Stand up for the facts!

Our only agenda is to publish the truth so you can be an informed participant in democracy.
We need your help.

More Info

I would like to contribute

By Alexander Lane October 29, 2008

21 bottles of deregulation on the wall

Following the financial crisis, Sen. Barack Obama has blamed a scarcity of government regulation, and in turn criticized Sen. John McCain for advocating even less regulation over the past year.

Here's a passage from Obama's speech in Raleigh, N.C., on Oct. 29, 2008:

"When it comes to the economy – when it comes to the central issue of this election – the plain truth is that John McCain has stood with this president every step of the way. Voting for the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy that he once opposed. Voting for the Bush budgets that spent us into debt. Calling for less regulation 21 times just this year. Those are the facts."

We'll be the judge of that – at least with respect to the claim that McCain called for less regulation on 21 separate occasions this year.

We asked the Obama campaign for evidence, and spokesman Tommy Vietor provided 21 citations of news reports over the past year.

Some were clear cut calls for deregulation.

For example, "We need less government. We need less regulation," McCain said in a quote that appeared on Washington Week , the PBS show, on Jan. 25, 2008.

No doubt about that one.

But what about this statement the Obama campaign cited from a July 3, 2008, statement McCain made after goverment figures showed a sixth straight month of job losses:

"At a time when our small businesses need support from Washington, we cannot raise taxes, increase regulation, and isolate ourselves from foreign markets."

One could quibble over whether a warning against increased regulation is the same as a call for less regulation.

Featured Fact-check

And this, from a McCain speech in Livonia, Mich., on Jan. 12, 2008: "Michigan's problems are rooted in failed government policies. Heavy regulation, too much government spending and taxes, and a high cost of doing business has hurt it dearly."

That too is an implied, but not explicit, call for less regulation.

In all, 14 of the examples the Obama campaign provided were explicit calls by McCain for less regulation. Six others were along the lines of the general condemnations of regulation cited above – what we would call implied calls for less regulation. (The Obama campaign cited two news accounts of the same McCain statement, so we discounted one of those.)

Our fellow fact-checkers at CNN arrived at the same conclusion , and labeled Obama's claim "misleading." However, we found several instances of McCain calling for deregulation that the Obama campaign did not cite.

For example, later in that Jan. 12 Michigan speech he said, "Michigan – and the United States – needs deregulation, freedom, innovation, and private control of money."

On March 4, 2008, in Dallas, he said, "We will campaign to strengthen job growth in America by helping businesses become more competitive with lower taxes and less regulation."

In Tampa on April 29, 2008, he called for "ridding the market of both needless and costly regulations."

At a town hall event in Denver on July 7, 2008: "Beth (a local business leader) tells me it gets harder every year, not because of the market and competition, but because of government regulations, taxes and the cost of health care. Beth, I promise you, if I'm elected president, we're going to remove these obstacles to your continued success."

We should note that since the financial crisis worsened this fall, McCain has softened his advocacy of deregulation of the financial markets.

For example, on This Week on Sept. 28, 2008, George Stephanopoulos asked him, "In the past you said you were for less regulations, maybe even a moratorium. Do you think now we're heading into an era where we're going to have to have enhanced regulation?"

"Two years ago, I said that I was worried about – co-sponsored legislation because of the excesses of Fannie and Freddie that I saw," McCain replied. "Six years ago, I railed about corporate excess and not expensing stock options. I'm a Teddy Roosevelt Republican. I believe there's a role of government. I believe that government has to be part of the solution. I mean, regulation and oversight has to be absolutely essential. Teddy Roosevelt said unbridled capitalism leads to corruption."

Still, between the 14 explicit and six implied calls for deregulation the Obama campaign cited, plus the four explicit calls we found, Obama was on fairly solid ground with this claim. We find it Mostly True.

Our Sources

Obama, McCain Spar Over Job Losses, Agence France-Presse, July 3, 2008

Associated Press, McCain's Wide Appeal Gives Automatic Advantage in Michigan , Jan. 14, 2008

Project Vote Smart, Remarks To Americans For Prosperity Michigan Summit , Jan. 12, 2008, accessed Oct. 29, 2008

Project Vote Smart, Remarks by John McCain on Tonight's Primary Victories , March 4, 2008, accessed Oct. 29, 2008

Project Vote Smart, Remarks by John McCain on Health Care on Day Two of the "Call to Action Tour," April 29, 2008, accessed Oct. 29, 2008 

Project Vote Smart, Remarks by John McCain on His Jobs for America Economic Plan , July 7, 2008, accessed Oct. 29, 2008

E-mail correspondence with Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor, Oct. 29, 2008, Fact Check: Has McCain called for less regulation 21 times this year?,  Oct. 27, 2008

Federal New Service, Washington Week With Gwen Ifill, Jan. 27, 2008

This Week, Exclusive; Sen. John McCain, Sept. 28, 2008

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Alexander Lane

21 bottles of deregulation on the wall

Support independent fact-checking.
Become a member!

In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.

Sign me up