Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

Ad Watch: The final salvos of the presidential race

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama meet at the first presidential debate on Oct. 3 in Denver.
Mitt Romney and Barack Obama meet at the first presidential debate on Oct. 3 in Denver.

Scary messages abound during the final days of the 2012 presidential campaign. President Barack Obama, Republican challenger Mitt Romney and their allies are airing ads warning of dire consequences should Tuesday’s election go against them.

Here’s what PolitiFact National has to say about the commercials:

Obama claim: Mitt Romney’s plan will make "catastrophic cuts to education."

The claim focuses on the budget of Republican vice president nominee Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., who is the chairman of the U.S. House Budget Committee. His 2012-2013 proposal would cut $5.3 trillion over the next 10 years through changes in entitlement programs and domestic spending cuts.

While Romney says he will develop his own plan, he broadly supports Ryan’s budget. Ryan’s plan does not specifically tag each program with a specific allocation, but discretionary domestic spending would  decrease from 12.5 percent of gross domestic product to 5.75 percent by 2030. If that is applied across the board, as Obama’s campaign supposes, the Education Department would lose more than $115 billion over a decade.

On the one hand, Romney said in the first presidential debate that he doesn’t plan to cut education funding. But he also said at a fundraiser that he would restructure and shrink the federal Education Department. Obama’s team tries to fill in the blanks where Romney hasn’t been clear, but the Ryan budget and Romney’s statement indicates cuts will come, so the statement earned a Half True.

Romney claim: "Under President Obama: $4,000 tax hike on the middle class."

To defend this ad claim, the campaign points to a study from the conservative American Enterprise Institute on household payments that would be needed to cover the interest on the national debt. The authors concluded that households making between $100,000 and $200,000 would have to pay $4,000 in interest over 10 years to cover the debt added in Obama’s first term and in his proposed 2013 budget.

The hypothetical study was based on the assumption that all of the debt would be absorbed by raising taxes. It does not consider the other option: cutting spending. And contrary to Romney’s claim, the president is proposing tax increases only on high-income households: individuals with adjusted gross income of $200,000 or more and families with agi of $250,000 or more. PolitiFact National found that that the Romney campaign twisted the point of the study and made several illogical leaps, so the claim was rated Pants on Fire.

Planned Parenthood Action Fund claim: Romney wants to "get rid of Planned Parenthood."

This radio ad directly contradicts Romney’s words. Romney has said that he wants to end federal funding for Planned Parenthood. He’s never said he wants to abolish the organization, which provides abortions among its services.

There’s no question that an end to federal funding would be a significant blow to the organization’s operations, potentially chopping 12 percent to 35 percent from its budget. But it’s an exaggeration to say that Romney would act to "get rid" of the organization. PolitiFact National rated the claim Mostly False.

American Crossroads claim: "We borrow $4 billion every single day, much of it from China."

The conservative super PAC uses narration from actor Clint Eastwood in this anti-Obama ad. The total federal debt is $16.2 trillion, which has increased $5.6 trillion since Obama took office. But the pace of borrowing has slowed, so that over the last year, we’ve averaged $3.4 billion per day. And some of the debt is what the government owes itself -- from the Social Security trust fund, for example. The federal government has actually borrowed about $3.7 billion per day during Obama’s administration.

About one-third of the federal government’s total debt is held by foreigners and China owns more than any outside nation . But of the total public debt added during Obama’s administration, China owns 7.7 percent. So while the debt figures aren’t too far off, the ad greatly overstates the control that China has over the government’s debt. The claim was rated Half True.