Fact Checking The Sunday Shows - February 13, 2011

February 14, 2011 9:54 am ET

With Valentine's Day looming, the Sunday shows provided a timely reminder of the GOP's love for false talking points. While Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) wrongly claimed that President Obama "refused to support" pro-democracy protestors in Iran in 2009, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) confined themselves to stale misinformation about the economy. On Fox, Ryan implied that government workers have benefited most from Democrats' economic policies, alleged that President Obama tried to raise taxes by $2 trillion last year, and claimed that the president has increased spending by 84 percent. Meanwhile on NBC, Speaker Boehner told viewers that Obama's policies "destroy jobs." No matter how many times Republican leaders say these things, the facts continue to demonstrate that they're just not true.

Face the Nation

CLAIM: Sen. McCain Claimed President Obama Never "Spoke Up For" The "People In The Streets Of Tehran" During Green Movement In 2009

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): When President Obama refused to support the people in the streets of Tehran when a young woman bled to death named Neda before— it was seen by the world, and this administration did nothing, that sent a very bad signal to all of these dictatorships that we weren't serious. ... We should have spoken up for them, just as Ronald Reagan spoke up for the people behind the Iron Curtain.

FACT: Contrary To Sen. McCain's Claim That He "Did Nothing," President Obama Specifically Spoke Of The Murder Of Iranian Protestor Neda Agha Soltan

Video Of Neda Agha Soltan's Murder During Tehran Protests Surfaced In June 2009. From the Associated Press: "She lies in the Tehran street with her headscarf half-off, blood pooling around her jeans and white sneakers. 'Don't be afraid, Neda dear, don't be afraid,' a white-haired man says desperately in Persian. Another man presses on her chest, trying to keep her alive. Scarlet blood gushes from her nose and mouth and courses across her pale face. Men and women scream in horror as they realize she is dead or dying. The death of the woman identified as Neda Agha Soltan was captured on amateur videos and spread around the world in less than 48 hours on YouTube, Facebook, blogs and Twitter. It turned the woman described as a 27-year-old music student into an instant icon of the clash between Iran's cleric-led government and the self-described 'green wave' movement that claims hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stole his June 12 re-election through fraud." [Associated Press via The Guardian, 6/23/09]

On June 23, 2009, President Obama Referred To "The Searing Image Of A Woman Bleeding To Death On The Streets" Of Tehran In Statement Praising Protestors For Being "On The Right Side Of History." In a press conference, President Obama said: "Above all, we've seen courageous women stand up to the brutality and threats, and we've experienced the searing image of a woman bleeding to death on the streets. While this loss is raw and extraordinarily painful, we also know this: Those who stand up for justice are always on the right side of history." [Obama Statement, 6/23/09, emphasis added]

FACT: President Obama Voiced Support For Iranian Protestors In Various Statements And Admonished Regime That "The World Is Watching"

Obama At Press Conference, June 15, 2009: "The Iranian People And Their Voices Should Be Heard And Respected." At a joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, President Obama said:

Obviously all of us have been watching the news from Iran.  And I want to start off by being very clear that it is up to Iranians to make decisions about who Iran's leaders will be; that we respect Iranian sovereignty and want to avoid the United States being the issue inside of Iran, which sometimes the United States can be a handy political football -- or discussions with the United States.

Having said all that, I am deeply troubled by the violence that I've been seeing on television.  I think that the democratic process -- free speech, the ability of people to peacefully dissent -- all those are universal values and need to be respected.  And whenever I see violence perpetrated on people who are peacefully dissenting, and whenever the American people see that, I think they're, rightfully, troubled. [...]

We will continue to pursue a tough, direct dialogue between our two countries, and we'll see where it takes us.  But even as we do so, I think it would be wrong for me to be silent about what we've seen on the television over the last few days.  And what I would say to those people who put so much hope and energy and optimism into the political process, I would say to them that the world is watching and inspired by their participation, regardless of what the ultimate outcome of the election was.  And they should know that the world is watching.

And particularly to the youth of Iran, I want them to know that we in the United States do not want to make any decisions for the Iranians, but we do believe that the Iranian people and their voices should be heard and respected. [Obama Statement, 6/15/09, emphasis added]

Obama Statement On Iran, June 20 2009: "The Iranian Government Must Understand That The World Is Watching." In a statement, President Obama said: "The Iranian government must understand that the world is watching. We mourn each and every innocent life that is lost. We call on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people. The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected, and the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights. As I said in Cairo, suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. The Iranian people will ultimately judge the actions of their own government. If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect the dignity of its own people and govern through consent, not coercion. Martin Luther King once said — 'The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.' I believe that. The international community believes that. And right now, we are bearing witness to the Iranian peoples' belief in that truth, and we will continue to bear witness." [Obama Statement, 6/20/09]

Obama At Press Conference, June 23, 2009: Iranian Regime Must "Heed The Will" Of Protestors Who "Are On The Right Side Of History." At a press conference, President Obama said:

First, I'd like to say a few words about the situation in Iran. The United States and the international community have been appalled and outraged by the threats, the beatings, and imprisonments of the last few days. I strongly condemn these unjust actions, and I join with the American people in mourning each and every innocent life that is lost.

