Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney echoed Fox News in his first debate with President Obama, citing various falsehoods and misleading claims often propagated by the supposedly “fair and balanced” news channel.
Romney: Obama's Plan To Let Bush Tax Cuts Expire For Income Above $250,000 Will “Kill Jobs.” Mitt Romney claimed that the president's plan to let the Bush-era tax cuts expire for income above $250,000 will harm the economy:
ROMNEY: Let me come back and say, why is it that I don't want to raise taxes? Why don't I want to raise taxes on people? And actually, you said it back in 2010. You said, “Look, I'm going to extend the tax policies that we have now; I'm not going to raise taxes on anyone, because when the economy is growing slow like this, when we're in recession, you shouldn't raise taxes on anyone.”
Well, the economy is still growing slow. As a matter of fact, it's growing much more slowly now than when you made that statement. And so if you believe the same thing, you just don't want to raise taxes on people. And the reality is it's not just wealthy people -- you mentioned Donald Trump. It's not just Donald Trump you're taxing. It's all those businesses that employ one-quarter of the workers in America; these small businesses that are taxed as individuals.
You raise taxes and you kill jobs. That's why the National Federation of Independent Businesses said your plan will kill 700,000 jobs. I don't want to kill jobs in this environment. [Presidential debate transcript, 10/3/12, via Politico]
Fox's Varney: “If You Raise Taxes On The So-Called Rich, You Actually Slow The Economy.” Fox Business host Stuart Varney characterized Romney's opposition to tax increases by saying:
VARNEY: If you raise taxes on the so-called rich, you actually slow the economy. You get less growth, so you've got a smaller pie to reshape. [Fox News, America Live, 9/19/12, via Media Matters]
Fox's Hume Railed Against Tax Increases On The Rich: “When's The Last Time One Of These Poor People Offered You A Job?” Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume said that the people affected by letting the Bush tax cuts expire “are the job creators, the people who have money to invest, capital to put at risk, to build enterprises and, they hope, make more money are people that have some money to begin with.” [Media Matters, 7/28/10]
Fact: Economic Research Shows Modest Tax Increase On Wealthy Will Not Affect Economic Recovery
Congressional Research Service: Allowing Wealthy Tax Cuts To Expire Won't “Stifle The Economic Recovery.” A Congressional Research Service (CRS) report on the effect of the Bush tax cuts on the deficit found that economic research “suggests that modest tax rate increases would have little negative impact on long-term economic growth and job creation.” The report concluded:
[A]llowing the high-income tax cuts to expire as scheduled could help reduce budget deficits in the short term without stifling the economic recovery. Research has shown that tax cuts directed to high-income taxpayers have a small stimulative effect because they tend to save any additional income. Increasing tax rates for the richest 1% to 3% of taxpayers (by allowing the high-income tax cuts to expire) will likely neither significantly decrease consumer expenditures nor adversely affect short-term job growth. Increasing taxes to reduce long-term budget deficits after the economy has recovered, will likely have little negative impact on long-term economic growth and job creation. [Congressional Research Service, 7/18/12]
Congressional Research Service: Tax Cuts For The Wealthy Do Not Spur Economic Growth. Talking Points Memo reported on a recent Congressional Research Service report that found “no clear correlation between tax cuts for high earners and economic growth.” TPM's report continued:
“There is not conclusive evidence, however, to substantiate a clear relationship between the 65-year steady reduction in the top tax rates and economic growth,” concluded a report by the Congressional Research Service released Friday. “Analysis of such data suggests the reduction in the top tax rates have had little association with saving, investment, or productivity growth.” [Talking Points Memo, 9/17/12]
Romney: “Under The President's Policies ... Middle-Income Americans Have Seen Their Income Come Down.” Romney claimed that the drop in median income is a result of President Obama's policies:
ROMNEY: The people who are having the hard time right now are middle- income Americans. Under the president's policies, middle-income Americans have been buried. They're just being crushed. Middle- income Americans have seen their income come down by $4,300. This is a -- this is a tax in and of itself. I'll call it the economy tax. It's been crushing. [Presidential debate transcript, 10/3/12, via Politico]
Fox's Varney: Decline In Middle Class Income And Net Worth Largely The Result Of “President Obama's Failed Policies.” Hours before the presidential debate, Fox's Stuart Varney said:
VARNEY: It is a matter of opinion who buried the middle class over the four years. It is a matter of fact that the middle class has been buried over the last four years. You look at the objective facts here; income down 4,000 for the average middle American family, down $4,000 a year in four years.
