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Fact-checking Obama, Biden convention speeches

Obama, Biden

(CBS News) Upon accepting the Democratic nominations for president and vice president, President Obama and Vice President Biden on Thursday night made several assertions about their own records and about Mitt Romney's.

Here's a look at those assertions and whether or not they hold up under scrutiny:

Biden on job creation: "And because of the decisions he's made, and the strength the American people have demonstrated every day, America has turned the corner. After the worst job loss since the Great Depression, we've created 4.5 million private sector jobs in the past 29 months."

According to data gathered from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the economy has created 4,517,000 private sector jobs since January 2010, 29 months ago.

The peak of private sector employment was in January 2008, when 115 million private sector jobs filled the economy. From the peak - the last year of President Bush's term - until when President Obama took office in January 2009, 4.66 million jobs were lost. Between January and March 2010, when the private sector began adding jobs again, 4.15 million jobs were lost.

MORE: Fact-checking the 2012 election

Biden on the auto bailout: "When I look back now on the President's decision, I also think of another son of an automobile man--Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney grew up in Detroit. His father ran American Motors. Yet he was willing to let Detroit go bankrupt. It's not that he's a bad guy. I'm sure he grew up loving cars as much as I did. I just don't think he understood--I just don't think he understood what saving the automobile industry meant-to all of America. I think he saw it the Bain way. Balance sheets. Write-offs."

There's no argument that the auto industry bailout worked in the long term. However, the decision was not solely Mr. Obama's. Biden other Democrats praising Mr. Obama this week on the bailout and its benefits are neglecting to acknowledge the initial decisions of former President George W. Bush and the Democratic-led Congress to pump $13 billion into the automakers in December 2008.

In fact, talks between the automakers and Congress began months before, when Mr. Obama was still a presidential candidate. Where Mr. Obama put his real stamp on the bailout was setting the parameters in March 2009, allocating General Motors and Chrysler an additional $4 billion in exchange for agreeing to major restructuring of their operations.

Romney did grow up in the Detroit area, and his father was CEO of American Motors. It's also true he famously penned a New York Times op-ed in which he said the automakers should have declared bankruptcy before receiving aid. Bankruptcy was not off the table for Mr. Obama: in his March 2009 restructuring announcement, Mr. Obama gave GM and Chrysler one month to shape up or face bankruptcy. In fact, Chrysler did file for bankruptcy at the end of April 2009, GM shortly thereafter, though both emerged from bankruptcy stronger than before.

Biden on Medicare: "But what they didn't tell you, is that their plan would immediately cut benefits to more than 30 million seniors already on Medicare. What they didn't tell you is what they're proposing would cause Medicare to go bankrupt by 2016. And what they really didn't tell you is, they're not for preserving Medicare. They're for a whole new plan. They're for Vouchercare."

By claiming Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan's Medicare plan, embraced by Romney, "would immediately cut benefits to more than 30 million seniors already on Medicare," Biden is presumably not talking about the Romney-Ryan plan at all, but of the GOP ticket's promise to repeal President Obama's Affordable Care Act, which entitles seniors on Medicare to free annual preventive care and broader prescription drug coverage.

But the Romney-Ryan plan that would be enacted instead would not "immediately" do anything to anyone. While it would dramatically reshape the way the program's benefits are attained for future retirees when it goes into effect in 2022, the plan wouldn't touch seniors already on Medicare, or those 55 to 65 years old.

In a "60 Minutes" interview last month, Ryan pointed to his mom as an example of a Medicare senior whose benefits would remain exactly the same under his proposal. "Our point is, we need to preserve their benefits, because government made promises to them that they've organized their retirements around," he said.

Biden on debt: "In Tampa, they talked with great urgency about the national debt. The need to act, to act now. But not once, not once, did they tell you they've rejected every plan put forward by us--by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles Commission--by other respected outside groups--to reduce our national debt if it contained even one dollar--one cent--in new taxes for millionaires."

Ryan did oppose the "Simpson-Bowles" plan to reduce the debt and deficit - he was a member of the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles panel and voted against the final proposal, helping kill it.

But Mr. Obama did not embrace the plan either, which is why it's strange that Biden decided to make a point of referencing it. It's true there was never an official final report - thanks in part to Ryan - but the White House certainly did not make the case for the panel's recommendations.

The White House did publicly back a so-called "grand bargain" deficit reduction deal with Congressional Republicans that reportedly would have raised the Medicare retirement age, a significant concession from Democrats. But that deal fell apart when the two sides could not come to a final agreement.

Biden on taxes and outsourcing: "As a matter of fact, he has a new tax proposal -- the territorial tax -- that experts say will create 800,000 jobs, all of them overseas. I found it fascinating last week--when Governor Romney said, that as President, he'd take a jobs tour. Well with all his support for outsourcing, it's going to have to be a foreign trip."

