Fact Checking the Democrats’ Math

Day one of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. was heavier on emotion and personal stories than it was on verifiable facts, but there was still plenty of fodder for our Investigations Inc. fact checking team.

San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro waveS to the audience at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina, on September 4, 2012 on the first day of the Democratic National Convention.
Stan Honda | AFP | Getty Images
San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro waveS to the audience at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina, on September 4, 2012 on the first day of the Democratic National Convention.

San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro debuted on the national stage with a claim about job growth under President Obama.

“Despite incredible odds and united Republican opposition, our president took action, and now we've seen 4.5 million new jobs," Castro said.

By one measure, private sector jobs created since January, 2010 — after the Obama stimulus had taken full effect — Castro’s number is correct. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says from February, 2010 through July of this year, the private sector added 4,544,000 jobs.

But during the whole of Mr. Obama’s presidency, private sector job growth has been less robust, at 1,057,000. (Read More: Who Creates Jobs? How Economists See the Obama-Romney Debate.)

And figure in government jobs which have steadily declined, and the economy has added just 408,000 jobs in the Obama years.

It is also worth noting that even the most favorable jobs number for Mr. Obama essentially keeps pace with population growth.

CNBC Investigations Inc.
CNBC Investigations Inc.

How does Mitt Romney’s job creation record compare?

To answer that question, the Democrats enlisted his successor as Massachusetts governor, Deval Patrick.

“In Massachusetts, we know Mitt Romney,” Patrick said. “By the time he left office, Massachusetts was 47th in the nation in job creation — during better economic times — and household income in our state was declining. He cut education deeper than anywhere else in America. Roads and bridges were crumbling. Business taxes were up, and business confidence was down.”

The claim that Romney left Massachusetts 47th in job creation first emerged during the Republican primaries, and it is as dubious now as it was then.

It is true that if you consider the average ranking of Massachusetts for job creation during Romney’s 2003-2007 term, the state comes in 47th. But the Bay State did improve to 30th in his final year in office, based on the percentage of job growth from December 2005 through December 2006, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It is still not a number to write home about, but less damning than the 47th place ranking Romney’s opponents prefer to cite.

Back in July, we looked closely at Romney’s Massachusetts record, as part of our annual America's Top States for Businessreport. Our first study in 2007 largely reflected on Romney’s final year in office, and found a mixed picture. While the state finished 12th overall and first for Education, it finished 41st in the Economy category. The state finished 38th for Infrastructure. (Read More: Top States Study Gives Romney Mixed Review as Mass. Governor.)

A recurring theme for the Democrats is the claim that Mitt Romney proposes to cut taxes on the very rich, at the expense of just about everyone else. (Read More: Romney Tax Plan Helps Rich the Most: Tax Group.)

“We need to make a choice,” said Julián Castro. “It’s a choice between a country where the middle class pays more so that millionaires can pay less, or a country where everybody pays their fair share so we can reduce the deficit and create the jobs of the future.”

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley was more specific: “Instead of a balanced, achievable plan to create jobs and reduce the deficit, Mitt Romney says — puts forth a plan that will cut taxes for millionaires and raise them for the middle class.”

This is not what Romney “says.” On the contrary, he has promised to cut taxesfor the middle class as part of a 20 percent across-the-board reduction in marginal rates. But he does not say how he will do so while keeping his promise to make his tax reforms “revenue neutral” by broadening the tax base.

The Tax Policy Center concluded last month that base-broadening would by necessity raise taxes on the middle class, because it would require eliminating tax breaks that disproportionately benefit middle class taxpayers. The report notes that even if the plan makes up for the lost revenue by cutting spending instead of deductions, that too would disproportionately affect the middle class.

The Romney campaign has disputed the finding, while refusing to specify what deductions it would eliminate without raising taxes on the middle class. Nonetheless, it is inaccurate to suggest — as Democrats almost certainly will repeatedly this week — that raising taxes on the middle class is one of Romney’s stated goals, even if some argue it would be an inevitable consequence of his plan.

—By CNBC's Scott Cohn