VARNEY: Look, there is going to be a debate about this tonight. Who buried the middle class? Is it President Obama's policies, or does it go back to the Bush administration and their policies? I've got an opinion, which says it is largely President Obama's failed policies that have produced this mess for the middle class. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 10/3/12, via Media Matters]
Fox's Wallace Pinned Median Income Decline On “Obama's Record.” Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace claimed that the drop in median household income was part of “the Obama record.”
During his broadcast, the following graphic was aired:
[Fox Broadcasting Co., Fox News Sunday, 9/2/12, via Media Matters]
Fact: Median Income Has Been Declining For More Than A Decade, Pre-Dating The Obama Administration
U.S. Census Bureau: Median Income Has Trended Downward For More Than A Decade. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that Median household income has trended downward since 1999. [U.S. Census Bureau, accessed 10/4/12]
Center On Budget And Policy Priorities: Drop In Household Income “Continues A Decade-Long Downward Trend.” In a September 17 report, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) found that the recent decline in median household income is part of a decade-long trend. From the report:
Since the recession started in 2007, median income for working-age households has fallen by 9.3 percent, after adjusting for inflation. This continues a decade-long downward trend. Median income for this group has declined in eight of the last ten years, falling from $63,517 in 2000 (in 2011 dollars) to $61,336 in 2007 and to $55,640 in 2011, a cumulative loss of 12.4 percent or $7,877 since 2000. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 9/17/12]
EPI: Median Income Fell More Than 10 Percent From 2000-10. In a September 14, 2011, report, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), like the CBPP, found that median household income has declined over the last decade:
Between 2000 and 2010, median income for working-age households fell from $61,574 to $55,276, a decline of roughly $6,300, which is more than 10 percent. [Economic Policy Institute, 9/14/11]
Romney Blames Obama For Accumulation Of Debt Since He Took Office. Romney blamed Obama for the "[t]rillion-dollar deficits for the last four years":
ROMNEY: The president said he'd cut the deficit in half. Unfortunately, he doubled it. Trillion-dollar deficits for the last four years. The president's put it in place as much public debt -- almost as much debt held by the public as all prior presidents combined. [Presidential debate transcript, 10/3/12, via Politico]
Fox's Hannity: Obama Has “The Fastest Debt Increase Under A President In U.S. History.” Fox News host Sean Hannity said "$4 trillion is exactly how much of the national debt had increased under the president's watch." He continued: “Now, it is the fastest debt increase under a president in U.S. history, shocking.” [Fox News, Hannity, 8/24/11, via Media Matters]
Fox's Doocy: Obama “Is Running Up 152 Percent More Debt Than George Bush Per Month.” Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy said that Obama “over 31 months, has run up more than $4 trillion worth of debt. George Bush ran up $4 trillion worth of debt over eight years, 96 months. When you look at the average, this president is running up 152 percent more debt than George Bush per month.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/25/11, via Media Matters]
Fox's Carlson Blamed Obama For Increased Deficit Levels After 2008. Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson blamed President Obama for the “huge, huge increase” in federal deficits after 2008. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 6/13/12, via Media Matters]
Fact: Bush Policies Are Responsible For Much Of Deficit Spending Over The Last Few Years
Reagan Adviser Bartlett: “Bush Is More Responsible” For “The Current Budget Deficit.” In a post on The New York Times' Economix blog, former Reagan and George H. W. Bush adviser Bruce Bartlett called the Republican claim that “all increases in the debt or deficit” since his inauguration are President Obama's fault “is, of course, nonsense” because George W. Bush “is more responsible.” [The New York Times, Economix, 6/12/12]
CBPP: “Virtually The Entire Deficit Over The Next Ten Years” Due To Bush Policies, Economic Downturn." The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) published an analysis of federal deficits in December 2009, which was most recently updated on June 28, 2010, titled, “Critics Still Wrong on What's Driving Deficits in Coming Years: Economic Downturn, Financial Rescues, and Bush-Era Policies Drive the Numbers.” The report noted:
Some critics continue to assert that President George W. Bush's policies bear little responsibility for the deficits the nation faces over the coming decade -- that, instead, the new policies of President Barack Obama and the 111th Congress are to blame. Most recently, a Heritage Foundation paper downplayed the role of Bush-era policies (for more on that paper, see p. 4). Nevertheless, the fact remains: Together with the economic downturn, the Bush tax cuts and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq explain virtually the entire deficit over the next ten years.
