True, False, Or Pants On Fire?

Aug 31, 2012

Campaign season is in full swing.  You know it by the TV ads and campaign signs … and by the return of PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter.  PolitiFact New Hampshire is a partnership of The Telegraph in Nashua and the national, a project of the Tampa Bay Times.  The goal is to help you find the truth in politics.  They research candidates’ statements and then rate their accuracy on the Truth-O-Meter.   

And every week on Morning Edition, we’ll check in with the Telegraph’s managing editor for content, Jonathan Van Fleet about the most recent rulings.

Jonathan Van Fleet joins NHPR Morning Edition host Rick Ganley.


Ganley: First off, both the statements PolitiFact has checked out this week turned out to be true or mostly so, and that’s a refreshing change, isn’t it.

Van Fleet: Sorry, no pants on fire this week. For those who are unfamiliar with PolitiFact, we have a number of ratings that start with true, go down to pants on fire which are ridiculously false statements, and range anywhere from mostly true to mostly false, to half true.

Ganley: Ok, you looked at something President Obama said while at a campaign stop in Windham earlier this month, here’s what he said:

President Obama: His new running mate, Congressman Ryan, he put forward a plan that will let Governor Romney pay less than 1% in taxes each year. Now here’s the kicker. He expects you to pick up the tab.

Ganley: So, what rating did you give this?

Van Fleet: This turned out to be mostly true, the numbers check out; Ryan did put forward a plan that would have eliminated almost all of Romney’s taxes. But Obama said 'each year,’ which would be difficult to prove because Romney has only released his 2010 tax returns.

Ganley: So, what does Congressman Ryan’s plan actually say, where did he outline that?

Van Fleet: He proposed it in 2010 and it would have eliminated all taxes on capital gains, interest and dividends. Romney’s 2010 tax return shows that he had $21.6 million  in income and none of that came from wages in salary. So, the plan would have eliminated most all of his taxes.

Ganley: So, that seems pretty cut and dry.

Van Fleet: It is, but it’s worth noting that Ryan’s future plans restored those taxes and included taxes on capital gains, dividends, and interest.

Ganley: So, it’s been evolving. In another statement you examined this week comes from Mitt Romney while speaking at Saint Anselm College last week. Here’s what he said:

Mitt Romney: The next thing I’d do for you is make sure when you graduate you can get a job. Half the kids coming out of college this year, half can’t find a job or a job that’s consistent with a college degree. It’s unacceptable.

Ganley: So, what’s the PolitiFact verdict on that statement?

Van Fleet: Sadly for college graduates, that’s true. Based on recent estimates, the number of unemployed or underemployed college graduates is just above half, 53.6%, and that wasn’t enough of a discrepancy to affect the ruling here.

Ganley: PolitiFact looked at numbers back from 2000 when the economy was doing rather well and it found that it wasn’t so easy for college grads back then, either.  I think it was something like a 40.1 % rate. In another words, it hasn’t ever been easy for a 22 year old to walk into a highly paid job out of college. So, what does it mean that 1 in 2 are underemployed or unemployed today?

Van Fleet: Well, we didn’t really address that in the PolitiFact article but the Telegraph recently did a series of stories called Degrees of Debt which looked at the cost of college and we found that more and more kids are unemployed, they’re working menial jobs, and have mountains of student debt and student loans to pay back, and they’re having a hard time attaining some of the typical trappings of the American Dream, like buying cars, owning a home, getting married, having kids.

Ganley: Now we heard Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan making an issue of that at the convention this week as well. So, what are you going to be looking to next?

Van Fleet: Well, keeping with the college cost theme, we’re taking a look at an Obama campaign claim that the Romney-Ryan tax plan would eliminate the American opportunity tax credit which gives families with college students up to $2500.

Ganley: And that’s likely to be another controversial issue.