Fact-checking the first presidential debate

President Barack Obama, right, shakes hands with Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney after the first presidential debate at the University of Denver, Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, in Denver.
AP Photo/David Goldman
President Barack Obama, right, shakes hands with Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney after the first presidential debate at the University of Denver, Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, in Denver.
AP Photo/David Goldman

In the first presidential debate of the general election campaign, President Obama and Mitt Romney went head-to-head over issues ranging from health care, to job creation, to tax cuts. Below, CBSNews.com looks into the facts behind those charges.


ROMNEY: "We've got 23 million people out of work or stopped looking for work in this country."

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 12.8 million unemployed Americans as of July.

However, if you add up the number of Americans looking for more work, one gets to Romney's figure. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there were 8.2 million Americans in July who were working part-time "because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job."

Additionally, there were 2.5 million people who were "marginally attached to the labor force." The Bureau explains, "These individuals were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey."

This adds up to more than 23 million, figure the Romney campaign has highlighted repeatedly.

OBAMA: "Over the last 30 months, we've seen 5 million jobs in the private sector created."

The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently announced that private sector job growth likely grew by 453,000 more jobs than previously announced between March 2011 to March 2012 time period - which puts total private sector job growth over the last 30 months at 5.1 million, verifying Mr. Obama's charge. That figure does not take into account the approximately 676,000 public sector job losses that have occurred during the president's term, however, and doesn't include the massive private sector job losses at the beginning of his term. Still, many argue that the president can't be held responsible for those early losses, which were not a result of policies he had implemented.

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Cost of Living

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. At the same time, gasoline prices have doubled under the president. Electric rates are up. Food prices are up. Health care costs have gone up by $2,500 a family. Middle-income families are being crushed."

According to a May study by Sentier Research, an Annapolis-based research firm, real median American income in March was down by $4,300 since January 2009, when President Obama took office. But his statement that gas prices "have doubled under the president" is misleading. The average current gas price is $3.78, slightly more than twice the average gas price the week that the president took office in January. But that figure - an average of $1.85 on January 19, 2009, according to Consumer Reports -- was exceptionally low due to the economic crisis, when prices fell as a result of low demand. According to the American Automobile Association, the average national gas price was just 16 cents lower than it is now -- $3.62 -- on October 1, 2008.

According to a Consumer Price Index report from August, the food index rose 2 percent in a twelve month period, which can likely be attributed in part to the cost of living. Some have also pointed to the recent drought -- which according to the New York Times affected 88 percent of the corn crop -- as part of the reason for rising costs. As for electric prices, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average U.S. residential electricity cost is up 48 cents per kilowatt per hour since 2010.

On Romney's charge that "Health care costs have gone up by $2,500 a family," according to a 2012 survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation analyzing employee health benefits, Romney is approximately correct: Since Obama took office, the average annual premium for family coverage through an employer has risen from $13,375 in 2009 to $15,745 in 2012, an increase of $2,370 over the past four years.