Will the 37th time be the charm?
On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted for the 37th time to undo the new healthcare law - a bill sponsored by Sixth Congressional District Rep. Michele Bachmann. But the vote was largely symbolic; the Senate has no plans to pass the bill, and President Barack Obama wouldn't sign it if they did.
Bachmann has long opposed the new law, and wrote about its flaws in an Investor's Business Daily op-ed this week.
One problem is premium increases: "On average, premiums will grow 100 percent when the law is fully implemented, and some will soar more than 400 percent," she wrote.
It's true that premiums will go up under the new law. But the figures Bachmann is citing come from a partisan source that only tells part of the story.
Bachmann is referring to a report compiled by the House Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Majority. House GOP lawmakers generally oppose the new health care law.
The committee asked 17 large health insurers how the new law would affect their premiums. The numbers cited in Bachmann's op-ed refer to people who buy coverage on the individual market, which is expected to be a relatively small pool of people. Right now, that's less than 10 percent of the country, according to Census data.
The report says that one of the 17 companies explained that, for this particular pool of people, the average premium increase could be 93 percent and that some could see increases as high as 413 percent. (The report does go on to say that people getting insurance through their employers could also see an increase, but it's smaller.)
But the report doesn't name the company, and it doesn't give information from the other companies it surveyed.
Furthermore, the report leaves out the fact that some people buying coverage through the individual market will receive government subsidies to help offset the cost of their monthly premium. A study commissioned by America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the leading trade group for health insurers, found that some low-income patients could pay nothing for coverage if they qualify for the subsidy, while others may pay as much as 40 percent of the cost depending on their income and the plan they choose.
That's not to say that premiums for people in the individual market won't go up. Some reasons include:
- The law requires insurance companies provide better coverage even in the most basic plans offered through the exchange.
- The law requires companies offer coverage to those with pre-existing conditions who also tend to have higher health care costs.
- The law eliminates premium differences for gender and age. That means older people and women could see lower premiums if they buy through the exchange, while younger people and men could see higher ones.
- New taxes and fees included in the health care law that insurers are expected to pass on to consumers.
- Health insurance premiums have and will continue to go up because of the rising cost of medical care in general.
A separate AHIP study points out how important it will be for young, healthy people to participate.
"If a large increase in premiums encourages young, healthy individuals to forgo or drop coverage and instead pay a penalty, insurance markets will become unstable and unaffordable," the study states.
Other studies have produced different numbers. A recent report conducted by the Society of Actuaries found that premiums for coverage purchased through the individual market will increase 32 percent by 2017. (Again, subsides aren't taken into account in that figure.)
In Minnesota, the average premium increase will be about 29 percent for those buying coverage through the individual market.
It's true that premiums will go up for some people under the new health care law, but how much will depend on age, location and gender, among other factors.
But Bachmann's claim is misleading for a few reasons.
She's relying on a partisan study that doesn't name its sources and relies on feedback from one unnamed company to make the case that premiums could go up as much as 400 percent under the new law.
Other non-partisan studies have found that premiums will go up, but by far less than the House Energy and Commerce Committee finds.
And the number that Bachmann cites is on the high-end and applies only to the individual market, where a relatively small number of people will get their insurance come 2014; most people will continue to get their through their employers or through government programs. The figure doesn't take into account the fact that some people buying insurance through the individual market will get subsides to offset the costs of coverage.
Investor's Business Daily, Bachmann says health reform requires Obamacare repeal, by Rep. Michele Bachmann, May 15, 2013
House Energy and Commerce Committee, Letters To Health Insurance Companies Regarding PPACA's Effect on Health Insurance Premiums, March 14, 2013
House Energy and Commerce Committee, Obamacare Oversight: The Looming Premium Rate Shock
Kaiser Family Foundation, Why premiums will change for people who now have nongroup insurance
Kaiser Family Foundation, subsidy calculator
America's Health Insurance Plans, Comprehensive Assessment of ACA Factors That Will Affect Individual Market Premiums in 2014
Congressional Budget Office, An Analysis of Health Insurance Premiums Under the
Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, 2009
Kaiser Health News, FAQ On The Latest Study: Obamacare's Impact On Insurance Claim Costs, March 28, 2013
Society of Actuaries, Cost of the Newly Insured Under the Affordable Care Act
Research Findings: Independent Studies Estimate the Cost and Coverage Impact of the Affordable Care Act in Selected States
Jonathan Oberlander, professor of Social Medicine, Health Policy and Management and Political Science at UNC-Chapel Hill
Robert Zirkelbach, AHIP Spokesman
The lengthy debate underscores just how controversial the issue has become. Republicans say Democrats are using the legislation to do favors for the state's two largest unions, AFSCME and SEIU.
Rochester Republican Sen. Carla Nelson opposes the measure, particularly provisions concerning in-home childcare providers.
"This is going to result in higher costs for parents, lower pay for childcare providers, and $8 million in union dues," Nelson said in a press conference this week.
Details of how the union would work won't be sorted out until the union is formed, so it's hard to say with certainty whether Nelson is right.
Both the House and the Senate have introduced versions of the unionization bill, but only the Senate has voted on it. AFSCME is organizing daycare providers, and says the union would likely negotiate higher childcare subsidies and new regulations with the state.
The legislation would allow licensed and unlicensed in-home daycare providers who take childcare subsidies from the state to vote on whether to unionize. Licensed providers follow state rules and regulations, while unlicensed providers tend to be friends and family members who take care of children informally.
Both groups are eligible to get assistance from the state, and there are about 12,700 such providers registered with the Department of Human Services. If a union forms, providers could opt to be full dues paying participants or decide not to be in the union but pay their fair share of dues. Alternatively, providers could stop taking children who qualify for the state subsidy.
Nelson did not respond to MPR's inquiry, but she's making a case other opponents of unionization have made in the past: it will cost parents and providers. The reasoning goes like this: providers will pass the cost of union dues to the families they take care of. Or, providers will have to eat the cost and make less money as a result. Some providers may stop accepting children eligible for state subsidies to avoid being a member of the union, meaning they will no longer get government dollars for their services.
As for her estimate of how much the union stands to collect in dues, it appears Nelson is multiplying the number of eligible participants - about 12,700 people - by dues paid by providers in other states where unions exist.
Back in December 2011, when the state was last mired in a debate over daycare unionization, MPR News found that daycare union dues in other states ranged from $25 to $50. Nelson appears to be assuming that all 12,700 of the eligible providers are full union members and contribute $50 monthly.
But that ignores the fact that some providers may pay fair-share dues instead, which can't be more than 85 percent of the union's monthly dues. But the fair-share amount wouldn't be sorted out until the union is formed.
It's also possible that monthly dues would be far less than $50 monthly. Donald McFarland, an AFSCME spokesman, says 100 daycare providers in the state have already formed a union (they aren't recognized by the state) and pay $25 a month.
A more conservative estimate by the Minnesota Action Network, a local offshoot of former Sen. Norm Coleman's American Action Network, used the same numbers reported by MPR and found that AFSCME may receive $5 million or more in additional dues.
Nelson's estimate is based on reasonable numbers but is on the high end.
Still, the Legislature is only voting to allow daycare providers to unionize, so it remains to be seen whether those workers would increase their rates to cover union costs, how high dues would be and how many of those providers would opt to pay their fair share.
Minnesota Senate, press conference, May 14, 2013
Minnesota Senate, bill summary SF 778, May 1, 2013
Office of the Legislative Auditor, State Employee Union "Fair Share" Calculations, April 2013
Laura Brod, Minnesota Action Network
Donald McFarland, AFSCME Council 5
In politics, campaigning never ends, even when the next election is more than a year away.
Take this recent email sent by the National Republican Congressional Committee, a political committee that supports Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives.
It claims that 8th District U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan voted to protect first-class travel for lawmakers.
"Congress is back in session this week, which means Rick Nolan is back from his recess," the email states. "Makes you wonder: Is Nolan flying first-class? After all, he voted to protect first-class travel for himself and his colleagues recently."
This NRCC claim is misleading at best.
To support its claim, the NRCC points to Nolan's vote against the Republican budget proposal written by Budget Chair Paul Ryan, R- WI.
On page 87 of the 91 page plan, which covers a wide range of spending issues, is a prohibition on lawmakers buying first class airfare or leasing charter planes with taxpayer money.
Nolan's spokesman Steve Johnson said his boss voted against the Republican budget because it made major changes to Medicare, made cuts to Medicaid and repealed the new health care law, among other things, not because of this specific provision.
Nolan certainly wasn't an outlier in his vote against the bill, either. All House Democrats opposed the bill. Meanwhile, nearly all House Republicans voted for it.
Johnson said that Nolan has not flown first class since he took office, and he hasn't chartered a private plane.
That said, there's nothing in the House Members' Handbook that prohibits lawmakers from using their Member's Representational Allowance - the money they are given to pay for travel, office supplies and staff, among other things - from flying first class to and from their districts or from chartering an airplane so long as it constitutes official business and meets other basic requirements.
The rules are different when it comes to campaign events and when a member of Congress is asked to travel for a private event, for instance.
This claim is misleading. It's technically true that Nolan voted against a new rule that would have prevented lawmakers from using their allowances to buy first class airfare or from chartering planes.
But that's just one line in a nearly 100-page document that deals with much broader budget issues, and it's not the reason he voted against the proposal.
Congressional Research Service, Congressional Salaries and Allowances, Ida A. Brudnick, January 15, 2013
Committee on House Administration, Members' Handbook, accessed May 6, 2013
House Clerk, Roll Call on the GOP Budget, March 21, 20130 Comments)
During debate over the House tax bill last week, Rep. Linda Runbeck made this common argument: If the Legislature raises taxes, people will move and take their tax dollars with them.
"This bill is going to cause jobs to leave. It's going to cause the successful people to leave. It's going to cause the productive, hardworking people to leave," she said. "About $4 billion from Minnesota has left to go to states that are lower taxed states. That's the trend. $2 trillion has moved across state lines over the last 15 years... and where is it going? It's going to the low tax states in the country."
It's true that Minnesotans leave the state every year, sometimes for places like Florida and Arizona that have lower taxes. But they leave for lots of reasons - including winters that haven't ended by early May.
The House tax bill would impose a fourth-tier income tax rate of 8.49 percent on couples with an annual taxable income of $400,000 or more and an additional temporary surcharge on couples making more than $500,000 after deductions.
Runbeck points to several sources to support her claim that people will flee the state, including a 2010 report by the conservative Freedom Foundation of Minnesota that looked at why Minnesotans leave.
The report found that between 1995 and 2007, people who left the state took roughly $3.7 billion in income with them. Those households - particularly wealthier ones - migrated all over the United States, but most went to Arizona, Florida, Colorado, California and Texas, according to the report.
(Data from the Tax Foundation, a group that advocates for lower taxes, shows a slightly different trend. During that period of time, most Minnesotans left for Wisconsin, followed by California, North Dakota, Texas and Florida.)
Runbeck also points to How Money Walks, a book written by Travis Brown that shows that Americans have taken $2 trillion in adjusted gross income across state lines over the last 15 years.
But there are some flaws in Runbeck's statement.
First, between 1995 and 2007, Minnesotans migrated to states that didn't necessarily have a more favorable income tax climate. California is an example.
Secondly, people left Minnesota for a lot of reasons, and taxes are just one of them, says Richard Morrison, who is a spokesman for the Tax Foundation.
"There are any number of reasons why someone might choose to move from one state to another," he said. "There are a bunch of financial reasons, and the tax burden might be one of them. But there are different things, like whether this is a place where you want to retire, this is a place you want to move because it has nicer weather, whether you want to be closer to family."
Jobs and cheaper housing are also reasons people tend to leave one state for another.
It's true that slightly more people are leaving Minnesota for other states than are coming here. But former state demographer Tom Gillaspy said Minnesota is doing pretty well when migrants from other countries are taken into account.
Gillaspy also said that high taxes don't necessarily lead to out-migration.
"In the nineties we saw more net inflow of people in higher income brackets and that was when taxes were higher," Gillaspy said. "And during the Pawlenty administration, we had less of an inflow and more of an outflow."
State demographer Susan Brower said that most of the people leaving Minnesota are either college age or retirees, two groups that are more likely to migrate in the first place.
Runbeck's claim has some truth to it: more people have left Minnesota for other states in recent years, taking with them tax dollars. In some cases, Minnesotans migrated to places that have lower taxes. At least one report pegs the amount at $3.7 billion - nearly the $4 billion Runbeck states.
However, her overall point doesn't hold up. Runbeck implies that these tax dollars are leaving Minnesota because of the state's tax structure and that more will leave if the Legislature decides to increase taxes on the state's wealthiest.
There's no evidence to suggest that's the case because people leave Minnesota for lots of reasons.
Runbeck's claim is misleading
Freedom Foundation of Minnesota, Minnesota's Out-Migration Compounds State Budget Woes, February 2010
The Tax Foundation, Migration Data Interactive, accessed April 25, 2013
The Internal Revenue Services, Tax Stats-Migration Data, accessed May 2, 2013
Amazon.com, How Money Walks, by Travis Brown
Rep. Linda Runbeck, R-Circle Pines
Richard Morrison, spokesman, Tax Foundation
Susan Brower, Minnesota State Demographer
Tom Gillaspy, former Minnesota State Demographer
Ryan Brown, spokesman , Minnesota Department of Revenue
A tax increase on beer, wine and liquor is turning out to be one of the more controversial parts of the House Omnibus tax bill.
House Republicans generally oppose the idea, as do Democrats in the Senate who have opted to leave it out of their version of tax legislation. They say the tax could end up costing consumers more than expected.
Some of the state's most well known brewers are leading an effort to have the tax increase taken off the table, arguing that the proposed $.07 per glass tax increase could be twice that.
In reality, what the state's beer, wine and liquor enthusiasts end up paying for their favorite cocktail will depend on how much manufacturers, distributors and retailers mark-up the price of alcohol.
The House wants to increase the state's excise tax on all alcoholic beverages. For instance, the current excise tax on a barrel of beer - about 331 12 oz drinks - is $4.60. The House proposal would increase that about $27 a barrel. The tax would be paid by the alcohol maker, and the state's leading brewers say they would consider the additional tax part of the cost of making beer.
That means beer drinkers will end up paying $.07 more for every 12 oz glass or bottle they drink, say state lawmakers who support the legislation. Consumers shouldn't pay more than that if alcohol producers and sellers don't charge more than the amount of the excise tax, they say.
But Mark Stutrud, who owns Summit Brewing, says that House lawmakers who voted in favor of the increase don't understand the business of making and selling alcohol.
Before a bottle of beer ends up in your refrigerator or at your table, it's been handed off three times. First, the manufacturer makes the beer. Then he sells it to a distributor, who, in turn, sells it to a liquor store or restaurant.
Brewers like Summit will have to charge their distributors more for a barrel of beer to cover the cost of the tax increase, Stutrud explained. His distributors will then mark-up the cost of that barrel of beer by about 30 percent before selling it to a retailer to help cover other costs like employee salaries and delivery.
There's an additional mark-up at the retail level, too, said Ryan Huseby who is the general manager of the Happy Gnome in St. Paul.
"When we price things out, we look at what we pay for things, we have a certain percentage that we are budgeted for that our products have to cost a certain percentage of sales," Huseby explained.
That's how consumers could end up paying more than just an extra $.07, Huseby said.
How much more depends on the retailer. Huseby said that the Happy Gnome charges even dollar amounts for the beer on their menu. So if the excise tax is put into law, certain products could go up in price, while others would stay the same.
Will the new tax mean people will stop drinking? Probably not, said Joel Michael, who works in the Minnesota House Research department. Academic research shows that the demand for alcohol doesn't change dramatically with changes in price.
And Huseby agrees it's unlikely his restaurant will be empty if the tax increase is approved, though he suspects consumers may buy less or opt for cheaper brands to stay within their dining budget.
Both the Legislature and the state's alcohol industry make convincing arguments for and against the liquor tax increase.
On one hand, producers, distributors and retailers aren't required to mark-up their product above the amount it costs to cover the additional tax; they could choose to charge just enough to cover the cost of the tax.
On the other, the state's alcohol industry says it's unrealistic to think it will stray from the current business model.
But until the tax increase is adopted and it's clear exactly how producers, distributors and retailers react, claims about how much more the tax increase will cost consumers remain inconclusive.
House Research, Alcoholic Beverage Taxes, June 2012
Minnesota Department of Revenue, Alcoholic Beverage Excise Tax Rate Increase $.07 Per Drink, April 18, 2013 (courtesy of WCCO)
Society for the Study of Addiction, Effects of beverage alcohol price and tax levels on
drinking: a meta-analysis of 1003 estimates from 112 studies, accessed April 29, 2013
Joel Michael, House Research
Andrew Schmitt, Director, Minnesota Beer Activists
Mark Stutrud, CEO, Summit Brewing
Michael D. Madigan, Beer, Wine and Spirits Distributors of Minnesota
Ryan Huseby, General Manager, The Happy Gnome(1 Comments)
One of the more controversial tax proposals being debated at the Capitol this week is an increase in the excise tax on alcohol a tax on liquor included in a massive House tax bill.
As it stands, the expected $200 million in annual revenue the new tax would raise would be put into the state's general fund.
But one group is advocating that the provision should be directed to alcohol recovery programs, domestic violence programs and other services.
That's because alcohol costs Minnesotans "5.06 billion dollars in economic and social costs," reads a flier passed out this week at the Capitol by the Minnesota Recovery Connection, a group that advocates for addiction recovery programs.
It's true that alcohol costs Minnesotans billions.
Minnesota Recovery Connection is getting its number from a Minnesota Department of Health study from 2011.
Using data from 2007, the most recent year available, the department concluded that alcoholism costs the state's economy $5.06 billion annually.
Much of that cost - about 73 percent - can be attributed to lost productivity due to alcohol-related illnesses and premature deaths due to alcohol abuse.
The rest is the result of healthcare spending related to alcohol abuse and treatment, alcohol abuse support programs, administrative costs associated with DUIs and alcohol-related crime.
The Minnesota Department of Health's study looks at alcohol's cost to the state's economy, which largely come from lost productivity. The cost to the state government is more like $2 billion according to House Majority Leader Paul Thissen who recently spoke about the issue at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
The evidence for this claim is straight forward: it earns an accurate.
Minnesota Department of Health, The Human and Economic Cost of
Alcohol Use in Minnesota, March 2011
Minnesota House Research, HF 677, April 22, 2013
Minnesota Public Radio, House and Senate Democrats differ on alcohol tax, by Tom Scheck, April 22, 2013
DFL leaders in the Minnesota House unveiled their tax plan this week, and were eager to point out that a proposed income tax hike wouldn't have a big effect on small businesses.
"It's important to note it would only affect the income that business owners take in salary over $400,000 not in other business expenses," said House Majority Leader Paul Thissen during a press conference April 15, 2013. "The talking point that Democrats are going to tax mom and pop small businesses is simply not true."
Very few small businesses would be affected by the proposed tax rate change, though the tax bill Thissen is talking about includes other new taxes, fees and fee increases that would affect both small and large businesses.
Thissen is talking about the DFL's proposal to implement a new top tax rate of 8.49 percent and an additional but temporary 4 percent surcharge on Minnesota's wealthiest taxpayers. The surcharge would raise $1.2 billion to pay schools money the state borrowed to balance last biennium's budget.
The plan would affect only 3.3 percent of Minnesota's filers - or about 12,000 returns - who pay taxes on "pass-through income," or income that comes from S corporation, partnerships and sole proprietorships, according to the Minnesota House's research department. These filers generally have few employees, though some large companies pay taxes this way as well.
In a recent Star Tribune editorial, Thissen also pointed out that the surcharge would only apply after small business owners had paid employees and made business investments.
So, when it comes to the new income tax rates, Thissen is basically correct: the higher rate would affect very few businesses that pay income taxes.
The DFL tax bill also includes other new taxes, fees and fee increases that would affect many business sectors.
For instance, the legislation would impose a $5 fee on auto and homeowners insurance policies that insurance industry lobbyist Mark Kulda says would pose a financial burden on smaller insurance companies. That provision would raise $23 million for fire fighter and police pensions.
The legislation also includes new taxes on liquor sales, which bars and liquor stores worry they won't be able to afford.
Also on the table are fees on prepaid cell phones, a sports memorabilia tax and higher fees for attorneys to fund the court system.
Thissen isn't too far off in saying that the income tax hike wouldn't apply to "mom and pop small businesses," though it's important to note that the House tax bill includes other fees and taxes that could affect businesses.
MPR, VIDEO: House DFL targets top earners, alcohol and tobacco in tax bill, by Tom Scheck, April 15, 2013
Minnesota House Research, Bill Summary: HF 677, April 18, 2013
Pioneer Press, Minnesota brewers, liquor lobbyists say proposed alcohol tax hike will hit consumers, by Kyle Potter, april 16, 2013
MPR, Fee increases proposed at Capitol could rake in hundreds of millions, by Tom Scheck, April 19, 2013
MPR, House Dems eye alcohol tax bump, by Tom Scheck, April 15, 2013
The Star Tibune, Minnesota DFLers offer a responsible budget, by Rep. Paul Thissen, April 2, 2013
Minnesota Department of Revenue, Businesses Subject to Minnesota Income Tax, accessed April 19, 2013
Mike Howard, spokesman, DFL Caucus, April 18, 2013
Mark Kulda, Vice President of Public Affiars, Insurance Federation of Minnesota, April 18, 2013
It is budget season at the Capitol, and the Democrats who now control the governor's office and both houses of the Legislature are pushing their agenda.
Gov. Mark Dayton and House DFLers want to create a new top tax rate to raise more revenue, and a coalition of business groups has launched an ad campaign to oppose the effort.
"Minnesotans pay some of the highest taxes in America," says a television ad paid for by United for Jobs. "Now some politicians want you to pay even more. They'd raise the income tax rate to be the second highest in the country."
The ad has some truth to it, but deserves some context.
Since he ran for governor in 2010, Dayton has pledged to raise income taxes on Minnesota's wealthiest residents. Now, with a DFL majority behind him, it appears that pledge could become a reality.
Minnesotans already bear a higher tax burden on average than taxpayers in other states, according to a study by the Minnesota Center for Fiscal Excellence.
But are politicians really proposing to make Minnesota's income tax the second highest in the country as the United for Jobs ad claims?
A lot depends on whether lawmakers approve a new top tax rate and an additional tax surcharge on the state's wealthiest.
In his budget, Dayton proposed a top tax rate of 9.85 percent for taxable income over $250,000 for couples and $150,000 for individuals.
Alone, Dayton's plan wouldn't make the top rate the second highest in the country.
