Fact Checking The Sunday Shows - October 2, 2011

October 03, 2011 10:20 am ET

On the first weekend in October, the Sunday talk shows saw a presidential candidate, two governors, and a former vice president's daughter. Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS) appeared on CBS and CNN to absolve President George W. Bush for the current economic situation while solely placing the blame on President Barack Obama. Not to be outdone by Barbour, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) appeared on Meet the Press to lie about the president's previous statements on unemployment. Herman Cain, still riding high from his Florida straw poll victory, appeared on Fox News Sunday to falsely claim that his "9-9-9 plan" is actually fairer than the current progressive tax system. Lastly, Keep America Safe's Liz Cheney appeared on State of the Union to claim that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said that enhanced interrogation led us to Osama bin Laden. In fact, Panetta has said that the Bush-era torture program produced lies and misinformation about the identity of bin Laden's personal courier.

CLAIM: Gov. Barbour Claimed The Bad Economy "Is Because Of Obama's Policies"

GOV. HALEY BARBOUR: The economy is terrible. And the American people understand that the weak economy and the failure to create jobs is because of Obama's policies, it's not in spite of his policies. [State of the Union, 10/2/11]

GOV. HALEY BARBOUR: I hope the Democrats run on President Obama's record. I mean the idea that they are going to blame what's happened the last three years on George Bush, you know next they'll be talking about Herbert Hoover. The fact of the matter is that Obama's policies and the policies of the Reid-Pelosi Congress have made this economy worse, not better. [Face the Nation, 10/2/11]

FACT: The Economy Shed Millions Of Jobs During The Bush Recession Until President Obama's Policies Began To Turn Things Around

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]

PolitiFact: "True" That "Most Job Losses" Happened Before Obama Policies Took Effect. According to PolitiFact'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: Once It Took Effect, Recovery Act Spending Helped Turn The Job Market Around

Since Summer 2009, The Private Sector Has Added Jobs While The Public Sector Has Shrunk. Political Correction prepared a chart based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data showing cumulative job gains and losses in the public and private sectors since summer 2009 (click to enlarge):

private-sector jobs

[BLS.gov, accessed 10/2/11; BLS.gov, accessed 10/2/11]

Since June 2009, The Private Sector Has Gained Over One Million Net Jobs. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, there were 107,936,000 private-sector jobs in June 2009. As of August 2011, the most recent report available, the data show that total is up to 109,170,000 — a net gain of 1,234,000 jobs in the private sector. [BLS.gov, accessed 9/18/11]

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

On that basis, CBO estimates that ARRA's policies had the following effects in the fourth quarter of calendar year 2010:

  • They raised real (inflation-adjusted) gross domestic product (GDP) by between 1.1 percent and 3.5 percent,
  • Lowered the unemployment rate by between 0.7 percentage points and 1.9 percentage points,
  • Increased the number of people employed by between 1.3 million and 3.5 million, and
  • Increased the number of full-time-equivalent jobs by 1.8 million to 5.0 million compared with what would have occurred otherwise, as shown in Table 1. (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, February 2011]

Fox News Sunday

CLAIM: Herman Cain Claimed Flattening The Tax Code Would Make It "Fairer For Everybody"

CHRIS WALLACE (HOST): Look, almost everybody would say the income tax is the most progressive tax at this point because it taxes people who make less at a lower rate than people who make more. The sales tax is the most regressive tax because the richest person in the world buys a $1 donut, he's going to pay the same amount as the poorest person in the world. Necessarily, if you flatten the most progressive tax and introduce the most regressive, isn't that going to work to the benefit of the rich and detriment to the poor?

HERMAN CAIN: No. No, because you're still basing it all on some assumptions. Look, bottom line at $50,000 a year, that family is going to be $2,000 ahead. So, they come out way ahead. That's assuming that they spend every dime that they have left over. The objective was grow the base and make the tax code fairer for everybody. It levels the playing field. It gets rid of all the loopholes. But the most interesting is, it gets the government out of the business of trying to pick winners and losers and trying to decide what's regressive and what's not regressive.

