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. Name*Teachmehowtodougie

    Santorum, like all the others, are hypocrites. When are the middleclass Americans going to learnn that the fat cats in our country are keeping us at each others throats while they get richer. Keep getting fooled and it's Goodbye, Democracy!!
    Stop letting your racial and social ignorance blind you and bring you down. Study how Hitler came to power and you will see a striking resemblance to what the fats cats are doing right now. Wake up, America!

    January 21, 2012 at 4:35 am | Report abuse |
    • ___________________

      You're an idiot.

      January 21, 2012 at 7:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Mr. Smith

      You're brilliant

      January 21, 2012 at 9:13 am | Report abuse |
    • _____

      I know.

      January 21, 2012 at 10:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Marcus

      "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, this is according to the Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan Washington research group."

      When Republicans asked GOP President Dwight D. Eisenhower to lower taxes he stated ... "We cannot afford to reduce taxes and reduce income until we have in sight a program of expenditure that shows that the factors of income and outgo will be balanced."

      Ronald Reagan arrived at the White House in 1981 touting three major agenda items. Two of these were just like George Bush's 20 years later: greatly increase defense spending and slash taxes on the wealthy (remember its called "Voodoo Economics). He did both. His greatest effort was devoted to cutting the top tax rate from 70% to 50% to 38% to 28%, giving obesely wealthy Americans gigantic new piles of money to play with. The national debt nearly tripled on Reagan's watch, from $993 billion to $2.6 trillion. George W. Bush added an extra $4.9 trillion to the national debt while he smirked his way around the Oval Office.

      So the question is WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU AMERICANS? Can't you do the math? Look around at our infrastructure and understand that the loss of Tax Revenue ( from 94% to 28%) is destroying our country and bringing back the Robber Barons. Wow!

      We've got to go back to what worked for America!

      January 21, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Realist

      Marcus – True there was $2.6 Trillion defcit under Reagan. An extra $4.9 Trillion added under Bush.

      How, if Obama is such a success is your deficit NOW $17+ Trillion? You can't blame Congress – he bypassed them for most of It.

      January 21, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
  2. fiftysomething

    Amazing that in republican's eyes, past morality only applies to democrats. I couldn't see why Newt evading the question about his character and past sins made the audience applaud. Can't people see the hypocrisy and evasiveness in his answer? I don't see how the republicans can ever take the high ground on religious or morality matters again, but I have underestimated their hypocrisy before.

    January 21, 2012 at 6:38 am | Report abuse |
    • ___________________

      You're an idiot, too.

      January 21, 2012 at 7:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Mr. Smith

      You're brilliant too.

      January 21, 2012 at 9:14 am | Report abuse |
    • _____

      Why, thank you, Mr. Smith!

      But I already knew that.

      January 21, 2012 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Natfka

      your also overly dramatic.

      January 21, 2012 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
  3. ___________________

    Who is fact-checking CNN?

    January 21, 2012 at 7:24 am | Report abuse |
  4. Joe

    CNN fact checking is like Obama's presidency; a complete fraud.

    January 21, 2012 at 7:58 am | Report abuse |
    • _____

      The fraud ends in November. Just make sure you go out and vote, Joe.

      January 21, 2012 at 9:57 am | Report abuse |
  5. Joe

    I could not believe my ears when I heard Newt's blast back to that CNN twit. I don't give a hoot about what went on between Newt and his second wife. The FACT that CNN and the other Obama networks are in the tank for the left is
    crystal clear. They spent no where near the air time on Obama's past as they have on any conservative front runner.

    January 21, 2012 at 8:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Ray

      I wonder if CNN will give as much time to calls for Obama to release his college transcripts as it has to demands that Romney release his tax return.

      January 21, 2012 at 8:19 am | Report abuse |
    • _____

      C'mon, Ray.... do you think the liberals who run CNN really want the public to know that maybe Obozo really wasn't THAT smart after all?

      As if we couldn't figure it out for ourselves with people giving up looking for work and the doubling of the poverty rate since he took office?

      January 21, 2012 at 9:59 am | Report abuse |
    • carey baddour

      Since when does the party of G.W. Bush care about intelligence? The hypocrisy on the right has no end. You have two front runner candidates, both of whom authored health care reform bills (one in Mass. the other through the Heritage Foundation) yet you call the president a socialist for proposing the same ideas. Gingrich lead the charge to impeach Clinton and the right couldn't condemn his actions enough- until one of their own does the same and then its "deplorable" to talk about these personal issues. I will stick with President Obama- who values the family, education and hard work. I am proud that my home state of NC elected him- we will be a blue state again this year.