United for Jobs is also assuming the Legislature will approve a surcharge proposed by the House. The most recent DFL plan is to raise the top rate to 8.49 percent - slightly lower than Dayton's proposal - and to impose an additional 4 percent surcharge on couples with taxable income over $500,000. The extra $1.2 billion in revenue would be used to pay schools money the state borrowed to balance last biennium's budget.
DFL leaders say the surcharge would expire after the schools are paid back.
Combining the new top rate and the surcharge means Minnesota's wealthiest would face a 12.49 percent tax rate - the second highest in the nation when compared to other statewide income tax rates and the third highest when compared to other states' state and local income tax rates.
There's an important point that is lost in the United for Jobs ad: most Minnesotans won't be affected by the higher rate regardless of which plan is adopted. Dayton's rate would affect only 2 percent of Minnesotans, and the new rate and temporary surcharge proposed by the House DFL would affect only .5 percent of Minnesotans.
There's some truth to the United for Jobs ad. If the Legislature decides on a new top tax rate and a surcharge, it is likely Minnesota's wealthiest will face one of the highest tax rates in the country.
But the ad deserves some context: the spot makes it seem that these new rates would affect many Minnesotans, that's not the case. Very few filers would face a higher rate regardless of what plan the Legislature finally adopts.
This ad leans toward accurate.
United for Jobs, "Higher" ad, accessed April 15, 2013
Minnesota Center for Fiscal Excellence, Income Tax Burden Study 2013
Minnesota Department of Revenue, analysis of Gov. Mark Dayton's tax bill, February 26, 2013
KMSP TV, 7 things to know about Gov. Dayton's tax plan for Minnesota, by Tim Blotz, Jan. 22, 2013
The Tax Foundation, Top State Income Tax Rates 2013, accessed April 15, 2013
House Research memo on DFL tax plan, April 15, 2013
House Research, Combined State and Local Income Tax Rates Over 8%
Tax Year 2013, accessed April 16, 2013
Ryan Brown, spokesman, Minnesota Department of Revenue, April 16, 2013
Stacy Thompson, spokeswoman, United for Jobs, April 16, 2013
Nina Manzi, Minnesota House Research, April 16, 2013
Mike Howard, spokesman, House DFL, April 16, 2013
WASHINGTON - Congress is in the early stages of considering major changes to the nation's immigration laws, changes that would affect not just the status of the 11 million people who arrived in the country illegally but also hundreds of thousands of foreign students and high-skill workers who want to settle in the United States.
One bill, introduced by DFL U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) would expand the H-1B visa program for high-skilled workers and make it easier for foreign students studying at U.S. universities in the science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) disciplines to apply for work visas in the U.S.
"We make changes to student visas to encourage students who get degrees here to stay in this country so that we don't just say 'hey, go back to India or China or some other country and start the next Google over there.' We want you to start it here," said Klobuchar in a speech on the Senate floor introducing the legislation on Jan. 29.
But Klobuchar's assertion is based primarily on anecdotal accounts. The data that exists on foreign STEM students suggests a considerable proportion of PhD graduates, especially those from China and India, do stay in the United States after graduation under the existing immigration system. Comparable information on graduates with bachelors and masters degrees is unavailable.
A 2012 study funded by the National Science Foundation by Michael Finn of the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education appears to be the best source for finding out how many foreign STEM PhD graduates remain in the U.S. following graduation.
The study found that two thirds of the foreign STEM PhD graduates in 1999 were still in the U.S. a decade later, a figure that includes graduates on both permanent and temporary visas. Breaking out the numbers for temporary visas, which would be affected by Klobuchar's legislation, the study found that 62 percent of the 2004 PhD graduates remained in the United States as of 2009, a number that Finn said had gradually risen over time.
Contrary to Klobuchar's implication that Chinese and Indian graduates were particularly burdened by visa requirements and forced to head home after their studies were complete, Finn's study shows that 89 percent of Chinese and 79 percent of Indian PhD holders remained in the U.S. five years after their graduation in 2004. Chinese and Indian graduates made up nearly 40 percent of the study's sample.
"I don't see much evidence that the current visa situation is holding back the stay rate," said Finn in an interview with MPR News.
To back up her statement, Klobuchar's office cited conversations the senator has had with Minnesota business and educational leaders. Klobuchar's office contested the validity of the NSF-funded research, saying a study of 2004 graduates was out of date with the current job market and pointing to a 2012 letter to President Obama and congressional leaders signed by many of the nation's university presidents that said, "Every year, arbitrary immigration caps force approximately one-third of the 50,000 foreign-born STEM graduates from our universities to leave the country."
According to her office, Klobuchar believes the 62 percent stay rate for 2004 graduates is too low and that a higher percentage of PhD graduates should be able to remain in the U.S. The senator's office also said that because the study only covers PhD holders, the most coveted graduates, rather than the broader population of foreign STEM graduates with bachelors and masters degrees, it is not representative.
Klobuchar's office said the senator learned about the issue from speaking with university presidents in Minnesota, including Earl Potter, the president of St. Cloud State University.
Potter agreed in broad terms that foreign bachelors and masters STEM students had a difficult time getting work visas in the U.S. even when employers were eager to sponsor them. Some of St. Cloud State's foreign graduates who did not get jobs in the U.S., Potter said, have returned to their home countries where they have launched successful businesses. But Potter said the university did not have data on the issue.
"I don't have statistics, I have anecdotal information. It's one of those things that's hard to track and we have not put those systems into place," said Potter in an interview.
Ultimately, this issue appears to come down to assertions and anecdotes made by Klobuchar and other advocates of easing visas for foreign workers versus solid but incomplete and aging data that focuses solely on the most elite group of foreign STEM graduates, those with PhDs.
The researcher responsible for that data, Michael Finn of the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education agreed no good source of information on bachelor and masters students exists, making it difficult to determine how alike the different groups of graduates are when it comes to staying in the U.S. He plans to update the study of PhD students next year.
While careful to avoid policy-specific discussions, Finn expressed frustration with comments from politicians and pundits on the topic, such as Klobuchar's.
"Whenever I see these things, I try to look to see if they have some data to back that up that I didn't know about and I haven't yet found any," said Finn.
That lack of data results in an inconclusive rating for this PoliGraph test.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, "Klobuchar Introduces Immigration Bill to Boost High-Tech Innovation," Jan. 29, 2013, accessed Feb. 12, 2013
Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, "Stay Rates of Foreign Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities, 2009", by Michael G. Finn, January 2012, accessed Feb. 11, 2013
Interview, Michael G. Finn, economist Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, Feb. 14, 2013
Interview, Earl Potter, President, St. Cloud State University, Feb. 15, 2013
Email correspondence and phone calls with Brigit Helgen, Communications Director for U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Feb. 14-15, 2013
Letter from university presidents to President Obama and congressional leaders, Partnership for a New American Economy, accessed Feb. 15, 2013
In the wake of the school shooting in Newton, Connecticut, some politicians are calling for the reinstatement of the assault weapons ban.
Second Congressional District Rep. John Kline is among those that are skeptical a new ban would work. He told MPR News that it's not clear the first ban was all that effective.
"It's not clear -- you'd have to go back and do an in-depth analysis -- that that resulted in a safer America," he said.
Kline is correct that the data are mixed.
The assault weapons ban went into effect in 1994 and expired 10 years later. The ban focused on the manufacture, transfer or possession of certain semiautomatic firearms and magazines that held no more than 10 rounds, according to a Congressional Research Services report from 2004.
It did not apply to machine guns which fire multiple rounds in a few seconds because those guns have been heavily regulated in the United States since the 1930s.
There were two major criticisms of the ban: that it didn't apply to firearms manufactured before 1994 and that the law was written so narrowly that gun manufacturers could tweak their products so that they didn't fall under the new restrictions.
As to whether the ban had a big impact on gun violence, Kline is correct: it's unclear.
First, there's no evidence that it reduced gun violence generally, said Robert Spitzer who is the chair of the Political Science Department at SUNY Cortland.
Indeed, a 2004 study conducted by the Jerry Lee Center of Criminology at the University of Pennsylvania for the U.S. Department of Justice found that while gun crime declined during the same period of time that the ban was in place, the study's authors could not "clearly credit the ban with any of the nation's recent drop in gun violence."
However, the same study found that during the same period of time the share of gun crimes involving weapons covered by the ban declined by 17 percent in several major cities.
Eugene Volokh, who is a law professor at UCLA, said it's difficult to draw conclusions from that statistic because offenders could have used any number of other guns that weren't banned.
"They'll use less of the banned thing, they'll use more unbanned thing," he said. "But the effects will be exactly the same because for functional purposes the banned and the unbanned are basically the same."
Spitzer said the statistic underscores good policy. It's important to keep weapons under the old ban out of the hands of criminals because they are more powerful.
"The notion is that assault weapons have a particularly high degree of fire power for a number of reasons," he said. "You want to keep those out of criminal hands... That doesn't mean no guns were used. It means that assault weapons were used in fewer instances of crime when the ban was in effect."
Spitzer pointed out that the ban could have prevented James Holmes from obtaining the weapons he used in the July, 2012, Aurora, Col., movie theater shooting.
Kline's claim is accurate: it's not clear that the assault weapons ban had a major impact on gun violence.
Minnesota Public Radio, Gun control: Deep divisions among Minn. DC delegation, by Brett Neely, Dec. 18, 2012
The New York Times, Assault weapons ban comes to end: A dud?, By Deborah Sontag, Monday, April 25, 2005
The Washington Post, Everything you need to know about the assault weapons ban, in one post, by Brad Plumer, Dec. 17, 2012
Congressional Research Services, Gun Control Legislation, by William J. Krouse, Nov. 12, 2012
Interview, Eugene Volokh, professor, University of California, Los Angeles, law school, Dec. 28, 2012
Interview, Robert Spitzer, Chair, Political Science Department, SUNY Cortland, Dec. 28, 2012
Email exchange, Joe Olson, professor, Hamline University School of Law, president of the Minnesota Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance, Dec. 28, 2012(7 Comments)
After a brief holiday hiatus, Congress is heading back to Capitol Hill this week to try to eke out a deal to avoid higher tax rates and spending cuts that will kick in on Jan. 1.
In a recent interview on ABC's This Week, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-MN, talked about the so-called fiscal cliff. She pointed out that the Senate had already passed a plan that would extend the Bush-era tax cuts for those making less than $250,000 and eliminate them for those making more than that.
The proposal would take a big chunk out of the nation's deficit, she said.
"As you know, if we go back to the Clinton levels for people making over $250,000 we literally save $1 trillion in 10 years," she said.
One trillion is in the ballpark.
Klobuchar is talking about a plan that would let tax cuts implemented under former President George W. Bush's tenure to expire for higher earners. If Congress agrees to the plan, the two top tax rates of 33 and 35 percent would revert to 36 and 39.6 percent, respectively - the top rates during former President Bill Clinton's tenure.
The idea hasn't been popular among Republicans, who would like to see the income bar set higher, or to keep the current rates in place for everyone.
Still, the plan stands to lower the nation's deficit, according to a recent report by the Congressional Budget Office, the non-partisan number-crunching arm of Congress.
If tax cuts are extended for everyone, it would cost about $4.5 trillion. But if they are extended for those falling in lower tax brackets, it would cost the government $3.7 trillion.
That's an $824 billion bite out of the nation's deficit over 10 years. The White House Office of Management and Budget has a similar estimate in its latest budget proposal.
But the potential savings doesn't includes the roughly $127 billion the nation would save on interest on its debt, pointed out economist Chuck Marr, who works for the left-leaning Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. Factoring in interest savings brings total savings to about $950 billion, he wrote on the group's "Off the Charts" blog.
Klobuchar could have been more precise by saying "nearly" $1 trillion, or by pointing out that her estimate includes interest savings as well.
Still, according to the Congressional Budget Office, her numbers are in the ballpark. Her claim leans toward accurate.
This Week, video, interview with Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Johnny Isakson, Dec. 23, 2012
Bloomberg News, Breaking down the cliff: The Bush tax cuts, by Evan Soltas, Nov. 28, 2012
The Congressional Budget Office, An Update to the Budget and Economic Outlook:
Fiscal Years 2012 to 2022, Aug. 2012
Office of Management and Budget, Summary Tables: Budget Fiscal Year 2013, accessed Dec. 24, 2012
Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, CBO: Ending High-Income Tax Cuts Would Save Almost $1 Trillion, by Chuck Marr, Aug. 24, 20123 Comments)
This coming legislative session, Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, plans to introduce a bill that would allow teachers to carry guns in school.
He says it's a necessary step to prevent further tragedies like last week's shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut.
In statements to Minnesota Public Radio, Cornish said such a law would put Minnesota in line with other countries and states.
"Israel had a problem with classroom shootings and instituted this policy and shut them down," he said. "Texas has this policy and Michigan sent it to the Governor 24 hours before the [Connecticut] tragedy."
There's little evidence to support Cornish's claims.
To support his claim that Israel armed its teachers to prevent students from being shot, Cornish sent a link to a 2008 Christian Broadcasting Network report about an attack by Palestinian terrorists at a high school in southeast Jerusalem.
But the story mentioned nothing about teachers being armed at the school. Cornish followed up to say that "some of the confusion was that many people saw persons carrying guns in schools and on field trips, assuming they were teachers. It is still unclear if the guards were teachers or were volunteers or received some compensation."
At least one 2006 MSNBC story refuted Cornish's claim and news reports since the Sandy Hook shooting have highlighted aspects of Israel's gun laws that are stricter than those in the United States. An NBC story written this month points out that some schools in Israel have armed guards, but that it is very difficult for a civilian to get a gun.
Calls made by MPR News to the Israeli Embassy in Washington and emails to Israel's public safety department were not returned.
Ultimately, PoliGraph could find no solid evidence that Israeli teachers are armed to protect their students. Most reporting on the subject focuses on how difficult it is for Israeli civilians to obtain guns or refutes the idea that teachers carry guns. A search of news clips on Lexis Nexis found that mention of Israeli teachers and guns is limited to blog posts and letters to the editor, not reputable news sources.
Cornish also said that Texas teachers are armed in school. But it appears that only one school district in Harrold, Texas, allows the practice, a decision made by the school board and adopted under a broad provision of the penal code, said Texas Education Agency spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliff.
According to the decision, the board is authorized to let some school employees to carry guns so long as they have obtained and maintain a current license to carry a concealed handgun, and complete additional training required by the board.
Otherwise, there is no statewide law in Texas that allows teachers to carry guns, and Ratcliff says the agency knows of no other district in the state that has followed the Harrold district's lead. That said, Gov. Rick Perry has expressed support for the district's decision.
Cornish also mentioned a Michigan proposal to allow teachers to carry guns in schools that was approved by the state legislation the day before the Sandy Hook shooting. It's true that the legislature approved such legislation, but Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed the bill.
PoliGraph rates Cornish's claim false because evidence that the other countries and states he mentioned arm teachers is anecdotal or limited at best.
Minnesota Public Radio, Gun control efforts in Minn. face cloudy future, by Tom Scheck, Dec. 18, 2012
CBN News, Terrorists Target Israeli Students, Tzippe Barrow, Jan. 25, 2008
Israel Today, Are Israeli teachers armed?, by Ron Cantor, Dec. 17, 2012
MSNBC, Wis. lawmaker wants teachers to carry guns, Associated Press, Oct. 5, 2006
The Jerusalem Post, Israeli gun control regulations 'opposite of US', by Ben Hartman, Dec. 18, 2012
NBC News, Conn. massacre lessons from Israel, where guns are a way of life, by Paul Goldman, Dec. 18, 2012
The New York Times, In Texas School, Teachers Carry Books and Guns, by James McKinley Jr., Aug. 28, 2008
Harrold ISD Safety Program/Risk Management Emergency Plans, accessed Dec. 21, 2012
CBS-DFW, Newly Elected State Rep. Says Texas Teachers Should Be Allowed To Carry Guns, Dec. 18, 2012
Bloomberg News, Snyder deciding on Michigan gun in school bill days after deaths, by Tim Higgins and Chris Christoff, Dec 18, 2012
ABC News, Michigan Veto Preserves 'Gun Free' Schools, by Dec. 18, 2012
Email exchange, Rep. Tony Cornish, Dec. 20, 2012
Email exchange, Debbie Ratcliff, spokeswoman, Texas Education Agency, Dec. 20, 2012
Interview, Joe Berkofsky, Jewish Federations of North America, Dec. 20, 20121 Comments)
Will there be a deal in Washington by the end of the year to avoid automatic spending cuts and tax increases? Call it a fiscal cliffhanger.
The details of a possible deal are changing by the hour, but there's a chance a plan to slow the growth of spending on Social Security benefits will be part of the final package, a proposal President Barack Obama has put on the table.
Minnesota's Fifth Congressional District Rep. Keith Ellison isn't hot on the idea. As co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus, he says the proposal will mean big cuts to benefits.
"The current average earned benefit for a 65 year old on Social Security is $17,134," Ellison said in a statement. "Using chained CPI will result in a $6,000 loss for retirees in the first fifteen years of retirement and adds up to a $16,000 loss over twenty-five years."
Seniors will see smaller benefits under the proposed Social Security plan - the administration estimates its proposal would save about $122 billion - but it's difficult to say exactly how much of a cut that would mean per beneficiary.
Currently, Social Security benefits fluctuate with the price of goods. When the cost of goods goes up, so does the benefit.
Obama has proposed switching to the chained-CPI, an inflation measure that assumes beneficiaries buy less or stop buying a product when its price goes up. For instance, when the price of beef increases, the chained CPI assumes people buy chicken, which is cheaper, instead.
That means benefits would continue to go up, but at a slower rate. As a beneficiary gets older, benefits would get smaller compared to current law.
Among other prominent fiscal experts, the chained CPI is favored by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, co-chairs of Obama's Deficit Commission, as well as some conservative groups.
Ellison is among those who say says using the chained CPI it will mean big cuts to Social Security benefits.
Most agree that beneficiaries will see smaller Social Security checks. But estimates vary partly because they include different assumptions about how much the chained CPI index would increase annually, partly because different groups look at different time frames, and partly because some estimates, including the one Ellison is relying on, look at the cumulative loss over time rather than annual losses.
Ellison's numbers come from Social Security Works, a group that wants to increase benefits for the elderly and is supported by an array of labor and liberal groups, including MoveOn.org. It looks at the cumulative loss in benefits over different time periods to come up with that estimate.
AARP, which also opposes switching to the chained CPI, estimates that benefits would be 2.9 percent lower than current law after 10 years in the program, and 8.4 percent lower after being in the program for 30 years.
Meanwhile, Marc Goldwein, who is Senior Policy Director, Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget for the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a group that supports the chained CPI and that Simpson and Bowles are both involved in predicts that, over 10 years, the average Social Security earner would see his or her benefits go up $4,000 under current law but only $3,400 under the chained CPI plan, which is about a $600 loss in year 10.
Goldwein also points out that many chained CPI proposals, including the Simpson-Bowles plan, include a benefit "bump" for those who have been in the program long enough, which helps offset some benefit losses.
There are a variety of estimates that use a variety of assumptions to predict how dramatically the chained CPI would affect Social Security benefits. Ellison's comes from a group that opposes switching to the chained CPI and is backed by partisan organizations.
But that's not to say that seniors won't see smaller benefits under the new plan. The question is just how much smaller.
As a result, this claim is rated inconclusive.
Social Security Works, Social Security COLA Cut: A Benefit Cut Affecting Everyone, accessed Dec. 18, 2012
The Washington Post, Everything you need to know about the chained CPI in one post, by Dylan Matthews on December 11, 2012
The Social Security Administration, Monthly Statistical Snapshot, Nov. 2012
Politico, What is chained CPI?, by Ginger Gibson, Dec. 18, 2012
The Social Security Administration, letter to Rep. Xavier Becerra, June 2011
The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, Measuring Up: The Case for the Chained CPI, by Adam Rosenberg and Marc Goldwein
The Heritage Foundation, Social Security's COLA needs to be more accurate, by David John, July 11, 2011
Email exchange, Jeremy Slevin, spokesman, Rep. Keith Ellison, Dec. 18, 2012
Interview, Marc Goldwein, Dec. 18, 20121 Comments)
Editor's note: After publishing this story, State Economist Tom Stinson followed up to say that Sen. David Hann's overall job loss number of 115,000 is wrong.
The state budget forecast says that job losses in Minnesota would be 45,000 by the end of 2013 and 70,000 by the end of 2014 if Congress fails to reach a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff. However, Stinson says it's inaccurate to add those numbers together. Rather, the total number of jobs lost in Minnesota as a result of going over the fiscal cliff could be 70,000. That's far less than the 115,000 Hann cited.
Given Hann has his number wrong, and given that Hann answered a question about raising taxes on Minnesota's top 2 percent by pointing to the state budget forecast, which talks broadly about the impact of going over the fiscal cliff not the implications of a possible state tax increase on the wealthy, PoliGraph has downgraded its rating from accurate to misleading.
With the state still facing a $1.1 billion budget deficit, raising taxes was a big topic of discussion during a preview of the coming legislative session.
When asked about whether legislative Republicans would be willing to rethink a tax increase on the state's top 2 percent of earners, long a priority for Gov. Mark Dayton, incoming Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, argued that increasing tax rates could lead to job losses.
To underscore his point, Hann pointed to the most recent state budget forecast.
"The things that we heard in the presentation of the budget forecast, there was some discussion about the impact of increasing tax rates at the federal level and the resulting loss in jobs in Minnesota," he said. "The projection was that over the next couple of years if those federal tax rates go up something on the order of 115,000 jobs would be lost in the state of Minnesota. In other words the state economist was making a very clear connection between raising tax rates at the federal level and loss of jobs."
Dayton responded by saying that there's nothing in the latest forecast that shows raising taxes on the state's wealthiest would mean job losses.
Hann is not too far off, but his statement requires context and clarifications.
Hann's response is a bit confusing because he's talking about the looming fiscal cliff, the simultaneous expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts and massive spending cuts set to kick-in at the beginning of 2013, not Dayton's interest in raising taxes on the state's wealthiest, which was how the initial question was framed.
Right now, Congress is trying to figure out ways to avoid the double fiscal whammy, which many economists fear could send the nation back into a recession.
The ongoing discussions in Washington complicated the latest Minnesota budget forecast. According to the forecast, federal tax increases and spending cuts could lead to 115,000 jobs lost in the state.
So, Hann has his number right. But his statement seems to imply that all these losses are the result of tax increases.
In fact, state economist Tom Stinson said Hann's interpretation of the report is not far off.
"The preponderance of the fiscal cliff is tax increases not spending cuts," Stinson explained.
The fiscal cliff will lead to job losses because both tax increases and spending cuts will reduce the amount of money individuals have to spend, Stinson explained.
"When they spend less, that means that there's less demand for goods and services provided. So hours are cut back, some people lose their jobs, and that spirals into less income again," he said. "It just starts a downward spiral."
