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. nannannan

    You know what the biggest Republican Hypocrisy is? The say that they want less government, they want to shrink government, they want to change government, they dislike the federal government, yet they want to be the head of the government that they dislike so much. They are against the government healthcare, but any of them who are federal employees now or hope to be, have government health insurance-and this is very good insurance-yet they do not want the people to have good health insurance.
    Why would any one want a job at place that they dislike so much? Their words and actions do not make any sense.

    January 21, 2012 at 6:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eagle35

      Members of Congress have good health insurance by any standard, but it’s not free and not reserved only for them – and it’s not government insurance. House and Senate members are allowed to purchase private health insurance offered through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, which covers more than 8 million other federal employees, retirees and their families.

      January 22, 2012 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
  2. nick

    Wow this is great. So glad the truth squad is completely objective. Could we have an answer that was more partisan? So glad our media is objective.

    January 21, 2012 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • One Percenter

      Nick.... Couldn't agree more. Before I even started to read, I knew the bias would emerge....

      Signed...
      1 %'er

      January 22, 2012 at 7:00 am | Report abuse |
  3. polite centrist

    Nice article. Well done.

    January 21, 2012 at 8:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eagle35

      Sounded like it was written by the DNC! CNN-DNC, Same horse different color!

      January 22, 2012 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
  4. polite centrist

    20 years ago, CNN was the place to go for true, impartial news.
    Moderates could get news without Opinion Pieces.
    Of course, these days Centrist's have to vote Dem because Rep is so far to the right.
    So I still love CNN.

    January 21, 2012 at 8:22 pm | Report abuse |
  5. migeli

    IF You were in a big hole who do you think you could trust to help dig you out,Mitt,Newt,or Obama?Mitt would step all over you guys to get himself out.Newt and his one percent friends are the guys who got you in there.Just take a long look at these two,"Mr. Family Vaues" 3 wives and he cheated on the first two so far.Then we have the multimillionaire who relates so well to the poor and middleclass that he won't show thm his tax returns.Lets stick with Obama. WE ate a tough bunch andwe need the guy we can trust to help us out of this mess.SICK of Republican lies.

    January 22, 2012 at 12:42 am | Report abuse |
  6. migeli

    Don't let the right -wing one percent wealthy goofs who post here scsre you with that "socialism"and "government hand-out "crap of theirs.Most likely they inherited wealth from mommy and daddy or they would have a little understanding of the plight of the rest of us.But noooooo,see they claim to be worried about the debt and the future of their grandchildren when they really need a sixth or seventh mansion in maybe theBahamas this time or maybe junior wants a yacht just like daddy's.

    January 22, 2012 at 1:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Eagle35

      Most wealth is not inherited. Do a little research. Romney donated his inheritance! Can you say the same for Kennedy's whose fortunes came from liquor that has caused so much misery to children due to alcoholism!

      January 22, 2012 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
  7. migeli

    Approaching South Carolina!Set your watches back three thousand years!

    January 22, 2012 at 2:03 am | Report abuse |
  8. sabinabarnes

    Hey, joe your a fake pres obama said change would come, gradully things just take time. As if you could do a better job ! I doubt it your just all talk and. Know action.please stop the madness.

    January 22, 2012 at 4:04 am | Report abuse |
  9. shelby

    Im glad cnn does fact checking i grow tired of partial selective memory of what is real and precieved

    January 22, 2012 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
  10. big Al of KC

    I just love the finger-pointers! Look back thru HISTORY what the Democrats and Republicans have done to this country and to Washington! So stop your one way of thinking, stop complaining and offer solutions and better yet, run for office Know-It-Alls.

    January 22, 2012 at 9:38 am | Report abuse |
  11. usamerica777

    be fruitful and multiply man does not eat by bread alone but by the words out of his mouth

    January 22, 2012 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
  12. Sean

    This purported 'fact-checking' public service is more opinion than fact. Have some journalistic integrity - report the facts and let the people draw their own conclusions. And leave the campaigning to the candidates; your shrouded endorsements of President Obama and his policies are misplaced and discredit you as 'journalists.'

    January 22, 2012 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
  13. mannew

    Keeping the Media Honest, is there any truth in the Truth Squad?

    Rick Santorum 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 key word that denotes what Santorum intended meaning is “welfare”, so Santorum was not referring to “Veterans Affairs” or any other social program that supports Veterans but the “welfare” program in particular; welfare checks and food stamps programs, and there is no proposed cuts to these by Obama to these programs in particular.

    “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.”

    The key word here is “proposed” increases in federal spending to veterans.
    So in fact he as not yet increased it yet, but what as got to be understood in this word game is how he is he proposing to do this if he does indeed intend to cut the defence budget, how is he going to pay for this increase? Obama as already said he is going to cut the Defense budget, fact. And Obama as not proposed any cuts to welfare checks and food stamps programs, fact. So Santorum is telling the truth.

    Hey CNN, you can’t give credit to Obama for doing something that he as not yet done, this is nothing more than a fallacious attempt to make Obama look good without him actually doing what CNN is giving him credit for doing. Shame on you CNN, this kind of reporting is nothing more than this reporter spouting his own obscured political leanings.

    January 22, 2012 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
  14. migeli

    Santorum can't handle the truth!

    January 22, 2012 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
  15. migeli

    Right wing one percenters can't handle cnn's unbiased reporting because the truth about todays Republican party shows true picture of what greedy un-American ignorant fools they are.

    January 22, 2012 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
    • boomshaka

      It's fascinating that u think CNN s opinion articles and news reporting are so unbiased. Reread the article and ask yourself, within each article when mentioning Obamas supposed "budget cuts" does the article ever explain the specific areas within Medicare, social security, the DoD, etc that these budget cuts occure. No it doesn't. So how do u know that these are actually buyer cuts and not a reapropriation of funds. Does it talks about the Hertzberg over the last decade but what about before that? What has Obama done for the veterans of the years before Iraq that are still in the system. What has he done about the money being wasted by government procedure created back in the 70s. Since u obviously don't check your facts. And its not your fault most of this stuff envolves the everyday procedure of how the government is run and isnt reported by news agencies. But, y don't u take another well oiled look at what the article chooses to focus on, think about its perspective. Then think about what its not focusing on and I think that even u will find the bias.

      January 22, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
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