try, I try, I try to come back to CNN where I believe the best news of any network is found, but, then I see this. Just the first fact and your response is pathetic. Take note of the first two paragraphs of your facts check. They are a total defense of why Mr. Obama had such a hard time controlling the economy. Neither paragraph actually is to the point of the comment except to defend Mr. Obama. You blame the past Administration and the Republican Congress. You fail to mention his first two years where he had a majority in both houses and still could not do anything except increase the deficit. Please, if you are just checking the facts, just do so and don't take sides. I assume you will do this same check when the Presidential debates begin this summer. Be fair and I'll continue viewing, be prejudice and you will loose me and any other open minded Americans forever.

    January 20, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
  8. BLKvotingAmerican

    OK.........................so each and everytime this "fact check" comes out............WHY on God's green earth are the repuks constantly telling just bold-faced LIES? Are they (repuks) really that far-gone or disconnected from REALITY? Really!

    January 20, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • HowIgnorantCanYouBe

      ummm... i guess you missed the part where it said romney was truthful and factual.. don't let obama's kool-aid blind you... have a nice day on welfare, glad i could buy your dog a steak and a pack of smokes for you

      January 20, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
  9. jude

    forget the hook, the bong...a loud recording of joe's "You Lie" needs to be blurted out with a bullhorn every time one of these fools LIE. cover our ears folks.

    January 20, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
  10. saywhat

    6 of our Marines and 4 French soldiers were killed in Afghanistan yesterday. The loss of lives and depletion of our ( do we still have it?) National Treasure continues with no end in sight. 4.9 trillion dollars and counting according to Cost of War.com.

    And these ignorant self serving politicos like Romney, Gingrich and Santorum, aspiring to lead this nation have no clue to the reality on the ground and any realization of their follies & mistakes which landed this nation in this mess or how to get out. They lust for more.
    In fact if they are allowed they would lead us right to the brink, teetering on the edge of a disaster of epic proportions. God help us.

    January 20, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      I'm sorry did I miss something is not King Obama that is in charge right now?

      January 20, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Joe

    Who are you guys kidding, Democrats had super majority in the house and the senate for the first full year of president Obama's office, and at no time did he attempt to balance the budget for that matter have any budget. This article would be more believable if you simply stated facts without stating your sympathies.

    January 20, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Joe

    did you know the Republicans wanted to allow returning military to be first in line for jobs with airport screening and the Democratic Party insisted that unions run our airports.

    January 20, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Joe

    has anyone else noticed that as soon as Obama took office we were no longer getting the daily death counts in all the wars going on we were no longer getting the protests about the wars going on, this begs the question with the media only plane up these things for political reasons. Because as far as I can see it makes all their previous efforts disingenuous.

    January 20, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Wes

    "The facts: The Obama administration has struggled to bring down a staggering – and growing – budget deficit since taking office in 2009. "

    Definitely a wrong fact there. Not only has Obama pushed through huge spending bills, but Democrats had control of Congress since 2006 until last year. What do Democrats do? They spend. What's unfortunate is the establishment GOP likes to spend too.

    It's not really about Ds and Rs anymore. It's big government vs. small government.

    Btw, it's a Complete Joke that CNN has Erick Erickson as a post-debate commentator. He's the editor-in-chief of a neocon site that blatantly bans anyone who says something nice about Ron Paul. CNN greatly discredits itself having Erickson on.

    January 20, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Joe

    as far as I can tell this news commentator wouldn't know the truth if it came up and slapped them in the face

    January 20, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mars Attacks

      So why don't you refute what was said here instead of just flinging insults? Maybe because...you can't contradict what was said? Maybe because you hide from truths you don't want to hear?

      January 20, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
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