Fact Checking The Sunday Shows - February 27, 2011

February 28, 2011 10:12 am ET

This week's Sunday political chatter was focused on two very, very different places: Wisconsin and Libya. Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) defended his union-busting efforts on Meet the Press by arguing that union contract agreements in recent weeks prove public workers aren't being honest when they say they'll accept his pension and health insurance demands, but that's disingenuous; the agreements he referenced had been in the works long before his power grab. Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS) joined Walker in suggesting that collective bargaining is to blame for state budget troubles, but the facts don't bear that out. Meanwhile on Fox News Sunday, Gov. Mitch Daniels (R-IN) asserted that public employees are overpaid (before absurdly claiming that the Bush tax cuts worked) and Gov. Nikki Haley (R-SC) told ABC viewers that Walker is simply fulfilling a campaign promise.  None of these claims is true. On other topics, Mike Huckabee (R-AR) lied about the national debt on Fox News and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) falsely asserted that President Obama never showed support for Iranian protesters in the summer of 2009.

Meet the Press

CLAIM: Gov. Walker Claimed That Local Unions Aren't Actually Willing To Make Benefits Concessions Because Of Contract Agreements Finalized In Recent Weeks "That Had No Contributions To The Pension And No Contributions To Health Care"

GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R-WI): And over the past two weeks, even after they made those promises, we've seen local union after local union rush to their school boards, their city councils, their technical school boards and rush through contracts in the past two weeks that had no contributions to the pension and no contribution to health care. And, in fact, in one case in Janesville, they actually were pushing through a pay increase. Actions do speak louder than words.

FACT: Unions Gov. Walker Listed In Press Release Didn't "Rush To Their School Boards" — These Agreements Had Been In The Works For Months, And They Include Various Wage And Benefits Concessions

Gov. Walker Press Release: Janesville, La Crosse County, Milwaukee Area Technical College, Madison, Racine, And Sheboygan Government Workers Are Pushing Contracts That Prove The Unions Aren't Sincere About Benefits Concessions.  In a press release, Gov. Walker's office wrote: "For several days, government union bosses have said that government workers would be willing to contribute to their pensions and pay a slightly larger portion of their healthcare premiums.  At the same time, local bargaining units have been negotiating for and signing contracts that do not accept the modest contributions proposed by Governor Walker. In Janesville, government workers are proposing a contract that includes 2 percent pay increases this year and for the next two years.  The government would pay all of the workers' pension contributions and workers would only pay 8 percent toward their health insurance premiums. In La Crosse County, government workers have agreed to a one-year contract with health and dental premiums at the same level as 2010.  The agreement has the county covering the full pension payment of most government workers. Government workers with the Milwaukee Area Technical College agreed to a new contract where the workers contribute nothing toward their pension.  The College's attorney said the agreement means MATC would leave $7.1 million on the table. In Madison, government workers have proposed a contract that would allow them to continue to receive their current pension and health benefits for the next two years.  Many government workers would receive a 3-percent pay raise. In Racine, government workers have agreed to a contract that includes pay raises. In Sheboygan, government workers agreed to a contract where nurses pay nothing toward their pensions." [Gov. Walker Press Release, 2/24/11, emphasis added]

Janesville, WI

Janesville Agreement With School Support Staff Union Has Been In The Works For 18 Months. As reported by the Janesville Gazette: "The Janesville School Board appears ready to approve a work contract that ran out more than 18 months ago. The board Tuesday is scheduled to approve a tentative agreement with a union that represents 178 full- and part-time workers who clean, repair and maintain the schools and prepare school breakfasts and lunches. The agreement with AFSCME Local 938 mirrors the Janesville teachers contract, which also is a four-year deal and calls for no wage increase for 2009-10. The AFSCME workers would get 2 percent increases in each cell of their salary schedule this year and the two years after that. The contract runs through June 2013 and, like the teachers contract, would protect workers from the effects of Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill." [Janesville Gazette, 2/21/11, emphasis added]

La Crosse County

Contract Approved Last Week Had Been In The Works For Five Months. As reported by WEAU 13 News: "La Crosse County Administrator Steve O'Malley says the county has been working with union leaders to come to a wage and benefits agreement for about five months. And last night, the county board approved the contract. O'Malley says the contract is 'for a one year wage freeze, no increase in health and dental insurance for the county or employees, and all remaining conditions to stay the same through the end of 2011.'" [WEAU.com, 2/22/11]

