Monday, November 24th, 2014

PolitiFact Georgia goes for broke on the national debt

President Obama talked about the national debt last week. So did PolitiFact Georgia.
President Obama talked about the national debt last week. So did PolitiFact Georgia.

Thanks to recent battles over federal spending, the Truth-O-Meter hit a jackpot of claims that need checking.

U.S. Sens. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Mark Warner of Virginia barnstormed the Atlanta area Monday to drum up support for reducing the national debt, so PolitiFact Georgia went for broke. We greeted them with rapid-fire fact checks.

The budget hawks were mostly on the money. Warner won a True on Social Security data. Chambliss scored a Mostly True on debt growth figures and a Half True on how tax cuts impact tax revenue.

MoveOn.org and U.S. Rep. Paul Broun of Athens shortchanged us on the facts. Both earned False rulings on the budget debate.

Want to comment on our findings? Go to our Facebook page and hit the "like" button to join the discussion. You can also follow us on Twitter.

U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss: Says "an average of $4 billion is added to the national debt" every day.

Imagine what you could do with $4 billion. That’s how much money is added to the national debt every day, Chambliss said in a March 29 op-ed.

We checked his statement out.

There are two kinds of federal debt and interest -- the debt held by the public and the total debt. Both measures are valid.

Between the end of 2009 and April 6, 2011, the public debt had risen by an average of slightly more than $4 billion a day, while the total debt’s average daily increase was about $4.3 billion.

Recently, though, the debt’s daily growth has slowed. The 2011 average for total debt is about $2.6 billion, while the debt owed to the public has risen by about $2.45 billion.

We rate the claim Mostly True.

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner: "There used to be 16 workers for every one person on Social Security. ... Now it’s three."
     
A bipartisan barnstorm on the national debt swept through Atlanta on Monday, bringing unsettling news on just how far into the red the U.S. government has sunk.  
   
Warner, a Democrat from Virginia, joined his Senate colleague Saxby Chambliss, a Georgia Republican, to tell The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s editorial board that we need to address the national debt now. He cited Social Security and made the above comment.

Experts said the best data come from the Social Security Administration, which says that in 1950 there were 16.5 workers for each Social Security recipient. In 2011, the ratio is 2.9 workers for each recipient.
   
That’s very close. Warner’s claim is True.

U.S. Rep. Paul Broun: Says the federal government borrows "almost $60 billion per week."
   
In an speech before Congress about the scrum over the federal budget and potential government shutdown, Broun played a game of pin the blame on the donkey.

The Athens Republican said the impasse is the fault of Democrats.
   
"We should be focused on trying to revive our economy rather than bickering about $61 billion when we already borrow almost $60 billion per week," Broun said April 1.   

Based on Monday’s PolitiFact Georgia item, we determined the debt’s weekly growth has declined to $17.15 billion or $21 billion, depending on which debt measure you use. Neither comes close to $60 billion.
   
Broun’s office said he misspoke. We rated his claim False.


MoveOn.org: The newly proposed House Republican budget "abolishes Medicare within 10 years."
                                
Denunciation of the federal budget plan proposed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., was swift and spirited. Left-leaning MoveOn.org made the above attack in an e-mail blast.

Ryan’s 10-year plan would cut spending and deficits by the trillions, repeal the health care reform law enacted under President Barack Obama, and take aim at two mainstays Ryan and others say are headed for bankruptcy: Medicaid and Medicare.

But would Medicare really disappear? MoveOn.org provided no evidence that backs the claim.

The plan would change Medicare, significantly, starting in 2022. But for those who turn 65 before then, there would be no changes at all, even after 2022. And for the others, Medicare would change -- dramatically -- but it would still exist.
   
We rate the claim False.

U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss: "When we lower tax rates, we generate more in revenues. That happened in '86 with the Reagan plan, happened following the 2001 Bush plan."

Georgia’s senior U.S. senator recently took to the airwaves to talk about one of the biggest problems facing the federal government -- the national debt -- and pushed for lowering personal income tax rates and corporate tax rates. He then gave the above history lesson about how that has worked.

Is Chambliss right?

Chambliss is correct to say that revenues did rise after President Ronald Reagan lowered individual income tax rates, but that plan aimed to be revenue-neutral. The numbers show revenues declined in the first two years after the 2001 Bush administration tax cuts, so the senator’s statement is off.

We rate his claim Half True.