FACT: Cain's "9-9-9 Plan" Would Increase Taxes On Low-Income Families And Cut Taxes For The Wealthy

Cain's Plan Would "Disproportionately Tax Lower and Middle Income Earners." As reported by ABC News: "Lawrence Mishel, president of the center-left Economic Policy Institute, took issue with Cain's plan, saying it would disproportionately tax lower and middle income earners because they tend to spend a higher percentage of their incomes than wealthy people. And with a national sales tax, the more you buy, the more taxes you pay." [ABC News, 9/27/11]

PolitiFact: "Most Economists Agree That A National Sales Tax Would Raise The Relative Tax Burden On Low-And Middle-Income Earning Taxpayers." According to PolitiFact.com: "Cain's national sales tax, in effect, would attempt to make up for the reduction of federal revenue by creating the 9 percent income tax. The national sales tax, which would help fund the federal government, would be on top of state and local sales taxes, which fund state and local government. In Florida, that would create a hypothetical tax rate of 15 percent in most parts of the state. In the Wall Street Journal, Cain said the national sales tax would be levied 'on all new goods.' (A good question to ask would be whether services are exempted.) Most economists agree that a national sales tax would raise the relative tax burden on low- and middle-income earning taxpayers. 'The main reason is that low- and middle-income households consume more of their income than high-income households do,' said William Gale, senior fellow for economic studies at the Brookings Institution. 'Another way of saying that is high-income households save more of their income than low-income households do.'" [PolitiFact.com, 9/26/11]

"It's A Huge Tax Reduction On The Very Top And A Huge Tax Increase For Moderate And Low Income People." According to the Christian Science Monitor: "But probably the largest economic impact would be shifting the tax burden. 'It's a huge tax reduction on the very top and a huge tax increase for moderate and low income people,' says Michael Graetz, a professor at Columbia University who has testified before Congress on taxes. For example, economists have a measure called marginal propensity to consume. Low income people tend to spend about 98 percent of their income, middle income people spend 97 percent and high income people spend 90 percent. [Christian Science Monitor, 9/30/11]

A Flat Tax Would "Radically Redistribute The Tax Burden." According to an op-ed in US News and World Report by economics professor and senior fellow at the Strom Thurmond Institute at Clemson University Holley Ulbrich:

The attraction of simplicity hides a big change in the distribution of tax obligations among the poor, the middle class, and the rich. When think tanks like Cato and Heritage support changes that redistribute the tax burden in that way, they usually warn us of the evils of class warfare. But the proposed flat tax is, in fact, class warfare-yet another attempt to reduce the tax obligations of higher-income households in exchange for the unenforceable hope or promise that they might use the money to invest and create jobs, maybe even jobs in the United States. [...]

Second, there's no concealing that the flat tax would radically redistribute the tax burden. Adam Smith, to whom economists always turn to for economic wisdom, observed, "It is not very unreasonable that the rich should contribute to the public expense, not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more than in that proportion." The current U.S. tax system consists mainly of taxes on income (personal and corporate), payroll (Social Security), sales, and property. In 2007, these taxes provided 92 percent of federal income and 51 percent of state and local government income. Sales taxes are regressive-they take a higher share of low incomes than higher incomes. State and local income taxes range from flat to mildly progressive. Payroll taxes are moderately regressive because they fall on only wages and salaries and only up to a maximum of $106,800 in earnings. The distribution of the property tax burden is not clear, but the family home is the primary financial asset for most middle-income households. Property taxes are levied on homes, but rarely on other kinds of financial assets. State and local governments also depend on fees and charges for services, which fall heavily on lower-income households, for 44 percent of their revenue. So a moderately progressive federal income tax, with rates ranging from 15 percent to 35 percent, helps to offset regressive taxes elsewhere.

