Fact Checking the Mitt Romney Tape and the Reaction
CNBC Senior Correspondent
With the release this week of a secretly recorded tape of his comments at a May 17 fundraiser, Mitt Romney became the latest politician to be reminded that cameras are everywhere on the campaign trail.
While acknowledging that his off-the-cuff remarks were “inelegant,” Romney has not backed away from his comments about the 47 percent of Americans who pay no federal income taxes. (Read More: Could This Man Cost Romney the White House?)
Responding to a question about how to persuade voters to “take care of yourself” rather than rely on government, Romney responded that it is not his job to worry about winning the votes of the 47 percent.
“I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives,” Romney said.
Various fact-checkers have found that while the 47 percent figure in terms of people who pay no federal income tax is roughly accurate, it includes active duty military personnel, senior citizens and the working poor.
So our Investigations Inc. team looked at the rest of the one hour, seven minute video, and found other instances where Romney’s facts do not always add up.
(Read More: Don't Judge Romney by Unfortunate Video.)
Romney says, as he often does on the campaign trail, that he favors unparalleled military strength, in contrast to President Barack Obama.
“Our Navy's smaller in number of ships than anytime since 1917. And this president wants to shrink it. The list goes on. Our Air Force is older and smaller than anytime since '47 when the Air Force was formed. And he wants to shrink it. If we go the way of Europe, which is spending 1 percent to 2 percent of their economy on the military, we will not be able to have freedom in the world.”
A statement like that is like an engraved invitation for fact checkers, so far be it from us to turn it down.
Romney is correct that the European Union spends 1 percent to 2 percent of its economy on defense — 1.61 percent to be exact, according to 2010 figures from the European Defense Agency.
The U.S., by contrast, spends just under 5 percent of GDP on defense, and even if the cuts proposed by Obama and the automatic cuts scheduled to begin in January if Congress and the White House cannot reach a budget deal were to go into effect, U.S. defense spending would still remain well above Europe’s.
As for the size of the Navy and Air Force, Romney’s figures are not exactly right.
The U.S. Navy History and Heritage Command says the Navy does have fewer ships now than it did at the height of World War I — 286 today versus 342 in 1917.
But the Navy had even fewer ships before Obama took office, falling to 278 ships in 2007 — the smallest number since the 19th century. In fact, the number of active ships grew in the first year of the Obama presidency for the first time in four years.
As for the Air Force, the number of active duty personnel is higher now than when the Air Force was founded in 1947. The Air Force Personnel Centerreports 329,293 active duty personnel as of June 30, compared with 305,827 in 1947 according to the Air Force Association. But the number of aircraft has fallen considerably, with 5,484 aircraft in service today according to the Air Force Association compared with 25,088 in 1947. And the average of age of active duty aircraft is 20.4 years today, which is almost certainly much older than the fleet at the end of World War II.