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Monday, August 6, 2007

Republican Liars

Hat Tip: Fact Check.org

Sunday Morning Missteps
August 6, 2007
Another Republican debate, with more false claims


The Republican presidential candidates debated
and sounded some more false notes:
  • Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney falsely claimed U.S. job growth had been nearly 17 times faster than Europe's. Actually, European Union employment grew faster than that of the U.S. last year. Romney's figures come from a source who told FactCheck.org that he would no longer use them.
  • Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani accused Democratic candidates of "appeasement" toward Islamic terrorists. In fact, leading Democratic candidates have spoken out strongly against terrorism.
  • Sen. John McCain claimed American families spend $140 billion of their income preparing federal income tax returns. We find no support for that figure, which the Internal Revenue Service puts at $19 billion.
  • Rep. Tom Tancredo claimed illegal immigrants "are taking a large part of our health care dollars." But the independent Rand Corp. estimates that undocumented immigrants account for 1.5 percent of health care spending or less.

Republican presidential candidates debated for 90 minutes on Sunday's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" in what ABC News billed as the Republicans' first network debate. (It was, of course, the candidates' fourth debate, having already aired their views on MSNBC, Fox News Channel and CNN, but never mind all that.)

We noted the following factual stumbles:

Romney's Economic Miracle

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney erred when he claimed U.S. job growth had been nearly 17 times faster than that of Europe:
Romney: We are the largest economy in the world. We’ve added during the time Europe added 3 million jobs, we’ve added about 50 million jobs in this country.

That miraculous-sounding statistic is way off. It has taken since the end of 1978 for total employment in the U.S. to grow by 50 million jobs, according to official figures kept by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But total employment for the 15 core members of the European Union (those who joined before 2004) grew by well over 33 million between 1978 and 2005, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Europe has added even more jobs since. In fact, the 27 current EU nations
added nearly 3 million new jobs last year alone, according to the EU statistics agency Eurostat. That's well over the 2.3 million jobs created last year in the United States.

Romney was misquoting an outdated and highly dubious figure whose author no longer stands behind it. Romney cited a 2005 article in The American Enterprise magazine, published by the pro-business American Enterprise Institute. In the article, titled "America Still Beckons," author Joel Kotkin wrote: "Since the 1970s America has created some 57 million new jobs, compared to just 4 million in Europe (with most of those in government)." Kotkin told FactCheck.org he wouldn’t use the figure today.

We concur. The 4 million figure is a somewhat garbled version of what another author, Karl Zinsmeister, had written in another American Enterprise article from 2002, “Old And In The Way (Decline and Fall of Europe).” Zinsmeister put the figure at 5 million
not 4 million or 3 million and the time period as "since 1970," rather than Kotkin's "since the 1970s," which implies a somewhat more recent time. “I don't know how it got changed," Kotkin said. In any case Kotkin told us it was his sense that Zinsmeister's 5 million figure referred mainly to Germany and France, not to all 15 pre-2004 European Union members, let alone the 27 current EU members. In any case, it refers to statistics covering years prior to 2002. “This was an old number,” Kotkin said. His advice: “I would not use that.”

Accusing Democrats of Appeasing Terrorists

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani accused Democratic candidates of "appeasement" toward Islamic terrorists out of "political correctness."

Giuliani: [In] four Democratic debates, not a single Democratic candidate said the word “Islamic terrorism.” Now, that is taking political correctness to extremes.… The reality is that you do not achieve peace through weakness and appeasement. Weakness and appeasement should not be a policy of the American government.

Properly speaking, of course, “Islamic terrorism” is two words, though Giuliani is correct to say that in four debates the Democratic candidates have not uttered the words “Islamic terrorism” together. And it is true that Democratic candidates have generally avoided making critical comments about Muslims or the Islamic faith. Whether or not that constitutes "political correctness" and/or "appeasement" is a matter of opinion which we leave to others. But Giuliani is wrong to imply that the Democrats have failed to address terrorism. Here is a sampling of what leading Democratic candidates said in one debate:


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