Milwaukee Area Technical College

MATC Contract Approved After Gov. Walker Announced Budget Repair Bill Had Been In Negotiation Process For Four Months. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Within hours of learning Gov. Scott Walker had proposed a bill slashing collective bargaining rights and benefits for public employees to help fix the state budget, leaders of the union representing teachers at Milwaukee Area Technical College called an emergency meeting to put a new three-year contract on the fast track. Despite warnings from one union leader that they might be perceived as 'arrogant snobs' for winning the new contract while other public unions across the state were facing major cuts, the union's executive board endorsed the agreement, reached earlier that week after four months of bargaining. Three business days later - on the same day the union membership approved the contract - the college board ratified it, effective immediately, preserving a pension at no cost to 1,933 workers and guaranteeing no layoffs for full-time teachers whose average total pay is more than $95,000." [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 2/20/11, emphasis added]

MATC President Supported Contract Because "We Spent Four Months In Good-Faith Negotiations." According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "[MATC President Michael] Burke said he will meet with local legislators to explain the contract. He said he recommended the board approve the contract, even after Walker introduced a bill that potentially could save MATC more money, because 'we spent four months in good faith negotiations.'" [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 2/20/11, emphasis added]

  • MATC Contract Will Save The College $11.6 MILLION With Two-Year Wage Freeze And Health Insurance Concessions. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "The union agreed to a two-year wage freeze, not filling 19 open full-time teaching positions, and concessions in health insurance, projected to save the college $11.6 million over three years." [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 2/20/11]

Madison, WI

The Mayor — Not Workers — Brought Contract Extension Up In Special City Council Meeting. In an email to the City Council calling for a special Council meeting, Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz wrote: "After consulting with Council Leadership I've decided to call a special Council meeting for Thursday, February 17th at 6:30 PM. A room location will be determined shortly and you will be receiving official notification via police officer within 24 hours as required by ordinance. The reason for the special meeting is that it appears possible that legislation essentially eliminating collective bargaining rights for our employees could be passed and signed into law by the weekend, precluding any actions that might be taken at our next regularly scheduled meeting next Tuesday. The agenda for Thursday will consist of several union contract approvals to assure that each of our unions has the same agreement through 2012... We will also propose an ordinance that would memorialize the 3% pay increase in the last pay period of 2011 and the 2% increase in the last pay period of 2012 that non-represented employees would have received under our current system. There may also be a resolution opposing the state budget repair bill." [Mayor Cieslewicz Email via NBC15.com, 2/15/11]

  • Mayor: Contracts Had Already Been Approved By Workers. In an email to the City Council calling for a special Council meeting, Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz wrote: "The agenda for Thursday will consist of several union contract approvals to assure that each of our unions has the same agreement through 2012, an agreement already approved by the Council for two of our largest unions, AFSCME Local 60 and Teamsters Local 695." [Mayor Cieslewicz Email via NBC15.com, 2/15/11, emphasis added]

Racine, WI

City Of Racine Had Approved Contract Agreement Before Walker Announced His Bill. As reported by the Journal Times: "As a bill that would restrict collective bargaining for public unions is expected to pass soon in the state Legislature, the city approved contracts with three unions Wednesday. ... Several of those who voted yes mentioned the recent blizzard that hit the region earlier this month, commending the efforts of public workers. They said the city should honor the agreement that was made in good faith. The Finance and Personnel Committee approved the agreement on Feb. 7, days before Walker announced his controversial proposal." [Journal Times, 2/16/11]

Racine Contract Includes 2011 Pay Freeze, One Percent Raises In 2012-13. As reported by the Journal Times: "The ratified two-year agreements with Local 67 included similar conditions as those approved with police and fire, Letteney said: no wage increases in 2011, a 1 percent increase in 2012 and 2013, and 2 percent in 2014, plus a condition of no layoffs in 2011." [Journal Times, 2/16/11]

