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Most Facts Check Out In Bill Clinton's DNC Speech


Last night, former President Bill Clinton delivered a speech remarkable both for its eloquence and for the sheer quantity of facts it contained. The folks at FactCheck.org described it this way: A fact-checker's nightmare - lots of effort required to run down his many statistics and factual claims, producing little for us to write about.

We're going to put a few of those claims of fact to the test now with Robert Farley, who's the deputy managing editor of FactCheck.org. Welcome to the program.

ROBERT FARLEY: Well, thanks for having me.

SIEGEL: A nightmare, you say, but I gather most of President Clinton's facts do check out?

FARLEY: We found out most of them did. It was - he threw out an awful lot of numbers on oil imports and jobs, auto and manufacturing jobs. And so, a lot of those we hadn't heard before. But when we checked them out, a lot of them were accurate.

SIEGEL: We heard a lot from President Clinton about health care; that the health care law has slowed the rate of growth for health care costs; that President Obama saved $716 billion from Medicare without cutting benefits, then used that money to close the drug doughnut hole; that he added eight years to the Medicare Trust Fund so that it's solvent until 2024. And finally, this claim about Mitt Romney's plans for Medicare.

PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: So if he's elected, and if he does what he promised to do, Medicare will now go broke in 2016.


CLINTON: Think about that. That means, after all, we won't have to wait until our voucher program kicks in in 2023...


CLINTON: ...to see the end of Medicare as we know it.

SIEGEL: Rob Farley of FactCheck.org, in that health care portion of President Clinton's speech, any fiction in there?

FARLEY: Well, the Medicare program wouldn't necessarily go broke. What we're talking about here is that the trust fund that makes up the difference between what we pay in for Medicare every year and what actually it costs, about 87 percent of the cost is made up from those taxes that you pay for your payroll taxes. So it wouldn't go broke necessarily. But the government would have to chip in money starting in 2016, if the cost of the program isn't reduced over time.

SIEGEL: But the $716 billion that would be cut from Medicare without cutting benefits, is that an accurate statement of what President Obama has done?

FARLEY: It is an accurate statement. We're talking here about a reduction in the future cost of payments to hospitals. And so, there is no reduction in benefits. In fact, some seniors would see some increased benefits such as annual wellness visits that would be without a co-pay.

SIEGEL: Let's move on now to what Bill Clinton said about President Obama's recovery act and this claim that Clinton made last night.

CLINTON: The recovery act saved or created millions of jobs and cut taxes. Let me say this again, cut taxes for 95 percent of the American people.


CLINTON: And in the last 29 months, our economy has produced about four and a half million private sector jobs.

SIEGEL: OK, four and a half million private sector jobs produced, tax cuts for 95 percent of the American people. True?

FARLEY: Well, we're going to quibble a bit with the 95 percent of tax cuts to the American people. He's talking here about working folks. He's not talking about pensioners or the unemployed. It would be about 76 percent of all families and single individuals. But about 95 percent of working people got a tax cut through the Making Work Pay Tax Cut from the stimulus. It was about $400 for individuals, about 800 for couples.

SIEGEL: And private sector jobs that were created, four and a half million?

FARLEY: That's accurate. Now, he's talking about private sector jobs only. And he's talking about a period of time from February 2010 when the numbers began to improve. If you were to back up to, say, the beginning of Obama's term, there's been a net loss of jobs overall.

SIEGEL: One more point, President Clinton claimed that since 1961, Republican presidents have created 24 million jobs, while Democratic presidents - with slightly less time in the White House - have created 42 million jobs, almost twice as many. True?

FARLEY: That was a new statistic for us we hadn't heard before. And it is true. Bloomberg had done a report on this back in May. And they went through the Bureau of Labor Statistics data and matched it up against all the presidents and found that there were more jobs created under Democratic presidents.

Now, does that mean Democrats are better at creating jobs than Republicans? There's an awful lot of factors that go into that: timing, whether the Congress is the same party as the president. An awful lot of factors like that. So it's hard to say who gets all the credit for that.

SIEGEL: So, Robert Farley, deputy managing editor of FactCheck.org, thanks for talking with us.

FARLEY: Oh, thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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