Thursday, November 27th, 2014

Michele Bachmann assails Rick Perry

At the Dartmouth debate, the Republican candidates were asked to react to videos, including one featuring Ronald Reagan.
At the Dartmouth debate, the Republican candidates were asked to react to videos, including one featuring Ronald Reagan.

U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann lofted flawed claims at Texas Gov. Rick Perry in Tuesday night's mostly low-key Republican presidential debate on economic issues at Dartmouth College.

The Minnesotan referenced Perry's support, when he was a Democratic legislator, of Al Gore for president, saying Perry was "co-chairing" the Gore campaign.

We've explored that claim in depth. We concluded that Perry endorsed Gore in 1988 but was not Gore’s Texas campaign chairman. Such unsupported titles were bandied in 1998 by Perry's Democratic opponent for lieutenant governor, John Sharp, and they've never gone away.

Perry replied to Bachmann by noting that he became a Republican at a younger age than Ronald Reagan did. We've fact-checked that claim, too, and it is True.

Bachmann also said that as governor, Perry increased spending in Texas by more than 50 percent. We rated such a claim by a pro-Bachmann political group as Mostly False. Spending from all sources of support for Texas state government increased 86 percent from 2000 through 2010, or 21 percent once population growth and inflation are counted. But experts told us that a better measure is to look at budgeted spending that the governor most affects, that of state general revenue. It went up 44 percent during the same period; that was actually a decrease by 6 percent once inflation and population growth are weighed.

Bachmann said, too, that Perry financed that spending by increasing bond debt by more than 137 percent, a figure we have not reviewed.

To that parry, Perry replied that Texas had the sixth-lowest debt per capita as he became governor in 2000 and now has the second-lowest debt per capita in the country. That reply was close to a Perry claim we rated Mostly True in August. Texas had the 12th-lowest debt per capita when Moody’s Investors Service issued a report in May.

Also in the debate, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich said he sympathized with former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's 2009 remark that the Democratic health care overhaul signed into law by President Barack Obama provided for what would effectively be "death panels" to judge individuals' health care needs. Shortly, Bachmann said she thought that Obama was trying to push seniors from Medicare into "Obamacare," which she said would be ruled by a panel of bureaucrats.

PolitiFact in Washington previously checked similar claims and rated them False.

Bachmann, to make her point that the government spends too much, said the U.S. borrows 40 cents for every dollar it takes in. That is True.

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman said the IRS is planning to hire 19,500 new employees to enforce the Democratic health care law. PolitiFact Georgia rated a similar claim False.

Huntsman also said that when he was governor, Utah was No. 1 for job creation. PolitiFact found two sets of statistics to gauge that claim, rating it Half True.

Early in the debate, Perry boasted: "I've signed six balanced budgets" as governor.

We haven't rated that claim, but the governor left unsaid that Texas is a "pay-as-you-go" state that, unlike the federal government, cannot borrow money to balance its operating budget. Each two-year budget must be balanced unless, the state constitution says, four-fifths of the Legislature votes to spend more than the accumulated cash and projected revenue available for appropriations. So any budget passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor would have to balance.