The territorial tax system is a different way of taxing corporations than the U.S. employs. Romney backs a territorial tax system which would tax profits made in the United States. The U.S. currently taxes all earnings, even those earned abroad, but corporations can deferred if profits are reinvested overseas and until the profits are brought back to the U.S. It's called the repatriation tax.

Biden espoused the notion that the territorial tax will create 800,000 jobs overseas. That it is an estimate by Professor Kimberly Clausing of Reed College, who says it would encourage job creation abroad and not in the U.S.

The Tax Foundation, an organization that backs a territorial tax, argues that the 800,000 jobs created overseas is not misplacement of American jobs. The organization also notes that the study does not take into account that Romney supports lowering the corporate tax rate to 25 percent from 35 percent. It also argues that it doesn't take into account the "job-importing impacts" of the elimination of the repatriation tax.

Throughout this election, the Obama campaign has labeled Romney as an outsourcer, pointing to Bain Capital, which Romney ran until 1999. The reviews are mixed as some companies Bain acquired did ship jobs overseas, including Holson Burnes Group, which PolitiFact reports that Romney did indeed work at Bain during the entire period during which Bain owned the company, and that it did have operations in China. According to the Associated Press, Holson Burnes laid off workers in New Hampshire and Gaffney, S.C., as it shipped other jobs overseas.

Romney, however, has been blamed for Bain-owned companies moving jobs overseas when he had already left Bain. According to an analysis by the Post's Glenn Kessler, the case of Modus Media is "not an example of shipping jobs overseas"; rather, the company "closed one plant in California and transferred the jobs to North Carolina, Washington and Utah" at the same time it opened an "unrelated" plant in Mexico. The Washington Post points out that the closure in California took place in 2000, after Romney had largely abdicated operational control of Bain.

Biden on taxes: "Governor Romney believes that it's okay to raise taxes on the middle class by $2,000 in order to pay for over a trillion dollars in tax cuts for the very wealthy."

Mitt Romney has seldom walked away from a stump speech without promising some form of amnesty to middle class taxpayers - in fact, he vowed during his RNC remarks in Tampa last week, "I will not raise taxes on the middle class." So it's unlikely that the GOP nominee "believes it's okay to raise taxes on the middle class." Unintended consequences of an overambitious tax plan, however, could render a tax hike for middle class Americans inevitable, according to an analysis by the non-partisan Tax Policy Center.

The study, oft cited by Democrats and denounced by Romney, looks at Romney's promise to cut income tax rates across the board by 20 percent, which he has said would be paid for by somehow reducing tax deductions and credits. According to the Tax Policy Center director Donald Marron, Romney "can't accomplish all his stated objectives," and would have to increase the tax burden on middle- and low-income Americans if the plan is to be revenue-neutral, as he has promised. One possible outcome, the study states, is that "taxpayers with children who make less than $200,000 would pay, on average, $2,000 more in taxes."

In the same vein, while Romney has not yet fleshed out details of his plan, the TPC finds that no matter the structure, high-income Americans would enjoy a tax cut. "Even when we assume that tax breaks - like the charitable deduction, mortgage interest deduction, and the exclusion for health insurance - are completely eliminated for higher-income households first, and only then reduced as necessary for other households to achieve overall revenue-neutrality - the net effect of the plan would be a tax cut for high-income households coupled with a tax increase for middle-income households," it said. Furthermore, Romney's "immediate" tax cut for corporations would cost more than $1 trillion over 10 years, the study says.

Biden on immigration: "Governor Romney believes that kids-the kids we call DREAMers--those immigrant children who were brought to America at a very young age, through no fault of their own--he thinks they're a drag on America."

Whether or not Mitt Romney truly believes young undocumented immigrants are "a drag on America" is impossible to assess, presumably for Biden as well as for fact-checkers, but it's a judgment that seems unlikely based on the candidate's recent openness to certain measures included in the law, if not explicit support for it.

The DREAM Act, a law that would provide a pathway to citizenship to certain college- or military-bound undocumented citizens who have met a series of contingencies (including those addressing moral character and the age at which a person was brought into the country illegally), was voted down in the Senate in 2010. In the past, Romney has said he opposed it, and even proposed "self-deportation" as an alternative to immigration reform.

In recent months, however, as the candidate works to build support among the Latino electorate, Romney has outlined immigration policy ideas that suggest a shift away from his previous hard-line stance.

In a June policy speech to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), Romney pledged to reallocate Green Cards to the family members of citizens and legal permanent residents and to prioritize the applications of legal residents hoping to bring spouses and minors to the United States. He also promised to raise some country caps on immigration and to streamline the temporary worker visa program, and reiterated previous vows to give green cards to immigrants graduating with advance degrees. He has also said he would grant permanent residency to illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children and choose to serve in the military.

