Facts Don’t Get In Their Way

Politicians have few equals when it comes to stretching the truth. If you doubt that, Google “presidential fact checks” and you will come up with more examples than you can wade through.

All of the presidential and vice presidential candidates are guilty of saying whatever appeals to the masses at the moment. Our only hope for getting at the truth now rests with the presidential debates scheduled during October. However, even that may not clear the air. Conservatives are already complaining about the selection of moderators.

“Why is it that the so-called ‘nonpartisan’ Commission on Presidential Debates can only pick left-wing moderators?” asked GOPUSA, a private company that says its mission is to spread the conservative message throughout America. Other groups voiced the same concerns.

The moderators are Jim Lehrer, host of “NewsHour” on PBS; Martha Raddatz, chief foreign correspondent for ABC News; Candy Crowley, chief political correspondent for CNN; and Bob Schieffer, host of “Face the Nation” on CBS.

Like them or not, we can only hope each one will make a serious effort to clear the air over some of the wild claims made by President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and Republican vice presidential nominee U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

Let’s begin with Obama since his speech is the latest of the four.

The president said he can create a million new manufacturing jobs in the next four years. Obama claimed an increase of 500,000 manufacturing jobs over the past 29 months. But the Associated Press called that “cherry picking” since manufacturing jobs have declined by more than 500,000 since he took office.

Obama said he wants to make sure millionaires are taxed at higher rates than their secretaries. Quoting private and government data, the AP said, on average, the wealthiest people in America pay a lot more taxes than the middle class or the poor. The 10 percent of households with the highest incomes pay more than half of all federal taxes and more than 70 percent of federal income taxes, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Biden said Romney believes in a global economy and wants a territorial tax that will create 800,000 jobs, all of them overseas. The AP said Romney’s proposal is actually aimed at encouraging investment in the U.S., not overseas.

The vice president said the Republican Medicare plan would immediately cut benefits to more than 30 million seniors already on Medicare. He added that the GOP plan would cause Medicare to go bankrupt by 2016.

The AP said Biden wasn’t talking about any Medicare plan by Romney or Ryan. He was referring to what would happen if Obama’s health care law was fully repealed, and that isn’t likely to happen. Ryan’s Medicare plan wouldn’t have an immediate effect because it would apply only to future retirees, according to the AP.

Even former President Bill Clinton, the superstar of the Democratic National Convention, has a tendency to forget history. He portrayed Obama as a pragmatic compromiser, but the AP said the president and Democrats have both played a role in grinding compromise to a halt. It added that there are few true moderates left in either party and Republicans aren’t the only ones standing in the way of compromise.

Clinton and the Democrats like to talk about the golden years of the former president, but the AP said Clinton leaves out the “abrupt downward turn” the economy took near the end of his second term. It added that Clinton supported the 1999 repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act that paved the way for banks to make risky investments that played a role in the 2008 financial meltdown.

Romney’s biggest fault, according to the AP, is his lack of details about how he would increase jobs, reduce the federal debt and annual deficits and reform Medicare.

“Mitt Romney promised voters Thursday night that he would cut deficits and put America on track to a balanced budget as president, but he left voters to take it on faith that he could deliver,” the AP said. “The details behind that pledge, and the painful spending choices involved are conspicuously lacking in his agenda.”

Romney blames Obama for cuts to the military, but the AP said the automatic cuts he is talking about are the result of a bipartisan agreement that Romney’s running mate helped steer through Congress.

Ryan, in his acceptance speech, was accused of taking “some factual shortcuts” when he attacked Obama’s policies on Medicare, the economic stimulus and the budget deficit. The AP said Ryan’s claim that Obama raided Medicare in his health care act ignores the fact that Ryan incorporated some of the same budget cuts as chairman of the House Budget Committee. None of the Housepassed budgets made it through the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Obama’s stimulus funding was called political patronage by Ryan. But the AP said Ryan asked for some of those funds himself. He has also had to correct the misconception that Obama was responsible for closing a General Motors plant in Wisconsin that halted production before the president took office.

These are just a sampling of the many misconceptions the candidates have given voters during this presidential campaign. If the debates don’t help us separate fact from fiction, God save us from the consequences.

Jim Beam, the retired editor of the Lake Charles American Press, has covered people and politics for more than five decades. Contact him at 337-494-4025 or [email protected].

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