Fact check: History flubs in Republican debate

By Calvin Woodward

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Jan. 20 2012 1:55 a.m. MST

Republican presidential candidates, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, participate in the Republican presidential candidate debate at the North Charleston Coliseum in Charleston, S.C., Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012.

David Goldman, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

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WASHINGTON — Mitt Romney perpetuated one unsubstantiated claim, about his record at Bain Capital, and more or less corrected himself on another, about President Barack Obama's health care law, in the latest Republican presidential debate.

His rivals flubbed history, Newt Gingrich blaming a Democratic president for a jobless rate he never had, and Ron Paul painting an idyllic picture of life before Medicare that did not reflect deprivations of that time.

A look at some of the claims in the debate Thursday night and how they compare with the facts:

ROMNEY: "We started a number of businesses; four in particular created 120,000 jobs, as of today. We started them years ago. They've grown — grown well beyond the time I was there to 120,000 people that have been employed by those enterprises. ... Those that have been documented to have lost jobs, lost about 10,000 jobs. So (120,000 less 10,000) means that we created something over 100,000 jobs."

THE FACTS: Romney now has acknowledged the negative side of the ledger from his years with Bain Capital, but hardly laid out the full story. His claim to have created more than 100,000 jobs in the private sector as a venture capitalist remains unsupported.

Romney mentioned four successful investments in companies that now employ some 120,000 people, having grown since he was involved in them a decade or ago or longer. From that, he subtracted the number of jobs that he said are known to have been lost at certain other companies.

What's missing is anything close to a complete list of winners and losers — and the bottom line on jobs. Bain under Romney invested in scores of private companies that don't have the obligation of big publicly traded corporations to disclose finances. Romney acknowledged that he was using current employment figures for the four companies, not the number of jobs they had when he left Bain Capital, yet took credit for them in his analysis.

GINGRICH: "Under Jimmy Carter, we had the wrong laws, the wrong regulations, the wrong leadership, and we killed jobs. We had inflation. We went to 10.8 percent unemployment. Under Ronald Reagan, we had the right job — the right laws, the right regulators, the right leadership. We created 16 million new jobs."

THE FACTS: Sure, inflation was bad and gas lines long, but under Carter's presidency unemployment never topped 7.8 percent. The unemployment rate did reach 10.8 percent, but not until November 1982, nearly two years into Reagan's first term.

Most economists attribute the jobless increase to a sharp rise in interest rates engineered by then-Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker in an ultimately successful effort to choke off inflation. Unemployment began to fall in 1983 and dropped to 7.2 percent in November 1984, when Reagan easily won re-election.

The economy did add 16 million jobs during Reagan's 1981-1989 presidency. Gingrich's assertion that "we created" them may have left the impression that he was a key figure in that growth. Although Gingrich was first elected to the House in 1978, his first Republican leadership position, as minority whip, began when Reagan left office, in 1989.

PAUL: "I had the privilege of practicing medicine in the early '60s, before we had any government (health care). It worked rather well, and there was nobody on the street suffering with no medical care. But Medicare and Medicaid came in and it just expanded."

THE FACTS: Before Medicare was created in the mid-1960s, only about half of the elderly had private insurance for hospital care, and they were facing rising costs for those policies on their fixed incomes. Medicare was hugely contentious at the time, seen by many doctors as a socialist takeover, but few argued that the status quo could be maintained.

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