Romney said, too, that he would not uphold President Obama's recent decision not to pursue the deportation of many young, undocumented citizens in the U.S., but would instead present comprehensive immigration reform that would "supersede" the president's policy. But just a few days later, he suggested that he would embrace a policy that would allow "children of those that came here illegally" have a "permanent answer to what their status will be," and that "those who serve in the military and have advanced degrees would certainly qualify for that kind of permanence." Both of these are DREAM-inspired measures.

Obama on energy: "After thirty years of inaction, we raised fuel standards so that by the middle of the next decade, cars and trucks will go twice as far on a gallon of gas. We've doubled our use of renewable energy, and thousands of Americans have jobs today building wind turbines and long-lasting batteries. In the last year alone, we cut oil imports by one million barrels a day - more than any administration in recent history. And today, the United States of America is less dependent on foreign oil than at any time in nearly two decades."

The president has set higher fuel-efficiency standards for U.S. vehicle fleets, but there has been action on the issue in the last 30 years -- Congress agreed to raise fuel efficiency standards in 2007.

The United States has nearly doubled its increase of renewable energy since 1973 - a time when most of renewable energy came from hydroelectric power and the U.S. used negligible amounts of solar, wind and geothermal energy. Since 2005, halfway through the Bush administration, the use of renewable energy increased - but not doubled - from 6.2 quadrillion Btu to 8.3 quadrillion Btu in the first 11 months of 2011.

Oil imports can be measured in at least two ways - net imports (total imports minus exports) or as total imports. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) states, "[N] a clearer indication of the fraction of oil consumed that could not have been supplied from domestic sources and is thus the most appropriate measure."

John Cogan, spokesman for the EIA told CBS News, "If we look at net imports for the first 7 months of 2012 it is 7,839,000 barrels per day and the last time we saw the figure at that level, on an annual rate of imports, was in 1993 when it was 7,618,000 barrels per day."

Obama on energy: "We're offering a better path - a future where we keep investing in wind and solar and clean coal; where farmers and scientists harness new biofuels to power our cars and trucks; where construction workers build homes and factories that waste less energy; where we develop a hundred year supply of natural gas that's right beneath our feet. If you choose this path, we can cut our oil imports in half by 2020 and support more than 600,000 new jobs in natural gas alone"

The President also made this claim about 600,000 jobs in his State of the Union earlier this year. A report from IHS Global Insight states, "In 2010, the shale gas industry supported over 600,000 jobs, which included 148,000 direct jobs in the U.S., nearly 194,000 indirect jobs in supplying industries, and more than 259,000 induced jobs. By 2035, the shale gas industry will support a total of over 1.6 million jobs across the U.S. economy, comprised of more than 360,000 direct jobs, over 547,000 indirect jobs, and over 752,000 induced jobs."

As for cutting "oil imports in half by 2020", the Associated Press points out that an Obama campaign document says that the president is using 2008 as a baseline for the reduction in imports, allowing him to claim credit for several years of declining demand for fuel because of the recession and leasing and production decisions made by President George W. Bush's administration.

The president's projections are in line with those of government and independent analysts, who say that if current trends continue, imports will decline to levels not seen for decades, even without additional policy changes.

Obama on the deficit: "Independent analysis shows that my plan would cut our deficits by $4 trillion. Last summer, I worked with Republicans in Congress to cut $1 trillion in spending - because those of us who believe government can be a force for good should work harder than anyone to reform it, so that it's leaner, more efficient, and more responsive to the American people."

President Obama is talking about the budget he proposed for 2013. It takes credit for cutting $4 trillion over the next 10 years. Although his proposal does do that, it uses some cuts already enacted and tax increases to get there.

The budget cut includes $1 trillion in spending cuts that Congress has already agreed to. And as The Washington Post notes, his budget proposal also includes nearly $850 billion dollars in savings from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is money that might never have been allocated as the war in Iraq has largely come to an end and combat operations in Afghanistan are set to end in 2014. But some experts say the president should take credit for this spending reduction since he is the one who has brought the wars to a close.

One component of the president's budget that differs dramatically from Paul Ryan's proposal is that nearly a third of the president's savings over the next ten years comes in the form of tax increases, predominantly on those making more than $250,000.

The president's budget does include some major components of the budget that most previous budgets have left out because of their cost. The president's proposal includes the cost of the Alternative Minimum Tax and Medicare payments to physicians. Presidents often leave those items out to manipulate the budget numbers as they had hundreds of billions to the cost. For instance, the AMT alone adds $1.2 trillion over a decade.

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