FactCheck: Obama and Boehner's dueling speeches

July 27, 2011 8:12:52 PM PDT
You may have watched President Obama talk about the debt debate during a nationally-televised address on Monday evening. The issue is a complex one, and we wanted to take a look at just how accurate his speech was.

In dueling speeches on Monday evening, the President and Speaker Boehner laid out their conditions for raising the debt limit. Both men were taking familiar positions, and both stretched the facts to make their case.

In his 15 minute speech, the president said raising the debt ceiling was routine.

"Since the 1950s, Congress has always passed it and every president has signed it," Obama said. "President Reagan did it 18 times."

Fact check: Every president since Truman has signed, but the size of the increase is hardly routine. The president's budget projects a $2.4 trillion increase in the debt, and that's $1 trillion more than any president has asked for, even when you adjust all the early requests for inflation.

The president also recycled a misleading Democratic talking point.

"Most Americans, regardless of political party, don't understand how we can ask a senior citizen to pay more for her Medicare before we ask a corporate jet owner or the oil companies to give up on tax breaks that other companies don't get," Obama said.

Fact check: GOP lawmakers have rejected efforts to raise taxes on anyone, even oil companies and jet owners, while advocating major reductions in the future growth of Medicare spending, but it's not accurate to assume that raising taxes on oil companies and high-flying corporate big shots will not significantly reduce the deficit.

The non-partisan joint committee on taxation figures says repealing oil and gas tax breaks would add just $36 billion over the next decade.

Eliminating tax breaks for corporate jets would add $3 billion more, but that $39 billion over 10 years is about four-tenths of one percent of the $9.5 trillion in total deficits projected by the Congressional Budget Office.

Raising the $1.2 trillion in added revenue that the president wants is going to take a lot more.

"The president is adamant that we cannot make fundamental changes to our entitlement programs," Speaker Boehner said in his response.

Fact check: That statement is misleading because the president has bucked his own party by proposing a total of $650 billion in reductions to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security over ten years; whether you consider that fundamental or not is a matter of opinion.

The president was open to raising the eligibility of Medicare from 65 to 67 in exchange for Republicans agreeing to raise taxes.

Speaker Boehner also accused the president of wanting a blank check.

"And he wants a blank check today," Boehner said. "That is just not going to happen."

Fact check: That's not accurate. The Obama administration has offered somewhere between $1.5 trillion and $1.7 trililon in spending cuts in exchange for raising the debt ceiling.


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