The Florida primary season kicked off yesterday evening, with an NBC-sponsored debate among the four remaining GOP presidential candidates. As is typical for many debates, the truth got pushed, pulled, stretched, and outright ignored by the candidates. In particular, these five claims were either incorrect or misleading.
1. Romney: Navy currently smaller than any time since 1917
In terms of number of ships in the fleet, this is untrue. The most recent numbers put the U.S. Navy’s total of active ships at 285, compared to 342 in April of 1917, when the U.S. entered World War I. However, there were fewer ships in the Navy during fiscal years 2005-2008: 282, 281, 278, and 282 respectively. Further figures can be seen at the Naval History and Heritage Command’s active ship force levels web page.
2. Gingrich and balanced budgets
Gingrich claimed during the debate to have presided over four consecutive balanced budgets. While he was Speaker of the House during fiscal years 1998 and 1999, he had left Congress by the time balanced budgets for fiscal years 2000 and 2001 were passed, meaning he only presided over two consecutive years of balanced budgets.
3. Romney’s attacks on Gingrich’s resignation
Romney claimed that Gingrich had been forced to resign in disgrace after he was reprimanded and fined $300,000 for ethical lapses in January 1997. Gingrich pointed out later that, in fact, he did not resign from the House until November of 1998, after the GOP lost five House seats in the midterm elections.
4. Romney and “Obamacare”
Romney said that President Barack Obama’s health care plan and stimulus package created an additional trillion dollars in debt. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, however, stated that Obama’s health care plan should reduce yearly deficits by $119 billion from 2012-2019. Romney was also incorrect to claim that the law increases both national debt and spending. In the CBO’s analysis, repealing the law would increase deficits.
5. Romney: Obama has no plans for NASA
Not true. While Obama’s NASA budget proposal in 2010 eliminated George W. Bush’s plans to return to the moon in 2020, it by no means signaled that the President had no plans for the space agency. New plans involve designing a heavy-lift launch vehicle, presumably to replace the space shuttle program, with the hopes of landing astronauts on asteroids by 2025 and orbiting Mars by the mid 2030s.
For more information about factual mistakes and the Florida debate, check out this article from iwatchnews.org.
— Benjamin Nanamaker, InvestorPlace Money & Politics Editor
The opinions contained in this column are solely those of the writer.
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