Vice President Joe Biden has mangled a heaping helping of facts over the years. Republican Paul Ryan has already earned something of a reputation for taking flying leaps past reality. How'd they do Thursday night?
BIDEN, on whether U.S. should have beefed up security at the U.S. Consulate in Libya before the deadly terrorist attack there: “We weren't told they wanted more security there.”
RYAN: “There were requests for more security.”
THE FACTS: Ryan is right, judging by testimony from Obama administration officials at a congressional hearing this week.
RYAN: “We should not have called Bashar Assad a reformer when he was turning his Russian-provided guns on his own people.
THE FACTS: Neither President Barack Obama nor anyone else in his administration ever called the Syrian leader a “reformer.”
BIDEN: “We went out and rescued General Motors.”
THE FACTS: The auto bailout of General Motors and Chrysler began under President George W. Bush. The Obama administration continued and expanded it.
RYAN: “And then they put this new Obamacare board in charge of cutting Medicare each and every year in ways that will lead to denied care for current seniors. This board, by the way, it's 15 people, the president's supposed to appoint them next year. And not one of them even has to have medical training.”
THE FACTS: Ryan is referring to the Independent Payment Advisory Board, created under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law. It has the power to force cuts in Medicare payments to service providers, not to senior citizens, if costs rise above certain levels and Congress fails to act. But it doesn't look like the board will be cutting Medicare “each and every year,” as Ryan asserts. Medicare costs are currently rising modestly, and the government's experts project that the board's intervention will not be needed until 2018 or 2019 at the earliest — after Obama leaves office if re-elected to a second term.
BIDEN, when asked who would pay more taxes in Obama's second term: “People making a million dollars or more.”
THE FACTS: Obama's proposed tax increase reaches farther down the income ladder than millionaires. He wants to allow the Bush-era tax cuts to expire for individuals on incomes beyond the first $200,000 and couples beyond the first $250,000.
RYAN: “We cannot allow Iran to gain a nuclear weapons capability. Now, let's take a look at where we've gone — come from. When Barack Obama was elected, they had enough fissile material — nuclear material — to make one bomb. Now they have enough for five. They're racing toward a nuclear weapon. They're four years closer toward a nuclear weapons capability.”
THE FACTS:Ryan's claim is false. Iran isn't believed to have produced any of the highly enriched uranium needed to produce even one nuclear weapon, let alone five. There is intelligence suggesting that Iran has worked on weapon designs, but not that it has developed a delivery system for any potential nuclear warhead.
BIDEN: “What we did is, we saved $716 billion and put it back, applied it to Medicare.”
THE FACTS: Contrary to Biden's assertion, not all the money cut from Medicare is going back into the program in some other way. The administration is cutting $716 billion over 10 years in Medicare payments to providers and using some of the money to improve benefits under the program. But most of the money is being used to expand health care coverage outside of Medicare.
RYAN: “What troubles me more is how this administration has handled all of these issues. Look at what they're doing through Obamacare with respect to assaulting the religious liberties of this country. They're infringing upon our first freedom, the freedom of religion, by infringing on Catholic charities, Catholic churches, Catholic hospitals.”
THE FACTS: The requirement under the health care law that most employers provide insurance that covers contraception without a co-pay does not apply to churches, houses of worship, or other institutions directly involved in propagating a religious faith. It does apply to church-affiliated institutions such as hospitals and charities that serve the general public.
BIDEN: “Romney said ‘No, let Detroit go bankrupt.'”
THE FACTS: GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney has gotten endless grief through the campaign for the headline put on his November 2008 opinion essay that he wrote for the New York Times. But his point was never that he wanted the auto industry to go down the tubes. Romney opposed using government money to bail out Chrysler and General Motors, instead favoring privately financed bankruptcy restructuring.
RYAN: “This one tax would actually tax about 53 percent of small-business income.”
BIDEN: “Ninety-seven percent of the small businesses in America pay less — make less than $250,000.”
THE FACTS: Both are correct but incomplete.
According to a 2010 report by the Joint Committee on Taxation, about 3 percent of people who report business income would face a tax increase under Obama's plan. That supports Biden's point. The same report says those business owners account for about half of all business income. That supports Ryan.