  • One Percent Raises Would Have Been Permissible Under Walker Proposal To Cap Wage Growth. As reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Under the governor's proposed bill, public employee union member raises could not exceed Consumer Price Index increases unless approved by referendum. The index is at 1.5%, and may rise to 2.5% by the end of the year, [Milwaukee Area Technical College board member Michael] Katz said." [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 2/16/11]

Sheboygan, WI

Sheboygan Nurses Contract — Which Includes Higher Employee Contributions For Health Care — Had Already Been Ratified By Union Members In Mid-January. As reported by the Sheybogan Press: "Another contract for the registered nurses at the Rocky Knoll Health Care Center, has been ratified by the union and was introduced at Tuesday night's board meeting. Supervisors will vote in February whether to approve it. It includes a 1 percent pay increase in 2011, a 1.5 percent increase in 2012, along with an increase in employee health premium share from 10 to 12.5 percent in 2011 and to 15 percent in 2012." [Sheboygan Press, 1/19/11]

Sheboygan County Supervisors Would Have Had To Vote Down A Contract They Had Already Approved. As reported by the Sheboygan Press: "Sheboygan County supervisors Tuesday approved a new two-year contract with the union that represents nurses and other health professionals, despite potential changes in a state budget repair bill that could eliminate most bargaining rights for public employees. ... The nurses' contract is essentially the same as six others already agreed to by supervisors. It calls for workers to pay 12.5 percent of health premiums but contribute nothing toward their pensions. Some supervisors suggested it would be prudent to wait to see how things shake out in Madison before approving the contract. Asked what the legal ramifications of backing away from the already-negotiated contract, County Corporation Counsel Carl Buesing said, 'At this juncture we're in uncharted territory. I can't give guidance as to any legal implication of any kind of action' the board might take. Supervisor Michael Ogea said the County Board had 'a moral obligation to vote on this contract, which was negotiated in good faith.' After the meeting, Ogea said if supervisors voted down the contract, 'We could have ended up in court.'" [Sheboygan Press, 2/16/11, emphasis added]

CLAIM: Gov. Walker Claimed That Collective Bargaining Is "Our Problem" In Budget Terms, And His Proposal Is "The Solution"

GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R-WI): We're broke. Like nearly every other state across the country, we're broke. And it's about time somebody stood up and told the truth in this state and said, "Here's our problem. Here's the solution," and acted on it. Because, if we don't, we fail to make a commitment to the future. Our children will face even more dire consequences than what we face today. [...] But, but, David, my point is repeatedly, as a former local government official, I know that collective bargaining has a cost, and when I'm cutting out more a billion dollars from aid to local governments in this next two-year budget, I need to do what no other governor's doing across the country.  They're all cutting. All but a handful are cutting. The difference is where we want to be unique in Wisconsin is we have to give those local governments the tools.

CLAIM: Gov. Barbour Claimed That Ending Collective Bargaining Rights For Public Employees Is Necessary To "Get Ahold Of This" Budget Problem

DAVID GREGORY (HOST): Governor, Governor Barbour, this is the question that I posed at the beginning of the program. Is this, is this an ideologue? Is this just about ideology? Is it about union busting? Or is it about really getting serious about shared sacrifice?

GOV. HALEY BARBOUR (R-MS): Well, it's about budgets. It is about the fact that Wisconsin, like many states, is broke. And the idea is, "OK, let's make a very narrow agreement over wages and, and--for one year is going to solve the problem." Governor Walker understands, as every governor understands, it is not enough just to kick the can down the road to next year because these problems snowball. They cascade. And that's why it's critical to get ahold of this. 

FACT: Collective Bargaining Did NOT Create Wisconsin's Budget Hole — The Recession Did

No "Sharp Rise" In Union Activity Ahead Of Budget Problems — But There Was A Global Recession. According to the Washington Post's Ezra Klein: "Let's be clear: Whatever fiscal problems Wisconsin is -- or is not -- facing at the moment, they're not caused by labor unions. That's also true for New Jersey, for Ohio and for the other states. There was no sharp rise in collective bargaining in 2006 and 2007, no major reforms of the country's labor laws, no dramatic change in how unions organize. And yet, state budgets collapsed. Revenues plummeted. Taxes had to go up, and spending had to go down, all across the country. Blame the banks. Blame global capital flows. Blame lax regulation of Wall Street. Blame home buyers, or home sellers. But don't blame the unions. Not for this recession." [Washington Post, 2/18/11]