The report also graphed the effects of Bush's policies and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on the deficit. From the report:
[Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, updated 6/28/10, emphasis in original]
Romney: Many Green Businesses That Received Funding “Happened To Be Owned By People Who Were Contributors To Your Campaigns.” Mitt Romney alleged green energy investments were evidence of crony capitalism:
ROMNEY: You put $90 billion into -- into green jobs. And I -- look, I'm all in favor of green energy. $90 billion, that would have -- that would have hired 2 million teachers. $90 billion.
And these businesses, many of them have gone out of business, I think about half of them, of the ones have been invested in have gone out of business. A number of them happened to be owned by people who were contributors to your campaigns. [Presidential debate transcript, 10/3/12, via Politico]
Michelle Malkin: Solyndra Loan Was An Example Of “Crony Capitalism.” Right-wing columnist and frequent Fox guest Michelle Malkin said of the Solyndra loan guarantee: “One of the hugest investors in the massively failed enterprise just happens to be one of Obama's largest funders, a man named George Kaiser ... You got crony capitalism.” [Fox News, Hannity, 9/14/11, via Nexis]
Fox Has Relentlessly Covered Solyndra And Baseless “Crony Capitalism” Allegations. In the immediate aftermath of Solyndra's bankruptcy, Fox covered Solyndra for over 8 hours, and in 2012 alone, Fox News discussed Solyndra 84 times in primetime. Media coverage also often repeated baseless Republican charges that Solyndra was an example of “crony capitalism.” [Media Matters, 9/7/12, 9/28/11]
Fox: If Another Solar Power Company Goes Bankrupt, “The Obama Administration Would Be 0 For 3” On Green Loans. SoloPower recently opened a solar panel manufacturing plant in Oregon, and is now eligible to draw from its $197 million DOE loan guarantee if it meets certain performance milestones. Comparing SoloPower to Solyndra, Fox News correspondent Dan Springer claimed on America's Newsroom that “if SoloPower fails, the Obama administration would be 0 for 3” [America's Newsroom, 9/28/12, via Media Matters]
FACT: There's No Evidence Of Wrongdoing Regarding Loans To Solyndra And Other Businesses
Bloomberg Businessweek: There Is “No Evidence Of Wrongdoing” After Lengthy Investigation Into Solyndra. Bloomberg Businessweek's Joshua Green reported:
A White House source passed along some information that gives a sense of just how much time, money, and effort has been spent pursuing this investigation: House Republicans have sent 32 congressional letters, compelled 187,000 pages of administration documents, 72,000 pages of documents from Solyndra investors, 9 committee staff briefings, 5 committee hearings, and a sworn committee interview with the Obama bundler who raised money from people involved in the company. Much (but not all) of the committee's $7 million budget has been devoted to funding this inquisition. And it's turned up no evidence of wrongdoing. [Bloomberg Businessweek, 2/17/12]
Solyndra Investors And Lobbyists Included Republican Supporters. As the Huffington Postreported, one of Solyndra's lobbyists was Bill Weld, a “semi-prominent supporter of Mitt Romney.” And Solyndra's second largest investor was Madrone Capital Partners, which is linked to the Walton family, who are major Republican donors. [Huffington Post,5/31/12] [Media Matters, 9/19/11]
Only Three Out Of 26 Loan Guarantees Dispersed Under The Loan Guarantee Program Have Filed For Bankruptcy. Only 3 out of 26 loan guarantees dispersed under the relevant Department of Energy loan guarantee program have gone to companies that later filed for bankruptcy. One of those three, Beacon Power, is still operating, has repaid most of its loan guarantee, and rehired most of its employees. Knowing that not all companies supported by the program would succeed, Congress budgeted $2.47 billion to cover for defaults. According to a Bloomberg Government analysis, that will be more than enough even if every high-risk project fails. [Media Matters, 9/28/12]
Romney: One Way To Deal With The Deficit Is To Cut Spending, And “Obamacare's On My List.” Romney indicated that cutting spending including a repeal of the Affordable Care Act would reduce the deficit:
ROMNEY: And the amount of debt we're adding, at a trillion a year, is simply not moral.
