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Fact check finds holes in Ryan's acceptance speech

William DouglasMcClatchy Washington Bureau

TAMPA, Fla. -- Beyond the hoopla, politics and glitz, the Republican National Convention has been marked by speeches filled with half-truths, misleading statements, obfuscations and downright falsehoods.

From economic issues to welfare to Medicare to President Barack Obama's work history, the convention's headlining speakers often stretched the truth -- to the point of breaking, in some cases.

Here's a look at some of what was said:

Paul Ryan's acceptance speech Wednesday was chock-full of inaccuracies and misleading statements. The Wisconsin House of Representatives member said the Obama administration had "funneled out of Medicare" $716 billion to pay for the new health care law, the Affordable Care Act.

"You see, even with all the hidden taxes to pay for the health care takeover, even with new taxes on nearly a million small businesses, the planners in Washington still didn't have enough money" to pay for the law, the vice-presidential candidate said. "So they just took it away from Medicare."

Not so. Obama didn't gut $716 billion from Medicare to pay for the health care law. Instead, the administration instituted changes in Medicare to lower health care costs in the future, according to PolitiFact, a fact-checking website run by the Tampa Bay Times. The changes amount to a projected savings of $716 billion over 10 years, an amount calculated by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

The changes the administration made primarily affect insurance companies and hospitals, and not Medicare recipients directly.

Ryan also told conventioneers that Obama did nothing with the recommendations of a bipartisan presidential commission tasked with advising on how to reduce the federal budget deficit, a panel of which Ryan was a member.

"They came back with an urgent report," Ryan said of the panel. "He thanked them, sent them on their way and then did exactly nothing."

Obama wasn't the only one, however. Ryan helped block the recommendations of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform from being voted on in Congress. The report by the 18-member panel called for deep spending cuts in domestic and military spending and for changing the tax code. While some Republicans on the commission embraced lowering tax rates, they balked at defense cuts.

The report needed to be approved by a super-majority of 14 to be taken up by Congress. Eleven panelists voted for the report. Seven, including Ryan, voted against it.

"Although I could not support the plan in its entirety, many of its elements surely are worthy of further pursuit," Ryan said in a statement in December 2010. "They establish a much-needed foundation and justification for fundamental policy reforms."

Further, Ryan blamed Obama for Standard & Poor's lowering the United States' credit rating from AAA to AA in August 2011. Ryan said Obama's presidency "began with a perfect Triple-A credit rating for the United States; it ends with a downgraded America."

Standard & Poor didn't specifically blame Obama for the lowered rating. Instead, it cited the unpredictable, partisan political environment in Washington and the difficulty Democrats and Republicans had in agreeing on almost anything. In other words, the blame was everyone's.

"The political brinksmanship of recent months highlights what we see as America's governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective and less predictable than what we previously believed," the rating agency wrote in a report. "Republicans and Democrats have only been able to agree to relatively modest savings on discretionary spending while delegating to the Select Committee (of Congress) decisions on more comprehensive measures."

Ryan wasn't the convention's only truth-offender. On Tuesday evening, former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., told the convention that Obama has waived the work requirement for welfare, gutting the major component of the landmark 1996 bipartisan welfare-overhaul law.

"This summer he showed us once again he believes in government handouts and dependency by waiving the work requirement for welfare," Santorum said in a prime-time speech.

It's a line often repeated by the Romney campaign, and it's a line that's false.

At issue is the Obama administration's decision last month to consider granting waivers to states that seek more flexibility to run welfare programs. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote that waivers would be granted only to states that move at least 20 percent more people from welfare to work. She added that states must demonstrate "clear progress towards that goal."

In 2005, 29 Republican governors sought similar authority. One of them was Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts. PolitiFact gave Santorum's charge a "Pants on Fire" rating.

Continuing Tuesday night's convention theme blasting Obama for his truncated "You didn't build that" line, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, claimed Wednesday night that the president "never started a business -- never even worked in business."

While it's true that Obama never started a business, he's worked in business. In 1983 and '84, he worked as a research assistant at Business International Corp. in New York. He helped write a newsletter, according to PolitiFact.

From 1993 to 2004, Obama was an associate and later a partner at the Chicago law firm of Davis, Miner, Barnhill & Galland. He worked on employment discrimination and voting rights cases.


By WILLIAM DOUGLAS
McClatchy Newspapers