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Brian Kemp, center, walks with President Donald Trump, right, and Sen. David Perdue as Trump arrives for a rally Nov. 4, 2018, in Macon, Ga. Perdue is challenging Kemp, the Georgia governor, for the 2022 GOP nomination for governor. (AP) Brian Kemp, center, walks with President Donald Trump, right, and Sen. David Perdue as Trump arrives for a rally Nov. 4, 2018, in Macon, Ga. Perdue is challenging Kemp, the Georgia governor, for the 2022 GOP nomination for governor. (AP)

Brian Kemp, center, walks with President Donald Trump, right, and Sen. David Perdue as Trump arrives for a rally Nov. 4, 2018, in Macon, Ga. Perdue is challenging Kemp, the Georgia governor, for the 2022 GOP nomination for governor. (AP)

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher May 19, 2022

In Georgia’s governor’s race, Brian Kemp’s attack on David Perdue for US inflation is misleading

If Your Time is short

  • Debt rose about $10 trillion during Perdue’s time as a U.S. senator, but it didn’t accumulate only from votes by “liberals” to increase spending; much of the increase came from bipartisan votes and automatic spending by programs such as Medicaid and Medicare. 

  • There are multiple causes for inflation, and some experts point to spending approved after Perdue left office as a key cause.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, fending off a primary election challenge from fellow Republican David Perdue, blamed Perdue for soaring inflation.

Perdue "voted with liberals" for $10 trillion "in new debt" and "his out-of-control federal spending is driving inflation through the roof," a Kemp TV ad said.

Debt rose by about $10 trillion during Perdue’s tenure as a one-term U.S. senator, from 2015 to 2021, but much of that was a bipartisan effort, not solely the work of "liberals."

In addition, inflation has multiple causes, and some experts point to spending approved after Perdue left office as a key cause.

Perdue voted for bipartisan debt-raising measures

Kemp’s campaign did not provide us any information beyond what is cited in the ad to back up its attack on Perdue. 

Words displayed in the ad refer to "$10 trillion in debt" and to the U.S. Treasury Department without citing a specific document or database.  

Erica York, an economist with the Tax Foundation, pointed PolitiFact to Treasury Department figures showing that total debt increased about $10 trillion between 2015 and 2021, from roughly $18 trillion to $28 trillion.

Perdue voted for a number of large, debt-raising measures. The Republicans’ 2017 tax cut increased deficits, but the parties came together on two large COVID-19 relief bills — $2 trillion in March 2020 and $900,000 in December 2020. President Donald Trump signed both. 

Kemp praised the larger measure, saying in a March 2020 tweet: "Thanks to @POTUS for signing the CARES Act and to Georgia’s congressional delegation for their strong support of this much-needed measure."

An important point that also undercuts Kemp’s statement is that much of the accumulated debt every year isn’t even voted on; it essentially adds up from spending that’s on autopilot. That is, automatic borrowing for Medicare and Medicaid, not debt approved by senators during Perdue’s tenure.

Debt not the sole driver of inflation

Since Perdue left office in January 2021, the inflation rate has climbed to over 8%. 

In Kemp’s ad, the words "government spending to blame for inflation" appear on the screen. That’s part of the headline on a March 30, 2022, Fox Business article about a study released two days earlier by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. The study compared inflation in the U.S. and other developed countries. 

The Federal Reserve analysis didn’t blame inflation solely on government spending. It said global supply chain problems and changes in spending patterns due to the COVID-19 pandemic have pushed up inflation worldwide. The study did blame higher U.S. government spending for making inflation higher in the United States than in other developed nations since the first half of 2021. 

Economic experts told PolitiFact in April that President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act in 2021 spurred inflation. They differed on the precise scale of its impact, with estimates ranging from two to four additional points out of the inflation rate at the time of about 8.5%.

The experts said past government spending, COVID-19’s disruptions to labor markets, energy prices and supply-chains also played significant roles. Most recently, the war in Ukraine has made a challenging situation worse.

Georgia’s primary is May 24. If neither Perdue nor Kemp gets more than 50% of the vote, there would be a runoff June 21. Trump endorsed Perdue.

The GOP nominee will face Democrat Stacey Abrams, who is unopposed. Kemp won his first term in 2018 by defeating Abrams, a former state lawmaker, by about 50% to 49%. Campaign watchers rate the Nov. 8 general election as a toss up and "tilts Republican."

Our ruling

Kemp said in an ad that Perdue "voted with liberals" for $10 trillion "in new debt, his out-of-control federal spending is driving inflation through the roof."

Debt rose about $10 trillion during Perdue’s time as a U.S. senator, but it didn’t accumulate only from votes by "liberals" to increase spending; much of the increase came from bipartisan votes and automatic spending by programs such as Medicaid and Medicare. 

In addition, there are multiple causes for inflation, and some experts pointed to spending approved after Perdue left office as a key cause.

Kemp’s statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it Mostly False.

RELATED: Fact-checking ads in the 2022 elections

RELATED: Fact-checks about Georgia

Our Sources

YouTube, Brian Kemp "Balanced" ad, May 10, 2022

AdImpact.com, Brian Kemp "Gets Things Done" ad, accessed May 5, 2022 

Email, Brian Kemp campaign spokesperson Tate Mitchell, May 11, 2022

Email, David Perdue campaign spokesperson Jenni Sweat, May 11, 2022

Interview, American Action Forum president Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former chief economist of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, May 11, 2022

Email, Concord Coalition executive director Robert Bixby, May 19, 2022

Email, Erica York, Tax Foundation senior economist and research manager, May 19, 2022

Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, "COVID Money Tracker: Policies Enacted Through August 14," Aug. 14, 2020

Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, "What's in the Final COVID Relief Deal of 2020?", Dec. 21, 2020

Twitter, Brian Kemp tweet, March 27, 2020

Email, Gary Burtless, Brookings Institution, senior fellow,  economic studies, May 12, 2022

The Hill, "Perdue lobbied Trump to sign coronavirus relief bill: report," Dec. 28, 2020

Email, Jeffrey Miron, senior lecturer and director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Economics at Harvard University, and director of economics studies at the Cato Institute, May 19, 2022

Spectrum News, "Congress Passes COVID-19 Relief, $1.4 Trillion Spending Bill," published Dec. 21, 2020; updated Dec. 22, 2020

Fox Business, "Government spending to blame for inflation spike, San Francisco Fed study says," March 30, 2022 

CNBC, "Senate passes $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill — House aims for Friday vote," March 25, 2020

Senate.gov, CARES Act roll call vote, March 25, 2020

Senate.gov, Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019, Aug. 1, 2019

Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, "Why Is U.S. Inflation Higher than in Other Countries?", March 28, 2022

PolitiFact, "Biden’s American Rescue Plan fueled inflation. So did post-COVID shortages," April 20, 2022

PolitiFact, "Did the national debt become bigger than the U.S. economy? Yes, before Biden took office," July 2, 2021 

Email, C. Eugene Steuerle, Urban Institute fellow and Richard B. Fisher chair, May 18, 2022

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, "Federal Debt Held by the Public," March 2, 2022

Treasury Department, "Historical Debt Outstanding," Oct. 1, 2021

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In Georgia’s governor’s race, Brian Kemp’s attack on David Perdue for US inflation is misleading

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