CBPP: "Worst Recession Since The 1930s" Caused Drop In Tax Receipts "While The Need For State-Funded Services Has Not Declined." From the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: "As governors across the country prepare their budget proposals for the coming year, they continue to face a daunting fiscal challenge.  The worst recession since the 1930s has caused the steepest decline in state tax receipts on record.  State tax collections, adjusted for inflation, are now 12 percent below pre-recession levels, while the need for state-funded services has not declined.  As a result, even after making very deep spending cuts over the last several years, states continue to face large budget gaps." [CBPP.org, 2/10/11, internal citation removed for clarity]

CBPP: State Budget Problems Now Particularly Acute Because States Used Federal Funds To Plug Holes In Recent Years. From the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: "Over the past three years, states and localities have used a combination of reserve funds and federal stimulus funds, along with budget cuts and tax increases, to close these recession-induced deficits.  While these deficits have caused severe problems and states and localities are struggling to maintain needed services, this is a cyclical problem that ultimately will ease as the economy recovers." [CBPP.org, 2/10/11]

CLAIM: Gov. Barbour Claimed That Public Employee Pensions Are Driving Wisconsin's Budget Problem

GOV. HALEY BARBOUR (R-MS): Look, this is about--this is a state issue in a state where they've got serious budget problems because payroll pensions are such a huge part of the budget you got to deal with it, and you can't deal with it for one year.  

FACT: Until Recent Economic Downturns, State Pension Plans Were Fully Funded — And Even Now, Talk Of A 'Pension Crisis' Is Overblown

Pension Expert: "Even After The Worst Market Crash In Decades ... Most Plans Will Be Able To Cover Benefit Payments For The Next 15-20 Years." From the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: "States and localities have the next 30 years in which to remedy any pension shortfalls.  As Alicia Munnell, an expert on these matters who directs the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, has explained, 'even after the worst market crash in decades, state and local plans do not face an immediate liquidity crisis; most plans will be able to cover benefit payments for the next 15-20 years.' States and localities do not need to increase contributions immediately, and generally should not do so while the economy is still weak and they are struggling to provide basic services."  [CBPP.org, 1/20/11, emphasis added]

CBPP: Prior To Past Two Recessions, State Pensions Were Fully Funded. From the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: "State and local shortfalls in funding pensions for future retirees have gradually emerged over the last decade principally because of the two most recent recessions, which reduced the value of assets in those funds and made it difficult for some jurisdictions to find sufficient revenues to make required deposits into the trust funds.  Before these two recessions, state and local pensions were, in the aggregate, funded at 100 percent of future liabilities. [...]As of 2000, state and local pension obligations were fully funded on average, if obligations are discounted at 8 percent per year, which was the return on pension fund investments over the previous two decades. Since then, however, the nation has experienced two recessions, during which some states and localities have reduced or skipped pension trust fund deposits to help balance their budgets.  In addition, the recessions have caused significant investment losses.  By 2008, state and local pensions in aggregate were funded at 85 percent of their future liabilities; the other 15 percent is considered to be the 'unfunded liability.'  The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College projects that, in the aggregate, state and local pensions were funded in 2010 at 77 percent of their future liabilities, a ratio projected to decline to 73 percent by 2013." [CBPP.org, 1/20/11]

Most States And Localities Spend Less Than Four Percent Of Their Budgets On Pensions. From the report "The Impact Of Public Pensions On State And Local Budgets" by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College:

Legislatures and pension-plan administrators often focus on pension contributions as a percent of payroll.  Pension contributions as a percent of budgets, however, provides a broader framework for projecting how public plans will affect other state and local activities.  The starting point for our analysis is the share of state and local budgets devoted to pensions to date.  Figure 4  shows that in 2008 pensions accounted for 3.8 percent of state and local direct - that is, non-capital - expenditures for the country as whole.

This share varied somewhat among individual states.  However, for more than half of the states, state and local pension contributions represented between 3 and 4 percent of state and local government budgets in 2008 (see Figure 5).

