Biden and Ryan exchange claims, barbs in Kentucky debate

Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., take on each other on the economy, foreign policy and abortion. ABC News correspondent Martha Raddatz served as moderator.
Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., take on each other on the economy, foreign policy and abortion. ABC News correspondent Martha Raddatz served as moderator.

Updated on Friday, October 12th, 2012 at 1:15 a.m.

The second debate — and only debate for vice presidential candidates — of the presidential election season is in the books. And like their running mates a week ago, the second-in-command contenders had a lot to say.

In some heated exchanges, Vice President Joseph Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan accused each other of distorting information, repeating some familiar talking points from the presidential campaigns.

PolitiFact and PolitiFact Georgia are checking statements made by the two candidates Thursday night in Danville, Ky.

We will be updating our online site — — throughout the day as fact-checks are completed. Readers can comment on our Truth-O-Meter rulings at our Facebook page: And they can follow on Twitter at: PolitiFactGA.

Below are some initial fact-checks on statements by the candidates or major themes they broached during Thursday’s debate. Look for the complete fact-checks at the PolitiFact online sites.


Joe Biden: $500 billion of the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy goes to 120,000 families

During the debate, Biden repeated this claim a few times, one that he also made at a Green Bay campaign rally on Sept. 2.

"They didn’t tell you why they are eviscerating all these efforts to help the working and middle class people of America," Biden said then. "They are doing it all in the service of massive tax cuts for the very wealthy … $500 billion of the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy goes to 120,000 families. Hear what I just said! One-half trillion dollars will go to 120,000 American families!"

What about Biden’s half-trillion dollar claim?

His campaign has said he based it on 10-year projections by White House budget officials, and private studies. Federal budgets typically look ahead 10 years. Biden took a budget projection of $968 billion in tax savings, based on the cuts expiring for the top 2 percent. Then he determined that, within that group, the top 0.1 percent includes about 120,000 families — and got 55 percent of that $968 million in tax savings.

Experts said there’s a basis for Biden’s $500 billion figure, with the footnote that the numbers are unofficial and somewhat rough.

His math, and the description of the Bush tax-cut package, needs some clarification.

But, overall, the claim was rated Mostly True.


Paul Ryan: President Obama took $716 billion out of Medicare for Obamacare

This attack on President Obama’s health care law is similar to another Ryan attack in which he called the law "the greatest threat to Medicare."

"The biggest, coldest power play of all in Obamacare came at the expense of the elderly," Ryan said during his Republican National Convention speech. "You see, even with all the hidden taxes to pay for the health care takeover, even with a new law and new taxes on nearly a million small businesses, the planners in Washington still didn’t have enough money. They needed more. They needed hundreds of billions more.

"So, they just took it all away from Medicare, $716 billion, funneled out of Medicare by President Obama."

Ryan’s statement gives a very misleading impression.

In fact, the law limits payments to health care providers and insurers to try to reduce the rapid growth of future Medicare spending. Lawmakers said they hoped the measures would improve care and efficiency. Those savings, spread out over the next 10 years, are then used to offset costs created by the law (especially coverage for the uninsured) so that the overall law doesn’t add to the deficit. Ryan’s statement is exaggerated and we rated it Mostly False.


Joe Biden: Paul Ryan’s budget proposal "eliminates Medicare" in 10 years

During the vice presidential debate, Biden attacked the Republican ticket’s proposal for Medicare.

Romney and Ryan, Biden said, would "eliminate the guarantee of Medicare."

We tackled this point when President Barack Obama made a similar point in September. We asked: Are there "guaranteed benefits" for Medicare today? And if so, would they be at risk if Romney wins? A lot of it depends on how you define these words.

Calling today’s Medicare benefits "guaranteed" is partially, but not entirely, true. Currently, Medicare does guarantee broad health coverage for seniors and, in the short term, guarantees specific benefits. But Medicare doesn’t cover everything, and Congress and the president can change what is covered — and will be forced to do so when fiscal pressures hit.

Meanwhile, it’s plausible that the Romney plan could provide less of a "guarantee" than Medicare currently does, but we found sharp disagreement between supporters and opponents of Romney’s Medicare plan on that point. This disagreement is hard to resolve given the shortage of information Romney has so far provided.

On balance, we rate the claim Half True.



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