Republicans have earned a reputation for being "the party of no.' In an effort to assert there are programs and policies that they will say "yes", the GOP issued its "Pledge to America." The document should be renamed "The Plague on America."
According to FactCheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, the GOP document "contains some dubious factual claims." Below are excerpts from the report titled, "FactChecking 'The Pledge."
Pledge, page 5: Our economy has declined and our debt has mushroomed with the loss of millions of jobs.
Fact: It's true that the economy lost nearly 8.4 million jobs from the peak of employment in December, 2007 to the bottom of the job slump in December of last year. More than half (4.4 million) were lost before Obama took office. The economy has regained 723,000 jobs since hitting bottom, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Pledge, page 14: Private sector unemployment remains at or near 10 percent, jobless claims continue to soar, and the only parts of the economy expanding are government and our national debt.
Fact: It's true that the unemployment rate is 9.6 percent, but that's actually down from the peak of 10.1 percent reached last October. It's also true that new claims for unemployment compensation – "jobless claims" – continue at a high level. But they are actually running eight percent lower than they did at their worst levels, so they are slowly declining, not soaring.
And it's not the case that only government is growing. The opposite is true – the private sector has gained a net total of 763,000 jobs this year, according to the BLS.
But at the same time, the total number of government jobs has declined by approximately 40,000, despite a transitory spike in hiring by the Census Bureau to conduct its decennial head count. That spike is now over. The decline in overall government employment is mostly due to public schools shedding 62,000 positions as local property tax rolls decline due to plunging real estate values.
Pledge, page 26: The Obama Administration has been forced to acknowledge that the new law will force some 87 million Americans to drop their current coverage.
Fact: This is a misrepresentation. It's true that the president over-promised when he repeatedly told Americans that "if you like your health care plan, you keep your health care plan." As we noted shortly before the bill passed, he can't make that promise to everyone. It's also true that after the bill passed, the administration released estimates showing that only about 55 percent of large employers and 34 percent of small employers would be offering the same insurance coverage in 2013 as they do now, under "grandfathering" rules. That works out to about 87 million workers — more or less — whose policies are likely to change in some way.
But it's deceptive of the GOP to claim that employers of these workers will "drop" their coverage. It would be accurate to say they are expected to change it. In many cases, policies will be replaced by more generous coverage, accompanied by government subsidies to help pay the premiums…
Pledge, page 15: . . .the trillion-dollar 'stimulus' was signed into law
Fact: The stimulus bill is a big one, but CBO says it won't cost $1 trillion, even spread over 10 years. CBO's most recent estimate puts the price tag to $814 billion. That's higher than originally estimated at the time of passage, but still well short of $1 trillion.
Pledge, page 15: Despite the 'stimulus' and Democrats' promises the unemployment rate would remain below eight percent, the unemployment rate climbed from 7.7 percent in January 2009 to 9.5 percent in August 2010.
Republicans have a point here, as we noted some time ago. Back in July of last year we wrote, "the original projections from President Obama's economic advisers on what would happen with and without the stimulus plan are still off -- and significantly so." But, nobody "promised" that unemployment would remain below 8 percent.
As we also wrote in June of last year, the White House explanation was simple: "They say President George Bush left them a worse mess than they realized" when Obama's advisers came up with their predictions. And that's true. The original chart – produced Jan. 9, 2009 — was based on economic projections that were in line with what private economists were forecasting. Those forecasts were being revised for the worse even before any stimulus money was spent.
And for the record, CBO's experts calculate that the stimulus has had a positive effect on employment. In its most recent report on the measure, the agency estimated that in the second quarter of 2010, stimulus spending lowered the unemployment rate between 0.7 and 1.8 percentage points and increased the number of people working between 1.4 million and 3.3 million.
Pledge, page 14: Unless action is taken, a $3.8 trillion tax hike will go into effect on January 1, 2011 that will unravel these policies. A family of four with a household income of $50,000 a year will have to pay $2,900 more in taxes in 2011.
Fact: True, but misleading. What the Pledge fails to note is that Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress have consistently promised to extend the Bush tax cuts for all families making less than $250,000 a year, and singles making less than $200,000. It's true that hasn't happened yet, but the reason is that several House and Senate Democrats are agitating to extend the cuts for everybody, even those with the highest incomes.
Perhaps the next time, Republicans will pledge to tell the truth.
George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. He can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.