FACT CHECK: Romney miscasts economy in GOP debut
WASHINGTON – In rhetorical excesses marking his entry in the presidential campaign, Mitt Romney said the economy worsened under President Barack Obama, when it actually improved, and criticized the president for issuing apologies to the world that were never made.
A look at some of the statements by Romney on Thursday in announcing his bid for the Republican nomination and how they compare with the facts:
ROMNEY: "When he took office, the economy was in recession. He made it worse. And he made it last longer."
THE FACTS: The gross domestic product, the prime measure of economic strength, shrank by a severe 6.8 percent annual rate before Obama became president. The declines eased after he took office and economic growth, however modest, resumed. The recession officially ended six months into his presidency. Unemployment, however, has worsened under Obama, going from 7.8 percent in January 2009 to 9.1 percent last month. It hit 10.1 percent in October 2009.
A case can be made for and against the idea that Obama's policies made the economy worse than it needed to be and that the recession lasted longer than it might have under another president. Such arguments are at the core of political debate. But Obama did not, as Romney alleged, make the economy worse than it was when he took office.
ROMNEY: "A few months into office, he traveled around the globe to apologize for America."
THE FACTS: Obama has not apologized for America. What he has done, in travels early in his presidency and since, is to make clear his belief that the U.S. is not beyond reproach. He has told foreigners that the U.S. at times acted "contrary to our traditions and ideals" in its treatment of terrorist suspects, that "America has too often been selective in its promotion of democracy," that the U.S. "certainly shares blame" for international economic turmoil and has sometimes shown arrogance toward allies. Obama, whose criticisms of America's past were typically balanced by praise, was in most cases taking issue with policies or the record of the previous administration, not an unusual approach for a new president — or a presidential candidate. Romney's actual point seems to be that Obama has been too critical of his country.
But there has been no formal — or informal — apology. No saying "sorry" on behalf of America.
ROMNEY: "Three years later, foreclosures are still at record levels. Three years later the prices of homes continue to fall."
THE FACTS: Although foreclosures remain high, the number of U.S. homes that were repossessed by lenders fell in April, compared with March and a year ago, according to the foreclosure listing service RealtyTrac Inc. Romney's claim about home prices, though, is supported by the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city monthly index. It found home prices in big metro areas have sunk to their lowest since 2002. Since the bubble burst in 2006, prices have fallen more than they did during the Great Depression.
ROMNEY: "Instead of encouraging entrepreneurs and employers, he raises their taxes, piles on record-breaking mounds of regulation and bureaucracy and gives more power to union bosses."
THE FACTS: Romney ignores ambitious tax-cutting pushed by Obama. The stimulus plan early in his presidency cut taxes broadly for the middle class and business. He more recently won a one-year tax cut for 2011 that reduced most workers' Social Security payroll taxes by nearly a third. He also campaigned in support of extending the Bush-era tax cuts for all except the wealthy, whose taxes he wanted to raise. In office, he accepted a deal from Republicans extending the tax cuts for all. As for tax increases, Obama won congressional approval to raise them on tobacco and tanning salons. The penalty for those who don't buy health insurance, once coverage is mandatory, is a form of taxation. Several large tax increases in the health care law have not yet taken effect.
ROMNEY: "The expectation was that we'd have to raise taxes but I refused. I ordered a review of all state spending, made tough choices and balanced the budget without raising taxes."
THE FACTS: Romney largely held the line on tax increases when he was Massachusetts governor but that's only part of the revenue story. The state raised business taxes by $140 million in one year with measures branded "loophole closings," the vast majority recommended by Romney. Moreover, the Republican governor and Democratic lawmakers raised hundreds of millions of dollars from higher fees and fines, taxation by another name. Romney himself proposed creating 33 new fees and increasing 57 others — enough to raise $59 million. Anti-tax groups were split on his performance. The Club for Growth called the fee increases and business taxes troubling. Citizens for Limited Taxation praised him for being steadfast in supporting an income tax rollback.
Associated Press writers Steve LeBlanc in Boston and Jim Drinkard in Washington contributed to this report.