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Fact Check: Delving Into The Latest GOP Debate


Let's look more closely at some of the claims made by the contenders last night. With us now is Bill Adair, editor of the nonpartisan fact-checking website Politfact.com. They're the people who take specific claims and say if they're true or half true or barely true or, or on some occasions, you've got this button that Bill has brought me. And you press it and it says...


INSKEEP: Yeah, that's not the very good rating.

Hi, Bill. Welcome back to the program.

BILL ADAIR: Thanks for having me.

INSKEEP: Okay, Mitt Romney said at one point that the U.S. will soon - is on its - on track to be a - cease to be a free-market economy, that the government's share of the economy has grown from 27 percent all the way to a shocking 37 percent. Is that true?

ADAIR: It's not. We rated that mostly false, and there are really two parts to that claim. The first part, let's talk about the share. His numbers are roughly correct if you look at the government's share. It has gone from about 27 percent to 35 percent, by our calculations.

INSKEEP: Mm-hmm.

ADAIR: But it's important to look behind those numbers and realize that the big driver of that increase is the growth in transfer payments, like Social Security and Medicare.


ADAIR: And particularly in the case of Social Security, this is money that individuals are making the choices about, so…

INSKEEP: Meaning I get the money as a Social Security recipient if I'm retired and - yeah.

ADAIR: And you can spend it however you like. And so he's right about the numbers, but it's important to recognize that it's not like government is controlling how that 35, 37 percent is being spent.

INSKEEP: What if - if you just looked at the money that the government spends in its annual budgeting - three-point-something trillion dollars at this point. What percentage of the economy is that, and how has it changed over time?

ADAIR: If you just look at that, the percentage has actually declined in that period. It's gone from 22.5 percent in 1963 to 19.3 percent in 2010. So if you take out those transfer payments, government's share has actually gone down.

INSKEEP: Over the last several decades.

ADAIR: Since 1963, yeah.

INSKEEP: OK. Let's run quickly through a few others, here. Michele Bachmann asserted that under the new health care law, 15 political appointees will make all the major health care decisions for over 300 million Americans. And then she went on to say I don't want 15 political appointees to make decisions for a beautiful, fragile 85-year-old woman. True?

ADAIR: We gave that a false. She's referring to something called the Independent Payment Advisory Board, which is in the health care law, and is designed as sort of a stop-gap on Medicare spending. And it is supposed to - if Medicare misses targets, the board is supposed to come up with ways that it can cut its spending.


ADAIR: But this is not a panel that makes decisions about treatment. What we're really talking about here is more reimbursement rates than individual decisions, and it's not true that this board is going to decide what treatment individuals can have.

INSKEEP: Two others very quickly. Bachmann said the government is now spending 40 percent more than it takes in. True or false?

ADAIR: That one got a true. That's been a talking point by many Republicans. And indeed - and this is one of these kind of surprising trues. We all know the government spends a lot, but in this case, it is 40 percent more.

INSKEEP: Republicans regularly invoke Ronald Reagan. Rick Perry did last night, and in response to Michele Bachmann noting that Perry was once a Democrat, he said, well, actually I changed to the Republican Party earlier than Ronald Reagan did. True?

ADAIR: True. He did. He switched when he was 39. Reagan switched when he was 51. So that one got a true on the Truth-o-Meter.

INSKEEP: And Jon Huntsman, very quickly, says he created a flat tax in Utah, took the state to number one in terms of job creation. True?

ADAIR: That one got a half-true. Two parts to that: He created a flatter tax, but it is not accurate to credit that for the job creation, so half-true overall for that one.

INSKEEP: OK, Bill. Thanks very much.

ADAIR: Thanks for having me.

INSKEEP: That's Bill Adair of PolitiFact.com.


INSKEEP: You're listening to MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.