Fact-checking GOP presidential contenders on the economy

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio are competitors in the Republican presidential primary. (Getty file photo)
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio are competitors in the Republican presidential primary. (Getty file photo)

The Republican field of presidential aspirants (and those likely to become presidential aspirants) will gather in Orlando on June 2 to share their views on how they would improve the national economy.

Organized by Florida Gov. Rick Scott, the event includes declared 2016 presidential candidates, such as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and potential candidates such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Scott will give introductory and closing remarks.

The presidential contenders will give a speech and/or take questions for 30 minutes. If you hear a claim we should fact-check tweet us #PolitiFactThis or truthometer@politifact.com

PolitiFact has fact-checked all of the speakers. Here is a summary of some of their claims about the economy:

Marco Rubio

Rubio has made some claims about poverty and the impact of cap and trade on the economy.

Rubio said in his book American Dreams, "If (low-income) people work and make more money, they lose more in benefits than they would earn in salary." That rates Mostly False. PolitiFact found that while the vast majority of people face higher taxes and lost benefits when they make more money, they still take home more in pay than they would under a lower salary.

Jeb Bush

Bush has made claims about median income, unemployment and high-skilled visas.

While speaking to reporters in North Carolina on May 1, Bush said: "There are more poor people today as a percentage of our population than the 1970s." That rates Mostly True.

Bush’s figures are correct based on the official poverty rate, which showed the rate was 14.5 percent in 2013, while during the 1970s the range was between 11.7 and 12.6 percent.

Some poverty researchers say the official poverty rate between the 1970s and now doesn’t take into account certain benefits that help poor people, such as food assistance and tax credits. However, despite those caveats, it is fair for Bush to point to the official poverty rate.  

Scott Walker

Walker has made claims about the cost of health insurance premiums and about job creation in the Midwest. And when it comes to the economics of the Walker household, he likes to be known as a frugal guy: he said he "paid one dollar for" a sweater at Kohl’s which PolitiFact Wisconsin rated True.

On a more serious note, PolitiFact Wisconsin fact-checked a claim Walker made that  "Americans will spend more on taxes in 2015 than on food, clothing and housing combined."

The truth depends on what method you use to measure. By one standard, Walker is correct. By another, he is not. So PolitiFact Wisconsin said Half True.

Rick Perry

PolitiFact Texas has fact-checked claims by Perry about job creation and national debt.

In a January speech in Iowa, Perry said the U.S. unemployment rate has "been massaged, it’s been doctored." That’s Pants on Fire.

There’s legitimate debate about what statistic best measures the state of the workforce and even agreement that the widely quoted unemployment rate (which Perry stressed as meaningful about a week before this Iowa stop) doesn’t provide the fullest picture of the labor force. But that's a far cry from showing the government is massaging or doctoring numbers, which implies organized underhanded wrongdoing.

Mike Huckabee

A video touting Huckabee’s potential as a candidate focused on his economic record and his ability to beat the Clintons. He said he "raised average family income by 50 percent" during his tenure as Arkansas governor. Once you account for inflation, Huckabee is incorrect.

Income in Arkansas increased 20 percent, not 50 percent. That increase trailed nationwide trends. We rated his claim Mostly False.

Chris Christie

We fact-checked a claim Christie made in 2013 in response to Sen. Rand Paul’s claim that New Jersey has a "gimme, gimme, gimme" attitude about federal spending

"In fact, New Jersey is a donor state, we get 61 cents back on every dollar we send to Washington," Christie said. "And interestingly, Kentucky gets $1.51 on every dollar they send to Washington."

The Tax Foundation backs up the governor’s statement to the exact penny for both New Jersey and Kentucky. Christie's claim rated True.

Bobby Jindal

Jindal said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe in February, "Our economy (in Louisiana) has grown 50 percent faster than the national GDP, even since the national recession."

The time frame Jindal’s office said he used -- from 2007 to 2012 -- is a reasonable one, and using that period does make his claim accurate. However, if you use other start and end dates, U.S. growth bested Louisiana’s. Overall, we rated Jindal’s claim Mostly True.