["The Impact Of Public Pensions On State And Local Budgets," CRR.BC.edu, October 2010]

Most States Can Cover Their Current Pension Liabilities With Modest Increases In Funding Levels To Compensate For Falling Asset Values Due To The Recession. From the report "The Impact Of Public Pensions On State And Local Budgets" by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College:

The funding shortfall of public pension plans has made national news since the financial collapse reduced asset values at the same time that state and local revenues began to dry up.  The size of the funding hole differs depending on the rate used to discount liabilities but, regardless of assumptions, governments will eventually have to ante up.  ...  Assuming 30-year amortization beginning in 2014, this share would rise to only 5.0 percent and even assuming a 5-percent discount rate to only 9.1 percent.  Aggregate data, however, hide substantial variation.  States with seriously underfunded plans and/or generous benefits, such as California, Illinois, and New Jersey, would see contributions rise to about 8 percent of budgets with an 8-percent discount rate and 12.5 percent with a 5-percent discount rate.  And, in states such as California, local governments make more than half of the contributions, which means that the burden of increased future pension contributions will fall on the shoulders of localities as well.

How reliable are our estimates?  On the one hand, our assumption that plans fund responsibly in the near-term may be optimistic in light of the current economic conditions.  To the extent they do not, our estimates understate the long-term pension costs.  On the other hand, we assume no changes in benefits or employee contributions.  In fact, states are already raising employee contributions and reducing benefits for new employees, which means that we overstate long-run employer pension costs.  These offsetting effects may well cancel out, so that this brief provides a reasonable picture of future pension costs as a share of state and local spending. ["The Impact Of Public Pensions On State And Local Budgets," CRR.BC.edu, October 2010, emphasis added]

Fox News Sunday

CLAIM: Gov. Daniels Implied That Public-Sector Workers Are Overpaid

GOV. MITCH DANIELS (R-IN): There may have been a time a century ago where public employees were mistreated or vulnerable and underpaid. If that was ever a problem, we have over-fixed it. Not everywhere, but in many places. As you know very well, public employees in America, most decidedly federal employees but everywhere, are better paid than the taxpayer who pays their salary. When you add much more generous benefits and much more generous pensions on top, the gap widens.

FACT: 'Overpaid Public Workers' Claim Is Based On Apples-To-Oranges Comparison — When You Factor In Education And Skills, Government Worker Compensation Is Comparable To Private Sector

PolitiFact: Comparing Average Compensation Levels "Is Not An Apples-To-Apples Comparison." In a fact check of a similar claim about federal worker compensation by Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), PolitiFact wrote:  "[I]t's important to understand that a big reason for the disparity is the different mix of jobs in the federal work force. It has more higher-paying white-collar jobs, experts told us, while there are more lower-paying, blue-collar jobs in the private sector that bring the average down. So it is not an apples-to-apples comparison." [PolitiFact, 1/31/10, emphasis added]

Public Sector Workforce Is Substantially More Educated Than Private Sector Workforce. According to a study of public and private worker compensation from the Economic Policy Institute: "On average, state and local public-sector workers are more highly educated than the private-sector workforce; 54% of full-time state and local public sector workers hold at least a four year college degree compared to 35% of full-time private-sector workers." ["Debunking The Myth Of The Overcompensated Public Employee," EPI, 9/15/10, emphasis added]

In Public Sector, College-Educated Workers Are Compensated Less And High School-Educated Workers More Than In Private Sector. According to a study of public and private worker compensation from the Economic Policy Institute: "State and local governments pay college-educated labor on average 25% less than private employers. The earnings differential is greatest for professional employees, lawyers, and doctors. On the other hand, the public sector appears to set a floor on compensation. The compensation of workers with a high school education is higher for state or local government employees, when compared to similarly educated workers in the private sector." ["Debunking The Myth Of The Overcompensated Public Employee," EPI, 9/15/10, emphasis added]