I've made it clear that the United States respects the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and is not interfering with Iran's affairs. But we must also bear witness to the courage and the dignity of the Iranian people, and to a remarkable opening within Iranian society. And we deplore the violence against innocent civilians anywhere that it takes place.

[...]This is not about the United States or the West; this is about the people of Iran, and the future that they — and only they — will choose.

The Iranian people can speak for themselves. That's precisely what's happened in the last few days. In 2009, no iron fist is strong enough to shut off the world from bearing witness to peaceful protests [sic] of justice. Despite the Iranian government's efforts to expel journalists and isolate itself, powerful images and poignant words have made their way to us through cell phones and computers, and so we've watched what the Iranian people are doing.

This is what we've witnessed. We've seen the timeless dignity of tens of thousands of Iranians marching in silence. We've seen people of all ages risk everything to insist that their votes are counted and that their voices are heard. Above all, we've seen courageous women stand up to the brutality and threats, and we've experienced the searing image of a woman bleeding to death on the streets. While this loss is raw and extraordinarily painful, we also know this: Those who stand up for justice are always on the right side of history.

As I said in Cairo, suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. The Iranian people have a universal right to assembly and free speech. If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect those rights and heed the will of its own people. It must govern through consent and not coercion. That's what Iran's own people are calling for, and the Iranian people will ultimately judge the actions of their own government. [Obama Statement, 6/23/09, emphasis added]

Fox News Sunday

CLAIM: Rep. Ryan Implied That Democrats' Economic Policies Have Benefited Government Employees More Than The Private Sector

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI): We just don't buy into this neo-Keynesian belief that you've got to borrow and spend more money today to try and create jobs. We've got to have jobs in the private sector grow, not jobs in the public sector, because every time we borrow more money from the Chinese or whoever, we're taking money out of the private sector, and that is costing us jobs. This is about prosperity and economic growth.

FACT: After 1.25 Million New Jobs In 11 Months, Private Sector Shows Net Gain Of 381,000 Jobs In Obama Era While Public Sector Shrank By 309,000 Jobs

President Obama's Policies Began Affecting The Economy After July 2009. According to economist Robert J. Shapiro: "From December 2007 to July 2009 - the last year of the Bush second term and the first six months of the Obama presidency, before his policies could affect the economy - private sector employment crashed from 115,574,000 jobs to 107,778,000 jobs." [Sonecon.com, 8/10/10, emphasis added]

Since July 2009, The Private Sector Has Seen Net Gain Of 381,000 Jobs. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, there were 107,649,000 private sector jobs in July 2009. As of January 2011, the most recent report available, the data show that private sector employment is up to 108,030,000 — a net gain of 381,000 jobs in the private sector. [BLS.gov, accessed 1/23/11]

  • In Past 11 Months, The Private Sector Has Added 1.258 MILLION Jobs. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the private sector lost 21,000 net jobs in February 2010, bringing total private sector employment to 106,772,000. Over the 11 subsequent months, private employment has increased each month, and as of January 2011 the data show total private sector of employment of 108,030,000 — an increase of 1.258 million jobs in 11 consecutive months of growth. [BLS.gov, accessed 1/23/11]

Government Employment Is Down 309,000 Jobs Since July 2009. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, there were 22,544,000 jobs in the government sector in July 2009. As of January 2011, the most recent report available, the data show 22,235,000 government jobs — a net loss of 309,000. [BLS.gov, accessed 1/23/11]

CLAIM: Rep. Ryan Claimed That "Last Year" President Obama "Gave Us A $2 Trillion Tax Increase"

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI): Last year he gave us a $2 trillion tax increase, he got $700 billion of those tax increases enacted, mostly through his health care law.

FACT: Democrats Passed Hundreds Of Billions Of Dollars In Tax Relief Measures In 2009-10 Over Republican Objections

PolitiFact: "True" That "Democrats Passed 25 Tax Cuts [In 2009] Without The Help Of Republicans." PolitiFact.com analyzed a claim by senior White House adviser David Axelrod that Democrats passed 25 tax cuts in 2009 without Republican help:

We were intrigued by the claim that Democrats passed 25 tax cuts last year, so we contacted the White House press office and asked for a list. And they gave us one, all from the economic stimulus package championed by Obama and signed on Feb. 17, 2009.

We checked them out, provided sections and page numbers in the stimulus for reference, and added a brief explainer for some. If your eyes glaze over midway through, feel free to skip ahead to the bottom of the list where we'll pick up our analysis.[...]

