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FACT CHECK: Romney's clunker claim on auto bailout

By Christopher S. Rugaber

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 9 2011 9:59 p.m. MST

Indeed, the health care industry has been one of the few reliable sources of hiring during the recession and its aftermath. The industry has added 313,000 jobs in the past year.

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ROMNEY: "If we stay on the course we're on, with the level of borrowing this administration is carrying out, if we don't get serious about cutting and capping our spending and balancing our budget, you're going to find America in the same position Italy is in four or five years from now, and that is unacceptable."

THE FACTS: To be sure, calamity can spread from Europe's debt crisis in any number of ways. Americans are already seeing the effects from losses in their international investments, and governments are swimming in debt on both sides of the Atlantic. There are some important differences, though, between the troubles of Greece, Italy and Europe at large, and the United States.

For one thing, while creditors keep demanding higher and higher interest rate levels from troubled European countries to justify the added risk of such loans, U.S. debt in the form of Treasury bonds and other securities remains among the safest havens of all international investment.

Even the Standard and Poor's downgrade of the U.S. credit rating in August did not result in the United States being forced to pay higher interest rates. Instead, demand for Treasury bonds increased, pushing rates down more.

Also, the United States deals with its debt in part by printing money, if the Federal Reserve so desires. While that might cause inflation down the road, it also can make the debt proportionally smaller. In sharing a common currency, the euro, the 17 members of the euro zone do not have that flexibility.

And while there are doubts about the outcome, a special congressional committee is working toward a trillion-dollar-plus reduction in the U.S. deficit, with a deadline for a deal of Nov. 23.

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GINGRICH: "Dodd-Frank kills small banks; it kills small business."

HERMAN CAIN: "Then you get the regulators off of the backs of the banks ... get the regulators out of the way, such that the small banks and the medium-sized banks aren't being forced out of the business."

THE FACTS: The financial regulation overhaul known as Dodd-Frank is mostly targeted at large banks and Wall Street firms, which got billions of dollars in 2009 from the government's bailout. Small banks are exempted from many of the requirements.

Also, community banks, which have less than $10 billion in assets and make up 98 percent of U.S. banks, lobbied and received an exemption from the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. While they have to follow the rules the new agency sets, they aren't subject to its enforcement authority. Instead, existing regulators will oversee the community banks' compliance.

That hasn't stopped most of the candidates from criticizing the regulations as a drain on small institutions.

Their point that regulators are holding back lending doesn't square with surveys, mostly of larger banks, by the Federal Reserve. Those surveys have found that banks have been easing their credit standards for business loans for the past year.

The survey also found that loan demand fell in the third quarter. Paul Dales, an economist at Capital Economics, wrote Monday that the findings "suggest it is not the supply of credit that's holding the economy back. Instead, the problem is demand for credit."

Associated Press writers Tom Raum and Marcy Gordon contributed to this report.

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