Friday, June 22, 2018
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PolitiFact: Jeb Bush wrong to claim national debt never a debate topic

The statement

The debt "comes up all the time in town meetings … but it's never asked in the debates. It's really weird. It hasn't been brought up."

Jeb Bush, Feb. 2 at Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, N.H.

The ruling

We found this hard to believe — and it turns out, Bush's memory on this one is faulty.

Examples of questions about the debt asked during a debate:

In the Milwaukee debate Nov. 10, Fox Business News' Maria Bartiromo relayed a question from a Facebook user to Ohio Gov. John Kasich: "We are approaching $20 trillion in national debt. Specifically, what plans do you have to cut federal spending?"

Bartiromo went on to say that "the national debt is at record highs and growing unsustainably. Interest will be the fastest-growing part of the federal budget, tripling over the next 10 years. Social Security, the lifeline of millions of American seniors, is rushing toward insolvency. With all of the tax plans presented tonight, estimated to cost anywhere between $2 trillion and $12 trillion over a decade, what specific steps will you take to balance the budget?"

Kasich talked about his budget record as governor and plans for taxes and spending if he were elected president.

In the GOP debate in North Charleston, S.C., Jan. 15, Bartiromo again brought up the debt. She cited "the $19 trillion debt" in a question to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie about infrastructure spending.

Bartiromo later addressed Sen. Marco Rubio, saying, "One of the biggest fiscal challenges is our entitlement programs, particularly Social Security and Medicare. What policies will you put forward to make sure these programs are more financially secure?"

Both Christie and Rubio proceeded to answer her question by discussing their plans for taxes and spending. Other candidates joined the discussion, as well.

Examples of candidates bringing up the debt on their own:

In the Las Vegas debate Dec. 15, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., used his closing statement to address the debt.

"The greatest threat to our national security is our debt," Paul said. "We borrow a million dollars a minute. And whose fault is it? Well, frankly, it's both parties' fault. You have those on the right who clamor and say, 'Oh, we will spend anything on the military,' and those on the left who say the same for domestic welfare.

"But what most Americans don't realize is there is an unholy alliance. They come together. There's a secret handshake. We spend more money on everything. And we are not a stronger nation if we go further into debt. We are not projecting power from bankruptcy court."

Back in South Carolina, Marco Rubio: "How about Obamacare, a certified job killer? It needs to be repealed and replaced. And we need to bring our debt under control, make our economy stronger."

Paul, at the Des Moines, Iowa, debate: "I'm worried about the country and how much debt we're adding. And I am the one true fiscal conservative who will look at all spending. And that's the only way we'll ever balance our budget."

At the Boulder, Colo., debate, Oct. 28, CNBC's Carl Quintanilla asked Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, about the debt limit, which is related to the larger question of the federal debt because Congress must periodically reauthorize issuing more debt if the country is to avoid default.

"Congressional Republicans, Democrats and the White House are about to strike a compromise that would raise the debt limit, prevent the government shutdown, and calm financial markets that fear that another Washington-created crisis is on the way. Does your opposition to it show you're not the kind of problem solver that American voters want?" he asked Cruz.

Cruz sidestepped the question.

We rate Bush's claim False.

Read more at PolitiFact.com.

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