Each of the tax provisions in the stimulus could have been broken into separate bills, said Bob Williams, also of the Tax Policy Center, and on their own could have rightly been billed as separate tax cuts.

"They packed an awful lot into that bill," Williams said. "I think it's fair to say that various tax provisions in the stimulus could be considered tax cuts. I don't think that's being deceptive."

We agree. 

But there's one other element of Axelrod's claim, that the tax cuts were passed without the help of Republicans.

The stimulus passed the House with nary a Republican vote. And it passed the Senate with just three (though we note that one of them, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, is now a Democrat).

So it's certainly fair to say the stimulus passed without the help of the Republican caucus. We find Axelrod's statement True. [PolitiFact.com, 1/31/10]

PolitiFact: $288 Billion In Tax Relief In Recovery Act Were "Nearly A Third" Of The Spending. According to PolitiFact.com: "Nearly a third of the cost of the stimulus, $288 billion, comes via tax breaks to individuals and businesses. The tax cuts include a refundable credit of up to $400 per individual and $800 for married couples; a temporary increase of the earned income tax credit for disadvantaged families; and an extension of a program that allows businesses to recover the costs of capital expenditures faster than usual. The tax cuts aren't so much spending as money the government won't get -- so it can stay in the economy. Of that $288 billion, the stimulus has resulted in $119 billion worth of tax breaks so far." [PolitiFact.com, 2/17/10]

HIRE Act Provided $8.5 Billion In Tax Credits To Job Creators. According to CNN: "Businesses have hired an estimated 4.5 million Americans who have been jobless for at least eight weeks, making these firms eligible for approximately $8.5 billion in tax credits, according to a Treasury report released Monday. The tax credits are part of the $13 billion Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act, which Congress passed in March. Under the act, employers who hire workers who have been jobless for at least 60 days are exempt from the 6.2% payroll tax charged per worker -- for the rest year. In addition, companies can claim a tax credit of up to $1,000 for each employee who stays at least a year." [CNN.com, 7/12/10, emphasis added]

House Passed Small Business Aid Bill In Mid-June On Party Lines. According to Reuters: "The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday approved a small business lending program sought by President Barack Obama to boost economic growth and encourage job creation. The House voted 241-182, mostly along party lines, for a bill which would authorize a $30 billion fund the Treasury Department would use to provide capital to small community banks, allowing increased lending to small businesses...[T]he $30 billion fund could be leveraged into as much as $300 billion in new credit to small businesses. The legislation is being combined with another bill earlier passed by the House that would provide $3.5 billion in small business tax breaks before it is sent over to the Senate for a vote." [Reuters, 6/17/10, emphasis added]

CLAIM: Rep. Ryan Claimed The Obama Administration Increased Federal Spending By 84 Percent Since 2008

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI): This discretionary freeze is off of an extremely high base. They just blew spending out the gates in the last two years. A 24 percent increase in discretionary domestic spending, when you throw stimulus on top it was an 84 percent increase.

FACT: Non-Partisan Fact Checkers Say Ryan's Cooking The Books On Spending Increase Math

PolitiFact: Counting Stimulus Spending In 2010 Is "A Nifty Accounting Maneuver." In a November 2010 fact check of Rep. Ryan's "84 percent" claim, Politifact.com wrote:

Outside experts that PolitiFact Wisconsin spoke with quibble a bit about the annual budget figures Ryan uses, but the numbers are not really in dispute. And they do show a big jump -- from $434 billion in 2008 to $537 billion in 2010.

But that's a 24 percent increase, not the 84 percent claimed by Ryan and his colleagues.

Is someone's math fuzzy? Let's dig in to find out.

Ryan's calculations also include another number -- the discretionary spending portion of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, better known as the economic stimulus package. That adds another $259 million to the total, which brings it to $797 billion (with rounding) and the 84 percent.

One problem, and it's a significant one in terms of Ryan's statement:

The stimulus package was 
approved in February 2009.

Ryan includes it in the 2010 totals, so the two-year trend under Obama looks like a rocket headed straight up.

If you put it in 2009 -- when it was passed -- the two-year trend under Obama looks more like a roller-coaster ride: Up a lot, and then down some but not all the way. [...]

In illustrating his point about spending increases under President Obama, Ryan says non-defense discretionary spending has risen 84 percent. There is no doubt that spending is up, or that the one-time stimulus package was a major driver. But sliding the stimulus money from 2009 to 2010 -- whether on a chart or in an interview -- skews the picture.

It's a nifty accounting maneuver. But still a maneuver. We rate Ryan's claim Barely True. [PolitiFact.com, 11/2/10, emphasis added]

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel produced a graphic demonstrating the difference between Rep. Ryan's methodology and "conventional accounting."

[Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via PolitiFact.com, 11/2/10]

Meet the Press

CLAIM: Speaker Boehner Claimed That President Obama's Policies Have "Destroy[ed] Jobs"

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH): The President's asked us to increase the debt limit, and yet he's gonna present a budget tomorrow that will continue to destroy jobs by spending too much, borrowing too much, and taxing too much.[...]The President has been on this spending spree for the last two years, called for this giant expansion of the federal government claiming it was going to help our country and the fact is it hasn't.

FACT: When President Obama Took Office The Economy Was Shedding Hundreds Of Thousands Of Jobs Per Month

The Economy Shed Almost 8 Million Jobs Under Republican Policies Before The Recovery Act Could Affect The Economy. According to economist Robert J. Shapiro:

From December 2007 to July 2009 - the last year of the Bush second term and the first six months of the Obama presidency, before his policies could affect the economy - private sector employment crashed from 115,574,000 jobs to 107,778,000 jobs. Employment continued to fall, however, for the next six months, reaching a low of 107,107,000 jobs in December of 2009. So, out of 8,467,000 private sector jobs lost in this dismal cycle, 7,796,000 of those jobs or 92 percent were lost on the Republicans' watch or under the sway of their policies. Some 671,000 additional jobs were lost as the stimulus and other moves by the administration kicked in, but 630,000 jobs then came back in the following six months. The tally, to date: Mr. Obama can be held accountable for the net loss of 41,000 jobs (671,000 - 630,000), while the Republicans should be held responsible for the net losses of 7,796,000 jobs. [Sonecon.com, 8/10/10, emphasis added]

Based on Shapiro's research, the Washington Post's Ezra Klein created the following chart showing net job losses before and after the Recovery Act was enacted:

Description: Klein

[Washington Post8/12/10]

  • From January 2008 Through July 2009, Economy Lost Nearly 400,000 Private Sector Jobs Per Month On Average. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data on monthly gains and losses in private sector jobs, the private sector added 4,000 jobs in December 2008. In July 2009, the sixth full month of the Obama presidency, the private sector shed 287,000 jobs. Over that 19-month span, the private sector shed 395,950 jobs per month on average, the data show.

Dec 07


Jan 08


Feb 08


Mar 08


Apr 08


May 08


Jun 08


Jul 08


Aug 08


Sep 08


Oct 08


Nov 08


Dec 08


Jan 09


Feb 09


Mar 09


Apr 09


May 09


Jun 09


Jul 09




[BLS.gov, accessed 1/25/11]

PolitiFact: "True" That "Most Job Losses" Happened Before Obama Policies Took Effect. According to PolitiFact.com's analysis of President Obama's statement that "most of the jobs that we lost were lost before the economic policies we put in place had any effect": "Looking at BLS data on seasonally adjusted non-farm employment from December 2007, when the recession officially began, to January 2009, the month before the stimulus was enacted (a 25-month period), the jobs number declined by 4.4 million. ... When [Obama] refers to his economic policies, we presume he is referring to his main economic stimulus, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. It passed in February 2009, but it took several months before the impact of its spending was felt in the economy. Job loss didn't stop, but Obama is right that it slowed down. In the 19 months from February 2009 through September 2010, the month of the most recent preliminary data, the overall job decline in the private and public sectors was 2.6 million. And the number of jobs lost per month has declined from around 700,000 a month at the beginning of the administration to months in which there were small net gains. ... 'I watched the president on Stewart's show last night, and I thought his basic point about the timing of the employment losses was correct and ought to be noncontroversial,' Gary Burtless, a labor markets expert at the centrist-to-liberal Brookings Institution said in an e-mail." [PolitiFact.com, 10/27/10, emphasis added]

FACT: Since President Obama's Policies Took Effect, The Job Market Has Turned Around

Since July 2009, Private Sector Has Moved Steadily From Monthly Job Losses To Monthly Job Gains. Below is a chart of Bureau of Labor Statistics data prepared by Political Correction showing monthly job gains and losses in the private sector, shaded blue for months after Recovery Act spending began to impact the economy, and red for months of job losses under Bush-era policies.

CBO: The Recovery Act Created Jobs, Lowered Unemployment, And Boosted GDP. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office:

CBO estimates that ARRA's policies had the following effects in the third quarter of calendar year 2010:

  • They raised real (inflation-adjusted) gross domestic product by between 1.4 percent and 4.1 percent,
  • Lowered the unemployment rate by between 0.8 percentage points and 2.0 percentage points,
  • Increased the number of people employed by between 1.4 million and 3.6 million, and
  • Increased the number of full-time-equivalent (FTE) jobs by 2.0 million to 5.2 million compared with what would have occurred otherwise. (Increases in FTE jobs include shifts from part-time to full-time work or overtime and are thus generally larger than increases in the number of employed workers). [CBO, November 2010]