Fact checker: Romney’s frequent claims

Posted Aug. 30, 2012, at 8:47 p.m.

The details of Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention are not known, but he’s been road-testing various claims about President Barack Obama’s record for months. Here are five dubious assertions that he frequently makes on the campaign trail or in his campaign advertisements that he might repeat Thursday night.

“If the president is re-elected, he will succeed in raiding $716 billion from Medicare — from the trust fund you have paid into all your lives — to pay for Obamacare.”

The $716 billion figure comes from the difference over 10 years (2013-2022) between anticipated Medicare spending (what is known as “the baseline”) and the changes the law makes to reduce spending. But the savings are mostly wrung from health-care providers, not Medicare beneficiaries.

While it is correct that anticipated savings from Medicare were used to help offset some of the anticipated costs of expanding health care for all Americans, it does not affect the Medicare trust fund. In fact, the Obama health-care law also raised Medicare payroll taxes by $318 billion over the new 10-year time frame, further strengthening the program’s financial condition.

“President Obama gutted welfare reform. My plan for a stronger middle class will put work back in welfare.”

This highly inaccurate claim is at the center of what the Romney campaign considers its most effective ad. At issue is a memo issued in July by the Department of Health and Human Services, encouraging states to consider “new, more effective ways” of meeting employment goals. As part of that, the head of HHS would consider issuing waivers to states concerning worker participation targets.

The administration’s move was a surprise, although it asserts that it reacted in response to requests from both Democratic and Republican governors. Even supporters suggest that the administration violated the spirit of the law, but no waivers have been issued, and Obama has taken no action to weaken work requirements. Romney is using an extreme interpretation of what might happen under these rules.

“Obama went around the world and apologized for America. . . . Do you want a president who will never, ever apologize for the greatest nation on earth?”

Romney frequently says that Obama apologized overseas for the United States. He even titled his campaign book “No Apology.”

Even more, Romney suggests, Obama does not believe in American strength and greatness. The assertion feeds into a subterranean narrative that Obama, with his mixed-race background, is not really American in the first place.

We tracked down every statement Obama uttered that partisans claim was an apology and concluded that each one had been misquoted or taken out of context.

“President Obama has amassed five trillion dollars of debt — nearly as much debt held by the public as all other presidents combined.”

The number is certainly correct, and the Romney campaign points to remarks made by Obama during the 2008 campaign about the growth of debt under President George W. Bush, using the same metric.

It is simplistic to pin all of the debt increase on Obama’s policies. The debt has gone up because of a mismatch between government spending and revenue — and the explosion of spending and the decline in revenue both began at the start of the recession, a full year before Obama took office.

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