August 6th, 2020

The Fact Checker: The Truth Behind the Rhetoric

Dubious claims from the 12th Republican debate

Glenn Kessler &Michelle Ye Hee Lee

By Glenn Kessler &Michelle Ye Hee Lee

Published March 11, 2016

CNN aired the 12th Republican presidential debate Thursday, a prime-time event starring the four remaining aspirants for the GOP nomination.

Not every candidate uttered statements that are easily fact-checked, but here are some suspicious or interesting claims.

Common Core is "education through Washington, D.C. I don't want that."

— Donald Trump

Trump continues to say Common Core is flawed because it is a federally run program enacted in Washington and imposed on local governments. But it has been, and still is, a state-led effort where governors and school chiefs set the standards. It has been a state-led effort, and states have opted into adopting the standards.

There was something revealing during Thursday night's debate: When moderator Jake Tapper pushed back on Trump's assertion, the Republican front-runner agreed that Common Core is, indeed, a state-led effort. But it's been "taken over by Washington," Trump continued, and is a "disaster."

But the federal government did not take over Common Core. It remains a state-led program. Individual states revise the standards to fit their needs and then allow state and local school districts to shape the curriculums for themselves. And in December, Congress actually took measures to scale back the federal government's power in relation to local governments. This federal education law explicitly states that the federal government cannot influence local decisions about academic standards. More than 40 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Common Core K-12 academic standards in math and reading.

"Very importantly, the Disney workers endorsed me."

— Trump

At Walt Disney World, 250 tech workers lost their jobs after the company allegedly replaced them with immigrant workers brought in on temporary H-1B visas. Two workers, Leo Perrero and Dena Moore, have filed lawsuits in federal court seeking class-action status. Perrero and Moore have endorsed Trump, but it would be wrong to suggest that all of the Disney workers have endorsed him.

The United States has "the smallest Navy in a century."

— Marco Rubio

This used to be a staple claim during GOP debates that went away for a few debates, but it returned, thanks to Rubio. This zombie claim about the shrinking Navy just won't go away. Fact-checkers repeatedly debunked this Three Pinocchio claim in the 2012 presidential election, and it continues to be used during this campaign.

The number of ships in the Navy is 272. It is the lowest count since 1916, when there were 245 ships.

A lot has changed in 100 years, including the need for and the capacity of ships. After all, it is a matter of modern nuclear-powered fleet carriers vs. the gunboats and small warships of 100 years ago. The push for ships during the Reagan era (to build the Navy up to a 600-ship level) no longer exists, and ships from that era are now being retired.

The Navy is on track to grow to just over 300 ships, approximately the size that a bipartisan congressional panel has recommended.

"Ted [Cruz] did change his view on ethanol, quite a bit."

— Trump

Actually, Cruz has not changed his view on the ethanol mandate; he consistently has opposed it.

Many have said Cruz flip-flopped because he initially supported ending the program in 2020, then told Iowa voters he supports a gradual phaseout of the program, with ultimate repeal by 2022. Since 2014, Cruz has proposed a five-year phaseout of the federal renewable-fuel mandate, which sets the minimum amount of corn-based ethanol to be mixed into gasoline to reduce or replace the amount of fossil fuel. But Cruz had not specified when the phaseout would begin. Now, he says that he wants it to start in 2017, his first year as president, if he is elected. The phaseout would be completed with an ultimate repeal by 2022.

"As an example, GDP was zero essentially for the last two quarters."

— Trump

This is wrong. The gross domestic product- the broadest measure of the economy - increased at a rate of 1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015 and 2 percent in the third quarter, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

"I actually got the budget balanced when I was a member of the Congress, the chairman of the Budget Committee."

— John Kasich

Kasich likes to make this claim, but it really overstates the role of the Congress in which he served. Kasich actually voted against two big deficit-reduction deals advanced by Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, in 1990 and 1993, which raised taxes and helped set the stage for the dramatic increases in revenue that eliminated the budget deficit.

But even those deals were not intended to achieve balanced budgets. When Republicans took control of Congress in 1994 - and Kasich became chairman of the House Budget Committee - they did put the notion of a balanced budget on the policy agenda.

But Washington also got lucky, because there were economic forces that had little to do with Democrats or Republicans: A gusher of tax revenue emerged, primarily from capital-gains taxes, because of the run-up in the stock market, as well as taxes paid on stock options earned by technology executives.

Between 1994 and 1999, realized capital gains nearly quadrupled, the Congressional Budget Office concluded, with taxes on those gains accounting for about 30 percent of the increased growth of individual income-tax liabilities relative to the growth of GDP.

There were other factors as well, such as lower-than-expected health costs, which reduced an expected drain on the budget. Bush also had put in motion a huge decline in defense spending (which Clinton accelerated) and had overseen a painful restructuring of the banking industry. Even such a potential shock as the Asian financial crisis in 1997 had a silver lining: lower oil prices that bolstered the U.S. economy.

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An award-winning journalism career spanning nearly three decades, Glenn Kessler has covered foreign policy, economic policy, the White House, Congress, politics, airline safety and Wall Street. He was The Washington Post's chief State Department reporter for nine years, traveling around the world with three different Secretaries of State. Before that, he covered tax and budget policy for The Washington Post and also served as the newspaper's national business editor. Kessler has long specialized in digging beyond the conventional wisdom, such as when he earned a "laurel" from the Columbia Journalism Review