So how do we deal with it? Well, mathematically, there are three ways that you can cut a deficit. One, of course, is to raise taxes. Number two is to cut spending. And number is to grow the economy, because if more people work in a growing economy, they're paying taxes, and you can get the job done that way.
ROMNEY: What things would I cut from spending? Well, first of all, I will eliminate all programs by this test, if they don't pass it: Is the program so critical it's worth borrowing money from China to pay for it? And if not, I'll get rid of it. Obamacare's on my list. [Presidential debate transcript, 10/3/12, via Politico]
Frequent Fox Guest: Repealing Obamacare Would Not Increase The Deficit. Frequent Fox guest Betsey McCaughey cherry-picked data to challenge the fact that the Affordable Care Act will reduce the deficit. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/10/12]
Fox's Krauthammer: Health Care Reform Won't Reduce Deficit. Fox contributor Charles Krauthammer claimed that if Democrats say the health care reform law “is going to reduce the deficit,” they're “talking out of [their] hat”:
KRAUTHAMMER: People are not stupid. If people say we're passing a bill that is going to expand coverage to 33 million Americans who haven't had it, and this is going to reduce the deficit, they know you're talking out of your hat. Or that you've jiggled the numbers in such a way as to make it look like that.
The argument against this deficit reduction is so clear, it's so obvious, so easy to make; if Republicans can't make it, they don't deserve to be the opposition. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 1/18/11]
FACT: Repealing Obamacare Would Increase The Deficit
Congressional Budget Office: Repealing Obamacare Would Mean “Adding $109 Billion To Federal Budget Deficits” Between 2013-2022. In a letter to John Boehner scoring the cost of repealing the Affordable Care Act, the CBO and Joint Committee on Taxation concluded repeal would result in a $109 billion net deficit increase over the 2013-2022 period:
Assuming that H.R. 6079 is enacted near the beginning of fiscal year 2013, CBO and JCT estimate that, on balance, the direct spending and revenue effects of enacting that legislation would cause a net increase in federal budget deficits of $109 billion over the 2013-2022 period. Specifically, we estimate that H.R. 6079 would reduce direct spending by $890 billion and reduce revenues by $1 trillion between 2013 and 2022, thus adding $109 billion to federal budget deficits over that period. [Congressional Budget Office, 7/24/12]
Romney: “I'm Going To Stop The Subsidy To PBS.” Romney vowed to end subsidies for public broadcasting:
ROMNEY: I'm sorry, Jim, I'm going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I'm going to stop other things. I like PBS, I love Big Bird. Actually like you, too. But I'm not going to -- I'm not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for. That's number one. [Presidential debate transcript, 10/3/12, via Politico]
Fox Has Frequently Pushed For An End To Public Broadcasting Subsidies. Fox has called for defunding of corporate broadcasting for years, labeling NPR and PBS “blatantly unfair,” “state-run radio,” and “the biggest inside joke for the left all along.” [Media Matters, 10/22/10]
FACT: Defunding PBS Would Have Almost No Effect On The Deficit
The Federal Government Spends $450 Million Per Year On Public Broadcasting Compared With $3.5 Trillion That It Spends Overall. CNN reported that the federal government spends about $450 million on the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which helps fund PBS and PBS affiliates. By contrast, total federal spending is about $3.5 trillion:
What Romney hasn't been saying is exactly how much cutting those particular programs would save. The answer? Not very much.
Stripping all federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting -- which helps fund PBS -- would save around $450 million a year.
That's $450 million with an “m,” not a “b” -- and it pales in comparison to the roughly $3.5 trillion the government will spend this year. [CNN.com, 1/3/12]
Corporation For Public Broadcasting: More Than Half Of All Public Broadcasting Stations Would Be Put “At Risk” If Federal Funding Is Cut. A CPB study concluded that if federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting was suddenly cut off, noncommercial stations “would struggle to survive”:
Noncommercial radio and television stations in many localities would struggle to survive without the national impact, high quality content and accountability that federal funding has made possible for the last 45 years. [Corporation for Public Broadcasting, 6/20/12 via Media Matters]
Romney: I Will “Bring Down Rates” In Order “To Create More Jobs” To Bring In More Revenue. Romney claimed that lower tax rates will create more jobs and bring more bring in more revenue:
ROMNEY: What I do is I bring down the tax rates, lower deductions and exemptions, the same idea behind Bowles-Simpson, by the way, get the rates down, lower deductions and exemptions, to create more jobs, because there's nothing better for getting us to a balanced budget than having more people working, earning more money, paying more taxes. That's by far the most effective and efficient way to get this budget balanced. [Presidential debate transcript, 10/3/12, via Politico]
Fox's Kilmeade: Raising Taxes For Wealthy Will Give Money To Government Instead Of “Hiring More People.” Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade claimed that raising taxes on the wealthy would give more money “to the government as opposed to investing it in different areas, starting a different company, hiring more people:”
KILMEADE: So OK, so you have the federal tax, outside states like Florida, then you have a state tax of another 10 percent. So you're already giving -- so you're already working -- you're only getting 60 percent of what you earn.