Still, Stinson said that it's important to make two things clear:
First, the bulk of the federal tax increases will fall on middle-income earners, who will probably spend less as a result, a factor that would have a bigger impact on the economy than tax increases on higher-income earners, who would probably save less cash in the face of tax increases.
And though Hann chose his words carefully, Stinson underscores that the 115,000 job loss estimate assumes that "we go completely, Wile Coyote-style over the cliff and fall all the way to the bottom."
"It's not just would happen if the top-income individuals had to pay more in taxes," Stinson said. "I think that's the important point to be sure people get."
Though State Economist Tom Stinson makes clear that the employment estimate in the latest budget forecast would be the result of simultaneous tax increases and spending cuts, he says Hann is essentially correct: potential federal tax increases would have a more profound effect on Minnesota job losses. The forecast is silent on the impact of tax increases only on the wealthiest Americans.
Minnesota State Legislature, Legislative panel, Dec. 10, 2012
Minnesota Management and Budget, November 2012 Forecast
Interview, Tom Stinson, State Economist, Dec. 11, 20121 Comments)
This week, state officials released their latest predictions about Minnesota's fiscal outlook for the next few years.
The news was mixed. The state has money to pay some bills right now, but it also has a long-term budget gap of $1.1 billion. Complicating matters is the looming fiscal cliff, which Congress and the president are in the midst of trying to solve.
PoliGraph took a look at several statements from both sides of the aisle about the latest Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) forecast.
"For the next biennium, of course this is a long-range projection, [the budget] is almost balanced. There's a $68 million deficit, which would be the best it's been in over a decade." - Gov. Mark Dayton
In an interview on Dec. 5, MPR's Cathy Wurzer asked Gov. Mark Dayton about Minnesota's structural deficit, and he replied that things may look better in a few years.
Dayton says he misspoke.
MMB predicts the state will actually have positive balance of $263 million for fiscal year 2016-2017, and prior years have boasted larger surpluses. MMB also warns that the figure does not include the more than $2.33 billion the state will owe in interest or any additional money the state will owe schools.
"Therefore, future increases in state spending may be significantly greater than those shown," according to the MMB forecast.
You know,[the wealthiest] were paying the higher rates during the 1990s when President Clinton was in office, and we enjoyed boom years in the states. We had the highest real per capita family income in 1999 than we've had in our history. Since then, we've dropped almost 9 percent from that high in the aftermath of the Minnesota tax cuts in 1999 and 2000, and also the Bush tax cuts in 2001 and 2003." - Gov. Mark Dayton
Dayton made this statement in response to a question about Republican concerns that a state tax increase on the wealthiest to close the budget gap, which has been a priority for Dayton, and the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts on the federal level would hurt the state's economy.
Dayton was arguing that their logic is flawed because tax cuts don't always correspond with a strong economy.
It's true that the wealthiest paid more in federal income taxes during the Clinton years. Clinton raised the top marginal rate from 31 percent to nearly 40 percent. It also happened to be a time of strong economic growth, partly because of Clinton and George H. W. Bush's broader fiscal policies, which lead to lower interest rates and lots of activity on Wall Street, as reported by the Washington Post and PolitiFact.
George W. Bush slashed those tax rates; Minnesota lowered its tax rates around this time, too.
Assuming Dayton is talking about the national decline in real household income - real per capita family income doesn't exist - it's true that it took a 9 percent nosedive after 1999, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Republicans are responsible for the third consecutive budget surplus - Republican legislators
A bright spot in MMB's forecast is that the state currently has a balance of $1.3 billion this biennium, something Republicans were quick to take credit for in press conferences and constituent emails. It's the third time since last November MMB has found the state has a positive balance.
But there are a few things to know about this money and where it came from.
First of all, the cash is already spoken for. Surpluses announced earlier this year and last year were legally obligated to the state's cash flow and budget reserves. Similarly, the latest $1.3 billion must be used to pay for money the DFL and GOP controlled legislatures borrowed from schools to balance the budget in prior years.
In fact, MMB Commissioner Jim Schowalter said that he's not calling the extra cash a surplus because the current budget relied on one-time deficit reduction and school payment shifts. The state still has a $1.1 billion deficit.
"One time actions only happen one time," he said. "When you're trying to get a structural balance together, we still have some work to do."
To say that this biennium's balance is the result of Republican policies isn't entirely accurate. While it's true that the budget approved by the GOP-controlled Legislature and Dayton included some spending cuts, the vast majority of the balance comes from higher tax revenues, including "strong, strong corporate profits over the biennium," according to State Economist Tom Stinson.
Stinson warned that the news isn't so good for the coming biennium when revenue is expected to be down by $68 million.
Minnesota Public Radio, interview with Gov. Mark Dayton, Dec. 6, 2012
Minnesota Management and Budget, November 2012 Forecast
Minnesota Management and Budget, General Fund - Fund Balance Analysis, November 2012 Forecast
Minnesota Public Radio, Minnesota faces $1.1 billion deficit, by Tim Pugmire and Tom Scheck, Dec. 5, 2012
The UpTake, videos of Gov. Mark Dayton, MMB, House and Senate Leadership discussing the budget, accessed Dec. 6, 2012
Email exchange, John Pollard, spokesperson, Minnesota Management and Budget, Dec. 7, 2012
Email exchange, Katharine Tinucci, spokesperson for Gov. Mark Dayton, Dec. 7, 2012
Phone interview, Matt Mossman, Minnesota Department of Revenue, Dec. 7, 2012(0 Comments)
Democratic U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison is among lawmakers who are advocating Congress leave Social Security alone in a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff.
In a floor speech on Nov. 29, Ellison argued that the program is in trouble, but shouldn't be a top priority because it's not contributing to the deficit, a point that many Democrats have been making during the lame duck session.
"Social Security is solvent through 2037," Ellison said. "Does it need to be fixed? Yeah. It is true that there is slightly more money going out than coming in. But when you look at all the money that is owed to Social Security and you have the interest payments that are being made on it, it more than pays for itself for now."
Ellison's claim is correct, but deserves further explanation.
Until recently, Social Security was taking in more cash than it was paying out. As a result, it loaned that extra money to the federal government, and got interest-bearing bonds in return.
But In 2010, for the first time in decades, less money came into the Social Security trust fund than was paid out. In 2010, the fund's deficit was $49 billion and in 2011, the deficit was $45 billion. The latest Social Security Trustee's report predicts that the deficit will average around $66 billion until 2018, and then rise steeply as the number of beneficiaries grows at a faster rate than the number of workers who contribute.
For now, the interest on past surpluses is helping pay for the Social Security's annual deficits, so program participants are not seeing changes in their benefits these days.
Ellison is incorrect that the program is projected to remain solvent until 2037; that's an old number. According to the most recent Social Security Trust Fund report, interest earnings won't cover those shortfalls any longer by 2020, and the Social Security Trust Fund will be exhausted by 2033.
But overall, his claim is basically correct, said Virginia Reno, who is the National Academy of Social Insurance's Vice President for Income Security Policy.
"The system is financed by dedicated revenues by payroll taxes that workers and employers pay, from income taxes on benefits that beneficiaries pay... and from interest that's owed to the trust fund from the surpluses that it ran in past years," Reno said. "All three of those sources of money are more than the outgo of the system."
Ellison has also said that Social Security isn't contributing to the deficit, which is a popular talking point among Democrats. Strictly speaking, he's correct if Social Security is considered a program that isn't connected to spending from the government's general fund.
But that doesn't mean the program isn't in trouble. And some social security experts argue that the interest owed the program contributes to the deficit; money is just being shuffled from one account to another.
In his floor speech, Ellison characterizes the state of Social Security correctly, though he's off by a few years in terms of when the program will be insolvent.
In the not too distant future, interest won't be enough to cover the program's deficits, and fiscal experts agree that the program is in trouble as a result. That's something that Ellison acknowledges in his statement, too.
His claim leans toward accurate.
The Social Security Administration, A Summary of the 2012 Annual Reports, Social Security and Medicare Boards of Trustees, accessed Dec.
CBS News, Does Social Security Contribute to the Deficit, by Steve Vernon, Sept. 16, 2011
The Urban Institute, Social Security and the Budget, by Eugene Steuerle and Stephanie Rennane, May 2010
Minnesota Public Radio, PoliGraph: Nolan claim complicated, but mostly wrong, Aug. 8, 2012
Interview, Virginia Reno, National Academy of Social Insurance's Vice President for Income Security Policy, Dec. 5, 2012(0 Comments)
Now that Democrats control the governor's office and both chambers of the state Legislature, it's likely that changes to the state's tax code will be on the agenda this coming legislative session.
During an interview on TPT's Almanac, incoming House Minority Leader Rep. Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said he's surprised there's even talk of a tax increase given the Legislature will have more money to spend next year.
"The DFL should be giving thanks for the budget that we're going to turn over to them," he said. "The state is in a much better situation today than it was two years ago. And they're going to have an additional $2 billion to spend without raising any taxes. But here we are, already talking about tax increases."
Daudt's raw number is correct, though he doesn't factor the state's spending obligations into his claim.
Daudt is talking about the roughly $2 billion more in revenue Minnesota lawmakers will have in the coming biennium.
According to Minnesota Management and Budget's February forecast, the state has about $33.8 billion in revenue for the current fiscal year and is expected to have $35.8 million in the coming fiscal year - a difference of $2 billion.
But with budget claims such as this one, there's always another way to view the numbers.
The detail Daudt leaves out is that spending is also expected to increase by between now and the next fiscal year. In fact, spending is expected to outpace revenues in the 2014-2015 budget year, which means a projected $1.1 billion deficit (though that number will likely change when Minnesota Management and Budget releases its latest forecast next week.)
Daudt argues that Democrats will have a choice in how they spend additional revenue - and whether they choose to meet all the forecast spending obligations.
"The facts are simple. You've got $2 billion of additional revenue and you get to decide how to spend it," he said. "Let's talk about can we make the budget work within that $2 billion before we start talking about tax increases."
Tom Hanson who managed MMB during former Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty's tenure said Daudt's right that the state has more money to spend.
But there's a caveat that gets at the fundamental difference of how Republicans and Democrats view the state's budget, he added.
"It's a philosophy: what are we going to buy for this?" Hanson said.
Hanson gave this example:
"It costs more to cover X number of people on Medical Assistance. If we want to give them the same level of coverage [in the coming biennium], and an MRI costs $1,000 last year and costs $1,500 this year, what do you do? Limit the number of people who get MRIs or do you increase the amount of funding to cover it?"
Daudt is correct that the state will have roughly $2 billion more to spend in the next two-year budget cycle than it did in the last. But the state is also projected to spend more and that means lawmakers face a state budget deficit in the neighborhood of $1.1 billion.
The situation will create some tough choices for how lawmakers decided to spend the extra cash and how they close the deficit.
With those reservations, PoliGraph says this claim leans toward accurate.
TPT's Almanac, Nov. 16, 2012
Minnesota Management and Budget, February 2012 Forecast
Email exchange, John Pollard, spokesman, Minnesota Management and Budget, Nov. 29, 2012
Interview, Rep. Kurt Daudt, Nov. 30, 2012
Interview, Tom Hanson, Winthrop and Weinstein, Nov. 30, 2012(3 Comments)
On Election Day, Minnesota Democrats reclaimed both chambers of the state Legislature, which puts them in the unusual position of controlling the Capitol and the Governor's office.
Incoming Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said in a recent interview on TPT's Almanac that a close look at the votes shows what a huge responsibility this win is for his party.
"I think Minnesotans are sending a pretty strong message to the Legislature," Bakk said. "The interesting thing that I observed was the Democratic candidates for the state Senate got 100,000 more votes than President Obama. That means to me that 100,000 people in Minnesota voted for Mitt Romney for president and then they decided to vote for a Democratic candidate for the state Senate. I think there's a message in that and a lot of responsibility in that, when you've got a large number of voters that really historically haven't voted for a Democrat."
It's entirely true that Democrats got more votes than Republicans this election, but Bakk's statement goes a bit too far.
First, Bakk misspoke when he said that "Democrats got 100,000 more votes than President Obama." In fact, Obama got more votes.
Rather, Bakk explained to MPR that he meant to say that the margin of votes Senate Democrats received over Senate Republicans was 100,000 more than the margin between Obama and Romney's votes.
"We beat our challenger by 100,000 votes more than he beat his. I think there's some message in that," Bakk said.
Bakk's larger point is on shakier ground. He's also arguing that more than 100,000 Minnesota voters voted for Mitt Romney and for DFL candidates, indicating historically Republican voters are now favoring the DFL.
It's true that nearly 128,000 Minnesotans cast their ballot for Mitt Romney, but not for GOP Senators.
But it's impossible to know whether those Minnesota Romney supporters also voted for Democrats or whether they didn't vote at all because the Secretary of State doesn't keep track of such things.
Whether he misspoke or not, Bakk's numbers aren't totally off. And clearly, Minnesotans favored legislative Democrats over Republicans this year.
But Bakk's claim gets off track when he implies that Republicans who voted for Romney uniformly voted for DFL Senators, too. That may be the case in some instances, but it's also possible that those Minnesotans didn't vote for any legislative candidates. And because the Secretary of State doesn't track keep that data, it's impossible to say one way or another.
For taking this claim a step too far, Bakk gets a misleading.
TPT's Alamanac, Nov. 16, 2012
Minnesota Secretary of State, Official Election Results 2012, accessed Nov. 28, 2012
Interview, Sen. Tom Bakk, Nov. 28, 2012(3 Comments)
Posted at 2:00 PM on November 2, 2012
by Catharine Richert
Filed under: PoliGraph
On Thursday, 6th Congressional District Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann and her DFL opponent Jim Graves met in the MPR studios to debate. Their conversation ranged from abortion to the new health care law and the auto bailout.
PoliGraph was on the scene to examine several health care claims made by both candidates.
"The Congressional Budget Office estimated that 800,000 jobs will be lost because of the president's health care plan." - Bachmann
Bachmann makes this claim frequently to underscore her belief that the health care law will cost jobs. She says it comes from the Congressional Budget Office, which predicted the new law would shrink the workforce by about .5 percent - or about 800,000 people.
But does that mean that the health care will "kill" 800,000 jobs? Not exactly.
The CBO assumed that some employers may hire fewer people because of new penalties in the law. But the CBO also assumed that some people may choose to leave their jobs and get insurance through the health care exchanges or through Medicaid, which is expanded through the program.
This claim is misleading.
"Unfortunately, the president said we would all realize about $2,500 a year savings on our health insurance premiums if his plan passed. Unfortunately, that hasn't worked out to be true. We're seeing an increase of $2,100 to $2,200 a year." - Bachmann
Bachmann also argues that the new health care law was meant to reduce premiums, but that hasn't been the case.
It's true that President Obama promised premiums would go down and they've actually gone up. The average private family plan has increased by about $2,000 since 2010, the year the law was put on the books.
But overall, Bachmann's claim is misleading. Most of the new health care law won't kick in until 2014, so it's difficult to say whether it's had an effect on premiums one way or another. Further, health care experts say that premiums have long been on the rise, largely because health care is simply expensive.
"We've almost got $1 billion in refunds to people in the state of Minnesota this year because of the act." - Graves
Graves quickly disagreed with Bachmann, saying that the health care law has actually put money in people's pockets.
In fact, insurance companies are doling out about $1 billion in rebates to 12.8 million policyholders because a new rule in the law prevents them from spending more than 20 percent of premiums on salaries, marketing and boosting profit.
But Graves is wrong that $1 billion will be going to Minnesotans. Only $9 million will be sent back to more than 123,000 policyholders here. His campaign said he misspoke during the debate.
"Employers say the number reason they aren't hiring is because of the president's health care plan." - Bachmann
Bachmann is citing a UBS Investment Research report that says the new health care law is "arguably" the top reason employers aren't hiring; it doesn't rely on a survey of businesses, and lists 10 other reasons, ranging from the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts to environmental regulation, that are preventing hiring.
PoliGraph has previously ruled this claim is false because economists on both sides of the aisle say that, while new penalties for not offering health insurance and uncertainty surrounding the new law may be reasons some employers aren't hiring, most are concerned about lagging consumer demand and general economic uncertainty.
"We have consistently the lowest premiums for malpractice insurance in the country." - Graves
Graves believes that medical malpractice rules should be reformed, too. But if they are, he wants them to look more like Minnesota's rules because they have the effect of keeping insurance premiums low and frivolous cases out of court.
It's true that Minnesota has very low medical malpractice premiums rates compared to other states, said Chris Messerly who is an attorney with Robins Kaplan Miller & Ciresi and one of the leading medical malpractice authorities in the state.
That's largely because cases need to be evaluated and approved by two third-party experts before the case can come to court, which is unusual compared to many states, Messerly said.
"In other words, there can be no frivolous claims in the state of Minnesota, and that's been true since 1986," he said.
The Daily Circuit, 6th Congressional District debate, Nov. 1, 2012
YouTube, CBO confirms Health Care Law Destroys Jobs, accessed Nov. 1, 2012
Minnesota Public Radio, PoliGraph: Bachmann claim on health care law ignores key information, by Catharine Richert, June 15, 2011
Minnesota Public Radio, PoliGraph: Checking Bachmann's debate claims, by Catharine Richert, Sept. 23, 2011
UBS Investment Research, Great Suppression II, Sept. 2011
Kaiser Family Foundation, Employer Health Benefits 2012
Minnesota Public Radio News, PoliGraph: Bachmann's health care claim misleading, by Catharine Richert, July 13, 2012
The Minneapolis Star Tribune, Insurers sending out rebate checks, by Jackie Crosby, July 23, 2012
Healthcare.gov, information about insurance rebates, accessed Nov. 1, 2012
Interview, Chris Messerly, Robins Kaplan Miller & Ciresi, Nov. 1, 2012
In his latest television ad, 2nd Congressional District Republican Rep. John Kline uses a familiar Minnesota landmark to emphasize how dire the nation's debt problems are.
With the Metrodome as his backdrop, Kline said, "America's national debt is $16 trillion. It's the equivalent of selling every seat in the Metrodome, every single day, for 9,000 years. This debt is weakening America. To cut spending, I led the successful fight to ban wasteful earmarks."
Kline's numbers are right, but his ad deserves some context.
This week, the nation's total debt is about $16 trillion. That includes intergovernmental debt, such as the Medicare and Social Security trust funds. Debt held by the public, meaning federal debt held by individuals, corporations and governments, is about $11.3 trillion.
The Kline camp assumes that Vikings tickets cost an average of $76, which is a reasonable assumption given tickets for games this season currently costs somewhere between $15 and $143 each. The stadium can seat 64,111 people.
Assuming the stadium is full every day, all year, at $76 a pop, Kline is right that it would take about 9,000 years to reach $16 trillion.
For several years, Kline has eschewed earmarks, the practice of requesting money for pet projects at home in annual appropriations bills, but he wasn't always such a purist.
In 2004, the Star Tribune reported that Kline received $3 million for projects in his district in a highway funding bill.
In 2008, Kline was among 20 House and Senate lawmakers who dumped the practice, along with Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, who has long crusaded against earmarks as the hallmark of wasteful spending.
"There's a growing awareness that the system is broken and we aren't going to fix it unless some of us start taking a stand," Kline told the Associated Press in 2008.
Earmarking is currently banned in the U.S. House. But that hasn't stopped lawmakers from finding other ways to send cash home to their districts. And budget experts say that earmarks are such a tiny sliver of the federal budget that banning them does little to ameliorate the nation's debt woes.
Kline accurately uses the Metrodome to describe the size of the nation's debt.
And while PoliGraph questions Kline's characterization of how effective banning earmarks is in lowering spending, he largely gets it right in this ad.
Rep. John Kline, Forcing Washington to Be Responsible, accessed Oct. 25, 2012
The U.S. Treasury, Debt to the Penny, accessed Oct. 25, 2012
The Vikings, Single Game Tickets, accessed Oct. 25, 2012
Forbes, Minnesota Vikings, accessed Oct. 25, 2012
Minnesota Vikings, Mall of America Field at the H.H.H. Metrodome Information, accessed Oct. 25, 2012
Associated Press, Lawmakers who forgot funding for pet projects risk angering voters back home, by Sam Hananel, Jan. 22, 2008 (subscription only)
The Star Tribune, Kline's spurning of earmarks has cost, by David Peterson, Jan. 8, 2008
The Star Tribune, The funding increase that really isn't earmarked projects cut into state highway allocation, by Kevin Diaz, June 1, 2004 (subscription only)
The Brookings Institution, Put Earmarks in Perspective, by Thomas Mann, March 6, 2009
The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, Earmarks are just a state, Nov. 16, 2010
The New York Times, Earmark Ban Exposes Rifts Within Both Parties, by David Herszenhorn, Nov. 16, 2010(5 Comments)
Posted at 2:00 PM on October 24, 2012
by Catharine Richert
Filed under: PoliGraph
Mike Obermueller, who is running against Republican Rep. John Kline in Minnesota's 2nd Congressional District, says the budget Kline supports doesn't add up.
"When John Kline voted for the Republican budget, I ran the numbers," Obermueller said in a new ad.
"He would make seniors pay $6,400 a year more for their Medicare benefits so millionaires can pay $265,000 a year less in taxes. John Kline's budget ends Medicare as we know it and ads $8 trillion to the deficit," Obermueller goes on.
Obermueller bases this ad on reasonable estimates and data, but fails to point out the differences between the budgets he's talking about.
Like Democrats across the country running for Congress this year, Obermueller is linking his Republican opponent to Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan's Path to Prosperity proposals. Ryan is also Mitt Romney's running mate, so his budget is getting a lot of scrutiny.
Ryan has introduced his budget proposal twice, once in 2011 and once this year, and both times Kline supported the legislation.
Both plans would have replaced the current Medicare system with "premium support"- federal dollars given to those who are currently 55 or younger to help pay for a private plan of their choosing. It's a tactic to help drive down the deficit and the cost of health care.
Based on a 2011 report by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, at least two think tanks have found that Ryan's plan would have increased average annual Medicare costs for future seniors around that much. That's because Ryan's Medicare "premium support" wouldn't have kept up with the cost of health care.
But Ryan tweaked his latest version of the plan to assuage concerns about his premium support proposal. The impact hasn't been analyzed by the CBO, so it's hard to say whether seniors would have to pay more for Medicare under the latest version of the plan.
Obermueller also says the budget would allow millionaires to "pay $265,000 a year less in taxes," which comes from the Tax Policy Center, an organization that critiques tax plans from both sides of the aisle. That figure assumes current tax cuts are extended, and the Center cautions that the number is a ballpark figure because some of Ryan's proposal is too vague to account for.
In his ad, Obermueller also accuses Kline of supporting a budget that "ends Medicare as we know it," another popular talking point among Democrats.
