Beam: Facts don’t get in their way

By By Jim Beam / American Press

Politicians have few equals when it comes to stretching the truth. If you doubt that, Google “presidential fact checks” and

you will come up with more examples than you can wade through.

All of the presidential and vice

presidential candidates are guilty of saying whatever appeals to the

masses at the moment.

Our only hope for getting at the truth now rests with the

presidential debates scheduled during October. However, even that

may not clear the air. Conservatives are already complaining about

the selection of moderators.

“Why is it that the so-called

‘nonpartisan’ Commission on Presidential Debates can only pick left-wing

moderators?” asked

GOPUSA, a private company that says its mission is to spread the

conservative message throughout America. Other groups voiced

the same concerns.

The moderators are Jim Lehrer, host of “NewsHour” on PBS; Martha Raddatz, chief foreign correspondent for ABC News; Candy

Crowley, chief political correspondent for CNN; and Bob Schieffer, host of “Face the Nation” on CBS.

Like them or not, we can only hope each one will make a serious effort to clear the air over some of the wild claims made

by President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and Republican vice presidential

nominee U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

Let’s begin with Obama since his speech is the latest of the four.

The president said he can create a million new manufacturing jobs in the next four years. Obama claimed an increase of 500,000

manufacturing jobs over the past 29 months. But the Associated Press called that “cherry picking” since manufacturing jobs

have declined by more than 500,000 since he took office.

Obama said he wants to make sure

millionaires are taxed at higher rates than their secretaries. Quoting

private and government

data, the AP said, on average, the wealthiest people in America

pay a lot more taxes than the middle class or the poor. The

10 percent of households with the highest incomes pay more than

half of all federal taxes and more than 70 percent of federal

income taxes, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Biden said Romney believes in a global economy and wants a territorial tax that will create 800,000 jobs, all of them overseas.

The AP said Romney’s proposal is actually aimed at encouraging investment in the U.S., not overseas.

The vice president said the Republican Medicare plan would immediately cut benefits to more than 30 million seniors already

on Medicare. He added that the GOP plan would cause Medicare to go bankrupt by 2016.

The AP said Biden wasn’t talking about

any Medicare plan by Romney or Ryan. He was referring to what would

happen if Obama’s

health care law was fully repealed, and that isn’t likely to

happen. Ryan’s Medicare plan wouldn’t have an immediate effect

because it would apply only to future retirees, according to the

AP.

Even former President Bill Clinton, the

superstar of the Democratic National Convention, has a tendency to

forget history.

He portrayed Obama as a pragmatic compromiser, but the AP said the

president and Democrats have both played a role in grinding

compromise to a halt. It added that there are few true moderates

left in either party and Republicans aren’t the only ones

standing in the way of compromise.

Clinton and the Democrats like to talk

about the golden years of the former president, but the AP said Clinton

leaves out

the “abrupt downward turn” the economy took near the end of his

second term. It added that Clinton supported the 1999 repeal

of the Glass-Steagall Act that paved the way for banks to make

risky investments that played a role in the 2008 financial

meltdown.

Romney’s biggest fault, according to the AP, is his lack of details about how he would increase jobs, reduce the federal debt

and annual deficits and reform Medicare.

“Mitt Romney promised voters Thursday

night that he would cut deficits and put America on track to a balanced

budget as president,

but he left voters to take it on faith that he could deliver,” the

AP said. “The details behind that pledge, and the painful

spending choices involved are conspicuously lacking in his

agenda.”

Romney blames Obama for cuts to the

military, but the AP said the automatic cuts he is talking about are the

result of a bipartisan

agreement that Romney’s running mate helped steer through

Congress.

Ryan, in his acceptance speech, was

accused of taking “some factual shortcuts” when he attacked Obama’s

policies on Medicare,

the economic stimulus and the budget deficit. The AP said Ryan’s

claim that Obama raided Medicare in his health care act ignores

the fact that Ryan incorporated some of the same budget cuts as

chairman of the House Budget Committee. None of the House-passed

budgets made it through the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Obama’s stimulus funding was called

political patronage by Ryan. But the AP said Ryan asked for some of

those funds himself.

He has also had to correct the misconception that Obama was

responsible for closing a General Motors plant in Wisconsin that

halted production before the president took office.

These are just a sampling of the many misconceptions the candidates have given voters during this presidential campaign. If

the debates don’t help us separate fact from fiction, God save us from the consequences.

•••

Jim Beam, the retired editor of the American Press, has covered people and politics for more than five decades. Contact him at 494-4025 or jbeam@americanpress.com