Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

Fact-checking the Republican debate in Michigan

Republican presidential candidates Rick Santorum, left, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Herman Cain, Rick Perry, Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman debated Wednesday night at Oakland University in Michigan.
Republican presidential candidates Rick Santorum, left, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Herman Cain, Rick Perry, Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman debated Wednesday night at Oakland University in Michigan.

Republican presidential candidates clashed over the economy Wednesday night on on CNBC — and we're checking the facts.

Now that the dust has settled, let us know if you heard a claim you're curious about. We're on Twitter @politifact!

Eight candidates faced questions on the Italian financial crisis, the federal auto bailout, unemployment, the 2010 health care law, the tax code and more over the 90-minute debate.

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman noted that "we're setting ourselves up for disaster again" with banks that are "too big to fail," using a statistic similar to one we've checked before: "We have six banks in this country that combined have assets worth 66 percent of our nation's GDP, $9.4 trillion." We checked Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders when he said this month that, "you have six financial institutions, the largest six, that have assets that are the equivalent of 60 percent of the GDP of the United States of America," and we found that True.

Businessman Herman Cain, discussing his 9-9-9 plan, said of the current tax code that "complexity costs us $430 billion a year." We recently checked a similar statement by Texas Gov. Rick Perry that "we spend half a trillion dollars a year in tax preparation."  We found it Mostly False — most estimates are quite a bit lower.

Also on the topic of taxes, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann said, "All you need to know is that we have the second highest corporate tax rate in the world." She's accurately citing the combined corporate tax rate — federal plus state — which puts the United States second only to Japan. (We've previously fact-checked whether the country has the "highest corporate tax rate" — federal only — and found that True.)

She also said, "When you have 53 percent of Americans paying federal income taxes, but you have 47 percent of Americans who pay no federal income taxes, you have a real problem." In July, we checked a similar statistic from Texas Sen. John Cornyn, and found it True. (He said, "Fifty-one percent -- that is, a majority of American households -- paid no income tax in 2009.")

Huntsman said he was the only one on stage to have enacted a flat tax, as governor of Utah. We've found that he did make it flatter, though he's previously exaggerated how much that cut income taxes.

On health care, Bachmann said that, "President Obama said … we'd all save $2,500 a year in our premiums. Well, we have Obamacare, but we didn't have the savings." We've rated the president's promise to reduce a typical family's health insurance premium by up to $2,500 a year Stalled on the Obameter.

In an opening statement posted on CNBC's website, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said that under Obama, "more Americans are in poverty ... than at any time since the Census Bureau began keeping records on it over 50 years ago." We rated his statement Half True — it would have been more accurate to look at the number of people in poverty as a percentage of the population. He also overstates how much the current president is to blame.

Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania drew a striking contrast between the unemployment rates for Americans with bachelor’s degrees and those without. He said, "The unemployment rate among (the) non-college-educated is well into the double digits in America. It's 4 percent or 5 percent for people who have college degrees." We also rated that statement Half True. He overstated his case when he said that "the unemployment rate among (the) non-college-educated is well into the double digits in America." While relatively high by historical standards, the actual numbers today are not in the double digits, much less well into them.

We'll check more facts from the debate, so keep the feedback coming, on Twitter and via e-mail at truthometer@gmail.com.