It's a fair statement. Ryan's latest budget would replace the current Medicare system with premium support. And while it would include Medicare as an option for future seniors, it's not clear that Medicare would necessarily be among the most affordable coverage options.
Lastly, Obermueller claims that the first version of the Ryan budget would increase the deficit by $8 trillion over 10 years. We'll assume that Obermueller meant to say that Ryan's budget would increase the nation's debt by $8 trillion, which is true according to Ryan's first budget proposal.
That figure includes things like the Medicare and Social Security trust funds. Debt held by the public, which includes only federal debt held by individuals, corporations and governments, would increase by about $5.7 trillion.
In the latest version of his budget plan, Ryan doesn't give any information on how much the nation's total debt would increase, but he does estimate that debt held by the public would increase by about $4 trillion over 10 years.
By and large, Obermueller's ad is correct. But PoliGraph quibbles with some aspects of the spot.
First, Obermueller is not talking about a budget plan Kline authored, he's talking about Ryan's budget plan, which Kline voted for.
Secondly, he mixes aspects of Ryan's first plan, such as Medicare costs for seniors, with Ryan's second plan, which included changes to make sure seniors don't have to pay so much for coverage.
But in the end, Kline voted for both proposals, so Obermueller's ad leans toward accurate.
Mike Obermueller, "Numbers," Oct. 18, 2012
MPR News, PoliGraph: Fact-checking the 8th CD debate, by Catharine Richert, Oct. 12,2012
THOMAS, Roll call vote 277, April 15, 2011
THOMAS, Roll call vote 151, March 29, 2012
U.S. House Budget Committee, Path to Prosperity: Fiscal Year 2012, accessed Oct. 11, 2012
U.S. House Budget Committee, Path to Prosperity: Fiscal Year 2013, accessed Oct. 9, 2012
Congressional Budget Office, Updated Estimates for the Insurance Coverage
Provisions of the Affordable Care Act, March 2012
The Congressional Budget Office, Long-Term Analysis of a Budget Proposal by Chairman Ryan, April 5, 2011
PolitiFact, Barack Obama ad says Paul Ryan's Medicare plan could raise costs for Medicare beneficiaries by $6,000 each, by Louis Jacobson, Aug. 23, 2012
The Kaiser Family Foundation, Proposed Changes to Medicare in the "Path to Prosperity," April 2011
Roll Call, Both parties see Ryan budget as gift, By Steven T. Dennis and Anna Palmer, April 6, 2011
Interview, Joe Rosenberg, Tax Policy Center, Oct. 24, 2012
In a new ad Minnesota for Marriage, the main group supporting a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as between one man and one woman, argues that Minnesotans should vote for the amendment to prevent people from being punished for their views on same-sex marriage.
Just take a look at what has happened in other states where same-sex marriage is legal, the ad states.
"When same-sex marriage has been imposed elsewhere, it has not been live and let live. People who believe marriage is one man and one woman have faced consequences."
There's truth to the examples in the ad, but overall, the TV spot is misleading.
"Small businesses fined."
Minnesota for Marriage is referring to the Wildflower Inn in Vermont, where gay marriage was legalized in 2009. Lesbian couple Katherine Baker and Ming-Lien Linsley wanted to get married there, but were told the inn would not host same-sex ceremonies.
Baker and Linsley sued, claiming the inn violated the state's Fair Housing and Public Accommodations Act, which prevents hotels from discriminating against patrons based on their sexual orientation. Ultimately, the inn had to pay the Vermont Human Rights Commission $10,000 and put $20,000 in a charitable trust.
University of Vermont law professor Greg Johnson specializes in sexual orientation and law, and said that the suit could have been brought regardless of whether or not same-sex marriage is legal. Johnson also said there have been no similar cases in Vermont since same-sex marriage was legalized.
"It's not as if small businesses up and down the state are being fined," Johnson said.
The ad refers to a Toronto-based sports broadcaster Damian Goddard who was fired a day after he tweeted about a hockey-player's support of same-sex marriage.
According to ESPN, Goddard wrote that he "completely and whole-heartedly" backed another hockey agent's "support for the traditional and TRUE meaning of marriage."
Goddard's employer said that it already planned to let him go, according to the Toronto Globe and Mail.
"Charities closed down"
This claim involves the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., which is still open.
The group decided to shut down its public adoption program after Washington D.C. made same-sex marriage legal because it felt it could not comply with the new law, which requires religious groups that serve the general public to recognize same-sex marriages, without compromising its religious beliefs, according to the Archdiocese.
The D.C. Catholic Charities continues a private adoption program using its own money.
In Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage is legal, a married gay couple is suing the Diocese of Worcester for dropping a real estate deal.
The couple said the Diocese backed out because it was worried gay marriages would be held on the property. The church says the deal fell through because of concerns about the couple's finances.
But as in Vermont, the Massachusetts couple could sue regardless of whether same-sex marriage is legal there because they are claiming Diocese violated a general Massachusetts law that prevents discrimination based on sexual orientation, said real Massachusetts estate lawyer Richard Vetstein.
"Same-sex marriage taught to young children in elementary school and parents have no legal right to be notified or to take their children out of class that day."
Earlier this year, PoliGraph said a similar claim is misleading.
Some Massachusetts schools are teaching kids about same-sex marriage in their diversity curriculum, which is part of a statewide curriculum framework created in 1993. But the state doesn't mandate certain lessons or books be taught, and there is no statewide requirement that schools teach about same-sex marriage.
Rather, curriculum decisions are made by individual schools, and some have incorporated same-sex marriage into their diversity lessons, including the Lexington School district, which was involved in a 2006 lawsuit brought by several parents. A federal court ultimately rejected the case.
The examples in Minnesota for Marriage's ad have some truth to them, but some are misleading. And over all, the ad misleads voters on several fronts.
First, same-sex marriage is illegal in Minnesota. If the amendment is defeated, same-sex marriage will still be illegal.
That said, amendment supporters are quick to point out that some legislators would like to make it legal and there's a case pending in state courts that seeks to overturn the existing law. Supporters say that the amendment is necessary to keep legalization from happening and to prevent a rash of discrimination cases.
As for the rest of the ad, the examples involving lawsuits and fines could have been brought regardless of the state's same-sex marriage laws. In fact, Minnesota's anti-discrimination laws already prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.
In general, most of these examples don't have anything to do with whether same-sex marriage is legal or not. For instance, the Lexington School District in Massachusetts talks about same-sex marriage in school because it is part of its long-standing diversity curriculum, not because the state's same-sex marriage law requires it or because the state requires it.
"Not Live and Let Live," Oct. 17, 2012
The Associated Press, Vermont's Wildflower Inn Settles Gay Marriage Lawsuit With Lesbian Couple, By Dave Gram, Aug. 23, 2012
ESPN, TV host fired over Sean Avery debate, May 13, 2011
The Toronto Globe and Mail, Hockey as secular as the nation that worships the sport, May 11, 2011
Catholic News Agency, Same-sex 'marriage' law forces D.C. Catholic Charities to close adoption program, Feb. 17, 2010
CBS Boston, Gay Couple Sues Worcester Diocese For Refusing To Sell Mansion To Them, Sept. 10, 2012
2011 Minnesota Statutes, 363A.03 Definitions, accessed Sept. 25, 2012
2011 Minnesota Statutes, 363A.11 Public Accommodations, accessed Sept. 25, 2012 https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=363a.11
MPR News, PoliGraph: Marriage amendment video claim misleading, by Catharine Richert, July 20, 2012
Minnesota for Marriage, Substantiation Letter for "Not Live and Let Live."
Minnesota for Marriage, Professor Laycock Letter to Gov. Baldacci
Minnesotans United for All Families, Telling the Truth: Not Live and Let Live, Oct. 18, 2012
Email exchange via Sasha Aslanian with Minnesota for Marriage's Chuck Darrell, Oct. 18, 2012
Phone interview, University of Vermont law professor Greg Johnson, Oct. 18, 2012
Phone interview, Richard Vetstein, Vetstein Law Group, Oct. 18, 2012
Phone interview, Erik Salmi, spokesman, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., Oct. 19, 2012(18 Comments)
Posted at 2:00 PM on October 17, 2012
by Catharine Richert
Filed under: PoliGraph
Medicare, typically considered the business of the federal government, has found its way into state Legislature campaigns.
The Minnesota DFL is making it the subject of a mailer targeting Ben Wiener, the Republican running for House District 11B which includes part of Isanti, Kanabec and Pine Counties.
"Ben Wiener will be another vote against Medicare," the DFL flier states. "In recent years, Republican politicians have repeatedly voted to cut Medicare. And now Ben Wiener wants to join them."
The ad goes on to say that Wiener "will be just another Republican vote against closing the Medicare prescription drug donut hole" and that Wiener will "join Republicans in the Legislature who voted to let state politicians take over and run Medicare. His plan would endanger the health benefits of 650,000 Minnesota seniors on Medicare."
Wiener can't be another vote against Medicare because the state Legislature has no control over the program, as the ad implies.
The flier states that Wiener "will be just another Republican vote against closing the Medicare prescription drug donut hole." The DFL is referring to a kink in the Medicare Part D program, which covers drug benefits for seniors. Once Medicare beneficiaries reach a certain coverage threshold, they have to pay for their prescriptions until they reach the catastrophic coverage threshold.
In other words, they fall into the donut hole.
To support this part of their claim, the DFL cites the Omnibus Health and Human Services Finance Bill, which was passed by both chambers and was promptly vetoed by Gov. Mark Dayton in May of 2011.
The DFL points out that the bill includes a provision that would have prevented state dollars from being used to implement the new health care law, which includes an effort to fix Medicare Part D.
But as Juliette Cubanski, a Medicare expert with the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation explained, even if such a law were put on the books, nothing would change how Medicare Part D affects Minnesota seniors because efforts to fix the donut hole are being implemented by the federal government.
The flier also claims that Wiener wants to "join Republicans in the Legislature who voted to let state politicians take over and run Medicare."
Here, the DFL is on slightly stronger footing. This session, the Legislature approved - and Dayton vetoed - legislation that would have affectively put states in charge of all health care programs, including Medicare.
Still, Congress would have had to approve the change, and the legislation states as much. Further, the bill makes no mention of how the state would treat Medicare, so it's impossible to say whether seniors would have lost their benefits as the mailer states.
The DFL also points out that many Republican legislators supported a legal effort to overturn the new health care law. But it's misleading to link their amicus brief to Wiener because he was not in the Legislature at the time.
In fact, Wiener hasn't made any public statements about Medicare or federal entitlement programs in general. He says that's because "it's a federal entitlement program and not a state issue."
Aside from using tenuous evidence to support the specifics, the DFL flier is fundamentally misleading.
It implies that the state Legislature has control over how Medicare is administered, and Wiener would be involved in efforts to dismantle the program.
But any changes to Medicare must be made at the federal level. For instance, the Legislature couldn't make changes to Medicare Part D even if it wanted to.
The DFL bases its claims on the passage of two bills that have little to do with Medicare, or would require the approval of Congress for the state to act.
But even so, the ad implies that Wiener somehow has a plan to cut Medicare (he does not) and that the Minnesota Legislature has jurisdiction over the program in the first place (it does not).
This mailer jumbles so many misleading and incorrect claims this PoliGraph test judges it false.
Minnesota Legislature, S.F. No. 760 - Omnibus Health and Human Services Finance Bill (The Conference Committee Report), May 20, 2011
Minnesota Senate, SF 1933, Health Care Compact, Apr 27, 2012
The Kaiser Family Foundation, Key Changes to the Medicare Part D Drug Benefit Coverage Gap, March 2012
State Representative Doug Wardlow, Minnesota and North Carolina Legislators File Amicus Brief Challenging the Constitutionality of Obamacare, May 12, 2011
PolitiFact Tennessee, Democrats say Republican-backed legislation "would eliminate Medicare's guaranteed benefit for 800,000 Tennessee seniors and force them into TennCare," by Tom Humphrey, September 7th, 2012
Health Care Compact, Frequently Asked Questions: What is an interstate compact?, accessed Oct. 16, 2012
Email exchange, Carlie Waible, DFL spokesperson, Oct. 16, 2012
Email exchange, Chris Lee, Kaiser Family Foundation, Oct. 17, 2012
Phone interview, Ben Wiener, Oct. 17, 2012
This week, contestants in the state's hottest race - and one of the hottest in the country - debated the issues for the first time.
Republican Rep. Chip Cravaack and his DFL opponent Rick Nolan are miles apart on the economy, health care and regulations. PoliGraph looked at four claims from the debate that highlight those differences.
"Congressman Cravaack has voted repeatedly to end Medicare as we know it, increasing costs for our elderly." - Nolan
Medicare is a central issue to the 8th district race. As a way to endear themselves to elderly voters both camps are accusing each other of wanting to gut the program.
Nolan is referring to Cravaack's votes for Republican Rep. Paul Ryan's budget proposals. Both plans would have replaced the current system with "premium support"- federal dollars given to those who are currently 55 or younger to help pay for a private plan of their choosing.
The first version of Ryan's plan did not include Medicare as a coverage option, and the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the proposal would cost future seniors $6,400 annually because the premium supports wouldn't keep up with the cost of health care.
The latest version of Ryan's plan does include Medicare as a coverage option. The Congressional Budget Office hasn't said whether there are additional costs. And because of the way the latest iteration of Ryan's Medicare plan is written, it's not clear that Medicare would necessarily be among the most affordable coverage options.
Nolan chose his words carefully, saying that Cravaack voted to end Medicare as we know it. He didn't want to fall into the same trap other Democrats did when they accused Republicans of wanting to eliminate Medicare, which PolitiFact named it their "Lie of the Year."
Experts are reasonably torn about what Ryan's proposal would mean for seniors. And while it's important to stress that Ryan's proposal wouldn't eliminate coverage for seniors, Nolan isn't unreasonable to say that the plan would mean notable changes for Medicare.
"I'm proud to say that I've only missed less than 1 percent of the votes in Washington" - Cravaack
Part of Cravaack's campaign strategy has been to emphasize his commitment to the district. To underscore that point, Cravaack said in his opening statement that he's rarely missed votes since being elected.
And he's correct. According to GovTrack.com and numbers pulled from the Washington Post vote tracker, Cravaack has missed 9 of 1550 votes, or less than 1 percent.
"We've having one of the biggest tax increases on Americans because of Obamacare." - Cravaack
This claim is frequently repeated by people who oppose the health care law. It's true there are significant tax increases in the health care bill, including penalties that people who reject coverage will pay the federal government.
Jerry Tempalski, an analyst with the Treasury Department, looked at various tax increases since 1940, and measured them in raw dollars, inflation adjusted dollars and as percent of GDP, which Tempalski says is best because "it eliminates the effects of inflation, real economic growth, and the size of total federal receipts."
According to his analysis, the act is the sixth largest tax increase since 1968 among the 21 most significant increases Tempalski looked at.
Other fact-checking organizations have rated similar claims false because those who made the statement called Obamacare the largest tax increase in history or in America. But as Nolan did with his Medicare claim, Cravaack carefully couched this statement, saying it was one of the largest. And that's a fair statement.
"Congressman Cravaack has voted repeatedly to provide more tax cuts for the super rich in this country, and additionally provide tax cuts for the big multi-nationals to outsource and move their manufacturing overseas." - Nolan
Once again, Nolan is pointing to the Ryan budget to make his case.
It's true that the Ryan's proposal would lower the top tax for individuals and corporations from 35 percent to 25 percent, and create two individual tax rates - 10 percent and 25 percent.
But the Tax Policy Center, which regularly analyzes tax plans from the right and the left, estimated that the changes would result in a tax benefit for the wealthy.
The Ryan plan also contained a provision that would have created a territorial tax system, meaning U.S. companies making money overseas wouldn't pay U.S. taxes if they brought those profits home. Some tax experts say Ryan's approach would prompt U.S. companies to move their domestic operations overseas to lower taxed countries.
Cravaack voted in favor of the Ryan plan, as well as a separate bill that would have effectively done the same thing.
The Minnesota DFL also points to other votes Cravaack cast, such as one against a bill that would have required companies to say how many of their jobs are based overseas. That's not a tax break, but the Minnesota DFL, which provided sourcing on Nolan's claim, believes it underscores Cravaack's support for job outsourcing.
And it's also important to point out that Cravaack successfully included an amendment in the latest highway bill that would boost the U.S. steel industry and U.S. steel jobs.
So, Nolan's claim isn't entirely unreasonable, but he exaggerates a bit by saying Cravaack voted "repeatedly" and he glosses over the fact that Cravaack has supported other legislation that would help keep jobs in America.
MPR News, Cravaack and Nolan hold spirited, respectful debate, by Mark Zdechlik, Oct. 9. 2012
U.S. House Budget Committee, Path to Prosperity: Fiscal Year 2012, accessed Oct. 11, 2012
U.S. House Budget Committee, Path to Prosperity: Fiscal Year 2013, accessed Oct. 9, 2012
PolitiFact.com, Did Republicans vote to end Medicare as we know it?, By Angie Drobnic Holan, Aug. 23, 2012
The Kaiser Family Foundation, Comparison of Medicare Premium Support Proposals, accessed Oct. 11, 2012
Congressional Budget Office, Updated Estimates for the Insurance Coverage
Provisions of the Affordable Care Act, March 2012
The Congressional Budget Office, Long-Term Analysis of a Budget Proposal by Chairman Ryan, April 5, 2011
GovTrack.us, Voting Record: Rep. Chip Cravaack, accessed Oct. 11, 2012
PolitiFact.com, Limbaugh, GOP have it wrong: Health care law is not the largest tax increase ever, by Aaron Sharockman, June 28, 2012
Minnesota Public Radio, Campaign against Obama and health care to focus on taxes, by Tom Scheck, June 29, 2012
Department of Treasury: Office of Tax Analysis, Revenue Effects of Major Tax Bills
Updated Tables for all 2010 Bills, by Jerry Tempalski, June 2011
FactCheck.org, Biggest Tax Increase in History?, July 10, 2012
ABC News, Budget hawk: A closer look at the Ryan plan, by Liz Goodwin, Aug. 11, 2012
TaxVox, Paul Ryan's budget plan more big tax cuts for the rich, March 23, 2012
The National Journal, Ryan slashes tax rates in his budget, March 19, 2012
The Tax Foundation, Paul Ryan's budget plan, accessed Oct. 11, 2012
TaxVox, Growing Consensus on Corporate Tax Reform? Not So Much, by Howard Gleckman, February 28, 2012
U.S. House, Roll Call vote: HR 6169, Aug. 2, 2012
Rep. Chip Cravaack, Cravaack 'Buy America' Steel Amendment Passed Under Long-Term Reauthorization & Reform of Federal Surface Transportation Programs, July 2, 2012
This year's state legislative races will be remembered for lots of reasons.
Every lawmaker is up for re-election. Redistricting has pitted incumbents against incumbents.
And, of course, there are the tropical birds.
At least three groups, including the Freedom Club, the Republican Party of Minnesota and Minnesota's Future, are using an old vote concerning bird habitats to target lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
The most recent claim comes from Minnesota's Future, a business-backed political fund that tends to support Republicans.
"While representing special interests in St. Paul, Tim Faust voted for a blank check to pay for habitats for birds in the Caribbean," reads a mailer sent to voters in Pine County. "Wasteful spending is what caused our $6.2 billion deficit and government shutdown."
This claim makes it sound as if taxpayer money from Minnesota's general fund budget went out of the country, but the money for the birds actually comes from the sale of special Department of Natural Resources license plates.
The bird claim first surfaced during the Republican primaries, when the Freedom Club, an organization that supports staunch conservatives, sent out fliers in District 33 near Orono targeting Republican incumbent state Rep. Connie Doepke for her vote "to waste our tax dollars in Latin America for tropical bird habitats."
DFLer Faust, who represented parts of Isanti, Kanabec and Pine Counties between 2007 and 2010 in the Minnesota House, is running again against Ben Wiener.
Like Doepke, Faust's vote on a 2010 environment, energy and natural resources bill is coming back to haunt him.
Buried in the legislation was an authorization for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to tap money from the critical habitat matching fund to help pay for a program that will preserve habitat in Latin America for Minnesota songbirds, such as warblers, that spend their winters there.
That money comes from license plate purchases, explained Carrol Henderson, who has been the DNR's nongame wildlife program supervisor since 1977. A portion of the money from sales of special critical habitat license plates - they feature animals such as loons or white-tailed deer - is put into the fund.
Twenty-six states including Minnesota are pooling money to help preserve migratory bird habitats in Latin America, Henderson explained. That state plans to chip in about $10,000 of the critical habitat license plate money, but so far the cash hasn't been spent yet.
It's not all that different from a separate DNR habitat preservation program with Canada meant to protect birds that people hunt in Minnesota, Henderson pointed out.
"What this does is identify a lot of birds that we enjoy in Minnesota as being vulnerable at both ends of their flyway," he said. "If it's acceptable politically to send money to Canada to raise ducks, then we're saying, we also have songbirds that are an important part of our wildlife heritage and we have a political precedent if we can preserve habitat for ducks in Canada."
Chris Tiedeman, who works at Weber Johnson Public Affairs and operates Minnesota's Future, says it's precisely that sort of spending government shouldn't do.
"It was legislators like Tim Faust who spent us into that mess," Tiedeman wrote in an email, referring to the $6 billion deficit the state was projected to have as Faust was leaving office. "This was simply a good example of the kinds of frivolous and wasteful spending legislators in St Paul have focused on as they spent us into a deficit."
It's true that Faust voted for a bill that allowed the DNR to spend money on a bird habitat program in Latin America.
But there are some essential points missing from the Minnesota's Future mailer.
This was not an appropriation from the state's general fund, and therefore it didn't contribute to the deficit as the mailer implies. Instead, the bill allowed the DNR to use money that Minnesotans voluntarily contribute to the agency when they buy a special license plate.
This claim is misleading at best.
This installment of PoliGraph was done with the help of MPR's On Message feature. To learn more about how you can send us your campaign fliers, robocalls, and emails, click here.
Minnesota Public Radio News, Doepke to Cummins: You've been misled on my 'right-to-work' record, by Catharine Richert, Aug. 1, 2012
S.F. No. 3275, accessed Oct. 4, 2012
House Journal, Wednesday, May 12, 2010, p. 12973
Email exchange, Chris Tiedeman, Weber Johnson Public Affairs
Interview, Greg Knopff, House Legislative Analyst, Oct. 4, 2012
Interview, Carrol Henderson, Department of Natural Resources, Nongame Wildlife Program supervisor, Oct. 5, 2012(6 Comments)
On Election Day Minnesotans will decide whether future voters should be required to show photo identification before they cast ballots.
Groups opposing a proposed voter ID constitutional amendment frequently say that 700,000 Minnesotans could lose their right to vote if the amendment is approved. The Minnesota DFL Party cited the number in a recent fundraising email.
