Monday, December 22nd, 2014

PolitiFact Georgia reviews Gingrich's classics

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, with his wife Callista, holds an oversize replica of an ax after signing a pledge to cut government Oct. 25 in Concord, N.H.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, with his wife Callista, holds an oversize replica of an ax after signing a pledge to cut government Oct. 25 in Concord, N.H.

(Editor’s note: With the Iowa caucuses only two months away, PolitiFact Georgia will dedicate this week to summaries of key fact-checks on the leading GOP candidates as well as President Barack Obama’s performance on his 500 campaign promises. Today we look at Newt Gingrich.)

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"For four years, we balanced the budget and paid off $405 billion in debt."

In the run-up to the May 11, 2011, announcement that he would run for president, Newt Gingrich used this statement in a video on his campaign website to remind folks about the good old days of the American economy when he was speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Gingrich was speaker from January 1995 to January 1999, when he was a Republican congressman from Atlanta’s suburbs.

Gingrich was off on both claims concerning the budget. The budget was indeed balanced for four years, but it’s a stretch for him to take credit for more than two of those years.

As for paying off $405 billion in debt, the data we found shows the debt actually increased during Gingrich’s four-year tenure as speaker by more than $800 billion.

We rate Gingrich’s claim False.

Every 10th dollar spent by the Social Security Administration on its program for the poor is "waste, or fraud, they can’t validate that the people should have gotten it," totaling about $8 billion a year.

True to wonkish form, Gingrich peppered a June 15 interview on the "The Neal Boortz Radio Show"  with factoids. He used this one to argue the government is inept.

Gingrich was right about the overpayment rate for Social Security’s program for the poor, but he was wrong about the amount of improper payments.

The overall amount of improper payments by the Social Security Administration (SSA) is $8 billion, but Gingrich was only talking about the Supplemental Security Income program, its program for the poor. It had $4.8 billion in improper payments.

Still, Gingrich’s broader point holds true. SSI makes billions of dollars in improper payments. We therefore give him a Mostly True.

Says "some [states] with the largest reductions in crime have also lowered their prison population."

In the wake of the Great Recession, some conservative political leaders are considering a new portion of the state budget to save money -- the prison system. Some of this new thinking comes from Gingrich, who made this statement in a Washington Post op-ed Jan. 7.

Research from the nonpartisan Pew Center on the States showed four of the 10 states with the greatest drops in crime were also among the top 10 states in lowering their incarceration rates.

We also looked at data from the federal National Institute of Corrections. Seven of the 10 states with the lowest crime rates also had among the 15 lowest incarceration rates.

There is some debate about what factors are causing a decline in crime, but research supports his point. We rate Gingrich’s statement True.

President Barack Obama deserves to be called "the most successful food stamp president in American history" because "47 million Americans are on food stamps."

Fresh off his official announcement that he'd be running for president, Newt Gingrich sat for an interview with NBC's "Meet the Press" on May 15, where he made this statement.

Gingrich was close on the number of Americans receiving "food stamps," which are officially called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. It provides certain low-income Americans with vouchers to buy groceries.

The number of beneficiaries is at a record level, and it has risen every month of the Obama presidency.

But Gingrich oversimplifies when he suggests that Obama is to blame. Much of the reason for the increase was a combination of the economic problems Obama inherited and a longstanding upward trend from policy changes.

We rate Gingrich’s statement Half True.