The rhetoric about ending double taxation ignores the fact that under a flat tax, wages would still be taxed twice, but dividends only once. Wage earners pay both payroll and income taxes. They've paid double taxes since 1935. Why should income from owning financial assets be treated differently-especially since most of that income goes to upper-income households?

A flat tax would shift tax obligations from the rich to the poor, and especially the middle class, and eliminate desirable tax incentives for retirement savings, home ownership, and charitable contributions. Simple? Yes. Efficient and equitable? Not so much. [US News and World Report4/12/10]

State Of The Union

CLAIM: Liz Cheney Claimed That "Enhanced Interrogation" Helped Identify Bin Laden's Location

LIZ CHENEY: The enhanced interrogation technique, we know now, Leon Panetta has said some of the intelligence we gained through that program helped us identify the location of bin Laden.

FACT: Role Of "Enhanced Interrogation" Program — If Any — Remains In Dispute

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed "Did Not Reveal The Names" That Led To Courier "While Being Subjected To The Simulated Drowning Technique Known As Waterboarding." As reported by the Associated Press: "[Khalid Sheikh] Mohammed did not reveal the names while being subjected to the simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding, former officials said. He identified them many months later under standard interrogation, they said, leaving it once again up for debate as to whether the harsh technique was a valuable tool or an unnecessarily violent tactic." [Associated Press, 5/3/11, emphasis added, via WHEC.com]

While CIA Dir. Panetta Said Individuals Who Were Waterboarded Provided Information Used To Find Bin Laden, He Did Not Say That "Enhanced Interrogations" Produced That Intelligence Directly. In an interview with NBC, CIA Director Leon Panetta said: "In the intelligence business you work from a lot of sources of information, and that was true here. We had a multiple source, uh, a multiple series of sources that provided information with regards to this situation. Clearly some of it came from detainees and the  interrogation of detainees, but we also had information from other sources as well, from SIGINT intelligence, from imagery, from other sources that we had, assets on the ground, and it was a combination of all of that that ultimately we were able to put together that led us to that compound. So it's a little difficult to say that it was due to just one source of information that we got. [...] No, I think some of the detainees clearly were uh, they used these enhanced interrogation techniques against some of these detainees. But I'm also saying that the debate about whether we would've gotten the same information through other approaches I think is always gonna be an open question." [NBC Nightly News, 5/3/11, via MSNBC.com]

Chair Of Senate Intelligence Committee: "To The Best Of Our Knowledge ... None Of It Came As A Result Of Harsh Interrogation Practices." As reported by Talking Points Memo: "More and more evidence suggests a key piece of intelligence -- the first link in the chain of information that led U.S. intelligence officials to Osama bin Laden -- wasn't tortured out of its source. And, indeed, that torture actually failed to produce it. 'To the best of our knowledge, based on a look, none of it came as a result of harsh interrogation practices,' said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee in a wide-ranging press conference." [Talking Points Memo5/3/11]

Sen. Lindsey Graham: "Idea That We Caught Bin Laden Because Of Waterboarding ... Is A Misstatement." As reported by Talking Points Memo: "Not all Republicans are claiming that bin Laden's killing vindicates torture. At a Capitol press conference Tuesday afternoon, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) stood apart from his colleagues in the GOP. 'This idea we caught bin Laden because of waterboarding I think is a misstatement,' he said. 'This whole concept of how we caught bin Laden is a lot of work over time by different people and putting the puzzle together. I do not believe this is a time to celebrate waterboarding, I believe this is a time to celebrate hard work.'" [Talking Points Memo5/3/11, emphasis added]

FACT: Detainees Subjected To Harsh Interrogations Reportedly Lied About Identity Of Bin Laden's Courier

