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Fact-checking Romney’s statements

June 4, 2011

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Here is a fact-check of statements made by Mitt Romney either in his campaign announcement speech Thursday or at his town hall meeting in Manchester, N.H., yesterday:

ON RAISING TAXES

ROMNEY: “The expectation was that we’d have to raise taxes but [as governor of Massachusetts] I refused. I ordered a review of all state spending, made tough choices, and balanced the budget without raising taxes.’’

Romney largely held the line on tax increases when he was 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. Antitax 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.

Spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said yesterday that Romney does not consider the fees a tax hike. “He held the line on taxes and cut taxes 19 times,’’ Fehrnstrom said.

ON THE NATIONAL DEBT

ROMNEY: “The debt of the nation right now is almost as large as the entire economy.’’

This is true, if US debt is measured against the nation’s gross domestic product, which is essentially the total value of goods and services produced yearly in America. US GDP was about $14.6 trillion in 2010, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The total US debt on June 2, the date of Romney’s announcement of his bid for president, was roughly $14.3 trillion, or, more specifically, $14,344,706,437,041, according to the US Department of the Treasury. The debt when Obama took office in January 2009 was about $10.6 trillion.

ON GOVERNMENT GROWTH

ROMNEY: “Government under President Obama, federal, state, and local, has grown to consume almost 40 percent of our economy.’’

Last year, combined spending for federal, state, and local governments was 35 percent of gross domestic product, according to the White House Office of Management and Budget. That number includes state and local governments that Obama and the federal administration do not directly control. For much of the past 40 years, the combined government outlay has mainly been in the low 30-percent range, rising to 33.5 percent in 1991 during the recession of the early 1990s. During the administration of President George W. Bush, from 2001-08, total government outlay averaged 31 percent of GDP. The federal government’s share, which has fluctuated within a few points of 20 percent of GDP for decades, was on the high end at 25 percent in 2009 and 23.8 percent in 2010, due to emergency spending, such as the bank bailouts and the economic stimulus package, according to the White House budget office. Romney has pledged to cap federal spending at 20 percent or less of GDP. Federal outlays averaged 19.6 percent of GDP during the Bush administration.

ON TAXES AND REGULATION

ROMNEY: “Instead of encouraging entrepreneurs and employers, [Obama] raises their taxes, piles on record-breaking mounds of regulation and bureaucracy, and gives more power to union bosses.’’

Romney ignores ambitious tax cutting pushed by Obama. The stimulus plan early in his presidency cut taxes broadly for middle class and business. Obama 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 George W. Bush-era tax cuts for all except the wealthy. In office, he accepted a deal from Republicans extending the tax cuts for all. As for increases, Obama won congressional approval to raise taxes 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 law have yet to take effect.

ON PRESIDENT OBAMA’S EXPERIENCE

ROMNEY: Obama has “no experience in the private sector, no experience in leadership, no experience really in negotiations.’’

This seems like a line left over from the 2008 campaign, when then-Senator Obama’s slim experience as a community organizer before he got into politics was a frequent target of GOP attacks. However, since taking office in the White House, Obama has run the massive executive branch bureaucracy, commanded the world’s most powerful military, negotiated a nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia, and hammered out deals with congressional Republicans on a temporary extension of the Bush-era tax cuts and a spending plan for the current fiscal year that avoided a government shutdown.

SOURCE: Globe Staff and Associated Press