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CAMPAIGN 2012

Fact check: the GOP debate

By Shira Schoenberg
Globe Correspondent / August 13, 2011

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The Globe took a look at several claims made by Republican presidential candidates at Thursday night’s debate in Iowa.

Mitt Romney: “I don’t believe in raising taxes.’’

A 2004 presentation the Romney administration made to the credit rating agency Standard and Poor’s, which ultimately upgraded Massachusetts’ rating, stated that the administration had approved closing tax loopholes that would bring in $269 million in additional revenues, plus $271 million in increased fees. Romney made a similar pitch in 2005 to Fitch ratings.

The Globe reported in 2005 that the state received higher corporate tax revenues because Romney closed what he called “tax loopholes,’’ which some business owners viewed as a tax increase. In a 2006 Globe story, Romney acknowledged that he raised state fees (though not taxes) by $260 million. That included an additional 2-cents-per-gallon fee on gasoline companies, aimed at cleaning up contamination, with the effect being similar to an increase in the gasoline tax.

Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, on the nation’s economic growth.

Pawlenty was asked about his economic plan, which sets a target of 5 percent sustained economic growth annually over a decade. As in a previous debate, Pawlenty defended his goals. Santorum chimed in that the country has grown even faster than that.

Pawlenty can make whatever projections he wants. But Santorum is incorrect that the country has grown faster than that - at least not for such a sustained period. There have been individual years where the United States has had growth rates, measured by gross domestic product, above 5 percent - the last time was in 1984. But that rate has never been sustained over a decade. The 1970s saw four years of growth rates above 5 percent between 1972 and 1978, but the intervening years included two years of negative growth rates. The closest period the Globe found in the post-World War II era was five years in the early to mid-1960s, where growth averaged above 5 percent.

Michele Bachmann, on the debt ceiling debate: “The Congress gave Barack Obama a blank check for $2.4 trillion. What did the American people get in return? $21 billion in illusory cuts.’’

The claim of a “blank check’’ is specious, though House majority leader Eric Cantor recently made a similar claim. The debt ceiling was raised to cover spending that was already approved by Congress - not future spending by Obama. Besides, Congress must still appropriate any money - not the president.

Additionally, Bachmann’s $21 billion number reflects only cuts in 2012. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the deficit will be reduced by $917 billion by 2021 under the legislation already passed, and by $2.1 trillion by 2021 after taking into account the savings that must be found by a special “super committee’’ or offsetting cuts if the super committee does not complete its work or get its savings approved by Congress.

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