President Obama and former Gov. Mitt Romney delivered dueling speeches on the economy last week, but they need to freshen up their facts. Here's a round-up:
Obama: "They haven't specified exactly where the knife would fall, but here's some of what would happen if that cut that they proposed was spread evenly across the budget."
The facts: The key section of his speech dealt with his claims about what would happen to taxes and certain programs under the House Republican budget (which he then attributed to Romney). The Romney campaign and the House GOP plans are relatively vague about how specific policies would be achieved because they do not want specific proposals to become a target. However, the Congressional Budget Office, in a letter to Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., chairman of the House Budget Committee, warned that proposed targets would leave discretionary spending at potentially unrealistic levels, far below any such spending since World War II.
Obama: "Even if you make all the cuts that they've proposed, the math still doesn't allow you to pay for a new $5 trillion tax cut and bring down the deficit at the same time. So Mr. Romney and his allies have told us we can get the rest of the way there by reforming the tax code and taking away certain tax breaks and deductions that, again, they haven't specified. They haven't named them, but they said we can do it.
"But here's the problem: The only tax breaks and deductions that get you anywhere close to $5 trillion are those that help middle-class families afford health care and college and retirement and homeownership."
The facts: This is an interesting issue. Previous reports have warned that estimates of revenue riches from eliminating so-called tax expenditures may be overstated. Indeed, the Congressional Research Service said that "given the barriers to eliminating or reducing most tax expenditures, it may prove difficult to gain more than $100 billion to $150 billion in additional tax revenues through base broadening." So Obama is on solid ground to suggest Republicans will have trouble meeting their goals.
Obama: "And across America, we've seen them [businesses] create almost 500,000 jobs in the last 27 months, the strongest period of manufacturing job growth since 1995."
The facts: This is correct, based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data, but it is worth remembering that manufacturing jobs have been on a long slide since 1995, falling by almost 3 million. The Great Recession really killed manufacturing, and the number of manufacturing jobs is still 600,000 below the level when Obama took office.
Romney: "The president said the other day that he didn't know that Obamacare was hard for small business. Oh, really? The Chamber of Commerce carried out a survey, some 1,500 businesses across America. Seventy-five percent of those people surveyed said Obamacare made it less likely for them to hire people."
The facts: He clearly had not read previous reports that (a) Obama did not really say that and (b) he was answering a misinformed question. However, with the phrase "those people surveyed," Romney did properly characterize the Chamber of Commerce survey, which cannot be used to draw conclusions about all small businesses -- only the ones that were surveyed.
Romney: "The president said that if we let him borrow $787 billion for a stimulus, he'd keep unemployment below 8 percent nationally. We've now gone 40 straight months with unemployment above 8 percent."
The facts: Romney has said this before, but the president never said this; it was a staff estimate before he took the oath of office.