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Sorting out the truth in politics

PolitiFact: Fact-checking Paul Ryan, vice presidential candidate

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., Mitt Romney's vice presidential pick, has been a regular on the Truth-O-Meter.

So have statements by others — often criticism from Democrats — about his budget plans and proposals to revamp Medicare and Social Security.

PolitiFact and PolitiFact Wisconsin have evaluated 14 statements by Ryan, a native of Janesville. Two were rated True and two Mostly True; four were Half True and four Mostly False; none were False and two were Pants on Fire.

As one might expect, nine of the 14 Ryan statements involved the federal budget, debt, taxes or spending.

Recent attacks on his budget include a Half True claim by President Barack Obama that Ryan's plan would cut financial aid to college students — the claim was based on Obama's assumptions, ignoring points in the plan itself; and Vice President Joe Biden's False claim that Ryan's plan eliminates Medicare in 10 years — the plan dramatically changes Medicare, but doesn't eliminate it.

Here's a rundown, by rating, of Ryan's statements:


Unemployment under Obama: If the labor participation rate were the same as when Obama became president, "our unemployment rate would be 11 percent today," Ryan said in June 2012. That was on the money: Unemployment that month would have been 10.9 percent if the labor force participation rate had remained at the 65.5 percent in place when Obama became president.

Federal debt size: "The debt will soon eclipse our entire economy," Ryan said in January 2011. Indeed, PolitiFact National found the U.S. government's debt was $14 trillion, approaching the gross domestic product of $14.7 trillion.

Mostly True

No budget: Ryan said the Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate had "gone without any budget at all" for nearly three years. It had been 1,000 days since the Senate last adopted a budget.

Tax rates: Ryan was more or less on target when he said Obama wants to raise the top tax rate to 44.5 percent, but his claim needed clarification in that he was projecting the rate would reach that level based on various parts of the president's agenda.

Half True

Taxes, foreign debt: Ryan received a Half True rating for saying that a 100 percent tax on millionaires would only fund the federal government for four months (it would have more budget impact); and for saying the U.S. borrows 42 cents of every $1 it spends, with half of that coming from countries like China (the second part of the claim was misleading).

Deficits, spending: Ryan oversimplified and exaggerated in claiming that rising deficits would blow up a Congressional Budget Office economic model, and though he was right when he said Obama increased spending 25 percent in two years, he was off in claiming the figure was 84 percent if the stimulus was included.

Mostly False

Spending: When Ryan in November 2010 claimed that U.S. discretionary spending had gone up 84 percent in two years, the way he used spending in the one-time economic stimulus skewed the picture. And he cherry-picked figures when he claimed the percentage of U.S. households got a certain percentage of their income from the federal government.

Health law, bankruptcy: In declaring that Obama's health care reform law "is accelerating our country toward bankruptcy," Ryan made good points about assumptions the Congressional Budget Office made in assessing the law, but overreached in his claim given that the CBO projects the law to reduce the government's deficit, both in the short and long term.

State love: In saying a study showed that Texans and Wisconsinites loved their states most, he could not produce a study like the one he described.

Pants on Fire

Government's size: Ryan in April 2012 said Obama had doubled the size of government, but out-of-date budget data he cited didn't show a doubling of federal spending.

Madison, Cairo: Also deemed false and ridiculous was Ryan's claim in February 2011 that protests in Madison against Gov. Scott Walker and his collective bargaining changes included "riots," as in the political protests in Egypt.

PolitiFact: Fact-checking Paul Ryan, vice presidential candidate 08/11/12 [Last modified: Saturday, August 11, 2012 10:40pm]
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