Fact checking the Milwaukee GOP debate

The Republican presidential candidates line up before Tuesday's debate in Milwaukee. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel photo by Mark Hoffman)
The Republican presidential candidates line up before Tuesday's debate in Milwaukee. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel photo by Mark Hoffman)

Debating in Milwaukee on Nov. 10, 2015, the Republican presidential candidates made claims about unemployment, terrorism, business failures and even the number of words in the IRS code versus the Bible.

Here’s a look at how those claims stack up.

Carson: Raise minimum wage, kill jobs

In saying he opposes raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, neurosurgeon Ben Carson claimed: "Every time we raise the minimum wage, the number of jobless people increases."

That wasn’t shown when PolitiFact National rated nearly the opposite claim, by U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., in November 2014 -- that "every time we've increased the minimum wage, we've seen a growth in jobs." That claim was rated Mostly False.

During the debate, PolitiFact National noted it couldn’t rely on the exact same data, since Cardin referred to a growth in jobs, while Carson referred to an increase in joblessness. Those aren’t exactly the same things.

If you look at the 12-month period following every minimum-wage hike since 1978, joblessness did rise on seven occasions, but it fell on four occasions, undercutting Carson’s sweeping claim. It rated Carson’s claim False.

Trump, Israel and terrorism

Businessman Donald Trump made a comment about how effective Israel’s wall is. That reminded us of a claim made by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in August 2015. Walker said Israel has seen a "90 percent reduction in terrorist attacks" that it attributes to building a 500-mile fence.

We rated that claim Half True.

A report from the Jewish Virtual Library showed a 90 percent reduction in terrorism, and the Israeli government does cite the fence as the reason for the drop. But the data used was outdated and once more recent years are added, the drop since 2002 was more like 50 percent. What’s more, experts say the barrier is but one reason for the decline.

Trump on trade and China

Trump also claimed: "We’re losing now over $500 billion a year in terms of imbalance with China."

Even before the debate was over, PolitiFact National issued a rating of Mostly False.

The 2014 trade deficit totaled $343 billion, and it’s expected to be larger in 2015 but not more than $500 billion.

Trump vs. Kasich on oil in Ohio

Trump also made an offhand comment about Ohio being lucky that it struck oil. That appeared to be an allusion to a statement Trump made in the October debate, when he said: Ohio Gov. John Kasich "got lucky with a thing called fracking," which "is why Ohio is doing well."

That claim was rated False.

Ohio underwent a fracking boom in recent years, but Trump overstated its impact on Ohio’s economy. By all estimates, fracking jobs account for 2 percent of those added in the state during Kasich’s tenure. Shale development has improved GDP by about 1 percent and contributed to less than a percent of the state’s tax revenue.

Kasich as federal budget balancer

Kasich said he was the "chief architect" of balancing the federal budget. That goes further than what he has said in the past.

In August 2015, Kasich said he was "one of the chief architects." That claim was rated Mostly True.

As a leading member of Congress, Kasich sponsored the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 and played a major role in getting it passed.

Cruz, the IRS and the Bible

Responding to a question about taxes, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said: "There are more words in the IRS code than there are in the Bible."

In rating a similar claim in 2013, our colleagues found that the Internal Revenue Service code is about 4 million words, well more than the roughly 800,000 words in the Bible (depending on which version is considered).

Rubio, child care and college

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio said in 35 states, "child care costs more than college." That’s similar to a claim made by President Barack Obama made in June 2014, when he said: "In 31 states, decent child care costs more than college tuition."

Obama’s claim was rated Mostly True.

The president chose a statistic that originated in a wide-ranging survey of child care costs. But Obama cherry-picked the most dramatic statistic of four presented in the report, allowing him to say 31 states, rather than as few as 10. He also ignored uncertainty about how federal aid and tax credits would affect the comparison.

Rubio on business start-ups

Rubio also stated: "For the first time in 35 years, we have more businesses dying than starting."

When he made the same claim in June 2015 it was rated True.

The change occurred in 2008, but in general, Rubio accurately cited a statistic from a respected think tank’s report.

Bush and poverty

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said: "One in five children are on food stamps."

In May 2015, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, then a candidate in the presidential campaign, made a similar claim, saying: "One out of five of our children live in a family that’s on food stamps."

That was rated True. The latest federal estimate at that time was that in 2014, one in five children received food stamp benefits.

Paul and borrowing

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky said we "borrow a million dollars every minute."

He made the same claim in July 2015, and it was rated Mostly True.

For the country to borrow $1 million a minute, the annual government deficit would have to be about $525 billion. In 2014, the deficit was $483 billion, and it’s projected to be $486 billion in 2015. So Paul’s estimate was a little on the high side.

Jindal, Walker and D.C.-area prosperity

Speaking to reporters in the "spin room" following the early debate, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal advocated for term limits for elected officials in Washington, D.C., and said "seven of the 10 fastest-growing counties have been in D.C."

That’s similar to a claim Walker made in February 2015. Walker said six of the nation’s 10 wealthiest counties, "according to median income, are in and around the Washington, D.C. area."

We rated that claim True.

The latest U.S. census estimates for median household income, for 2013, showed that six of the top 10 counties were in D.C. suburbs in Maryland or Virginia.

For PolitiFact National's coverage of the debate, click here. Check the national site in the coming days for factchecks of new claims.