Factoring In Education, Differences In Hours Worked, And Other Factors Shows That State Workers Are Undercompensated Compared To Private Sector. According to a study of public and private worker compensation from the Economic Policy Institute: "A standard earnings equation produced a surprising result: full-time state and local employees are undercompensated by 6.3%. Full-time public employees, however, work fewer hours, particularly employees with bachelor's, master's, and professional degrees. A re-estimated total compensation equation controlling for work hours of full-time employees demonstrates that there is still a significant public-sector penalty of 3.7% in total compensation between full-time state and local employees and private-sector employees. At closer examination, the penalty disappears for local government employees, but remains for state workers who in 2009 had a 7.5% compensation penalty." ["Debunking The Myth Of The Overcompensated Public Employee," EPI, 9/15/10, emphasis added]

EPI prepared a table showing the differences between private sector compensation and state and local government sector compensation at different education levels:

["Debunking The Myth Of The Overcompensated Public Employee," EPI, 9/15/10]

In Federal Workforce, Some Jobs Pay More And Others Pay Less Than Private Sector — But High-Skill Government Workers Are Paid Less Than Private Sector Counterparts On Average. In a fact check of a similar claim about federal worker compensation by Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), PolitiFact wrote:  

We checked a variety of sources for apples-to-apples comparisons and found a variety of results. 

One study came from the Federal Salary Council, an advisory group of labor relations experts and representatives of federal employee unions that helps the U.S. Office of Personnel Management set wage rates. It found that for comparable private and public jobs such as lawyers, public sector employees are paid on average 26 percent less than private sector counterparts. 

When we checked individual jobs using the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics employment data (from 2008), we found many federal salaries were indeed higher, but some were lower. 

Higher: A government-employed nurse makes about $74,460 on average, while someone in the same position working for the private sector makes about $65,130. A cashier working for the government makes on average $34,470 while a cashier working in a store only makes a mean of $18,880 annually. And a public-relations manager working for the government makes about $132,410 a year compared to $101,220 in the private sector.

Lower: Petroleum engineers working for the government earn an average of $93,140; in the private sector, they make an average of $119,140. An editor working for the government only makes $42,210, compared to an average of $57,180 in the private sector. [PolitiFact, 1/31/10, emphasis added]

FACT: Benefits Are A Larger Piece Of Compensation In Public Sector Than In Private Sector — But It's A Smaller Pie

In Public Sector, Benefits Are Larger Share Of Total Compensation Than In Private Sector. According to a study of public and private worker compensation from the Economic Policy Institute:  "Public employers contribute on average 34.1% of employee compensation expenses to benefits, whereas private employers devote between 26.1% and 33.1% of compensation to benefits, depending on the employer's size. Public employers provide better health insurance and pension benefits. Health insurance accounts for 6.3% to 8.3% of private-sector compensation but 11.2% of state and local government employee compensation. Retirement benefits also account for a substantially greater share of public employee compensation, 8.1% compared with 2.8% to 4.8% in the private sector." ["Debunking The Myth Of The Overcompensated Public Employee," EPI, 9/15/10, emphasis added]

Total Compensation Is Slightly Higher For Private Sector Workers Than For State And Local Government Workers. According to a study of public and private worker compensation from the Economic Policy Institute: "On average public employee wage earnings are 11.47% less than comparable private-sector employees after controlling for hours worked. State government employees earn 15.57% less, while local government employees earn 9.46% less than similar private-sector employees. However, when we examine total compensation the differences are greatly reduced. On average public employees receive 3.74% less compensation than comparable private-sector workers. State workers receive a 7.55% public employment compensation penalty compared to comparable public employees. On the other hand, local government workers obtain almost equal compensation with comparable privatesector employees; their estimated public-service compensation penalty is 1.84%." ["Debunking The Myth Of The Overcompensated Public Employee," EPI, 9/15/10, emphasis added]

CLAIM: Gov. Daniels Claimed That President Bush Isn't Responsible For Budget Deficits In His Term Because Of The War On Terror

GOV. MITCH DANIELS (R-IN): Well it wasn't just a recession, it was a recession, two wars, and a terrorist attack that led to a whole new category called Homeland Security. So nobody was less happy than I to see the surplus go away, but it was goin' away, it wouldn't have mattered who was president. Y'know Chris, I was proud to be a part of that administration.

