Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

Their eyes are on November

President Barack Obama addresses newspaper executives
President Barack Obama addresses newspaper executives

The 2012 general election campaign for the presidency appeared to get underway in earnest April 3 and 4, with President Barack Obama and likely Republican nominee Mitt Romney using speeches to the American Society of Newspaper Editors and the Newspaper Association of America to attack each other.

Obama framed much of his speech as an attack on the House Republican budget, crafted by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who has been mentioned as a possible running mate for Romney.  A previous version of the budget plan had been called "marvelous" by Romney, Obama noted.

Obama called it "a budget so far to the right it makes the Contract with America look like the New Deal." He detailed a list of programs he said would suffer if cuts were spread out evenly, noting, "the year after next, nearly 10 million college students would see their financial aid cut by an average of more than $1,000 each." That's just one possible outcome of the plan — which doesn't clarify how students would be affected. We rated the claim Half True.

Then, in another historic reference, he invoked Republican idol Ronald Reagan.

"Ronald Reagan, who, as I recall, is not accused of being a tax-and-spend socialist, understood repeatedly that when the deficit started to get out of control, that for him to make a deal, he would have to propose both spending cuts and tax increases. Did it multiple times. He could not get through a Republican primary today," Obama said.

We found that Reagan typically did not make tax increases part of his own proposals. But he did approve and even advocate for budget deals that included increases to tax revenues, and he spoke of tax fairness in ways that contrast sharply with today’s Republicans in Congress. We rated the claim Mostly True.   

A day later, when it was Romney's turn, he unleashed a number of attacks on Obama, including some we had checked before.

Romney also said that Obama is "the only president to ever cut $500 billion from Medicare," which was a mashup of claims we had checked before. We noted that it wasn’t a cut, rather a reduction in future growth (the size of the Medicare program will increase dollar-wise). And other presidents have cut Medicare, though you can debate whether specific changes to the program constitute a "cut" in some of those cases as well. This claim is rated False. Romney also charged that Obama has "failed to pass a budget," a claim that earned a Mostly False rating because it ignores the fact that the federal budget is Congress' responsibility.

Continuing his attack on the Ryan budget, Obama also said, "Republicans in Congress refuse to list a single tax loophole they are willing to close."

The Republican budget proposes reducing the current six tax brackets -- 10, 15, 25, 28, 33 and 35 percent -- to two, 10 and 25 percent. To keep tax revenues from taking a nosedive, House Republicans say they will end current exemptions and deductions, which both they and Obama refer to as "loopholes." But House Republicans haven’t said which exemptions they would end.

Instead, they have aid they will leave it to the House Ways and Means Committee, and Ryan has suggested in a television interview that it might be done by targeting elimination of exemptions for higher income taxpayers.

We rated Obama's statement True.