Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

PolitiFact: Pawlenty muddled on national statistics, but debt is high

The statement

"Every child born today inherits a $30,000 share in a national debt that stands at more than $13 trillion."

Tim Pawlenty, in his book, Courage to Stand: An American Story

The ruling

In his book Courage to Stand: An American Story, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty — a potential Republican presidential contender in 2012 — addresses a wide range of policy topics. One of those is the national debt.

"Every child born today," Pawlenty wrote, "inherits a $30,000 share in a national debt that stands at more than $13 trillion."

We wondered whether his math was accurate.

According to the U.S. Treasury, the total U.S. debt held by the public on Jan. 1, 2011, was almost $9.4 trillion. Meanwhile, the 2010 census just determined the national population to be 308.7 million people.

Divide those two numbers and you get $30,419 per person — right on target for what Pawlenty wrote.

But there's a catch.

Remember, Pawlenty wrote that the national debt "stands at more than $13 trillion." The number he's referring to is different from the $9.4 trillion we used in the previous calculation. The $13 trillion figure refers to something related, but different — gross federal debt, which is the sum of publicly held debt and debt held by other parts of the federal government. The additional debt included in this number typically is held by trust funds for major government programs, including Social Security and Medicare. Economists have told us in the past that they believe both measures to be equally valid.

On Jan. 1, 2011, gross federal debt stood at just over $14 trillion, which works out to $45,433 for every American.

So both of the figures Pawlenty used have a basis in reality, but they do not relate to each other the way he suggested. If Pawlenty wants to stick with the $30,000-per-person figure, he should have said that debt stands at more than $9 trillion.

Alternately, if he prefers to stick with the "more than $13 trillion" debt figure, he should say that the amount of debt per person exceeds $45,000. Since both of his numbers are right — just measuring different things — we'll give him some leeway and rate his statement Mostly True.

For more rulings, go to PolitiFact.com

PolitiFact: Pawlenty muddled on national statistics, but debt is high 04/04/11 [Last modified: Monday, April 4, 2011 8:07pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. FWC investigates viral video of shark getting dragged behind speeding boat (w/video)

    Wildlife

    The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is investigating a viral video that shows a shark being dragged behind a boat on a rope as men laugh each time its body slams the water.

    The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is investigating a viral video that shows a shark being dragged behind a boat on a rope as men laugh each time its body slams the water. [Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission]
  2. Cheers, whoops for McCain's return, then impassioned speech

    Nation

    WASHINGTON — In high drama at the Capitol, Sen. John McCain on Tuesday delivered a crucial vote in the Republican drive to dismantle the health care law, a win for President Donald Trump and GOP leaders, and then leveled a broadside at how the GOP got there.

    In this image from video provided by C-SPAN2, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. is embraced by Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of N.Y. as he arrives of the floor of the Senate on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday. [C-SPAN2 via AP]
  3. For starters: Slumping LoMo, Dickerson not in Rays lineup tonight vs LHP

    Blogs

    1B Logan Morrison and LF Corey Dickerson, two of the main slumpers in the Rays lineup, are not in tonight's lineup with the Orioles throwing LHP Wade Miley.

    Logan Morrison is 0-for-12 on this homestand.
  4. Pence breaks tie as Senate votes to begin debating 'Obamacare' repeal

    Nation

    WASHINGTON — The Senate narrowly voted Tuesday to begin debate on a bill to repeal major provisions of the health care law, taking a pivotal step forward after the dramatic return of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who cast a crucial vote despite his diagnosis of brain cancer.

    Vice President Mike Pence (R) and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus arrive on Capitol Hill, Tuesday in Washington, D.C. [Getty Images]
  5. Rubio helps GOP secure votes to proceed on health care debate

    Blogs

    WASHINGTON - Senate Republicans secured enough votes to proceed to debate on health care proposals, with Marco Rubio of Floirda joining in.