FACT: Even If You Ignore The Costs Of Bush's Choice To Invade Iraq, The Tax Cuts He Pushed Through Congress Doomed The Budget Picture For Decades

The Bush Tax Cuts Are The Primary Driver Of Federal Budget Deficits Over The Next Decade. Below is a chart from CBPP showing the deficit impacts of war spending, financial recovery spending, the recession itself, and the Bush tax cuts:

Description: 12-16-09bud-rev6-28-10-f1

[CBPP.org, 6/28/10]

President Bush's OMB Director Admitted Tax Cuts Cut Government Revenue And Hurt Deficit Picture. As reported by the Washington Times: "In an interview with editors and reporters at The Washington Times, [OMB Director] Mr. [Rob] Portman and Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Ed Lazear made a pitch for extending the personal and investment tax cuts, which they believe spurred growth in the economy and stock market. But they conceded that the tax cuts have not prompted more people to get work and contribute to the economy, while they cut deeply into government revenue and contributed to record budget deficits that have not shown much improvement until recently." [Washington Times, 10/4/06]

CLAIM: Gov. Daniels Claimed The Bush Tax Cuts Led To Strong Economic Growth

GOV. MITCH DANIELS (R-IN): I think the original tax cuts were good and timely and helped the economy recover very, very quickly from that recession.

FACT: The Bush Tax Cuts Gave Us The Worst Decade Of Economic Growth Since The Second World War

Bush Tax Cuts Followed By "The Slowest Average Annual Growth Since World War II." As the New York Times' David Leonhardt explains:

Those tax cuts passed in 2001 amid big promises about what they would do for the economy. What followed? The decade with the slowest average annual growth since World War II. Amazingly, that statement is true even if you forget about the Great Recession and simply look at 2001-7.

The competition for slowest growth is not even close, either. Growth from 2001 to 2007 averaged 2.39 percent a year (and growth from 2001 through the third quarter of 2010 averaged 1.66 percent). The decade with the second-worst showing for growth was 1971 to 1980 - the dreaded 1970s - but it still had 3.21 percent average growth.


Is there good evidence the tax cuts persuaded more people to join the work force (because they would be able to keep more of their income)? Not really. The labor-force participation rate fell in the years after 2001 and has never again approached its record in the year 2000.

Is there evidence that the tax cuts led to a lot of entrepreneurship and innovation? Again, no. The rate at which start-up businesses created jobs fell during the past decade.

[New York Times, 11/18/10]

Bush Cuts Followed By Slowest Jobs Growth Since The End Of World War II. According to a report by the Center for American Progress: "from March 2001 to December 2007 the economy added 1.8 million jobs for workers aged 25 to 54, only 22,000 per month. That translates to an average annualized growth rate of only 0.3 percent per month-the slowest of any cycle on record since the end of World War II and one-fifth the growth rate during the 1990s."

[Center for American Progress, February 2009]

During Bush Years, Household Income Declined For First Time On Record. According to a report by the Center for American Progress: "The Bush economic cycle saw the first decline in median household incomes of any cycle since 1967, when the Census Bureau began tracking household data."

[Center for American Progress, February 2009]

CLAIM: Fmr. Gov. Huckabee Falsely Claimed That President Obama Increased The Debt More In Two Years Than President Bush Did In Eight

MIKE HUCKABEE: [President Obama] has accumulated more debt in two years than George Bush did in eight.

FACT: The $1.2 Trillion That President Bush Added To The 2009 Deficit Before President Obama Was Sworn In Pushes His Total Contribution To The National Debt Over $6 Trillion — And Lowers Obama's Debt Contribution To $2.3 Trillion

Not only did President Bush increase the national debt by $4.9 trillion from the day he was sworn in to the day he left office, but he also amassed a $1.2 trillion deficit for FY 2009 — bringing his total contribution to the debt to $6.1 trillion. By contrast, President Obama's spending has increased the national debt by roughly $2.3 trillion.

