WASHINGTON » And now, to conclude, a few parting misstatements.
Come Wednesday, or sometime later if the election result is still in the balance, only one man will be left standing and the loser’s inventory of misleading claims, out-of-context assertions and warped-reality advertising will fade into some inglorious corner of history. But we’re not quite done with them yet.
In campaign speeches that serve as closing arguments, President Barack Obama and Republican rival Mitt Romney are still at it. Romney is still misrepresenting the impact of Obama’s health care law on your wallet. Obama is still masking the sticker shock of his plan to tax the rich.
Call it a perfect storm of Frankenfacts. Here’s a sampling of the claims coming from the stump and the airwaves in the campaign’s 11th-hour tempest:
OBAMA in Green Bay, Wis., on Thursday: “It’s time to use the savings from ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to start paying down our debts here and rebuilding America. Right now, we can put people back to work fixing up roads and bridges. Right now, we can expand broadband into rural neighborhoods and make sure our schools are state of the art.
THE FACTS: If saying things over and over could make them true, this would be true.
But it’s not. This claim is the kudzu of the Obama campaign, the weed that regrows no matter how many times it’s whacked.
The wars were financed mostly with borrowing, so ending them does not free a pile of cash for anything else. “Rebuilding America” with war savings merely means continuing to borrow and pile up debt, but for purposes other than war.
ROMNEY campaign ad: “Obama took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy and sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China. Mitt Romney will fight for every American job.”
THE FACTS: You wouldn’t know from this audacious account of the auto-industry crisis that:
—Romney also counseled bankruptcy for the automakers, but without the government bailout that represented its only realistic chance of succeeding.
—Chrysler says the possibility of making some of its Jeeps in China does not threaten Jeep production in the U.S.
—Romney wrongly predicted during the crisis that if the companies got a government bailout, “You can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye.” Both companies have returned to profitability.
OBAMA in Green Bay: “If we’re serious about the deficit, we’ve also got to ask the wealthiest Americans to go back to the tax rates that they paid when Bill Clinton was in office.”
THE FACTS: His tax plan is not just a return to the good old days. Yes, he wants to return to Clinton-era tax rates for couples making over $250,000 and individuals making over $200,000. That means a top rate of 39.6 percent, up from 35 percent. But there’s more. His administration has already enacted new taxes on the wealthy, through the health care law, imposing a 0.9 percent Medicare surcharge on richer households and a 3.8 percent tax on investment income for high earners.
Apart from the health care law, the president is also proposing a rule to ensure that households earning over $1 million pay a 30 percent minimum tax rate. And he supports raising Medicare premiums for well-to-do retirees.
ROMNEY in Roanoke, Va., on Thursday:
—”And that health insurance cost? They’ve gone up $2,500 a family.”
—”We’re gonna restore that funding to Medicare, and also we’re gonna repeal and replace Obamacare so your premiums don’t go up by $2,500 a year.”
THE FACTS: First, Romney’s suggestion that premiums have gone up $2,500 a year bears no semblance to reality. They haven’t gone up by quite that much over four years, either.
The total contribution of workers and their employers to a family health care plan has risen $2,370 on average since 2009, Obama’s first year in office, according to annual surveys of workplace health insurance by the Kaiser Family Foundation, an authority cited by both political parties. That’s an average increase of less than $600 a year.
Second, premiums paid by workers have gone up much less than that. Employers pay the largest share of health insurance and have absorbed most of the increases.
Health insurance premiums paid by workers have risen $801 for a family plan over four years, or $172 for an individual plan.
Moreover, Obama’s health care law came into effect in 2010. Over the period since then, the total cost of a family plan is $1,975 higher on average, and the share paid by workers is up $319 in that time — altogether a far cry from the notion that Obamacare is already costing families thousands of dollars a year. Indeed, Kaiser’s experts, along with nonpartisan analysts in the government, say Obama’s law thus far has played only a marginal role in rising costs. Its main effects don’t start until 2014, when coverage expansion kicks off. Obama has clearly oversold the ability of his law to bring costs down, but Romney’s assertion that it already is breaking the bank is fanciful.
OBAMA in Green Bay: :
—”Another $5 trillion tax cut that favors the wealthy isn’t change.”
—”But if the price of peace in Washington is cutting deals that will kick students off of financial aid, or get rid of funding for Planned Parenthood, or eliminate health care for millions on Medicaid who are poor or elderly or disabled, just to give a millionaire a tax cut, I’m not having it.”
THE FACTS: This supercharged critique of Romney’s agenda assigns a misleading price tag to the Republican’s tax plan, which calls for tax cuts for all income groups, not just millionaires. Romney is not proposing to “eliminate health care” for Medicaid recipients or to throw students to the wolves, although it’s within the bounds of political debate to assume the worst of your rival’s policy ideas.
Obama gets the $5 trillion figure from a forecast by the Tax Policy Center that Romney’s tax cuts would reduce federal revenue by $465 billion in 2015 — in the ballpark of $5 trillion if spread over 10 years. But Obama is ignoring a crucial feature of the plan: that Romney says he would greatly lower its cost by reducing or eliminating some tax credits, deductions and exemptions, especially for wealthier taxpayers. Romney won’t be specific, but it’s clear $5 trillion is just one side of the equation.
ROMNEY in Roanoke: “We’re gonna create 12 million new jobs and more take-home pay.”
THE FACTS: Romney never gets to the nitty-gritty of how these jobs would be created. He merely sketches a general five-point plan calling for lower taxes, more trade, better worker training, deficit cuts and accelerated energy production.
Still, he could well succeed in this goal, because it is not particularly ambitious.
Most economists think that about that many jobs will return over the next four years no matter who wins, absent another big economic setback. It doesn’t take boom times to create jobs at a rate of 3 million a year.
To reach Romney’s job pledge, the workforce would have to grow at an average of 250,000 a month. While that’s above recently depressed averages, it’s not abnormally high for non-recessionary times when the economy is growing at close to 3 percent or higher. Since July, the economy has created an average of 173,000 jobs a month.
In essence, then, Romney with this claim is promising a return to modest economic growth. Saying 12 million jobs sounds better.
Associated Press writers Tom Raum and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar contributed to this report.