Checking Rick Perry
By W. Gardner Selby
Published on Saturday, August 13th, 2011 at 1:28 p.m.
No one in Texas politics has faced the Truth-O-Meter more than Rick Perry, who's gotten more True ratings than anyone else in the state — 10 — while also leading in False (14) and Pants on Fire ratings (7).
The just-declared presidential hopeful has fared well on our other meter, the Perry-O-Meter, which rates the fulfillment of campaign promises. To date, a dozen promises have been rated Kept, three as Broken. And now, given his speech in South Carolina, we're also marking as Broken his repeated vow not to run for president.
The West Texas Republican, an Eagle Scout who started in office as a Democratic member of the Texas House, has spoken accurately when airing figures calculated by others that don’t necessarily reflect on his own record — such as the 50 million abortions in the United States since 1973, the growth rate of the federal debt, an uptick in non-classroom employees in Texas schools and the number of people who move to Texas a day.
The Texas A&M University graduate also was correct when he said he’s the first Aggie (as in A&M alum) to become governor of the state.
His exaggerations and falsehoods have typically touched on federal issues, including border safety and actions by the Obama administration. For instance, he once inaccurately said he had not been called by the Obama White House and wrongly said that the state hadn't heard a response from the federal government to its applications for Medicaid waivers.
The Truth-O-Meter needle has rocked toward Half True or worse on Perry statements characterizing recent legislative history.
As the state’s fiscal horizon clouded leading up to the 2011 regular legislative session, Perry distorted his vetoes of $3 billion in spending after the budget-tight 2003 session; all but $500 million was already nixed because accompanying legislation had not passed into law. His overstatement played into our rating a seven-claim Perry ad Half True.
Trumpeting his anti-tax appeal, Perry said Texas lowered the state’s business franchise tax from 4 percent to 1 percent. He was correct about the 2006 rate change, but his claim left unsaid that the revised law also expanded the tax’s base. Indeed, Texas businesses paid more in franchise taxes after the overhaul than they did before: In 2006 and 2007, franchise tax revenue was $5.75 billion. In 2008 and 2009, the first two years of the revised tax, total revenue rose to $8.7 billion. We rated his claim Half True.
In March 2011, Perry said the budget shortfall that Texas lawmakers then faced is "not that much different" than what legislators stared down in 2003. Figures showed the shortfall confronted this year is 40 percent to 63 percent larger than in 2003, justifying our False.
Hammering his desire for National Guard troops on the Texas-Mexico border, Perry told an interviewer in July 2010 that because of violence spreading from Mexico, "you’ve got bullets hitting the city hall in El Paso. You’ve got bombs exploding in El Paso."
Bullets indeed flew across the border from neighboring Juarez, hitting El Paso City Hall. But there had been no bombs exploding in the U.S. city. That happened on the other side of the Rio Grande. Again, a Half True.
Earlier, Perry told the Texas Tribune and Newsweek: "We've got a 1,000 National Guard troop request that's been in front of this president (Obama) for over a year and no response, so we are forced by Washington's inaction to take action ourselves." From his office and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, we obtained letters indicating that the Obama administration had repeatedly acknowledged his request for troops; it just hadn't given him the answer he sought. We rated his statement Half True.
Perry, like many Republicans, has criticized the health care overhaul that Democrats carried through Congress in 2010. Objecting to the mandate requiring most Americans to obtain health coverage by 2014, he told the Tribune in April 2010: "There is a misnomer out there, I think, there's a misconception, that somehow or another ... uninsured means that you have no health care. That's not correct. Everyone in this country has access to health care."
Perry’s campaign did not offer evidence for the "everyone" claim, which we rated Mostly False. Many avenues exist for making health care available. But the reality is that many people cannot use them, and millions don't get the care they need.
In his 2010 book, "Fed Up!," Perry wrote that the federal government restricts "how much salt we can put on our food." That’s False. An agency has explored ways to reduce sodium in the food supply, and federal dietary guidelines recommend consuming less than 2,300 milligrams, or about 1 teaspoon, of sodium a day. But the government isn't telling anyone how much salt to sprinkle.
Perry has occasionally flown off course about the president.
In a July 2010 interview, Perry said: "We don’t get a lot of calls from this White House." Asked about his relations with Obama’s administration, he said: "I have, frankly, never had a call from them." Information from both the White House and Perry’s state schedule contradicted his claim. Presuming the state schedule reflects what actually happened, Perry had received such a call two weeks earlier. Pants on Fire.
In a December 2010 interview, Perry told a writer whose blog appears on the Houston Chronicle’s website that the state’s request for a federal waiver allowing it to restructure its Medicaid program "has languished in a file cabinet at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for more than two years." We’d previously learned that the federal government had been waiting for Texas to revise its original proposal — meaning the ball was in the state’s court. Noting Perry had earlier aired the stalled-in-Washington claim, which we then rated False, we ruled his rerun worse than inaccurate. Pants on Fire!
Paw through our Perry fact checks here — and keep up with us on Facebook, Twitter or by email. Readers often bring politicians’ statements to our attention.
We’ll continue watching Perry on the hustings as well as Texas Republican Ron Paul, the U.S. House member who’s been running for president for months.
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