Identity Of Bin Laden's Personal Courier Was "Key Break" In Hunt For Al Qaeda Leader. From the Associated Press: "When one of Osama bin Laden's most trusted aides picked up the phone last year, he unknowingly led U.S. pursuers to the doorstep of his boss, the world's most wanted terrorist. That monitored phone call, recounted Monday by a U.S. official, ended a years-long search for bin Laden's personal courier, the key break in a worldwide manhunt." [Associated Press, 5/3/11, via WHEC.com]

Individuals Who Were Subjected To "Enhanced Interrogation" Actually Lied To Interrogators About Names Of Bin Laden Couriers. From the New York Times: "But a closer look at prisoner interrogations suggests that the harsh techniques played a small role at most in identifying Bin Laden's trusted courier and exposing his hide-out. One detainee who apparently was subjected to some tough treatment provided a crucial description of the courier, according to current and former officials briefed on the interrogations. But two prisoners who underwent some of the harshest treatment - including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times - repeatedly misled their interrogators about the courier's identity. [...] In 2002 and 2003, interrogators first heard about a Qaeda courier who used the nom de guerre Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, but his name was just one tidbit in heaps of uncorroborated claims. [...] According to an American official familiar with his interrogation, Mr. Mohammed was first asked about Mr. Kuwaiti in the fall of 2003, months after the waterboarding. He acknowledged having known him but said the courier was 'retired' and of little significance." [New York Times, 5/3/11, emphasis added]

Meet the Press

CLAIM: Gov. McDonnell Claimed Obama Promised The Stimulus Would Get Unemployment Under 8 Percent

GOV. BOB MCDONNELL: But, look, this election's about three things. And the Democrats are on the wrong side of it. It's about jobs and economic development, sustained 31 months now over 8 percent. The president promised the stimulus would get us under 8, we're at 9.1 now.

FACT: Obama Never Said Unemployment Would Be Under 8 Percent

Washington Post Fact Checker: "Obama Never Said This." According to the Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler:

Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty (R) also used a variation of this line in his announcement speech last month. It wasn't right then, and it isn't right now. Obama never said this.

As we wrote then: "Pawlenty is referring to a projection issued on Jan. 9, 2009 - before Obama even took the oath of office - by two aides: Christina Romer, the nominee to head the Council of Economic Advisers, and Jared Bernstein, an incoming economic adviser to Vice President-elect Biden. The 14-page report thus was not an official government assessment, nor even an analysis of an actual plan that had passed Congress. Instead, it was an attempt to assess the impact of a possible $775 billion stimulus package and what difference it would make compared to doing nothing." [Washington Post, 6/6/11, emphasis added]

Report Included "Heavy Disclaimers" About Unemployment Projections. According to PolitiFact:

But what we saw from the administration in January 2009 was a projection, not a promise. And it was a projection that came with heavy disclaimers. "It should be understood that all of the estimates presented in this memo are subject to significant margins of error," the report states. "There is the more fundamental uncertainty that comes with any estimate of the effects of a program. Our estimates of economic relationships and rules of thumb are derived from historical experience and so will not apply exactly in any given episode. Furthermore, the uncertainty is surely higher than normal now because the current recession is unusual both in its fundamental causes and its severity." There's also a footnote that goes with the chart that states: "Forecasts of the unemployment rate without the recovery plan vary substantially. Some private forecasters anticipate unemployment rates as high as 11% in the absence of action." [PolitiFact, 2/28/11]

FactCheck.org: Original Prediction Was "In Line With What Private Economists Were Forecasting." According to FactCheck.org:

Back in July of last year we wrote, "the original projections from President Obama's economic advisers on what would happen with and without the stimulus plan are still off - and significantly so." But nobody "promised" that unemployment would remain below 8 percent.

As we also wrote in June of last year, the White House explanation was simple: "They say President George Bush left them a worse mess than they realized" when Obama's advisers came up with their predictions. And that's true. The original chart - produced Jan. 9, 2009 - was based on economic projections that were in line with what private economists were forecasting. Those forecasts were being revised for the worse even before any stimulus money was spent. [FactCheck.org, 9/24/10]