And by the way, the stats also show that the most fortunate ones, you know, the ones that inherit all that money, they also start foundations and give more money than almost everybody else. So, in other words, they're supposed to feel bad about this, feel humble about what they've earned, give more of it to the government as opposed to investing it in different areas, starting a different company, hiring more people. I mean, that to me -- in one sense, you have 73 pages of a specific way forward to address a $14.2 trillion deficit, and this speech was, I'd like to be president again. That's what this speech was. [Media Matters, 4/14/11]
Fact: Economists Agree That Lowering Taxes For Wealthy Does Not Create Jobs Or Generate Revenue
Tax Policy Center: “Higher Income Households Are More Likely To Bank the Cash Than Spend It.” In an August 31, 2010, post, Tax Policy Center economist Howard Gleckman pointed out that tax cuts for the wealthy generally do not go back into the economy. Gleckman noted: “We know that higher income households are more likely to bank the cash than spend it. As a result, tax cuts for these high-earners will do relatively little to boost the economy in the short run.” [Tax Policy Center, 8/31/10]
CBO: “Increasing The After-Tax Income Of Businesses Typically Does Not Create Much Incentive” For Them To Hire. In a January 2010 report titled, “Policies for Increasing Economic Growth and Employment in 2010 and 2011,” the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) explained that tax cuts for businesses do not lead to job growth:
Deferring the scheduled increases in tax rates in 2011 would help some businesses as well as households. In particular, it would keep lower tax rates in place in that year for businesses that do not pay the corporate income tax (the pass-through entities such as sole proprietorships, partnerships, S corporations, and limited liability companies). However, increasing the after-tax income of businesses typically does not create much incentive for them to hire more workers in order to produce more, because production depends principally on their ability to sell their products. [Congressional Budget Office, January 2010]
Top Bush Economic Adviser Mankiw: Claim That Broad-Based Income Tax Cuts Increase Revenue Is Not “Credible,” Capital Income Tax Cuts Also Don't Pay For Themselves. Economist Greg Mankiw, a Romney advisor who also served as chair of the Bush Council of Economic Advisers (CEA), wrote on his blog on July 2, 2007 that the claim that “broad based income tax cuts” would “raise tax revenue” was not “credible:”
I used the phrase “charlatans and cranks” in the first edition of my principles textbook to describe some of the economic advisers to Ronald Reagan, who told him that broad-based income tax cuts would have such large supply-side effects that the tax cuts would raise tax revenue. I did not find such a claim credible, based on the available evidence. I never have, and I still don't.
My other work has remained consistent with this view. In a paper on dynamic scoring, written while I was working at the White House, Matthew Weinzierl and I estimated that a broad-based income tax cut (applying to both capital and labor income) would recoup only about a quarter of the lost revenue through supply-side growth effects. For a cut in capital income taxes, the feedback is larger--about 50 percent--but still well under 100 percent. A chapter on dynamic scoring in the 2004 Economic Report of the President says about the the [sic] same thing. [Greg Mankiw, 7/2/07]
Krugman: After Reagan's 1981 Tax Cuts, “Revenues Are Permanently Reduced Relative To What They Would Otherwise Have Been.” In a July 2010 post on his New York Times blog, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman explained that Reagan and Bush tax cuts did not result in a permanent increase in revenue:
[T]he revenue track under Reagan looks a lot like the track under Bush: a drop in revenues, then a resumption of growth, but no return to the previous trend.
This is exactly what you would expect to see if supply-side economics were just plain wrong: revenues are permanently reduced relative to what they would otherwise have been. [The New York Times, 7/15/10]