On Saturday, February 13, 2016, Republican Presidential candidates met to debate at the Peace Center located in Greenville (SC). As usual, claims were made that do not correspond to the facts. Here are a few.
Following the death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, Senators Eduardo “Ted” Cruz and Marco Rubio claimed that no US Supreme Court Justice had been elected in over 80 years by a “lame-duck” President. Unfortunately for Senators Cruz and Rubio, Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy was confirmed by the US Senate on February 3, 1988, President Reagan’s final year in office. Associate Justice Kennedy had been nominated in 1987 and was confirmed in 97-0 vote in 1988. President Reagan had previously nominated two other candidates, Robert Bork and Douglas Ginsburg. The former was rejected in a 42-58 vote and the latter withdrew his name after acknowledging that he had smoked marijuana on several occasions.
Governor Jeb Bush claimed that Russia was attacking US-backed groups instead of ISIS (Islamic State In Syria). Mr. Donald Trump then countered by claiming that Governor Bush was “so wrong.” Mr. Trump further claimed that the US had spent $5 trillion in the Middle East without winning anything. Unfortunately, the murky politics of the Middle East means that things are far from clear as some of the Western-backed rebels (i.e., so called “moderates”) are fighting alongside extremists such as Al-Nusra Front, a group linked to al-Qaeda. Still, though Russia is indeed targeting Western-backed rebels, they are also bombing ISIS. Sometimes it’s hard to tell who’s who in the Middle East.
Mr. Trump’s claim that the US has spent $5 trillion, however, is significantly off and much increased from his previous claim in November that the US had spent $2 trillion. That last figure is approximately what the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates the US has spent fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.
Senator Eduardo “Ted” Cruz claimed that he “stood with [Senator] Jeff Sessions and [Representative] Steven King” in 2013 to defeat the so-called amnesty plan. Senator Rubio countered that Senator Cruz was lying because in 2013 Cruz “want[ed] immigration reform to pass,[and] want[ed] people to be able to come out of the shadows.” Senator Rubio was partly correct and partly not. While Senator Cruz has been against a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, he did introduce legislation in 2013 proposing such a path. Senator Cruz also supported the legislation in the Senate and even urged its enactment. Senator Cruz now claims that his bill was intended to kill the broader bill but the record shows otherwise.
Senator Rubio also claimed that “[illegal immigration] is worse today than it was three years ago, which is worse than it was five years ago.” However, statistics from the Pew Research Center (“Center”) reveal that the number of illegal immigrants has remained stable over that period of time. The Center estimates that there were 11.3 million illegal immigrants in 2014, which is less than the 11.5 million estimated to be in the US in 2011, and the same number as in 2009.
Senator Rubio claimed the “economy is flat [and] not creating jobs the way it once did.” While the recovery since the last economic crisis has been called “sluggish”, in 2014 employers added some 3 million jobs, the most in the last 15 years. In 2015, 2.7 million jobs were created, the second most since 1999.
Senator Eduardo “Ted” Cruz claimed that: “[t]he non-partisan Tax Foundation (“Foundation”) estimated [my] simple flat tax that would produce 4.9 million new jobs, it would increase capital investment by 44 percent and would lift everyone’s income by double digits.” Senator Cruz cherry-picks the Foundation’s analysis. While the Foundation concluded that Senator Cruz’s plan would generate more jobs, it assumed that significant tax cuts would generate additional economic growth. In fact, the Foundation found that Senator Cruz’s plan would reduce tax revenues by $3.6 trillion over 10 years. This would require massive spending cuts or a massive increase in the federal budget deficit. Not all economist agree with the Foundation’s analysis. Furthermore, the Foundation is more right-leaning than non-partisan. Moreover, despite Senator Cruz’s assertions, both the Foundation and the National Review have called his “flat tax” plan a Value-Added Tax plan similar to that in Europe.
Mr. Trump claimed that Governor Bush “put so much debt on Florida, and  increased spending so much, as soon as he got out of office, Florida crashed.” While the Florida economy did tank after Governor Bush left office, the cause was the so-called “housing bubble” rather than Governor Bush’s budget. According to data from Zillow, during Governor Bush’s term, housing prices in Florida increased by 160%, more than double the national average of 74%. As a consequence, construction jobs were plentiful and the increase in home value, coupled with easy-to-get home equity loans, led Floridians to spend more. However, again according to data from Zillow, prices plummeted by more than half in the five years after Governor Bush left office.
Mr. Trump also claimed that a failed emminent domain case, meant to benefit a Trump casino, “wasn’t for a parking lot.” In fact, it was. The case pitted Mr. Trump to Mrs. Vera Coking. See also, Casino Reinvestment Development Authority v. Banin.
Mr. Ben Carson claimed that the Federal Reserve changed its policies due to the national debt. However, Mr. Carson misunderstands how the Federal Reserve works. The size of the national debt, now standing at $19 trillion, does not cause a change in policy (i.e., interest rates) at the Federal Reserve. By law, the Federal Reserve is tasked with keeping unemployment “low” and targeting inflation at 2% per year. Moreover, the Federal Reserve charges interest to banks, not to consumers. The Federal Reserve, under Chairman Ben Bernanke, reduced the Fed’s interest rate to 0% in December 2008, before President Obama took office, as a way to stimulate the economy following the financial crisis. The Fed only increased interest rates in December 2015, making it a floating rate of up to 0.25%.
Mr. Trump claimed Senator Cruz was “the single biggest liar” for alleging that Mr. Trump “supports federal taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood.” However, it is a fact that Mr. Trump left open the possibility of funding some of Planned Parenthood’s works. However, as he has done in the past with other claims, Mr. Trump later stated that he would not fund any part of Planned Parenthood so long as this latter performed abortions.
Politically unbiased yours,