"There are over 700,000 Minnesotans who could lose their right to vote if Republicans get their way," the email stated. "That's what's at stake if a Voter ID amendment passes - and that's why we're so fired up."
Estimating how many people could be prohibited from voting is fraught with uncertainty.
The amendment would require people to show valid government issued photo identification to vote, and the government would be required to provide free identification to people who don't have one.
People who show up to the polls without the right ID will be given a provisional ballot, which can't be counted unless the voter "certifies" the ballot. And the Secretary of State would still be required to verify their identity.
Those new rules mean about 700,000 could lose their right to vote, the DFL said. Here's how they're coming up with that number:
The Secretary of State's office estimates that about 215,000 people lack current or valid photo identification.
On top of that, the DFL is adding about 500,000 people who are estimated to register and vote on the same day. Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, who opposes the amendment, believes it would be very difficult to subject same-day registrants to "substantially equivalent identity and eligibility verification" as the amendment requires - and that means the end of Election Day voter registration.
That doesn't mean that people who would normally register the same day they vote would lose their rights entirely. People who show up to the polls without proper identification would cast a provisional ballot, but they would have to certify their identity to have it counted. Voters have little incentive to do that once the election is over, election experts say.
So, the DFL's numbers aren't over the top.
That said, estimating how many people could be prohibited from voting on Election Day is difficult to do for several reasons, said Matt Gehring who works for the non-partisan Minnesota House Research office.
That's because the amendment doesn't detail how the new system would work. Writing the fine print - for instance, deciding how a voter would "certify" his or her provisional ballot - will be up to the Legislature. And if state lawmakers can't agree, the courts will decide.
With every member of the state Legislature up for re-election this year, it's unclear who will be in control of the state House and Senate. The new rules could be very strict or very lenient depending on who's in charge.
Take the Secretary of State's argument about same-day voter registration. The amendment doesn't mention a thing about changing the law. The Legislature could decide, for instance, to install computers linked to the state's databases at the polls so election officials could verify a voter's eligibility on the spot, Gehring said.
Voter ID proponents also point out that the amendment language doesn't say that voters need identification with their current address, and Gehring agrees this is another complicated grey area.
Minnesota's law defines a valid driver's license as "a license that is not expired, suspended, revoked or cancelled," Gehring said. "And those four terms I just read aren't really defined in an easy way anywhere."
Complicating matters is a separate Minnesota statute that says people must get a new license within 30 days of moving, Gehring said.
"It really depends on how [the Legislature] wants to set up the system if the amendment is adopted," Gehring said. "We really just don't know."
The DFL isn't out of bounds for saying that the amendment could make voting difficult for 700,000 Minnesotans.
But because there is so much uncertainty about how the new rules would actually work, the DFL's claim remains inconclusive.
Minnesota DFL fundraising email, Sept. 20, 2012
The Secretary of State, 2011-2012 Minnesota Legislative Manual: Chapter 10 - Minnesota Votes, accessed Oct. 2, 2012
The Secretary of State, Estimated Registered Voters Lacking Valid of Current ID, accessed Oct. 2, 2012
ProtectMyVote.com, Myths versus facts, accessed Oct. 2, 2012
MPR News, Other states offer clues on how voter ID would work in Minnesota, by Catharine Richert, April 4, 2012
MPR News, Would voter ID amendment really prevent voter fraud, by Tim Pugmire, Sept. 18, 2012
MPR News, Other states offer only limited guidance for Minnesota on voter ID, by Tim Pugmire, Sept. 27, 2012
Email exchange, Kate Monson, DFL spokeswoman, Oct. 2, 2012
Interview, Matt Gehring, Minnesota House Research, Oct. 2, 2012(3 Comments)
In their first debate, 1st District DFL Congressman Tim Walz and his Republican opponent Allen Quist went head-to-head on a range of topics, from health care to the economy.
This week, PoliGraph looked at five of Walz and Quist's claims.
Both candidates feel strongly about the new health care law, but fundamentally disagree on whether it will be effective or not. Walz said health care spending is out of control and that the new law would actually save the government money. Quist disagreed.
"This nation spends 17.9 percent of its GDP on health care, far outstripping any other in the world." - Walz
Walz says making health care more efficient will save money. To underscore his argument, Walz pointed out that the nation spends 17.9 percent of its gross domestic product on health services, which is true according to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid services. By 2021, those costs will be 20 percent of the nation's GDP.
That's a larger share than any other nation, according to data from the World Health Organization and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
"The Affordable Care Act will save $109 billion in health care costs." - Walz
Walz is talking about how much it would cost the government to repeal the new health care law, not health care savings built into the new law.
According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), taking the bill off the books would cost the government a net $109 billion over 9 years; spending would go down, but the repeal would also eliminate a mix of new revenue.
Walz doesn't mention that the health care law is still costing the government, something Quist was quick to point out.
"Tim Walz says the affordable care act is going to save us money? Give me a break! I hope he looked at the last CBO estimates on the added costs - $1.7 trillion in added costs over the next 10 years." - Quist
The most recent CBO estimate pegged the gross cost of the health care law at about $1.7 trillion over 10 years, up from about $938 billion in 2010.
There's good reason for the increase: much of the new law doesn't kick in until 2014, so newer estimates will account for the fact that more of the health care law is in place. The law is not unexpectedly more expensive, as Quist implies.
Quist is also cherry picking his numbers. The latest cost estimate is the law's gross cost. In fact, CBO relies on the law's net cost, which is about $1.25 trillion. The lower figure accounts for new revenue built into the bill.
Both candidates agree that dealing with the nation's debt is critical. Quist said an unbalanced budget is a threat to the nation's domestic programs and national security, but that Walz hasn't done much to deal with the problem.
"This country has always had a balance of 19 percent revenue 19 percent spending, and what that allows us to do is invest in things that grow our economy." - Walz
Walz defended his position by saying the nation is in the midst of an unprecedented recession. He pointed out that historically, federal spending and revenues as a percent of gross domestic product were steady and were balanced.
And he's right. According to historical tables compiled by the Office of Management and Budget, for many decades before the recession, federal revenue and spending as a percent of GDP averaged about 19 percent.
Quist quickly shot back at Walz, saying that the federal spending is much higher than that now.
"Right now, our federal government is spending 24% of our GDP." - Quist
Quist is correct: In 2011, the federal spending exceeded 24 percent of GDP. That's the third-highest level in 40 years, according to the CBO.
On some points, both Walz and Quist's claims are supported by the facts.
But on two claims about the cost of the new health care law, both candidates leave out important context that make their statements somewhat misleading.
Bloomberg News, Health-Care Spending to Reach 20% of U.S. Economy by 2021, by Alex Wayne, June 12, 2012
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, National Health Expenditure Projections 2011-2021, accessed Sept. 27, 2012
The World Health Organization, World Health Statistics 2011, accessed Sept. 27, 2012
OECD Health Data 2012, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, accessed Sept. 27, 2012
CBS, CBO: Health care repeal would cost $109 billion, July 24, 2012
The Congressional Budget Office, Letter to the Honorable John Boehner providing an estimate for H.R. 6079, the Repeal of Obamacare Act, July 24, 2012
Minnesota Public Radio, PoliGraph: Bills health care law claim leaves out key details, by Catharine Richert, May 23, 2012
The Congressional Budget Office, Inforgraphic: The U.S. Federal Government, accessed Sept. 27, 2012
The White House, Office of Management and Budget, Historical Tables: Summary of Receipts, Outlays, and Surpluses or Deficits (-) as Percentages of GDP: 1930-2017, accessed Sept. 27, 2012
If you live in Minnesota's politically competitive 8th Congressional District, get used to seeing a lot of campaign ads in the race between Republican Congressman Chip Cravaack and his DFL challenger Rick Nolan.
In the latest round of spots launched this week, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) takes aim at Cravaack's record on education policy.
"Cravaack voted to cut Pell Grants for 23,000 Minnesota college students. He voted to cut overall education funding by $115 billion. And Cravaack supported eliminating the Department of Education," the "Tradition" ad states.
The DCCC's spot mixes truth and fiction.
The point of the DCCC's ad is to paint Cravaack as out of touch with Minnesota's educational tradition.
The first part of the ad's claim about Pell Grants refers to U.S. House Budget Committee chairman and GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan's fiscal year 2012 budget resolution. The document isn't legally binding. It's a broad blueprint for how Congress should spend cash. It's up to the appropriations committees that decide where to put the money.
Pell Grants are meant for low-income college students. Prior to the passage of the 2009 stimulus bill, grants were capped at $4,731, according to the New America Foundation. The stimulus bill increased that cap to $5,550. But Ryan's fiscal year 2012 budget resolution stated that the grants be returned to their "pre-stimulus levels" to curb rising inflation and it included a series of new eligibility limits.
The Department of Education estimated that such changes would cut aid for 1.4 million students including 23,755 Minnesota students.
The GOP's budget resolution stalled in the Senate. As part of a massive funding bill for multiple federal departments, both chambers ultimately agreed to maintain current Pell Grant caps but require new eligibility limits, too. Cravaack voted against that measure.
Cravaack's spokesman, Michael Bars, said that Cravaack has protected Pell Grants by voting to make the program more sustainable.
"The program must be put on more stable footing," wrote Bars in an email. "Currently, the program is on an unsustainable trajectory that serves only to put the program at greater risk of ultimately being unable to fulfill its promises to students."
In 2012, Cravaack also voted in favor of his party's fiscal year 2013 budget resolution. It included $897 billion in unspecified cuts in domestic spending.
So, how did the DCCC come up with $115 billion cut to the Department of Education?
The number is from the White House, and it's speculative. The Office of Management and Budget assumed that the cuts were spread equally across all areas of the budget, which would mean $115 billion less in funding for the Department of Education over 10 years.
But that's not what Cravaack voted for, as the ad states. He voted for a measure than included $897 billion in unspecified cuts. Right now, the House and Senate are hashing out a deal to keep the government funded through next March. That bill, which Cravaack also voted for, doesn't cut education department funding.
It's true that Cravaack said he wanted to eliminate the Department of Education. In a 2010 interview with Sue Jeffers, an activist involved in Republican politics, Cravaack said:
"I do not see a place for the Department of Education. All the Department of Education does is redistribute the wealth that we give the government and then takes a nice little chunk for itself and then passes it on to our schools. We eliminate the Department of Education, it is a states' issue. The states are in charge of the education."
The DCCC's has some truth to it. It's accurate to say that Cravaack voted to cut scale back Pell Grants, which would have meant roughly 23,000 Minnesotans could have lost their funding. And it's also true that Cravaack said he wanted to eliminate the Department of Education.
But the ad's second claim that Cravaack voted to cut education department funding by $115 billion is false. That's a speculative number from the White House.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, "Tradition", 9.14.12
Department of Education, Pell Grants, accessed Sept. 21, 2012
THOMAS, H Con Res 34, fiscal year 2012 budget resolution, May 2, 2011
THOMAS, roll call vote on H Con Res 34, April 15, 2011
THOMAS, roll call vote on HR 2055, Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012, Dec. 16, 2011
THOMAS, roll call vote on H Con Res 112, fiscal year 2013 budget resolution, March 29, 2012
THOMAS, H. J. Res. 117, Six month continuing resolution, accessed Sept. 20, 2012
THOMAS, roll call vote H. J. Res 117, Sept. 13, 2012
The New America Foundation, Revisiting Ryan Versus Obama on Pell Grants, by Jason Delisle, Aug. 14, 2012
The New America Foundation, Congress Reaches Pell Grant Funding Agreement for Fiscal Year 2012, by Jason Delisle, Dec. 13, 2011
House Budget Committee, Strengthening the Social Safety Net, accessed Sept. 21, 2012
NASFAA, House GOP FY2012 Budget Outline Would Deny Pell Grants to 1.4M Students, April 20, 2011
Education and Workforce Committee, New Data: Pell Grant Program By State: Current Maximum vs. GOP Budget, accessed Sept. 20, 2012
NASFAA, Summary of Student Aid Changes in FY 2012 Budget Bill, Dec. 16, 2011
The White House, Office of Management and Budget, The Ryan-Republican Budget: The Consequences of Imbalance, March 21, 2012
Libertarian Party of Minnesota, Cravaack interview with Sue Jeffers, March 12, 2010
Email exchange, Haley Morris, spokesperson for the DCCC, Sept. 20, 2012
Email exchange, Michael Bars, spokesman, Rep. Chip Cravaack, Sept. 21, 2012(1 Comments)
Rick Nolan's first stint in Congress is turning into a reliable campaign theme in Minnesota's 8th Congressional District.
A new ad paid for by the American Action Network, a Washington D.C.-based organization co-founded by former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman, brings up part of Nolan's record from when he represented Minnesota's 6th Congressional District between 1975 and 1980.
"Medicare. To us a sacred promise we rely on," the ad, titled "Dangerous," states as ominous music plays in the background. "But to Rick Nolan, Medicare is outdated, in the way of his radical ideas."
"In the 70s, Nolan backed a bill to replace Medicare with a European-style health program. Under Nolan's plan, Medicare would have ended all together," the ad states.
AAN's facts are correct. But the ad implies that Nolan wants to take coverage away from seniors all together. That's misleading.
AAN's ad refers to a bill introduced repeatedly by a duo of Democratic Senators in the early and mid 1970s. Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, and Rep. James Corman of California, were both proponents of a universal health care plan that would have covered everyone in the United States, old and young, rich and poor.
In 1976, the Economist, a magazine based in the United Kingdom, wrote about the plan saying that it would "sweep away much of the present system, under which the bulk of Americans rely on private health insurance, with Medicaid for the poor and Medicare (federal health insurance) for the old."
Under the Kennedy-Corman plan, insurance costs would have been covered by a trust fund padded by payroll tax revenue and government dollars. Among other competing health care plan overhauls, the Kennedy-Corman plan was "closest to the British model" in that it would have created a single, government-run insurance program, the Economist explained.
Single-payer insurance is a characteristic shared by many European countries, as well as Canada.
But despite then-candidate Jimmy Carter's endorsement of a proposal similar to Kennedy and Corman's, the effort fizzled toward the end of the 1970s over complaints that are familiar today: the Kennedy-Corman plan was too expensive and relied on government too much.
Where did Nolan stand in all of this?
In 1975 and 1977, Nolan was among a handful of lawmakers who co-sponsored the House version of the Kennedy-Corman bill, according to the Library of Congress.
And Nolan has never made his support for a single-payer health care system a secret. In a questionnaire published by the Brainerd Dispatch last month, Nolan said he believes the health care system must be reformed and that public health insurance option would help lower health care costs, but that a "single payer national health insurance is the best long term solution."
All that said, this ad might leave some viewers with the impression that Nolan supported a bill that would have left seniors hanging on health care coverage and that Nolan opposes Medicare.
Neither is the case.
The Kennedy-Corman bill would have created a single system for everyone, including seniors.
And Nolan believes that Medicare is important, said his campaign chairman Jim Swiderski.
"Under no circumstances will Rick favor a reduction of benefits for either Social Security or Medicare," Swiderski wrote in an email. "There are ways to reform these programs without abandoning the sick and elderly or turning these programs over to Wall Street or private insurance companies, unaccountable to the taxpayers."
It's true that Nolan once co-sponsored a bill that would have created a single-payer health insurance system much like those in Europe. That plan would have done away with the current Medicare system, too because it would have put seniors into the larger system.
But it's important to view AAN's claim with context. First, the proposal Nolan supported would have applied to everyone, including the elderly. Further, Nolan doesn't want to take coverage away from seniors as the ad implies.
As a result, this ad leans toward misleading.
The American Action Network, "Dangerous," Sept. 17, 2012
The Economist, Whatever happened to health insurance, January 3, 1976 (Subscription only)
The Washington Post, Health Insurance Bill: '78 Introduction Seen as Gesture, by Lawrence Meyer, January 6, 1978, (Subscription only)
Kaiser Health News, Timeline of Kennedy's Health Care Achievements And Disappointments, Sept. 17, 2010
Roll Call, The History of Health Care Reform
Four Times This Century Presidents Have Tried and Failed to Implement National Health Care Reform. Yale Professor Ted Marmor Explains How Not to Repeat Their Mistakes, By Ted Marmor, July 19, 1993 (Subscription only)
THOMAS, S. 3, The Health Security Act, accessed Sept. 19, 2012
THOMAS, HR 21, Health Security Act, accessed Sept. 19, 2012
THOMAS, HR 5657, Health Security Act, accessed Sept. 19, 2012
PBS, Health Care Systems: The Four Basic Models, accessed Sept. 18, 2012
The Brainerd Dispatch, Eighth Congressional District DFL: Richard Nolan, August 10, 2012
Email exchange, Brook Hougesen, spokeswoman, American Action Network, Sept. 18, 2012
Email exchange, Jim Swiderski, campaign chair, Rick Nolan for Congress, Sept. 18, 2012(4 Comments)
It is fall in an election year, and that means Minnesotans will find their mailboxes overflowing with fliers trumping up the accomplishments - or failures - of one lawmaker or another.
Such a flier from the Republican Party of Minnesota simultaneously praises the record of Rep. Diane Anderson, R-Eagan, and criticizes the record of former DFL Rep. Sandra Masin, who is challenging Anderson.
"Anderson worked successfully to turn the state's $6.2 billion deficit into a $1.3 billion surplus," one side of the flier reads. Flip it over, and it points out that Masin voted for "wasteful government spending, including a big brass band sheet music museum that drove up the deficit..."
Both of these claims contain some truth, but leave out key facts and context that might lead voters to draw different conclusions.
"Anderson worked successfully to turn the state's $6.2 billion deficit into a $1.3 billion surplus,"
In November of 2010, Minnesota Management and Budget projected a $6.2 billion deficit, but that was later revised down to $5 billion in February of 2011.
Fast forward to November 2011, several months after the Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton agreed on a balanced budget deal that cut spending, one that Anderson supported, and the state announced a $876 million surplus.
In February of 2012, the state announced that it had an additional $323 million on hand.
Tally that up, and it's roughly $1.3 billion.
But here's the rub: the money was already spoken for. According to state law, the money must be used to restore the state's cash-flow account, pad its budget reserves and then start paying back money the state borrowed from schools to balance the budget.
In fact, the state is projected to have a $1.1 billion deficit for the coming biennium, according to the budget agency's most recent projection. That forecast doesn't include the $2.4 billion the state still owes schools or inflation.
Both Republicans and Democrats were quick to take credit for the brighter forecasts. Republicans, for instance, said they held the line on spending and taxes, while the Dayton administration said they did a better job of managing programs for the elderly, among other things.
In fact, much of the extra cash was from a combination of higher revenue, lower than expected enrollment in the state's subsidized health insurance program, and federal dollars.
Masin voted for "wasteful government spending, including a big brass band sheet music museum that drove up the deficit..."
That year, the Legislature included $400,000 in its more than $900 million bonding bill for the library. Along with 90 other members of the state House, Masin voted for the vast bill that included money for many, many projects.
Ultimately, Pawlenty used his line-item veto authority to ax the Chatfield library cash, along with 54 other projects, so the project never contributed to the deficit as the flier states.
It's true that the state budget has recently shown a positive bottom line- about $1.3 billion to be exact. But the money is already spoken for, so Minnesota doesn't have a pot of unused money as the flier makes it sound. Further, the state is on track to have a $1.1 billion deficit next year.
The extra money was the result of lower state insurance spending, higher revenue and federal dollars.
As a result, this claim is misleading.
Meanwhile, Masin voted for a bonding bill that included money for the music library as well as numerous other bonding projects. Further, the library's cash was vetoed by Pawlenty.
The second claim on the GOP's flier is misleading because it lacks this important context.
This installment of PoliGraph was done with the help of MPR's On Message feature. To learn more about how you can send us your campaign fliers, robocalls, and emails, click here.
Minnesota Public Radio, Minn. budget forecast shows $323 million surplus, by Tim Pugmire, Feb. 29, 2012
Minnesota Management and Budget, February 2012 forecast
Minnesota Management and Budget, November 2011 forecast
Minnesota Public Radio, Dayton, state lawmakers want credit for budget surplus, by Tom Scheck, Dec. 12, 2011
MinnPost, Pawlenty's veto of unique music library hits sour note in Chatfield, by Joe Kimball, May 1, 2008
Minnesota House, roll call vote on HF 380, conference committee report, April 2, 2008
Minnesota House Journal, April 10, 2008, p. 9876
The Minneapolis Star Tribune, Pawlenty slashes $200 million from bonding bill, by Mark Brunswick, April 8, 2008
Interview, Tom Hanson, Associate at Winthrop and Weinstein, former Commissioner of Minnesota Management and Budget, Sept. 13, 2012
Interview, John Pollard, spokesman, Minnesota Management and Budget, Sept. 13, 2012
Email exchange, Heather Rubash, Sept. 13, 2012(1 Comments)
The Alliance for a Better Minnesota, a liberal organization aiming to put more Democrats in the state Legislature this year, is keying in on a common local election theme: property taxes.
As part of its effort to paint state Republicans as out of touch with average Minnesotans, ABM has been broadcasting this factoid during its Homestead Heist tour, in their literature, and in a recent television ad.
"[Republicans] passed a law making 95 percent of Minnesota homeowners pay higher property taxes," the ABM ad states.
ABM doesn't have enough information to make such a claim.
ABM is referring to the Legislature's elimination of the Market Value Homestead Credit in 2011 as part of the budget deal that ended the government shutdown. Previously, local officials would use a formula to reduce taxes on homesteads, and the state would reimburse the locality for the revenue that was lost in the process.
In recent years, the reimbursement became unreliable because the Legislature regularly cut it.
So last year, the Legislature replaced the program with something called the Homestead Market Value Exclusion, a new approach that lowers the value of a home before tallying the taxes. The exclusion applies to homes valued at less than $413,800.
ABM says the elimination of the old credit made "95 percent of Minnesota homeowners pay higher property taxes." PoliGraph ran that statement by three of the state's leading authorities on property taxes - Steve Hinze with the Minnesota House Research Office, Jeff Van Wychen with Gov. Mark Dayton's office, and Eric Willette at the Minnesota Department of Revenue - and all three agreed in their assessment: ABM's claim only tells part of the story.
It's true that the old credit applied to 95 percent of Minnesota homeowners. But that doesn't take into account the effects of the new exclusion, which was meant to keep property taxes low for many of those same people.
Unfortunately, none of those tax authorities have looked at precisely what percentage of Minnesota homeowners are paying more in property taxes as a result of the credit's elimination, so it's impossible to peg a number to the situation. Hinze, Van Wychen and Willette agreed that it's probably not 95 percent, however.
That said, there are few things we know for certain about how the credit elimination affected property owners.
