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Fact check: GOP debate's history flubs

WASHINGTON - Mitt Romney perpetuated one unsubstantiated claim, about his record at Bain Capital, and more or less corrected himself on another, about President Obama's health care law, in the latest Republican presidential debate.

His rivals flubbed history, Newt Gingrich blaming a Democratic president for a jobless rate he never had, and Ron Paul painting an idyllic picture of life before Medicare that did not reflect deprivations of that time.

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A look at some of the claims in the debate Thursday night and how they compare with the facts:


ROMNEY: "We started a number of businesses; four in particular created 120,000 jobs, as of today. We started them years ago. They've grown — grown well beyond the time I was there to 120,000 people that have been employed by those enterprises. ... Those that have been documented to have lost jobs, lost about 10,000 jobs. So (120,000 less 10,000) means that we created something over 100,000 jobs."

THE FACTS: Romney now has acknowledged the negative side of the ledger from his years with Bain Capital, but hardly laid out the full story. His claim to have created more than 100,000 jobs in the private sector as a venture capitalist remains unsupported.

Romney mentioned four successful investments in companies that now employ some 120,000 people, having grown since he was involved in them a decade or ago or longer. From that, he subtracted the number of jobs that he said are known to have been lost at certain other companies.

What's missing is anything close to a complete list of winners and losers — and the bottom line on jobs. Bain under Romney invested in scores of private companies that don't have the obligation of big publicly traded corporations to disclose finances. Romney acknowledged that he was using current employment figures for the four companies, not the number of jobs they had when he left Bain Capital, yet took credit for them in his analysis.


GINGRICH: "Under Jimmy Carter, we had the wrong laws, the wrong regulations, the wrong leadership, and we killed jobs. We had inflation. We went to 10.8 percent unemployment. Under Ronald Reagan, we had the right job — the right laws, the right regulators, the right leadership. We created 16 million new jobs."

FACT CHECK: Sure, inflation was bad and gas lines long, but under Carter's presidency unemployment never topped 7.8 percent. The unemployment rate did reach 10.8 percent, but not until November 1982, nearly two years into Reagan's first term.

Most economists attribute the jobless increase to a sharp rise in interest rates engineered by then-Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker in an ultimately successful effort to choke off inflation. Unemployment began to fall in 1983 and dropped to 7.2 percent in November 1984, when Reagan easily won re-election.

The economy did add 16 million jobs during Reagan's 1981-1989 presidency. Gingrich's assertion that "we created" them may have left the impression that he was a key figure in that growth. Although Gingrich was first elected to the House in 1978, his first Republican leadership position, as minority whip, began when Reagan left office, in 1989.


PAUL: "I had the privilege of practicing medicine in the early '60s, before we had any government (health care). It worked rather well, and there was nobody on the street suffering with no medical care. But Medicare and Medicaid came in and it just expanded."

THE FACTS: Before Medicare was created in the mid-1960s, only about half of the elderly had private insurance for hospital care, and they were facing rising costs for those policies on their fixed incomes. Medicare was hugely contentious at the time, seen by many doctors as a socialist takeover, but few argued that the status quo could be maintained.

A Health, Education and Welfare Department report to Congress in 1959, during the Republican administration of Dwight Eisenhower, took no position on what the federal government should do but stated "a larger proportion of the aged than of other persons must turn to public assistance for payment of their medical bills or rely on 'free' care from hospitals and physicians."

Paul advocates a return to an era when doctors would treat the needy for free. But even in the old days, charity came with a cost. Research from the pre-Medicare era shows that the cost of free care was transferred to paying customers and the insurance industry.


ROMNEY: "I could have stayed in Detroit, like him, and gotten pulled up in the car company. I went off on my own. I didn't inherit money from my parents. What I have, I earned. I worked hard, the American way."

THE FACTS: It's true there's no evidence Romney's wealthy family gave him a trust fund, or helped him secure a job at Bain Capital, where he would ultimately make his fortune. But it's not entirely the case that his success is wholly the result of his own hard work.

Romney's father, George, was an automobile industry CEO and a Michigan governor. He paid for Mitt to attend the Cranbrook School, a private boarding school in the Detroit area. The education didn't hurt Romney's ability to get into Harvard, where he earned law and business degrees in 1975.

While Romney appears to have gotten a job at Bain out of college on his own, the Boston Globe book "The Real Romney" reports that Romney's parents helped him and his wife buy their first home when he was in his early 20s.

On Thursday night, the Romney campaign did not dispute the finding that Romney's parents helped pay for that house, in the Boston suburb of Belmont.


ROMNEY: "The executive order is a beginning process. It's one thing, but it doesn't completely eliminate Obamacare. ... We have to go after a complete repeal. And that's going to have to have to happen with a House and a Senate, hopefully, that are Republican."

THE FACTS: With that statement, Romney essentially corrected his repeated suggestions in early debates and speeches that he would eliminate President Obama's health care law with a stroke of the pen on his first day in office — a power no president has.

In one variation of the claim, he had vowed in a Sept. 7 debate that on Day One, he would sign an executive order "granting a waiver from Obamacare to all 50 states." This, despite the fact that the law lays out an onerous process for letting individual states off the hook from its requirements, and that process cannot begin until 2017.

Now he acknowledges the political reality that a Republican president would need Republican control of Congress to have a strong shot at repealing the law.