Thursday, December 18th, 2014

Fact-checking the CNN/Tea Party Express GOP debate

Newt Gingrich has his makeup retouched during a commercial break for the Sept. 12, 2011 CNN/Tea Party Express GOP debate in Tampa.
Newt Gingrich has his makeup retouched during a commercial break for the Sept. 12, 2011 CNN/Tea Party Express GOP debate in Tampa.

The CNN-Tea Party Express debate in Tampa on Monday night was dominated by talk about Social Security and the need for government to balance its budget.

Mitt Romney led the attacks on the Republican frontrunner, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, by saying that Perry didn't support the retirement program. "In writing his book, Gov. Perry pointed out that … by any measure Social Security has been a failure," Romney said. We checked Perry's book and found Romney was right. We rated the claim True.

Romney found much of his ammunition from Fed Up!, the book Perry published last year. Romney said that Perry said in the book that Social Security "is unconstitutional." We found that while Perry never exactly used those words, he came pretty close. We rated Romney's claim Mostly True.

Perry, asked about his comment likening Social Security to a Ponzi scheme, replied, "It has been called a Ponzi scheme by many people before me."

But when we asked experts about the structure of a Ponzi scheme and the funding of Social Security, the analogy does not hold up. So we rated Perry's claim False.

Herman Cain touted a retirement plan used in Galveston, Texas, that's an alternative to Social Security. "Today, when people retire in Galveston County, Texas, they retire making at least 50 percent more than they would ever get out of Social Security," Cain said. We rated that Half True -- some will, but some won't.

When the conversation turned to jobs, Perry repeated a claim of many critics that the economic stimulus has created "zero jobs." We rated that Pants on Fire. The stimulus may not have created enough jobs to offset other losses, but most economists say it did add some jobs. (We even interviewed a man who attributed his new job to the stimulus.)

As in the previous debates, the governors and former governors made claims about job growth. Jon Huntsman, the former governor of Utah, repeated a claim he made last week that Utah was the No. 1 job creator when we was governor. We rated that Half True

Perry also came under fire for his support for a 2007 executive order requiring all Texas girls to receive a vaccine against the human papillomavirus before entering the sixth grade. Perry said he erred by not seeking support from the Texas Legislature, but that the vaccine wasn't mandatory. "What we were trying to do was to clearly send a message that we're going to give moms and dads the opportunity to make that decision with parental opt-out." PolitiFact Texas previously checked the claim that it wasn't mandatory and rated it Mostly False.

Romney and Rep. Michele Bachmann took aim at the health care law passed last year, claiming it took $500 billion out of Medicare. Bachmann said that President Barack Obama "stole over $500 billion out of Medicare to switch it to Obamacare." She has a point that cost-savings from Medicare were used to offset the cost of the rest of the law, but she was misleading when she says the money was stolen. We rated her statement Mostly False