Because the state is no longer reimbursing localities for offering the credit and because the tax base is effectively lower due to the new exclusion, cities and towns need to make up for the lost revenue one way or another. In some cases, the new plan has "shifted" the tax burden to business and apartment properties.
But how the new program's effects have played out varies from place to place, said Hinze, who ran numerous simulations in 2011 to see how the new homestead exclusion could affect homeowners assuming cities and towns didn't change the amount of property tax revenue they needed.
For instance, in Aitkin County's Hill City, most residential homesteads saw their property taxes decline while commercial properties saw their taxes go up. Across the state in Freeborn County's Glenville City, residential homesteads saw their property taxes go up, as did owners of other types of property.
Indeed, property taxes overall have increased by $365 million since 2011, or about 4.5 percent. Residential homesteads saw a 1.8 percent increase in the last year while agricultural properties saw a 10.4 percent increase.
But it's important to note that those figures take into account all sorts of property taxes, some not under the Legislature's control, and the numbers aren't specific to the elimination of the homestead credit. The figures also include fluctuations in property values, also not a product of Legislative action.
Since 2011, the Department of Revenue estimates that nearly 69 percent of households saw an increase in their combined property taxes.
Two of PoliGraph's criteria could apply to this claim: inconclusive ratings are given to statements that lack enough data to be definitive, while misleading ratings are given to statements that leave out important context or are exaggerated.
It was a tough call, but ultimately we landed on misleading. Here's why:
The Alliance for a Better Minnesota tries to tie rising property taxes to a specific action taken by the Republican-controlled Legislature. Three leading experts say there's no data to support their claim, and that it is unlikely to be 95 percent.
Further, ABM leaves out the important point that property taxes are on the rise for reasons unrelated to Legislative action, not just the elimination of the homestead credit.
The Alliance for a Better Minnesota, "Too Long," Sept. 10, 2012
Minnesota House Research, The Homestead Market Value Exclusion, accessed Sept. 13, 2012
Minnesota House Research, House Simulation Research Report: Property Tax, Aug. 14, 2012
Minnesota Public Radio, Legislators work to restore tax break for frustrated homeowners, by Tim Pugmire, September 14, 2011
Minnesota Public Radio, Local governments look to make up shortfall after elimination of homestead credit, by Tim Pugmire, Sept. 27, 2011
Minnesota Public Radio, Video: Property Tax Increase, by Molly Bloom and Curtis Gilbert, Oct. 25, 2011
Minnesota Public Radio, Cities worry about taxpayer wrath, by Jennifer Vogel, Sept. 15, 2011
Minnesota Public Radio, Property taxes are rising for most, early estimates show, by Dave Peters, Nov. 10, 2011
Minnesota House Research, House Research Simulation Report: Property Tax, Sept. 20, 2011
Interview, Steve Hinze, House Research Analyst, Sept. 10 & 12, 2012
Interview, Jeff Van Wychen, Gov. Mark Dayton's office, Sept. 11, 2012
Interview, Eric Willette, Minnesota Department of Revenue, Sept. 10, 2012(1 Comments)
Even if you were paying only marginal attention to the Democratic National Convention this week, you would have heard at least one mention of President Barack Obama's effort to salvage the ailing auto industry.
Obama's supporters repeatedly pointed to the auto bailout as an example of how his policies created jobs.
The American Future Fund, a conservative political outfit based in Iowa, disagrees. Minnesota is among the states where the group has being stuffing mailboxes with fliers that claim the auto bailout was unsuccessful.
"Where did President Obama's $50 billion GM taxpayer bailout create jobs? In China," the flier states.
This statement is misleading to the point of being false.
The government's assistance to the auto industry actually started under George W. Bush's administration, when he authorized some of the Troubled Asset Relief program cash to be given to GM and Chrysler in the form of loans.
In the spring of 2009, GM headed into bankruptcy. At that point, the federal government invested another $30 billion into the company to become GM's largest shareholder. That was on top of the $19.4 billion that had already been given to GM starting under the Bush administration.
So, it's true that the government has invested about $50 billion into GM. But that money started flowing under the Bush administration. Today, GM has paid back about $23 billion of that, and has recently reported record profits and high demand since it went bankrupt.
GM makes cars on six continents including in the United States and China, according to its website. And it's also true that GM is selling a lot of cars in China because it is a quickly growing market. Just this week, GM announced that sales of its cars there were up by 7.3 percent since August 2011.
The same can be said for the United States, where sales are up 10 percent today compared to a year ago.
But to say that GM used bailout dollars to ship its jobs overseas is incorrect, said Mike Wall, an auto industry analyst with IHS Global Insight.
"It is something that they have been doing for some time, certainly pre-bailout," Wall said. "This has been something that has been going on for a better part of a couple decades or longer."
Wall also points out that GM has been creating jobs in the United States, too, as the company tries to keep up with growing demand at home, invest in new auto technology and prepares to update its fleet next year.
For instance, earlier this year, GM announced that it was opening a facility in Texas slated to employ 180 people. And in 2011, GM opened an idled plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee, Wall pointed out. That investment created over 600 jobs, and is expected to create more than 1,100 jobs in the future, according to GM's website.
Reasonable minds can disagree about whether the auto bailout was a good idea, and whether it's fair that GM's cars are being made and sold in China.
But the American Future Fund's ad gets several things wrong:
First, the auto bailout started under the Bush administration, and some of that $50 billion was already dedicated to the company when Obama took office. Further, GM has long been investing in the Chinese market. But the same is true for the American market.
As a result, this campaign flier leans toward false.
This installment of PoliGraph was done with the help of MPR's new On Message feature. To learn more about how you can send us your campaign fliers, robocalls, and emails, click here.
The U.S. Treasury Department, Daily TARP update, accessed Sept. 7, 2012
Fox News Insider, Timeline of the auto bailout, Aug. 2, 2010
Factcheck.org, Is GM Becoming China Motors?, by Brooks Jackson, June 8, 2012
CNN, GM posts record profit 2 years after bankruptcy, by Chris Isidore, Feb. 16, 2012
General Motors, About Our Company, accessed Sept. 7, 2012
General Motors, GM Will Build $200 Million Stamping Facility in Texas, Jan. 31, 2012
General Motors, GM Sales in China Grow 7.3 Percent, Set August Mark, Sept. 5, 2012
General Motors, GM U.S. Sales Increase 10 percent: Chevrolet passenger car sales up 25 percent, Sept. 4, 2012
Interview, Mike Wall, auto industry analyst, IHS Global Insight, Sept. 6, 2012(2 Comments)
As vice chair of the Democratic National Committee and a top surrogate for President Barack Obama, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak has cut a national profile for himself this election cycle.
Rybak's work landed him a spot during Tuesday night's Democratic National Convention line-up in Charlotte, N.C., where he brought up two talking points Democrats regularly use to highlight Obama's jobs record and the stimulus bill.
Under Obama, "we've had 29 straight months of private sector job growth. He put 400,000 teachers and education workers in our schools," Rybak said.
Rybak has a hit and a miss.
"Twenty-nine straight months of private sector growth"
At the end of 2007, the private sector started shedding jobs, many in the housing and real estate industry. By February 2010 - a year into Obama's administration - private sector jobs hit a low point.
But every month since then, more private sector jobs have been added, according to monthly employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics - about 4.5 million jobs to be exact, many in the businesses services, health care and hospitality industries.
These numbers obscure losses in public sector job growth. And the private sector still needs to add about 4.5 million jobs to return to where it was prior to the recession.
Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the left-leaning Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, said that the stimulus has played a role in expanding private sector job growth, but there are other factors, too.
"There's no single reason," he said. "At a time like this, these things tend to reflect the recovering underlying economy from the damage of the bursting housing bubble and the great recession."
For instance, as people start to consume products and services again, that creates demand, which, in turn, prompts employers to hire more people.
"As these wounds begin to heal, the natural growth in the economy, as the population grows, as people continue to need and want more goods and services, it starts to generate job growth again," Bernstein said.
"400,000 teachers and education workers in our schools"
This part of Rybak's statement has roots in two Obama initiatives: the stimulus bill and the Education Jobs Fund, both efforts that set aside billions to keep a total of 400,000 teachers employed in the face of layoffs stemming from the recession.
But here, PoliGraph found two holes. First, Rybak implies that these are newly created jobs. Rather, the funding was meant to both keep current teachers employed and hire new ones.
Further, Rybak's estimates is on the high side. For instance, according to the Administration's own website, the Education Jobs Fund, which set aside $10 billion to save 100,000 teaching jobs, has created or saved only 67,000.
Rybak is right that there have been 29 straight months of job growth under Obama's administration, though it is important to point out that while the stimulus bill played a role, it's also the natural progression of a recovering economy at play. This claim earns an accurate.
Rybak's second statement that Obama put 400,000 teachers in our schools is harder to pin down. First, Obama's education initiatives were largely meant to keep teachers employed, and hire new ones, so these jobs are not all new jobs. Further, it appears his estimate is on the high end.
Rybak's second claim is somewhat misleading as a result.
Minnesota Public Radio News, Rybak defends Obama's record, by Tom Scheck, Sept. 4, 2012
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Labor Statistics - National, accessed Sept. 5, 2012
Bureau of Labor Statistics,Current Employment Statistics Highlights - July 2012, Aug. 3 2012
Congressional Budget Office, Estimated Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act on Employment and Economic Output from July 2011 Through September 2011, Nov. 2011
Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, Chart Book: The Legacy of the Great Recession, accessed Sept. 5, 2012
The White House, Keeping America's Women Moving Forward, April 2012
The White House, Education Blueprint: And Economy Built To Last, accessed Sept. 5, 2012
Education Jobs Fund.gov, State/Territory Totals, as Reported by Recipients, accessed Sept. 5, 2012
Interview, Jared Bernstein, senior fellow, The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, Sept. 5, 2012
Email exchange, Patrick Rodenbush, spokesman, the Democratic National Committee, Sept. 5, 2012(2 Comments)
During their second debate of the election season, the gloves came off between DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar and her Republican opponent state Rep. Kurt Bills.
The two argued over taxes, Medicare, the debt, the war and veterans issues.
The hour-long debate hosted by Minnesota Public Radio News also gave Klobuchar another opportunity to highlight her history of bipartisanship in the Senate, a broad theme of her re-election campaign.
"The way we do this to get [a budget] through Congress is to have Senators that are known to be able to work in the middle," Klobuchar said. "Two-thirds of my bills are with Republicans."
Klobuchar has her numbers right.
To do this analysis, PoliGraph weeded out resolutions from Klobuchar's record, which don't have the force of law (think a non-controversial, Senate-approved statement to congratulate Brooklyn Center on its 100th anniversary).
We also dismissed miscellaneous tariff bills, which are temporary duty reductions on specific products. Lawmakers regularly ask to have duties lowered for a period of time, and those requests are dumped into one big bill. And we didn't include amendments to legislation, which are sometimes technical or procedural in nature.
According to Klobuchar's voting record, roughly 60 percent of the actual bills she has sponsored over the course of her career have secured Republican support.
For instance, in 2009, Republican Sens. James Inhofe of Oklahoma and Richard Lugar of Indiana joined Klobuchar to pass a bill that would make adoption simpler.
However, it's important to point out few of the bipartisan bills Klobuchar has sponsored have actually been put on the books. And Klobuchar's voting record looks much different than her legislative record.
According to the Washington Post, Klobuchar has voted with her party 94 percent of the time this congressional session, making her one of the more loyal members of the Democratic Party.
What Klobuchar said is true: about two-thirds of the bills she has sponsored have Republican co-authors.
This claim is accurate.
MPR News, Senate candidates Klobuchar, Bills tangle in State Fair debate, by Catharine Richert, Aug. 30, 2012
THOMAS, Search Bill Summary & Status 112th Congress, accessed Aug. 30, 2012
The Washington Post, The U.S. Congress Votes Database: The U.S. Senate, accessed Aug. 31, 2012
E-mail exchange, Ben Garmisa, spokesman, Klobuchar for Senate(3 Comments)
On Tuesday, DFL Rep. Betty McCollum, Republican Tony Hernandez and Independence Party Steve Carlson debated issues facing Minnesota's 4th Congressional District residents.
While McCollum and Hernandez agreed on a few things, an area of discord involved the 2008 bank bailout called the Troubled Asset Relief Program or TARP, which McCollum voted for and Hernandez said he opposed.
The affects of the bailout have been devastating, Hernandez said during the debate, which was sponsored by MPR News.
"The reason why unemployment is so high right now is because we bailed out the banks," Hernandez said during the debate. "The reason why the debt shot up $6 trillion since then is because we bailed out the banks."
Economists and financial experts disagree with Hernandez's characterization.
Hernandez argues that his underlying point is that the bailout was a boon for failing banks, institutions that should have been allowed to disintegrate.
"My statement attributing TARP and the bank bailouts to a stagnant U.S. economy was not intended to be a matter of fact, but rather my own opinion and judgment," Hernandez wrote in an e-mail. "I stand by my assertion that the U.S. economy would have stronger employment figures and a lower national debt today if Congress had let the insolvent financial institutions fail and for normal bankruptcy procedures to take place. "
Indeed, there's a reasonable argument to be made about whether the bailout was effective. Hernandez pointed to three news articles that underscore how the bank bailout and the auto industry bailout were costly and essentially prolonged a process that could have ended quickly if the government had stayed out of the picture.
For instance, in 2011, Bloomberg News reported that the Federal Reserve loaned the banks an additional $7.7 trillion - that was on top of the money banks received from the bailout.
Mark Calabria, Director of Financial Regulation Studies at the conservative Cato Institute, is among those who questions the bailout, but says it's not the primary reason the U.S. is still in a financial slump.
"I think to argue that the bailout itself is the primary reason for job loss is an exaggeration if not outright inaccurate," Calabria said.
Calabria points out that employment peaked in the 4th quarter of 2007, and then declined steadily for a long time before the bank bailout even came into the picture. Those job losses were the product of the housing bubble, Calabria said, and one of the main reasons the job market hasn't bounced back is because the housing market is still struggling.
Michael Franc, vice president of government studies at the conservative Heritage Foundation agrees with Calabria, and says that while the bailout may have indirectly been one of the reasons for some unemployment, it's not the reason.
"One of the conservative arguments against government bailouts in general is that they artificially alter the natural trajectory of a recovery," Franc said. "They artificially prop up and sustain businesses that never would have lasted and would have gone under and would have been reconstructed in some way to allow them subsequently to come back and grow."
General uncertainty about the new health care bill, about whether the Bush-era tax cuts will be extended and about regulation is preventing employers from hiring, Franc said.
Tara Sinclair, a macroeconomist at George Washington University a lack of demand for goods and services has prevented employment from expanding.
"I haven't seen any evidence that the bailouts themselves caused higher unemployment," she wrote in an e-mail.
As for the nation's debt, it's true that it's increased about $6 trillion since 2008. But that debt is the product of many things, according to the Congressional Budget office, including President Barack Obama's stimulus bill, and a massive decline in revenue associated with the recession.
Reasonable minds can argue whether the bank bailout bolstered the economy, as McCollum contends, or whether it slowed the economic recovery, as Hernandez says.
But the economists we spoke with agree that it's disingenuous to say that the bailout is responsible for unemployment and the debt; it's far more complicated than that.
This claim is misleading.
To read Hernandez's entire response to MPR, see the comments section.
MPR News, Fiscal concerns dominate 4th District State Fair debate, by Catharine Richert, Aug. 28, 2012
The Congressional Budget Office, An Update to the Budget and Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2012 to 2022, accessed Aug. 29, 2012
The Congressional Budget Office, Monthly Budget Review, Fiscal Year 2009, Oct. 7, 2009
The Congressional Budget Office, Monthly Budget Review, Fiscal Year 2010, Oct. 7, 2010
Bloomberg News, Secret Fed Loans Gave Banks $13 Billion Undisclosed to Congress, by Bob Ivry, Bradley Keoun and Phil Kuntz, Nov. 27, 2011
Forbes, General Motors Is Headed For Bankruptcy -- Again, by Louis Woodhill, Aug. 15, 2012
E-mail exchange, Tony Hernandez, Republican candidate for Minnesota's 4th Congressional District, Aug. 31, 2012
Interview, Michael Franc, Vice President of Government Studies, the Heritage Foundation, Aug. 29, 2012
Interview, David John, Senior Research Fellow in Retirement Security and Financial Institutions, the Heritage Foundation, Aug. 29, 2012
Interview, Mark Calabria, Director of Financial Regulation Studies, the Cato Institute, Aug. 29, 2012
E-mail exchange, Tara Sinclair, economics professor, George Washington University, Aug. 29, 2012(2 Comments)
Three Minnesota House Republicans say that tentative agreements reached between Gov. Mark Dayton and two state employees unions are flawed.
Among their gripes is that union employees are on track to continue getting a good deal on health insurance.
"Some 50,000 state employees do not pay a dime for the premium on their generous state health insurance policy," wrote Reps. Mike Benson, Keith Downey and Steve Drazkowski in their August 17, 2012 opinion piece in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "State employees who opt for dependent coverage pay roughly $130 a month in total to fully cover their families."
That statement is correct, but deserves some context.
Minnesota's branch of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and Minnesota Association of Professional Employees (MAPE), which collectively represent more than 27,000 of Minnesota's state employees, have reached tentative agreements with the Dayton administration to renew their contract.
At this point, the contract would include a 2 percent across-the-board pay raise.
The contracts would also preserve the current system set up for state employee health insurance: Individuals on the state employee health plan have their entire premium covered by the state, and families pay roughly $130 monthly in premium costs, according to Minnesota Management and Budget.
About 48,000 state employees are eligible for the health care plan.
So, the GOP trio's statement is basically correct.
However, it's important to note that state employees do pay for their co-pays on prescription drugs and doctor's visits, and their deductibles. In fact, the contracts agree to an increase in those out-of-pocket costs.
Benson, Downey and Drazkowski get their facts right in the opinion piece. But it's important to put those facts in context.
This claim leans toward accurate.
The Star Tribune, Unions get a great deal from Gov. Dayton, by Reps. Mike Benson, Keith Downey and Steve Drazkowski, Aug. 17, 2012
Minnesota Public Radio, Parry and his campaign become the focus of committee hearing, by Tom Scheck, Aug. 9, 2012
AFSCME Council 5, Public Employee Pay and Benefits, accessed Aug. 24, 2012
Data, Minnesota Management and Budget, Aug. 20, 2012
Interview, Jennifer Munt, spokeswoman, AFSCME Council 5, Aug. 24, 2012(8 Comments)
Vice President Joe Biden was in Minnesota this week, campaigning for his boss, President Barack Obama.
During a speech in Minneapolis, Biden spent some time talking about vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan's budget plan. There's a lot about the proposal that Biden doesn't like, including how Ryan treats the Medicaid program.
The bill makes "massive cuts in Medicaid, throwing 19 million people off their health care including 1 million seniors. People, many of whom were thrown on to Medicaid because they lost their job through no fault of their own," Biden said.
In one case, Biden's claim is plausible. But how Ryan's plan would affect Medicaid enrollment depends on how states manage changes to the program.
Medicaid covers poor children and adults, the disabled and some elderly people who need long-term care. The federal government and state governments share the cost of the program.
Those over 65 make up a relatively small share of the program's enrollees - about 10 percent - but because their care is long-term and expensive, this group accounts for roughly 20 percent of Medicaid's expenditures annually, according to a 2011 Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services report.
Ryan, who is chairman of the House Budget Committee, has proposed trimming federal Medicaid spending by $800 billion over 10 years and transforming the program into a block grant program. That means states would get fewer federal dollars but have more flexibility in who they cover and what benefits they provide.
Ryan's plan would also repeal Obama's health care law.
If Ryan's plan were put into law, the number of people on Medicaid would depend a lot on how states adjust to the cuts.
Back in May 2011, the Kaiser Family Foundation Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured looked at how Ryan's plan would affect Medicaid in three different ways.
If states spend the same amount on each enrollee over the next 10 years but cut the number of beneficiaries equally across all groups, 19 million people would be booted from the program. An additional 17 million would have to find health care elsewhere if the health care law were also repealed, as Ryan's budget proposes.
Under this scenario, about 40 million people would remain on Medicaid in 2021 - about 36 million fewer people than what's expected if no changes are made to the program.
This scenario also assumes that some seniors would be cut from the program, but the report doesn't say how many. However, because the cuts would be made in equal proportions across all Medicaid groups in this scenario, it's not unreasonable that somewhere in the range of 1 million seniors could lose their benefits.
All those numbers change somewhat if states do more to protect the elderly and disabled from Ryan's cuts or if they scale back how much they spend per every enrollee, but they're all in range of what Biden claimed.
Under one possible scenario laid out by an organization known for its non-partisan health policy analysis, Biden's claim is in the ballpark.
But his estimates come with a lot of uncertainty. If Ryan's proposed Medicaid changes were ever adopted, much would depend on how the states manage those changes, whether they would choose to cut benefits or enrollment equally across all groups, or opt to protect seniors and the disabled over adults and children.
MPR News, Biden rips into Romney in Minneapolis, by Tom Scheck, Aug. 21, 2012
Kaiser Family Foundation, House Republican Budget Plan: State-by-State Impact of Changes in Medicaid Financing, May 2011
Kaiser Health News, FAQ: Ryan's Plan Would Make Key Changes In Medicaid, Too, by Mary Agnes Carey, Aug. 14, 2012
Bloomberg News, Medicaid Cuts Ryan Doesn't Tout Would Cut Aid To Seniors, by Brian Faler, Aug. 15, 2012
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, 2011 Actuarial Report On the Financial Outlook for Medicaid, March 16, 2012
Associated Press, The other Paul Ryan plan: $800 billion in Medicaid cuts, by Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Aug. 15, 2012
Earlier this week, Allen Quist won the Republican primary to challenge DFL Rep. Tim Walz in this year's general election.
In an interview with MPR News, Quist said that tackling the federal deficit would be his top priority as a member of Congress. To underscore just how bad things have become, Quist pointed out that more and more taxpayer dollars are going to pay interest on federal debt.
"This year 20 cents out of every dollar the government is collecting is going for interest. If that trend continues, that's going to 25 cents out of every dollar, in four years 30 cents out of every dollar," Quist said. "We can't do this. We don't have any options. We absolutely have to get our finances under control."
Quist's accounting overstates the problem.
Here's how Quist is coming up with his numbers.
In fiscal year 2011, the federal government brought in about $2.228 trillion according to the Congressional Budget Office. The same year, the federal government paid about $454 billion in interest on all its outstanding debt, according to the Treasury Department.
By that measure, Quist is correct. While the Treasury Department doesn't project the interest it will owe on all its outstanding debt into the future, to support the rest of his claim, Quist assumed a 3.1 percent interest rate in fiscal year 2014 and a 4.5 percent interest rate in fiscal year 2016.
