A senator gets it right, a president gets it wrong

Several studies show Georgia ranks as among the best-maintained roads in the nation.
Several studies show Georgia ranks as among the best-maintained roads in the nation.


By Jim Tharpe

Editor/PolitiFact Georgia


A U.S. senator from Georgia got it right. The president of the United States got it wrong. But his wife, the nation’s first lady, came to metro Atlanta and spread a little truthinesss.

Talk about a busy week for the AJC Truth-O-Meter.

We discovered that state roads are among the best around. That’s good, because they have to endure the weight of some increasingly hefty young folks as it turns out.

For full versions of these and other Truth-O-Meter rulings check us out online at http://politifact.com/georgia/. Full documentation of all our findings can be found there.

And make sure you join us on Twitter and Facebook to comment and read our latest updates.



VANCE SMITH, commissioner of Georgia’s Transportation Department.

The statement: Georgia has some of the best maintained roads in America.


Vance Smith, the plain-spoken commissioner of Georgia’s Transportation Department, had an interesting story to tell state lawmakers about the condition of the Peach State’s roads.

Smith said he was at a conference a year or so ago,sitting quietly near the back of the room, when a top transportation official from Missouri told the audience how they are trying to improve their roads -- mentioning that they measure themselves against a certain state from the South.

"At the top, there was a long, red line, and as I looked, it had the word ‘Georgia’ besides there," Smith said during a Jan. 19 state budget hearing at the Capitol. "It made me feel pretty good in a conference that this gentleman is trying to reach this baseline and the baseline was the state of Georgia."

PolitiFact Georgia looked at several studies to fact-check the commission.

The Reason Foundation researchers used data that compiles how much money each state spends, on average, to maintain its roads and bridges. Georgiawas tied for first in three categories: rural interstate pavement condition, rural principal arterial condition and urban interstate condition. 

Georgia also fared well in another rating system of road toughness: the International Roughness Index. 

Georgia does rank high in nearly all measures of road maintenance. We rate the commissioner’s comments about Georgia’s roads as True.





Promise: "I will do what I have done on the federal level and we will take our stand and do what Arizona has done."


Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal spoke often during last year"s campaign about cracking down on illegal immigration if he was elected.

In recent weeks, Republicans in both chambers of the Georgia Legislature have crafted bills aimed at capturing more of the estimated 425,000 illegal immigrants living in the state. Although Georgia is the nation’s ninth-highest-populated state, one group estimated earlier this month that the Peach State has the seventh-largest number of illegal immigrants.

House Bill 87 and Senate Bill 40 both have some elements of Arizona’s hotly debated Senate Bill 1070, such as a proposal that would allow law enforcement to arrest someone with "probable cause" that the person may be an illegal immigrant. A federal judge in Arizona struck down that element of that state’s law last year. Some Georgia lawmakers raised questions during a hearing last week about whether some sections of HB 87, such as the probable cause provision, could withstand a legal challenge.

Deal on Tuesday sounded some notes of caution as he commented for the first time on the Legislature's efforts to crack down on illegal immigration, saying he doesn't want Georgia to create any "undue burden" on employers and suggesting Georgia has limits on what it can do.

Because of Deal’s interest in passing tougher immigration legislation and the strong interest in the bills being proposed, we are curious to see the progress of this effort and rate this as a promise In The Works.





The statement: If you tried to pay out $1 trillion by handing it out at $1 per second, it would take more than 31,000 years.


The AJC Truth-O-Meter gets no love from politicians, be they Democrat or Republican. But it’s more than pleased to settle for a little attention now and then.

Republican U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson brought up our gutsy gizmo as he explained the magnitude of the national debt during a Jan. 24 talk at the Atlanta Press Club. 

Isakson said he was at a campaign stop when a farmer asked, "How much is a trillion?" The senator didn’t have an answer, so he wrestled with the numbers and concluded that if you tried to pay out $1 trillion at a rate of $1 per second, it would take you more than 31,000 years. 

"Given the Truth-O-Meters out there, I put an asterisk by that," he said. "I didn't account for leap years."

We called Georgia Tech, which is renowned for its prowess in math and science. It put us in the capable hands of math professor Douglas Ulmer, who is chairman of the School of Mathematics.

Ulmer divided those seconds into a trillion, which showed that 1 trillion seconds equals more than 31,688 years. He then converted the remainder into days, hours and seconds to conclude that 1 trillion seconds is 31,688 years, 32 days, 1 hour, 46 minutes and 40 seconds.  

"Over 31,000" is therefore close enough for all practical purposes, Ulmer said.  

We wholeheartedly agree. 

Isakson gets an A in arithmetic. We rule his statement True. And we hope he continues to tout the Truth-O-Meter in all his speeches.




The statement: Twelve judges have thrown out legal challenges to the health care law because they rejected "the notion that the health care law was unconstitutional."


Ever since a federal judge in Florida ruled the health care law unconstitutional, the White House has portrayed the opinion as an outlier made by an activist judge. Many other judges have come to a different conclusion, the argument goes.

This was the tack President Barack Obama took in a pre-Super Bowl interview with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, who asked about the recent Florida ruling.

"Well, I think the judge in Florida was wrong," Obama said. "Keep in mind that we've had 12 judges said -- that just threw this case out -- the notion that the health care law was unconstitutional."

Obama said the 12 judges dismissed the cases because they disagreed with the claim that the health care law was unconstitutional. But our extensive research showed they did not.

Those judges actually dismissed the cases because of procedural grounds. Not constitutional ground as the president stated.

We find President Obama’s claim False.




The statement: More than one-quarter of America’s young adults are too fat to serve in the U.S. military


America, the first lady says, has a pudgy problem.

A significant percentage of its youths are too fat to fit in military uniforms.

First lady Michelle Obama talked about the issue during her visit Wednesday to the Atlanta area to promote healthy eating. In a speech at Alpharetta’s North Point Community Church to highlight her "Let’s Move" healthy living campaign, Obama relayed a gaudy statistic.

"Believe it or not, right now, nearly 27 percent of 17- to 24-year-olds are too overweight to serve in our military," she said.

Obama’s claim apparently came from a study released last year that was titled -- aptly perhaps -- "Too Fat to Fight." It was released by more than 100 high-ranking retired military officials and other enlisted leaders who want high-calorie food and sugar-sweetened drinks removed from the nation’s public schools.

We also looked at CDC data about obesity among Americans.

The "Too Fat to Fight" study supports the theory that 27 percent of America’s youths couldn’t serve in the military. And that information is backed up by CDD research.

We rate the first lady’s statement as True.