Before Obama Took Office, The FY 2009 Deficit Was Projected At $1.2 Trillion. As reported by the Washington Times: "The Congressional Budget Office announced a projected fiscal 2009 deficit of $1.2 trillion even if Congress doesn't enact any new programs. [...] About the only person who was silent on the deficit projection was Mr. Bush, who took office facing a surplus but who saw spending balloon and the country notch the highest deficits on record." [Washington Times1/8/09, emphasis added]

  • Before President Bush Took Office, There Was A Projected Surplus Of $128 Billion. As reported by CNN: "President Bush inherited a budget surplus of $128 billion when he took office in 2001 but has since posted a budget deficit every year." [CNN.com, 7/28/08]

When President Bush Took Office, The National Debt Was $5.727 TRILLION. As reported by CBS News: "But what Mr. Bush didn't mention, and what he almost never mentions, is the National Debt. With good reason. On the day he took office, the National Debt stood at this unfathomable number: $5,727.776.738,304.64. In fiscal shorthand, that's $5.7 trillion dollars. Trillion with a 'T.'" [CBS News, 6/16/07]

Before Counting His Contribution To The 2009 Deficit, President Bush Grew The National Debt By $4.9 TRILLION. As reported by CBS News: "On the day [President Obama] was inaugurated, the national debt stood at $10.626 trillion. It had increased $4.9 trillion during President George W. Bush's eight years in office." [CBS News, 2/23/11]

Subtracting President Bush's $1.2 Trillion In FY 2009 Deficits From Debt Figures In President Obama's Tenure Shows Obama Has Accumulated Roughly $2.3 Trillion In Debt. As of February 27, 2011, the national debt stands at $14.119 trillion. That is an increase of $3.493 trillion over the $10.626 trillion in debt already recorded when President Obama was sworn in on January 20, 2009. However, as is shown above, that number does not account for the $1.2 trillion projected 2009 deficit created by President Bush before Obama took office. Subtracting Bush's $1.2 trillion in 2009 deficits from that $3.493 trillion number, Obama can be rightly credited with adding $2.293 trillion in debt. [TreasuryDirect.gov, accessed 2/27/11; Washington Times, 1/8/09]

This Week

CLAIM: Gov. Haley Claimed Gov. Walker Is "Doing Exactly What He Promised To Do" In Wisconsin

GOV. NIKKI HALEY (R-SC): And he's doing exactly what he promised to do, he is trying to trim his budget.

FACT: Nonpartisan Fact Checkers Say Walker Never Campaigned On Taking Away Collective Bargaining Rights

PolitiFact: "False" That Gov. Walker Campaigned On Proposal To End Collective Bargaining For Public Workers. According to PolitiFact:

There is no dispute that Walker campaigned on getting concessions on health and pension benefits from state employees. And, to be sure, that is an important part of the measure.

But for Walker to be right, he has to be correct on the entirety of the plan. [...]

For this item, we reviewed dozens of news accounts and various proposals on Walker's campaign website to determine what he said about collective bargaining during the campaign. We talked to both campaigns in the governor's race, and union officials. [...]

Walker contends he clearly "campaigned on" his union bargaining plan.

But Walker, who offered many specific proposals during the campaign, did not go public with even the bare-bones of his multi-faceted plans to sharply curb collective bargaining rights. He could not point to any statements where he did. We could find none either.

While Walker often talked about employees paying more for pensions and health care, in his budget-repair bill he connected it to collective bargaining changes that were far different from his campaign rhetoric in terms of how far his plan goes and the way it would be accomplished.

We rate his statement False. [PolitiFact, 2/21/11, emphasis added]

PolitiFact: Gov. Walker Campaigned On Limited, Specific Changes To Bargaining Process — Not The Sweeping Change He's Proposing Now. According to PolitiFact:

He told the Appleton Post-Crescent in a lengthy question and answer session in 2009 that "you've got to free up local government officials to not be strangled by things like mediation and arbitration." As his website made clear, he was talking about a specific, significant change in teacher's union arbitration -- not the dramatic changes on the table now.


Another example:

As the campaign rolled near a close, in late October 2010, Walker told the Oshkosh Northwestern that he would "ask all state workers" for wage and benefit concessions in the collective bargaining process.

After the election, he proposed imposing concessions without negotiating and eliminating benefits as a topic of collective bargaining. [PolitiFact, 2/21/11, emphasis added]

State of the Union

CLAIM: Sen. McCain Claimed President Obama Never Showed Support For Iranian Protesters In 2009

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): The president should reverse the terrible decision he made in 2009 to not support the demonstrators in Tehran. Stand up for democracy in Iran and tell those people that we are with them.

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]