But when economists are talking about interest on the nation's debt, they don't include interest on all of the government's outstanding debt, which includes various trust funds, explained J.D. Foster, an economist with the conservative Heritage Foundation.
"It is interest the federal government pays to itself. It's an accounting exchange," Foster said. "It's as though you had two different accounts and one account lent money to the other and you recorded the interest paid by the account that borrowed the money as part of your total interest expense for the year. It wouldn't make much sense."
"The correct number to look at is interest on the publically held debt," because it's debt that the government has sold to the public, Foster said.
That changes Quist's claim dramatically.
For fiscal year 2011, roughly 10 cents of every tax dollar went to paying interest on publicly held debt. In fiscal year 2014, it would come to about 9 cents of every dollar, and in fiscal year 2016, it would be upwards of 13 cents of every dollar, according to the White House's latest fiscal projections. Those numbers would change if the government decides to let the Bush-era tax cuts expire.
Quist uses legitimate numbers to come up with his claim. And it's true the federal government's debt continues to grow, and requires higher interest payments as a result.
But Quist overstates the problem by using an interest figure that economists tend not to account for because it mixes interest the government owes itself and interest it owes on publicly held debt.
As a result, Quist's claim misleads.
MPR News, The Daily Circuit, Minn. 1st and 8th Congressional District candidates on primary win, Aug. 15, 2012
The Treasury Department, Interest Expense on the Debt Outstanding, accessed Aug. 16, 2012
The Treasury Department, Frequently Asked Questions about the Public Debt, accessed Aug. 16, 2012
The Congressional Budget Office, Budget and Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2011 to 2021, January 26, 2011
The White House Office of Management and Budget, FY 2013 Mid-Session Review, Table S-4, July 27, 2012
The Concord Coalition, Projected Interest Costs on Debt Held By the Public, accessed Aug. 16, 2012
The Heritage Foundation, Interest on the Debt Exceeds Spending for Many Programs, accessed Aug. 16, 2012
Interview, Allen Quist, Aug. 16, 2012
Interview, J.D. Foster, economist, The Heritage Foundation, Aug. 16, 2012
Interview, Josh Gordon, policy director, the Concord Coalition, Aug. 16, 2012
By putting Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan on the Republican presidential ticket, Mitt Romney has made it clear that fiscal policy will be at the center of his campaign.
That means voters will be hearing a lot about Ryan's budget plan that would make dramatic changes to how some programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, are structured and administered.
During an interview with ABC's This Week host George Stephanopoulos, former Minnesota Gov. and Romney surrogate Tim Pawlenty defended Ryan's budget plan. And he pointed out that President Obama's signature health care law makes big cuts to Medicare.
"There's only one candidate in this race who's actually cut Medicare and signed such a thing into law, and that's President Obama: $700 billion cut over the next 10 years," Pawlenty said.
Pawlenty's claim, which had been repeated by many other Republicans in recent days, is misleading.
PoliGraph and other fact-checking organizations have checked similar claims before. Since the health care law was put on the books, Republicans have frequently accused Obama of making a $500 billion cut to Medicare.
But the claim deserves some clarity. The law doesn't cut Medicare benefits.
Rather, the law slows the future growth of the program by reducing payments to Medicare Advantage, a private insurance alternative to the traditional Medicare program, and ties reimbursement to performance. Additionally, the law slows future growth in payments to hospitals and other providers, according to a joint reporting project by the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation's Kaiser Health News.
The savings are used to help pay for other parts of the health law.
Up until recently, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated the law would save about $500 billion over 10 years. But in July, the CBO increased its savings estimate to more than $700 billion over 10 years.
Finally, there's an important twist buried in all the rhetoric: Ryan's budget overturns Obama's health care law, but it preserves the Medicare savings.
Pawlenty's claim is misleading for two reasons: he doesn't make clear that the health care law makes no cuts to benefits, and it suggests that Obama is the only person in the race who wants to slow the program's growth.
In fact, Ryan's budget plan assumes the same Medicare savings as Obama's health care law.
ABC's This Week, Transcript: Tim Pawlenty and David Axelrod, Aug. 12, 2012
The Congressional Budget Office, Letter to House Speaker John Boehner on cost of repealing health care law, July 24, 2012
The Washington Post, Health care law fact check: Medicaid, health spending, and abortion myths and missteps, by N.C. Aizenman and Julie Appleby, Oct. 18, 2010
Minnesota Public Radio News, PoliGraph: Republican ad aimed at Peterson is a stretch, by Catharine Richert, March 30, 2012
AP, Ryan's Medicare plan would be tricky to pull off, by Ricardo Alonso-Zaldiva, Aug. 13, 2012
The Boston Globe, The Romney-Ryan $700B Disagreement, by John McDonough August 12, 2012
Slate, Who's Slashing Medicare?: Obamacare would cut the program by $700 billion--but so would Ryan's budget plan, By David Weigel, Aug. 13, 2012
The Washington Post, Romney's right: Obamacare cuts Medicare by $716 billion. Here's how, by Sarah Kliff, August 14, 2012
E-mail exchange, Sara Imhof, The Concord Coalition, Aug. 13, 2012(4 Comments)
Ads are popping up daily in Minnesota's 8th Congressional District as voters gear up for next week's primary contest between Jeff Anderson, Tarryl Clark and Rick Nolan to unseat Republican Rep. Chip Cravaack.
In the meantime, the three DFLers are getting an assist from an outside spending group aimed at installing Democrats in Congress. Friends of Democracy PAC is spending $700,000 over the next couple of weeks on ads in multiple races throughout the country, including one aimed at Cravaack.
"Your Congressman Chip Cravaack took over $100,000 from financial institutions and voted against holding them accountable," the ad states.
Cravaack did take contributions from the financial industry and did vote with his party on financial regulation bills. But the ad leave out too much context to earn an accurate.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, which is where Friends of Democracy got its numbers, throughout his career Cravaack has raised roughly $95,000 from individuals working in the finance, insurance and real estate sectors and political action committees representing those industries. That's not quite the "over $100,000" the ad says, but it's in the ballpark.
Friends of Democracy also points to several votes Cravaack cast for bills that some said would undermine oversight of the financial industry.
For instance, Cravaack voted for a bill that the Obama administration said would weaken the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Cravaack voted against an amendment to the fiscal year 2011 appropriations bills that would have increased funding for the Securities and Exchange Commission that was cut in the legislation.
But other bills the group points to, including a legislation that would have cut pay to for some White House positions and a bill that would have changed how regulations are promulgated, aren't specific to the financial sector.
This claim deserves further context.
First, PoliGraph is always cautious with claims that imply donations lead to special favors. Just because a person who works in the financial industry gave money to Cravaack's campaign doesn't mean it came with strings attached.
That point is driven home by the fact that the votes cited by Friends of Democracy all fell largely along party lines. In other words, Cravaack voted with his party every time and was never the deciding vote one way or another.
Finally, it's important to note that Cravaack's contributions from political action committees and people who work in the finance, insurance and real estate sector pale in comparison to other members of the U.S. House. Top members, including House Speaker John Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor , Democrat Charlie Rangel, who represents parts of New York City, and Barney Frank, the top Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, have received millions from the finance sector over their congressional careers.
This claim has some truth to it: Cravaack has received roughly $100,000 from the finance, real estate and insurance sector since the start of his congressional career, and he did vote for legislation that some say would undermine the government's ability to oversee the industries.
But other votes cited by Friends of Democracy aren't specific to the financial sector. And there's no evidence to suggest that Cravaack's votes are tied to the donations as the ad implies. That's especially true when those contributions are compared to other House Democrats and Republicans who have received far more than Cravaack ever has.
Most voters realize campaign ads, especially those from outside groups, should be taken with large grains of salt. They will always try to make the candidate they're attacking look as bad as possible. PoliGraph is here in part to provide context to this ad, which earns a misleading rating.
Friends of Democracy, "Get in the Game," Aug. 9, 2012
The New York Times, Amendments to HR 1, accessed Aug. 9, 2012
Roll Call Vote 88, Frank Amendment to HR 1, Feb. 17, 2011
Roll Call Vote 198, final passage of HAMP Termination Act 2011, March 29, 2011
The Treasury Department, Statement of Administration Policy on the HAMP Termination Act, March 15, 2011
Roll Call Vote 621, HR 1315 Consumer Financial Protection Safety and Soundness Improvement Act of 2011, July 21, 2011
The White House, Statement of Administration Policy on HR 1315, July 20, 2011
House GOP Legislative Digest, HR 3010, accessed Aug. 9, 2010
Roll Call Vote 888, HR 3010 passage of the Regulatory Accountability Act, Dec. 2, 2011
The White House, Statement of Administration Policy, H.R. 3010 - Regulatory Accountability Act of 2011, Nov. 29, 2011
OpenSecrets.org, contributions from the finance, insurance and real estate sectors to members of the U.S. House of Representatives, accessed Aug. 9, 2012
E-mail exchange, Molly Haigh, spokeswoman, Friends of Democracy, Aug. 9, 2012
E-mail exchange, Ben Golnik, spokesman, Cravaack campaign, Aug. 10, 2012(1 Comments)
Posted at 2:20 PM on August 8, 2012
by Catharine Richert
Filed under: PoliGraph
With the primary election looming next week, the three DFL candidates vying to challenge 8th Congressional District Rep. Chip Cravaack debated earlier this week in Brainerd.
Social Security and Medicare came up frequently in the debate, both programs that the three DFL candidates have repeatedly accused Cravaack of wanting to end or change dramatically.
Rick Nolan, who has the DFL endorsement in the race, said that modifications to Social Security and Medicare are necessary, but both programs are too important to dismantle.
"Neither [Social Security or Medicare] have contributed one thin dime, not one penny to the national deficit. On the contrary, Social Security is financing a couple trillion dollars of the federal deficit as we speak," Nolan said.
Nolan's claim enters some complicated budgeting territory.
Up until fiscal year 2010, Social Security payroll tax revenues exceeded benefit payments, creating a cash surplus. But for the last two fiscal years, the program has run billion-dollar shortfalls, and additional deficits are projected into the future.
That doesn't mean beneficiaries are getting smaller checks. Nolan, like other Democrats, argues that though Social Security is currently experiencing annual deficits, the shortfall is effectively offset by interest on bonds it holds from its past surpluses.
But the situation isn't going to last long because Social Security is expected to pay out more than it takes in for the foreseeable future, said David John, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based think-tank that tends to support conservative issues. And that means there won't be surpluses to collect interest on.
According to the most recent Social Security Trust Fund report, interest earnings won't cover those shortfalls any longer by 2020, and the Social Security Trust Fund will be exhausted by 2033.
Eugene Steurele, a fellow with the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C., and an expert in Social Security and Medicare, also pointed out that those interest payments also contribute the nation's deficit.
Josh Gordon, policy director at the Concord Coalition said that just because the program is effectively living on interest, the most recent revenue shortfalls are cause for immediate concern.
"The problem is now because it makes no sense to wait until the first year where benefits have to be cut by 25 percent just to have it back in the balance," he said.
So, in the strictest sense, Nolan is correct that Social Security isn't adding to the deficit yet. But he's wrong about Medicare.
Like Social Security, Medicare Part A, which covers hospital care, is set up as a trust fund. But it's currently running a deficit even when interest costs are included, Steurele said.
Further, other parts of Medicare, including doctor's insurance, have always been supported in part by general fund dollars. For instance, the government pays in more than $200 billion per year for doctor's insurance coverage.
Economists largely agree that Medicare and Medicaid are major contributors to the nation's deficit. For instance, in 2009, the Brookings Institution wrote that Medicare and Medicaid are "perhaps the single most important cause of the growing imbalance between projected revenue and expenditures."
Nolan's campaign chairman, Jim Swiderski, said that Nolan believes that changes must be made to both programs to ensure their sustainability, but that neither should be eliminated.
"Rick believes that various modifications to these programs, such as lifting the cap on fund contributions, and allowing negotiated discounts for prescription drugs, can allow both programs to generate positive cash surpluses into the future," Swiderski wrote in an e-mail.
Because Social Security is making up for its annual deficits through interest, it isn't technically a drain on the deficit.
But though that may not be the case now, three economists from across the political spectrum who follow the program closely say that part of Nolan's claim is misleading at best because it implies that Social Security isn't in any financial trouble. In fact, the program's situation is untenable.
And all three agree that Medicare is contributing to the nation's deficit, contrary to Nolan's claim.
As a result, this claim leans toward false.
The Uptake, Democrats Debate to Face Congressman Cravaack in MN CD 8, Aug. 6, 2012
The Social Security Administration, A Summary of the 2012 Annual Reports, accessed Aug. 8, 2012
The Urban Institute, Social Security and the Budget, by Eugene Steuerle and Stephanie Rennane, May 2010
The Urban Institute, The Government We Deserve, by Gene Steuerle, March 24, 2011
FactCheck.org, Democrats Deny Social Security's Red Ink: Some claim it doesn't contribute to the federal deficit, but it does, by Brooks Jackson, February 25, 2011
PolitiFact.com, Obama says Medicare and Medicaid are largest deficit drivers. Yes, over the long term, by Angie Drobnic Holan, June 25th, 2009
Medicare Basics, accessed Aug. 8, 2012
Interview, Josh Gordon, the Concord Coalition, Aug. 7, 2012
Interview, David John, Aug. 7, 2012
Interview, Eugene Steuerle, The Urban Institute, Aug. 8, 2012
Since last month, Duluth-area residents have been struggling to bounce back from floods that ravaged homes, businesses and state parks essential to the region's tourism industry.
Tarryl Clark, who is running in the DFL primary next month to challenge Republican Rep. Chip Cravaack, used the flooding to underscore her belief that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) needs more funding - and that her potential opponent hasn't done much to help.
"While Congressman Cravaack has said he will help Duluth seek federal assistance since the flood, he repeatedly voted to cut funding for exactly the type of disaster relief that Duluth residents and business owners need so desperately," Clark said in a press statement.
Clark went on to say that it "shouldn't have taken a historic flood or an election to convince Congressman Cravaack that FEMA and disaster relief are worth funding."
Clark's claim has some truth to it, but also leaves out important details.
Since the flooding, FEMA has been in the Minnesota news. Most recently, the agency said area residents would not get federal assistance to help rebuild their homes. Gov. Mark Dayton plans to appeal the decision, and Cravaack supports the appeal.
Clark says that Cravaack has voted against flood aid, particularly for homeowners. She points to three times Cravaack opposed such efforts.
But she's not telling the whole story about Cravaack's voting record on flood and disaster relief.
For instance, Clark points to a bill that extended the national flood insurance program. While the U.S. House considered the bill, Democrats proposed sending it back to committee to add new language that would allow homeowners to tap flood repair grants and protect homeowners who had previous flood damage from insurance premium increases.
Cravaack voted against that motion. In fact, such motions typically fall along party lines, as did this one. Ultimately, Cravaack voted for the entire bill as did many of his Republican and Democratic colleagues.
Clark points out that Cravaack voted against a similar Democratic motion during debate of a separate bill to add more funding for the Corps of Engineers Flood Control and Coast Emergencies. Again, Cravaack and his Republican colleagues opposed sending the bill back to committee. But Cravaack ultimately voted for the bill, which increased funding for the program.
Cravaack has also voted to protect other flood-related disaster assistance.
For instance, during debate of the Fiscal Year 2013 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Funding Bill, Cravaack voted against amendments to cut funding for the Community Development Block Grant Program, money that has been used to help cities, counties and states recover from flooding, among other disasters.
Clark's claim is not unfounded: on some occasions, Cravaack has voted against flood aid.
But Clark leaves out some important details. Though in two cases Cravaack voted against motions having to do with flood aid, Cravaack ultimately voted in favor of both pieces of the legislation, which extended or expanded flood-related programs.
And she also leaves out the important fact that Cravaack has voted against other efforts to cut disaster aid that is used to help with flood recovery. Because of that lack of key information, this claim is judged misleading.
Tarryl Clark, Clark Applauds Flood Response of Local Officials, Highlights Importance of FEMA Funding for recovery, jobs, July 19, 2012
Minnesota Public Radio, Dayton calls aid denial 'cruel and wrong', by Tom Scheck, July 26, 2012
Letter from FEMA, July 15, 2012
Roll Call Vote 561, Motion to Recommit, HR 1309, July 12, 2011
THOMAS, Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill, FY 2013, accessed July 27, 2012
Roll Call Vote, 341, Motion to Recommit, HR 5325, June 6, 2012
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Assistance, accessed July 27, 2012
H.R. 5972, Fiscal Year 2013 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Funding Bill, roll call vote Roll Call #433
H.R. 5972, Fiscal Year 2013 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Funding Bill, Roll Call #430
H.R. 5972, Fiscal Year 2013 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Funding Bill, Roll Call #434
Joe Fox, spokesman, Tarryl Clark, July 26, 2012
E-mail exchange, Michael Bars, spokesman, Rep. Chip Cravaack, July 26, 2012(1 Comments)
If you're on Rep. Kurt Bills' mailing list, you've probably received a few e-mails that say U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the Democrat Bills is looking to unseat this fall, collects a lot of money from special interests.
"Amy Klobuchar and the Democrats think that people like you are a 'special interest,'" said one recent fundraising plea. "That's rich, coming from someone who is in the top 5% of special interest donations in Washington DC!"
This election cycle, Klobuchar has been raising a sizeable amount of campaign money from political action committees and lobbyists. But whether she's in the top 5 percent depends a lot on who she's compared to.
Bills campaign manager Mike Osskopp said the talking point came from another Twin Cities-area journalist, but couldn't provide more information to back up the claim or say who Klobuchar was compared to. Osskopp said only that Klobuchar raises a good deal of money from "lawyers, lobbyists and Wall Street firms."
OpenSecrets.org, a website that tracks money in politics, ranks lawmakers on how much they make from political action committees (PACs), lobbyists, and lawyers, among other interests.
When compared to other sitting Senators, Klobuchar is not in the top 5 percent when it comes to money from PACs, lawyers or lobbyists this election cycle. (OpenSecrets doesn't single out "Wall Street firms" in their data, but even when it comes to cash from the finance, insurance and real estate industries, Klobuchar isn't at the top of the list, either.)
That's not to say that Klobuchar isn't among the top fundraisers in the Senate. For instance, she's collected $154,175 so far this election cycle from lobbyists, putting her in the top 15 percent of Senators.
That's because Klobuchar is running for office this year, so she's automatically raising more than her peers. For instance, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid ranked first among Senators collecting money from lobbyists during the 2010 election cycle because he was running for office, while Klobuchar was ranked 40th. Now, Reid ranks 31st as he sits this election cycle out.
And when compared only to incumbent Senators running for office this year, Klobuchar sinks to the bottom of the list of lobbyist contributions.
Things change when Klobuchar is compared to money made from PACs, lobbyists and lawyers by all sitting Senators and members of the U.S. House of Representatives. In that case, she is in the top 5 percent.
But most House members, who run for re-election every two years, raise less cash because they represent smaller districts that typically require less advertising and less travel. As a result, it's an unfair apples-to-oranges comparison.
When she's compared to all Senate and House members, it's true that Klobuchar is in the top 5 percent of lawmakers collecting donations from a range of special interests.
But Bills' claim comes with too many caveats. First, his campaign couldn't provide specific sources for its statement. Further, it's unfair to compare Klobuchar's Senate fundraising to that of candidates for the U.S. House; congressional races focus on a smaller area and typically require less advertising than statewide races, so House members don't have to raise nearly as much money as Senators running for re-election.
And though Klobuchar is among the top fundraisers in the Senate this election cycle, it's because she's running for office. If she wins again, expect her fundraising to dwindle significantly for a few years.
As a result, this PoliGraph test leans toward false.
Kurt Bills fundraising letter, "Defeat Special Interests," June 30, 2012
OpenSecrets.org, Top PAC Recipients, All Senators, 2012 cycle, accessed July 23, 2012
OpenSecrets.org, Top PAC Recipients, All U.S. House Members, 2012 cycle, accessed July 23, 2012
OpenSecrets.org, Lobbyists: Money to Congress, All Senators, 2012 cycle, accessed July 23, 2012
OpenSecrets.org, Lobbyists: Money to Congress, All U.S. House Members, 2012 cycle, accessed July 23, 2012
OpenSecrets.org, Lawyers/Law Firms: Top Recipients, All Senators, accessed July 23, 2012
OpenSecrets.org, Lawyers/Law Firms: Top Recipients, All U.S. House Members, accessed July 23, 2012
E-mail exchange, Mike Osskopp, campaign manager, Kurt Bills for Senate, July 10, 2012
Interview, Sarah Bryner, lobbying researchers, OpenSecrets.org, July 11, 2012
On Election Day, Minnesotans will decide whether to change the state's constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman.
Minnesota for Marriage is the leading organization in the state rallying support for the amendment. Regularly, it posts brief videos on its website that highlight aspects of the marriage amendment debate.
The most recent video looked at how legalizing same-sex marriage could affect Minnesota's children. In the video, host Kalley Yanta said:
"When same sex marriage was imposed by the courts in Massachusetts, for example, second-graders were taught in public schools that boys could marry other boys."
Some Massachusetts schools are teaching same-sex marriage as part of their diversity curriculum, but there's little evidence that the practice is widespread. And the defeat of the Minnesota constitutional amendment would not in and of itself legalize same-sex marriage in the state.
Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage in 2004. And while the law didn't change rules about what should be taught in schools, Massachusetts schools have been the subject of multiple ads, including this spot that aired in California when voters there were deciding in 2008 whether to legalize same-sex marriage.
It is possible similar ads will be broadcast on Minnesota's airwaves this fall.
To support Minnesota for Marriage's statement, spokesman Chuck Darrell pointed to a 2006 federal lawsuit brought by two couples against employees of the Lexington, Mass., school district. The parents contended teachers provided or read books to their children that featured same-sex couples, and that such teachings went against their religion.
The suit was dismissed because parents don't have a constitutional right to dictate what is taught in a public school, said the judge's decision. The plaintiffs appealed the decision in the U.S. Appeals Court of Massachusetts, but lost.
Teaching same-sex marriage is allowed in Massachusetts schools.
Since 1993, Massachusetts law has required the Board of Education and the Commissioner of Education to develop curriculum standards meant to foster respect for gender, cultural, and racial diversity.
As a result, the state's education department has developed curriculum framework that, in part, encourages schools to teach students through fifth grade about different types of families and the concepts of prejudice and discrimination. And 5th grade students, for instance, should be able to define sexual orientation using the proper terminology, according to the framework.
But education department spokesman Jonathan Considine stresses that the state does not dictate specific lessons or books taught in Massachusetts' schools, nor is there a statewide mandate that schools teach about either same-sex or opposite-sex marriage.
Rather, curriculum decisions are made by the districts and the individual schools, and some schools have incorporated same-sex marriage into their lessons, Considine said.
