News Column

On Deficit, China: Which 'Facts' Stand

Oct. 17, 2012

By Paul Davidson, Tim Mullaney, Gregory Korte, Susan Davis, and Aamer Madhani, USA TODAY

In their second debate, President Obama and Mitt Romney took questions from an audience of undecided Long Island voters. Some of their responses deserve a deeper look:


Claim: Romney said he will create 12 million new jobs in his first term.

Facts: Romney's pledge to create 12 million jobs has been hotly contested in large part because economic forecasters, including Moody's Analytics, predict roughly 12 million jobs will be created over the next four years -- no matter who is elected president.

Romney's pledge means 250,000 jobs will have to be added every month for four years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment growth has averaged 139,000 a month in 2012 and 153,000 per month in 2011.

Romney's five-part jobs plan is shy on details but says jobs will be created by achieving North American energy independence by 2020, expanding U.S. trade efforts, training workers, cutting the deficit and promoting small businesses.

Oil on federal lands

Claim: Romney said drilling on federal lands is down 14% under Obama.

Facts: By most measures, the federal land open to energy production is down. From 2008 to 2011, according to the Bureau of Land Management, active oil and gas leases are down 3%, acres under lease are down 19% and drilling permits are down 35%. The widely cited 14% figure -- the amount of oil produced from federal lands -- is reflects a one-year period following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The Obama administration instituted a temporary moratorium on deepwater drilling after the incident.

One other reason for the decline may be market factors. An Obama administration official told Congress this year that one big reason for the decrease in drilling on federal lands is that new technology -- a controversial process known as "fracking" -- made it easier and cheaper to drill on private lands. "Much of the easy plays are located right now on private mineral estate," said Bureau of Land Management Director Bob Abbey.


Claim: In response to a question from a college student, Romney said, "I want to make sure we keep our Pell Grant program growing."

Facts: Romney's white paper on education, "A Chance for Every Child," suggests that a Romney administration would reverse the growth in Pell Grant funding. Indeed, he sharply criticizes Obama for doubling funding for Pell Grants.

The May 23 position paper said, "A Romney Administration will refocus Pell Grant dollars on the students that need them most and place the program on a responsible long-term path that avoids future funding cliffs and last-minute funding patches."


Claim: Romney said Obama pledged to cut the deficit in half, but he doubled it instead.

Facts: This is partly true. Obama did make that commitment on the $1.3 trillion deficit when he took office, declaring in February 2009: "I am pledging to cut the deficit we inherited in half by the end of my first term in office." He didn't. But he didn't double it, either.

The Congressional Budget Office projected the 2012 fiscal year deficit, which ended Sept. 30, at $1.09 trillion. The deficit has fallen slightly on Obama's watch, but he fell far short of cutting it in half.

The deficit fell 16% during the 2012 fiscal year, the Treasury Department said Oct. 16. The department said tax receipts rose as the economy grew, and spending to fight the recession and its aftermath declined.


Claim: Obama said Romney invested in a company that is helping Chinese authorities spy on its people.

Facts: In December 2011, a Bain-run fund in which a Romney family blind trust has holdings purchased the video surveillance division of a Chinese company, Uniview Technologies, according to a March report in The New York Times. Uniview is the largest supplier to the government's Safe Cities program, a controversial monitoring system that allows the Chinese authorities to watch over university campuses, places of worship and other gathering places through centralized command posts.

After The New York Times published its story, the Romney stressed that his investments were managed by a blind trust, underscoring that he didn't have direct control of where Bain invested after he left the private venture firm. "I don't make investments in Bain or anywhere else," Romney told reporters at the time. "That's done by a trustee who makes decisions that he thinks are correct."


Claim: Obama said Romney called Arizona's controversial immigration law a "model" for the rest of the nation.

Facts: Romney quickly corrected Obama on this one, saying he was referring only to the E-verify provision of the Arizona law.

"You know, I think you see a model in Arizona," Romney said during a Feb. 22 debate, adding: "They passed a law here that says -- that says that people who come here and try and find work, that the employer is required to look them up on E-verify. This E-verify system allows employers in Arizona to know who's here legally and who's not here legally."

Source: Copyright USA TODAY 2012

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