Guns, deficit, fraud and beer among our most popular non-election fact-checks

Rush Limbaugh misfired in a claim about Gov. Scott Walker. (AP photo)
Rush Limbaugh misfired in a claim about Gov. Scott Walker. (AP photo)

The focal point of Wisconsin politics in 2014 was the race for governor. And so it was with PolitiFact Wisconsin’s Truth-O-Meter -- many of our most popular fact-checks were about Gov. Scott Walker or Mary Burke, the Democrat he defeated to win re-election.

But there were, of course, many other politicians making statements about many other things.

Based on page-views, here are the top five fact-checks from 2014 that weren’t about the governor’s race.

1. Obama says he has cut national deficit in half

During a speech in Milwaukee in September, President Barack Obama said: "We cut our deficits by more than half."

Thanks to income tax revenues rising and spending on emergency assistance dropping, America’s deficit has fallen by more than 50 percent from its highest point since World War II to a level $733 billion lower. In 2009, the deficit reached $1.4 trillion; by the end of 2013, it had dropped to $679.5 billion.

Our rating: True.

2. U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson links strict gun control laws in Chicago with a high murder rate

At a public meeting in February, the Wisconsin Republican said that even though Chicago has "the most stringent gun laws on the books," it still "has the highest murder rate" in the country.

Chicago does have some of the strictest gun-control laws, but was not number one among U.S. cities for the murder rate. Meanwhile, the evidence was mixed on whether stricter gun control is associated with fewer murders.

Our rating: Half True.

3. Paul Ryan says Miller Brewing and Anheuser-Busch are no longer American companies

Giving a speech in Milwaukee in September, the GOP congressman from Janesville claimed: "Miller Brewing is not a U.S. company any more. Neither is Anheuser-Busch."

As Ryan noted, the parent companies of Miller and Anheuser-Busch are located overseas. They were part of a long-standing and rapid world-wide consolidation of the major breweries.

Our rating: True.

4. On average, 20 to 25 cents of every $1 spent on four government assistance programs is lost to fraud, Sen. Ron Johnson says

Speaking at a "pints and politics" gathering in January, Johnson said the average rate of fraud in the Earned Income Tax Credit, Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps programs "is 20 to 25 percent."   

Improper payment rates are in the 20 to 25 percent range in the tax credit program -- but are 10 percent or less in the other three programs. So, even the average among the four programs would be far less than what Johnson claimed. More importantly, those are error rates; there are no figures on the rate of fraud, which is believed to be a small component of errors.

Our rating: Pants on Fire.  

5. Wisconsin is a heavily Democratic state and under GOP Gov. Scott Walker, unemployment is just 3.5%, Rush Limbaugh says

The conservative commentator made that claim on one of his nationally syndicated radio shows in April.

Although Wisconsin has voted for the Democratic nominee in the last seven presidential contests, as a frequent battleground state, it is far from being an automatic in the Democratic column. At the state level, meanwhile, Wisconsin is currently Republican red but was recently Democratic blue, and by other measures it is somewhere between the two. As for unemployment under Walker, it had dropped to near 6 percent, but nowhere near 3.5 percent.

Our rating: False.