Ryan Takes Shortcuts in Speech: Fact Check
Laying out the first plans for his party's presidential ticket, Paul Ryan took some factual shortcuts in his vice presidential acceptance speech when he attacked President Barack Obama's policies on Medicare, the economic stimulus and the budget deficit.
Sen. Rob Portman, a former U.S. trade representative, glossed over his own problems when critiquing Obama's trade dealings with China.
A closer look at some of the words spoken Wednesday night at the GOP convention in Tampa, Fla.:
RYAN: "And the biggest, coldest power play of all in Obamacare came at the expense of the elderly. ... So they just took it all away from Medicare. Seven hundred and sixteen billion dollars, funneled out of Medicare by President Obama."
THE FACTS: Ryan's claim ignores the fact that Ryan himself incorporated the same cuts into budgets he steered through the House in the past two years as chairman of its Budget Committee, using the money for deficit reduction. And the cuts do not affect Medicare recipients directly, but rather reduce payments to hospitals, health insurance plans and other service providers.
In addition, Ryan's own plan to remake Medicare would squeeze the program's spending even more than the changes Obama made, shifting future retirees into a system in which they would get a fixed payment to shop for coverage among private insurance plans. Critics charge that would expose the elderly to more out-of-pocket costs.
RYAN: "The stimulus was a case of political patronage, corporate welfare and cronyism at their worst. You, the working men and women of this country, were cut out of the deal."
THE FACTS: Ryan himself asked for stimulus funds shortly after Congress approved the $800 billion plan, known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Ryan's pleas to federal agencies included letters to Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis seeking stimulus grant money for two Wisconsin energy conservation companies.
One of them, the nonprofit Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corp., received $20.3 million from the Energy Department to help homes and businesses improve energy efficiency, according to federal records. That company, he said in his letter, would build "sustainable demand for green jobs." Another eventual recipient, the Energy Center of Wisconsin, received about $365,000.
RYAN: Said Obama misled people in Ryan's hometown of Janesville, Wis., by making them think a General Motors plant there threatened with closure could be saved. "A lot of guys I went to high school with worked at that GM plant. Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said: `I believe that if our government is there to support you ... this plant will be here for another hundred years.' That's what he said in 2008. Well, as it turned out, that plant didn't last another year."
THE FACTS: The plant halted production in December 2008, weeks before Obama took office and well before he enacted a more robust auto industry bailout that rescued GM and Chrysler and allowed the majority of their plants — though not the Janesville facility — to stay in operation. Ryan himself voted for an auto bailout under President George W. Bush that was designed to help GM, but he was a vocal critic of the one pushed through by Obama that has been widely credited with revitalizing both GM and Chrysler.
RYAN: Obama "created a bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent report. He thanked them, sent them on their way and then did exactly nothing."
THE FACTS: It's true that Obama hasn't heeded his Bowles-Simpson commission's recommendations, but Ryan's not the best one to complain. He was a member of the commission and voted against its final report.
PORTMAN: "Take trade with China. China manipulates its currency, giving it an unfair trade advantage. So why doesn't the president do something about it? I'll tell you one reason. President Obama could not run up his record trillion-dollar deficits if the Chinese didn't buy our bonds to finance them. Folks, we are as beholden to China for bonds as we are to the Middle East for oil. This will end under Mitt Romney."
THE FACTS: Portman is an expert on commerce, having served as President George W. Bush's trade representative from May 2005 to May 2006. But he didn't fare particularly well in stemming China's trade advantage, either.
Under Portman's watch, the U.S. trade deficit with China soared by 25 percent in 2005, and the next year it climbed more than 15 percent. By contrast, the deficit rose 10 percent over the first three years of Obama's presidency, according to U.S. government figures.
Both the Bush and Obama administrations have launched unfair trade cases against China at the World Trade Organization, but neither has been able to rebalance the relationship.