      January 21, 2012 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
  6. Ray

    To determine how much of a fraud this fact check is, read up on the Employee Act of 1946. CNN uses this as proof that Ron Paul's statements about returning World War II military personnel is misleading. Also, the GI Bill has nothing to do with the immediate employment of those military personnel. The comments about the top tax rate are also misleading because they are taken out of their historical context. In 1945 40% of the economy was directly related to the war effort. The other 60% was economic activity associated with making sure that 40% could continue. If someone was in the top tax bracket during that time, they were making money off the war effort. Thus the high tax rate to penalize war profiteering. The mention of raising the top tax bracket and lowering the tax rate after the war should illustrate the intent of the tax at the time.

    This is a sad piece of journalism and to pass it off as a fact check is disgusting.

    January 21, 2012 at 8:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Loki

      Thank You.

      January 21, 2012 at 10:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Realist

      Respect to you Ray

      January 21, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Ronald

    These guys really don't understand what the truth is and it seems that they really don't care.

    January 21, 2012 at 9:06 am | Report abuse |
    • _____

      True. The guys at CNN really don't understand what the truth is and it seems they really don't care.

      Good post, Ronald.

      January 21, 2012 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Ronald

      Sorry, I was talking about the GOP candidates!

      January 21, 2012 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
  8. reeba

    If only this group of so-called 'journalists' would give the same scrutiny to their beloved Obama – – THEN and only then would this be considered 'fact-checking' with any credence.

    January 21, 2012 at 9:15 am | Report abuse |
    • _____

      You miss the point, reeba.... the goal of CNN is the re-election of Barack Hussein Obama.

      Nothing else matters.

      January 21, 2012 at 10:02 am | Report abuse |
    • reeba

      You are right – – like 99% of the media.

      January 21, 2012 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
    • cooper49

      Then go read FOX. We all know they are the only truth telling network. ( sarcasim) Follow their lead that Republicans are wonderful, it doesn't matter what they do or say, their always right and always moral. When the Corporate CEO's own this country again and you are working for $4.00 an hour, with gas at $4.00 a gallon, and all Unions have been disbanded, you will sing a different tune. The Republicans will turn the US into a 3rd world country. The rich will control everything and make sure noone can challange them. Oh wait, we have that now.

      January 21, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  9. skepticker

    CNN's fact checking consists of
    1) Determine whether we at CNN like or don't like the candidate.
    2) Pick the "fact" we're going to check based on 1.
    3) If we like candidate, comment labeled as true, and we'll dredge up irrelevant, extraneous "facts" to support the contention. If we don't like the candidate, and we can't find any facts at all to support our case, we'll make something up and call the claim misleading.

    January 21, 2012 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
  10. stanton


    January 21, 2012 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
    • WalkerJA

      Exaclty Stanton! Why are people ignoring the obvious thing that has happened to this country over the past 12 years. The richest of the rich (which inlcudes Romney and Santorum...look at his multimillion dollar house in Great Falls, VA) have everything they ever wanted. Poor whites voting against their own self interest for policies that keep all the wealth at the top of the food chain. Amazing how shortsiighted and actually blind some people are.

      January 21, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Yeshua

      Romney is endorsed and supported by goldman sachs... Obama is also endorsed and supported by goldman sachs....

      January 21, 2012 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
  11. bryan black

    SC Uses Diebold Black Box Voting State Wide! National Security Lab Hacks Diebold Touch-Screen Voting Machine by Remote Control With $26 in Computer Parts: EXCLUSIVE story at Salon. Diebold machine uses standard mini-bar key found everywhere! Florida ditches Diebold after numerous voting irregularities and now uses verifiable paper ballets!

    January 21, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Bil

    Can you at least pretend to be objective ? The fiction you write is a travesty. Your blind following of Obama will destroy what is left of the America where i grew up.

    January 21, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Republican

    Statement: "I've been to 57 states didn't get a chance to visit the other 2"

    Truth: How many states do you think there are? I wonder how much votes from the extra seven states contributed to Obama's election.

    Statement:The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies. … Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that ‘the buck stops here. Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.
    – Barack Obama 2006

    Truth: Obama has done a complete 180.

    January 21, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
  14. J. Bielot

    CNN has ZERO credibility. Do a truth or "pants on fire" fact check on that!! Of course anyone familiar with the network doesn't have to. Truth is self-evident. I rest my case

    January 21, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Patrick

    Haha! The recession that ended in 2009?! Better fact check that. Is someone fact checking the fact checking squad? This is exactly why Fox News AND CNN are falling apart. Look up the term editorialize or sensationalize.

    January 21, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
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