The Lexington Public School District is an example. District superintendent Paul Ash said that prior to the 2006 lawsuit, books that featured same-sex couples were read in school because the district was committed to creating an inclusive environment for all children.
"It wasn't just about gays," Ash said. "It was ethnic diversity, racial diversity. The core value of this district is that we want our curriculum to reflect the way our community looks."
Today, the district has an entire curriculum around diversity that includes talking about same-sex marriage. But Ash said Lexington, a liberal town in a relatively liberal state, is in the minority. He points out that no other legal complaints have been filed since 2006.
"It's a non-issue," Ash said.
Kris Mineau, the president Massachusetts Family Institute, a group that opposes same-sex marriage, says that same-sex marriage is being taught widely in Massachusetts' public schools.
"All the school libraries have materials promoting same-sex marriage and homosexuality, and all the teachers are given full latitude based on their personal orientations to discuss it with their students," Mineau said.
Mineau couldn't say exactly how many schools are teaching same-sex marriage, but sent a list of 14 examples. However, the list doesn't demonstrate a regular, formal same-sex marriage curriculum; four examples refer to the 2006 court case and four are based on anecdotal evidence.
Finally, there's a fundamental difference between same-sex marriage in Massachusetts and the amendment Minnesota voters are considering: if the Minnesota marriage amendment is defeated, same-sex marriage will still be illegal in the state. And approving or defeating the amendment has no bearing on what's taught in Minnesota schools.
It's true that some Massachusetts schools are teaching kids about same-sex marriage in lessons about diversity. The Lexington School District is among them, though it did not start those lessons because the decision to legalize same-sex marriage required it as Minnesota for Marriage's statement implies.
But there's no evidence that same-sex marriage is taught throughout Massachusetts, and the state doesn't require such curriculum.
Further, though Minnesota for Marriage points out that same-sex marriage could be taught in schools if the practice is legalized, that's not what Minnesota is debating right now. Voters are choosing to define marriage in the state's constitution. If the amendment is defeated, the state's ban on same-sex marriage - or what's taught in schools - will not automatically change.
Minnesota for Marriage's claim is misleading.
Minnesota for Marriage, Marriage Minute: "What kind of issues would children face if marriage is redefined?" July 17th, 2012
Baptist Press, Massachusetts 2nd-grade teacher reads class 'gay marriage' book; administrator backs her, by Michael Frost, April 20, 2006
MassResistance, Children's book portraying homosexual romance and marriage -- read to second-grade class by teacher, accessed July 20, 2012
MassResistance, PARENTS OUTRAGED: Second-grade teacher (in David Parker's school!) reads "modern fairy tale" to class on homosexual romance and marriage!, accessed July 20, 2012
David Parker et al. vs. William Hurley et al., Memorandum and Order, , February 23, 2007
List of same-sex marriage teaching examples in Massachusetts provided by the Massachusetts Family Institute, July 19, 2012
Chuck Darrell, spokesman, Minnesota for Marriage, July 19, 2012
Kris Mineau, president Massachusetts Family Institute, July 19, 2012
Laura Barrett, spokeswoman, Massachusetts Teachers Association, July 19, 2012
Dr. Paul Ash, superintendent, Lexington Public Schools, July 20, 2012
Jonathan Considine, spokesman, Massachusetts Department of Education, July 19, 2012(3 Comments)
The U.S. Senate once again fell short of the required 60 votes to advance a bill this week that would require groups getting involved in politics to say more about where they're getting their money.
Minnesota Democratic Sen. Al Franken is a leading proponent of the DISCLOSE Act, and gave a lengthy speech about the legislation on the Senate floor Monday.
To make his case for why greater transparency is so important, Franken pointed out what he says is a disturbing trend in political spending.
"In the 2010 election, these outside groups spent more than $280 million on campaign ads, which was more than double what they spent in 2008, more than five times what they spent in 2006, and even more shockingly, there are estimates that outside groups will spend more than $1 billion on independent expenditures this election cycle," Franken said during his July 16, 2012 speech.
Franken uses solid data to make his point.
The DISCLOSE Act would require any non-candidate organization that spends $10,000 or more during an election cycle to file a report immediately with the Federal Election Commission identifying donors who gave more than $10,000.
In the wake of several landmark court cases that lead to the proliferation of super PACs, supporters of the bill say such legislation is needed now more than ever. And they say that corporations and wealthy individuals are increasingly putting their money into tax-exempt organizations that can spend on political advertising without having to say who is funding the effort.
It's true that in 2010 outside spending groups spent roughly $286 million on advertising, according to OpenSecrets.org, a website that tracks political spending.
It's not clear whether Franken is correct when he says spending by outside groups doubled between 2008 and 2010. OpenSecrets.org says the spending was about the same in both cycles. But another group, the Campaign Finance Institute, reports that spending did double between cycles, with outside groups spending roughly $119 million in 2008.
Franken's back on track with the third part of his claim. In 2006, outside groups spent about $52 million on ads - or about 5 times less than in 2010.
As for the last part of Franken's claim, it's speculation, but not unfounded. In May, Politico reported that outside groups are prepared to spend a combined $1 billion or more on the presidential and congressional races this year.
Franken gets this one largely correct. Though one reputable source says that outside campaign spending in 2008 was nearly the same as spending in 2010, he's still on point: outside groups are putting more money into elections than ever before.
Franken earns an accurate.
C-SPAN, floor debate over the DISCLOSE Act, June 16, 2012
THOMAS, The DISCLOSE Act, accessed June 17, 2012
OpenSecrets.org, Total Outside Spending by Election Cycle, Excluding Party Committees, accessed June 17, 2012
The Campaign Finance Institute, Non-Party Spending Doubled in 2010 But Did Not Dictate the Results, Nov. 5, 2010
The Campaign Finance Institute, Reportable Spending by Party and Non‐Party Groups in Congressional Elections, 2006‐2010, accessed July 17, 2012
Demos, 10 Ways Citizens United Endangers Democracy, Jan. 19, 2012
PBS News Hour, How Do You Spend $1 Billion in a White House Race Anyway?, May 30, 2012
Politico, GOP groups plan record $1 billion blitz, by Mike Allen and Jim Vandehei, May 30, 2012(1 Comments)
Just weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that President Barack Obama's health care law is constitutional, the U.S. House voted this week for the 33rd time to repeal or change it.
Rep. Michele Bachmann, one of the law's most outspoken critics, took to the chamber floor July 10 to say why she thinks the law is a bad idea.
"The president told us that we would be saving $2,500 a year per household if we passed his health care bill," Bachmann said. "But the sad reality is that Americans' health insurance premiums have increased by almost that amount, which means the president was off by a stunning $5,000 per household."
"Americans are pulling their pockets inside out saying, 'Mr. President! I don't have the money to pay $5,000 more per year on my health insurance policy,'" Bachmann went on.
Bachmann's correct that Obama pledged to reduce premiums by $2,500. But the bulk of her claim is misleading.
When President Barack Obama was on the campaign trail in 2008 and subsequently trying to sell the health care overhaul in 2009, he said his plan would save households up to $2,500 on their premiums annually. It's a claim that independent fact-checking organization FactCheck.org has questioned repeatedly. And PolitiFact.com has rated Obama's promise to lower health insurance premiums by $2,500 as 'Stalled'.
To support the second part of Bachmann's claim, her staff points to a recent report compiled by the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation. According to that report, premiums for private family coverage increased by an average of $1,700 between 2009 and 2011, the first two years of Obama's presidency.
That's not the nearly $2,500 increase Bachmann mentioned in her speech because she was including 2008 as part of Obama's presidency, according to her spokesman. Obama wasn't sworn into office until 2009, so Bachmann's claim that premiums have increased by nearly $2,500 is inflated.
Further, Bachmann makes it seem as if families are paying the entire amount of that premium increase, but it is employers that cover the bulk of the cost. According to the same report, the increased cost to patients between 2010 and 2011 was only $130, and employers covered the rest.
Bachmann's underlying point that the new health care law is responsible for higher premiums is unfair, say health policy experts.
In fact, health care premiums have been on the rise for years. According to the Kaiser report, family coverage premiums have increased by more than $9,000 since 1999, so the trend isn't unique to Obama's presidency.
Michael Sparer, chair of the department of health policy and management at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health says care is becoming more expensive, which drives up premiums.
"The underlying cost drivers (price and volume, especially of high tech services) continue to be the key," Sparer wrote in an e-mail.
Jonathan Oberlander, who teaches health policy and management at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, said there's evidence that the rate of health spending is actually slowing down. Premiums are still growing, but at a slower pace, Oberlander said.
And while some insurers may raise rates in anticipation of more regulation ahead, Sparer wrote, the bulk of the health care law won't kick in until 2014, so it's too soon to say whether it will have a dramatic impact on premiums one way or another.
Oberlander and Bradley Herring, an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, agreed.
"It's too early for the ACA to have any effect on health care spending," Herring said.
Bachmann's correct that Obama frequently promised to lower premiums by $2,500, a claim that other fact-checkers have questioned in the past. And she relies on a reputable report to underscore that premiums have been on the rise.
But she inflates the premium increase during Obama's time in office by several hundred dollars, and fails to point out that much of those additional costs will be borne by the employer, not employees.
Further, she implies that premiums are increasing because of the new health care law. But it is high-tech, increasingly complex medical procedures that are making care more expensive.
Bachmann's claim is misleading at best.
YouTube, Bachmann: Obamacare is Full of Broken Promises, July 10, 2012
The New York Times, Health Plan From Obama Spurs Debate, by Kevin Sack, July 23, 2008
The Irregular Times, Text and Audio of Barack Obama Speech in Columbus, Ohio, Feb. 27, 2008
PolitiFact.com, RNC ad blames Obama for $1,300 spike in family health care premiums, by Louis Jacobson, March 19th, 2012
The Kaiser Family Foundation, Employer Health Benefits: 2011, Annual Survey, Sept. 2011
Interview, Bradley Herring, associate professor, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, July 11, 2012
E-mail exchange, Michael Sparer, Department Chair, Health Policy & Management Professor and Department Chair of Health Policy and Management, Columbia University, Mailman School of Public Health, July 11, 2012
E-mail exchange, Dan Kotman, spokesman, Rep. Michele Bachmann, July 11, 2012
E-mail exchange, Jonathan Oberlander, professor of health policy and management, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, July 12, 2012(2 Comments)
Call it the Battle of the Surrogates.
Last week, as President Barack Obama toured Ohio and Pennsylvania to talk up his efforts to revitalize the U.S. economy, he was shadowed former Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana who criticized the president's record on behalf of GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.
Obama surrogate Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak was on hand to defend the president. In a conference call with reporters, Rybak said getting the auto industry back on its feet is one of Obama's major accomplishments.
"The auto industry is also one that the president stepped up to save - we made a million more cars in America this year - and that's the auto industry that Mitt Romney would have collapsed and outsourced to China," Rybak said.
Rybak's claim starts out on solid ground, but ultimately falls apart.
Rybak makes it sound as if Obama is entirely responsible for the auto industry's turnaround, but it was former President George W. Bush who started the process in the last days of his administration.
In December 2008, Bush announced billions in loans for GM and Chrysler from the Wall Street bailout, with more money coming the following year. The assistance came with significant conditions, including the requirement that the firms come up with a long-term profitability plan.
After Obama took office, he ultimately rejected the auto firms' viability proposals, and announced bankruptcy plans for both companies that would allow them to overhaul operations and get more aid in the long run.
Since then, the auto industry in Detroit is doing decidedly better. Sales among the Detroit automakers are up as of this year. And in 2011, GM reported record profit just two years after it emerged from bankruptcy.
Still, "saved" is probably a strong word. Both GM and Chrysler still owe the government a combined $37.24 billion, according to a daily update published by the Treasury Department.
Rybak also said that the U.S. is on track to make one million more cars this year than it did in 2011, and Alec Gutierrez, an analyst for Kelley Blue Book, says that number is in range.
Roughly 14.2 million vehicles are expected to be sold this year in the U.S., about 1.5 million more than what was sold in 2011. Of the cars sold in the U.S. annually, roughly 80-85 percent of them are made locally, Gutierrez said, though he pointed out that those cars aren't made only in Michigan, which largely benefited from the auto bailout. Other parts of the Midwest and the Southeast also have robust car manufacturing markets.
Rybak is on far shakier ground on his last point, because he implies Romney wants to ship the U.S. auto industry to China.
It's true that Romney opposed the auto bailout because he believed it would allow the car companies to continue unsustainable financial practices without consequence.
"Without that bailout, Detroit will need to drastically restructure itself," Romney wrote in a 2008 New York Times op-ed. "With it, the automakers will stay the course -- the suicidal course of declining market shares, insurmountable labor and retiree burdens, technology atrophy, product inferiority and never-ending job losses."
And it's also true that a recent Washington Post article found that Romney's company, Bain Capital, invested in firms that sent jobs to China and other places, a talking point that's popular among Romney's opponents.
But Romney has never said he thought the Detroit car companies should relocate to China, as Rybak's claim implies.
A spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, which organized the Rybak call with reporters, wrote that "the relevant point is that Romney claims to be tough on China, but he has repeatedly criticized the President's efforts to protect American workers, including American tire companies."
Rybak is basically correct on his first two points.
Obama's administration played an instrumental role in boosting GM and Chrysler, and his estimate that one million more cars will be made in the U.S. this year is in range.
However, Rybak's last point is misleading to the point of being false.
DNC call with reporters featuring Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, July 5, 2012
Politico, Bush announces $17.4 billion auto bailout, by David Rogers and Mike Allen, Dec. 19, 2008
The White House, Fact Sheet: Financing Assistance to Facilitate the Restructuring of Auto Manufacturers to Attain Financial Viability, accessed July 10, 2012
The New York Times, Automakers Seek $14 Billion More, Vowing Deep Cuts, by Bill Vlasic and Nick Bunkley, Feb. 17, 2009
The Associated Press, Detroit automakers race to keep up with sales, Feb. 28, 2012
CNN, GM posts record profit 2 years after bankruptcy, by Chris Isidore, Feb. 16, 2012
The Treasury Department, Daily TARP Update for 07/10/2012
The Auto Alliance, What's Ahead for Auto Industry Sales?, accessed July 11, 2012
Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Table 1-15: Annual U.S. Motor Vehicle Production and Factory (Wholesale) Sales, accessed July 11, 2012
The New York Times, Let Detroit Go Bankrupt, By Mitt Romney, Nov. 18, 2008
The Washington Post, Romney's Bain Capital invested in companies that moved jobs overseas, by Tom Hamburger, June 21, 2012
Interview, Jim Dorsey, HIS Global Insight, July 11, 2012
Interview, Alec Gutierrez, Kelley Blue Book, July 11, 2012
E-mail exchange, Patrick Rodenbush, the Democratic National Commmittee, July 11, 2012(1 Comments)
Though it's still unclear who 8th Congressional District Rep. Chip Cravaack's Democratic challenger will be this fall, Republicans in Minnesota and in Washington have started throwing barbs at all three of the GOP incumbent's possible opponents, Tarryl Clark included.
Here's what the Republican Party of Minnesota said in a recent press release, accusations that have been trumpeted by the National Republican Congressional Committee as well.
"Tarryl supported raising taxes every year she served in the Minnesota State Senate. She also cast the deciding vote to give Minnesota the fifth highest income tax bracket in the country."
The Minnesota GOP has this claim correct.
Clark served in the Minnesota Senate starting in December 2005 after winning a special election, and served through the 2009-2010 legislative session.
During Clark's tenure, the Senate voted multiple times on tax increases. While the state Republican Party doesn't make clear which tax increases it is referring to, it is true that Clark voted in favor of at least one significant tax increase every year she was in office ranging from gas tax increases to a sales tax hike to pay for the Twins stadium. Many of her fellow Democrats did, too.
The second part of the GOP's claim refers to a 2010 DFL effort to close the budget gap by increasing taxes on the wealthiest Minnesotans.
The legislation would have increased the state's tax rate from 7.85 percent to 9.1 percent for individuals making more than $113,110 and couples making more than $200,000 in taxable income.
At the time, the change would have made "Minnesota's top income tax bracket higher than all but five states for single filers and six states for married joint filers," the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported after the bill was passed by the Senate.
The legislation nearly didn't pass the Senate. After the vote stalled at 33-33 for 14 minutes, Clark showed up and cast the deciding vote in favor of the bill, according to numerous news reports.
At the time, Clark was running against Rep. Michele Bachmann in Minnesota's 6th Congressional District. Clark said she was tardy because she was dealing with a family health problem.
Clark campaign manager Joe Fox said that Clark cast that vote to help middle class families.
"In the 2010 vote the Republican Party references, Tarryl opted to ask the wealthiest of Minnesotans to pay a little more to ease the burden on middle class property owners," Fox said.
The Republican Party of Minnesota gets this claim right on both counts: Clark voted for a tax increase each year she was in the state Legislature, and she was the deciding vote on an income tax increase in 2010.
The PoliGraph says this claim is accurate.
Minnesota Public Radio News, Votetracker, HF2480, Twins Stadium bill, May 21, 2006
State Senate records, May 14, 2007, roll call on gas tax increase, p. 4141
Minnesota Public Radio News, Votetracker, HF2088, Transportation bill, Feb. 21, 2008
State Senate records, April 24, 2009, roll call on income tax increase, p. 2754
The Pioneer Press, From Legislature: Tax hikes, budget cuts; From Pawlenty: A likely veto, By Jason Hoppin and Bill Salisbury Pioneer Press, May 10, 2010 (subscription only)
Minnesota Public Radio, Bachmann campaign hits Clark on tax vote, by Tom Scheck, May 12, 2010(2 Comments)
Posted at 2:00 PM on June 15, 2012
by Catharine Richert
Filed under: PoliGraph
When DFL Party Chair Ken Martin and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak got together this week for a conference call with reporters, they stressed several points the Obama campaign has been using to attack Republican candidate Mitt Romney on his jobs record as governor of Massachusetts.
Among them was this one:
"Massachusetts dropped from 36th all the way down to 47th in job creation when he was governor," said Martin.
Martin's numbers are right, but the claim deserves some context.
Romney has made his job creation record while governor of Massachusetts a cornerstone of his campaign.
But the Obama camp, including Martin, maintains Romney wasn't as successful as he says.
Massachusetts was ranked 35th in job growth between 1998 and 2002, the four years before Romney took office, and dropped to 47th while Romney was governor, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data compiled by the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation.
In the four years after Romney left office, Massachusetts ranked 11th.
So, Martin's numbers are right on. But is it fair to blame Romney for these declines?
Not exactly, say economists in Massachusetts who also followed Romney's career.
First, the 2001-2002 recession was especially hard on Massachusetts, says Andy Bagley who is director of research and public affairs for the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation.
"We had a substantial amount of venture capital investment in a lot of internet related-type companies, so when the internet bubble burst, we lost about 200,000 jobs," Bagley said. "We were one of five states that never recovered those 200,000 jobs fully before the next recession in 2008 and 2009."
Bagley also said that a governor shouldn't be blamed completely for job losses - or completely take credit for job gains.
Jeannette Wicks-Lim, a labor economist at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst agreed and pointed out that the same dynamic is playing out on a national level. Efforts by the Obama administration can affect job growth, but those efforts can be derailed by international forces.
"The economic and political turmoil in Europe over the future of the Eurozone and the slowdown in China's economic growth, for example, legitimately fuel anxiety over the future growth in the U.S. Downturns overseas will have a negative impact on our national economy," Wicks-Lim said.
Massachusetts' ranking was far more impressive after he left office, but that was largely due to the fact that the state's workforce was far less damaged by the second recession of 2008 and 2009, Bagley explained.
While job growth in states highly reliant on housing construction and retail declined compared to other states, Massachusetts' jobs numbers remained relatively stable because the state's economy has never relied much on housing development, Bagley said.
Ultimately both sides in the campaign will try to use jobs as an issue. And these economists say that job growth wasn't exactly stellar under Romney's tenure. Jobs grew by a net 30,000 over his four years in office, which Bagley said is "nothing to campaign on."
"There's nothing in Romney's record as governor that shows that he is a job creator," said Kevin Lang, an economics professor at Boston University. "The claim 'Look at my record in Massachusetts, I know how to create jobs,' is not borne out by the data."
Martin's numbers are correct. And while it's not entirely fair to pin blame on Romney for Massachusetts' dismal jobs ranking during his tenure, economists point out that Massachusetts didn't add many jobs while Romney was governor, either.
This claim leans toward accurate.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Non-Farm Seasonally Adjusted, accessed June 14, 2012
Factcheck.org, Romney's shaky jobs claim, By Lori Robertson and Robert Farley, Jan. 5, 2012
The Wall Street Journal, Obama Camp Attacks Romney's Record in Massachusetts, By Laura Meckler, May 31, 2012
The Boston Globe, Romney's economic record, By Andrew Sum and Joseph McLaughlin, July 29, 2007
PolitiFact.com, David Axelrod repeats claim that Massachusetts under Mitt Romney ranked 47th in job growth, Sunday, June 3rd, 2012, by Louis Jacobson
Interview, Andy Bagley, Director of Research and Public Affairs, Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, June 14, 2012
Interview, Kevin Lang, economics professor, Boston University, June 14, 2012
E-mail, Jeannette Wicks-Lim, labor economist, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, June 15, 2012
A debate in Washington over a new tax on medical devices has put Minnesota front and center.
The tax, which is part of the new health care law, would affect the state's sizable medical device industry. And the person leading an effort to repeal the tax is 3rd Congressional District Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen.
Paulsen says the tax is simply bad for business.
"Suddenly, our medical-device industry will face one of the highest tax rates of any industry in the world," Paulsen wrote in a June 6, 2012, Star Tribune opinion piece.
It depends how you define tax rates, but there is a case to be made that Paulsen's claim is in the ballpark.
Paulsen is referring to a 2.3 percent tax on most medical device sales embedded in the new health care law. If the tax is allowed to go into effect in 2013, it would create $29 billion in new revenue for the federal government over 10 years - or a rough average of $3 billion every year, according to the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation.
The cash is meant to help pay for the new health care law.
Paulsen's claim that the device industry will face one of highest tax rates in the world comes from a widely circulated report commissioned in 2011 by the device industry.
The report was meant to highlight how the device tax could affect the industry, and predicted that market demand for devices could decline by as much as $6.7 billion annually. (Two separate analyses, one by Bloomberg Government and another by the left-leaning Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, have questioned the accuracy of the industry report.)
In 2006, the medical device industry reported taxable income of $13.7 billion and paid $3.1 billion in corporate taxes, according to the industry report. That's a roughly 23 percent effective tax rate - right around the 25 percent average for all industries, according to a recent study by the Tax Foundation, a D.C.-based think-tank that tends to take a conservative view on taxes.
Add the additional $3 billion burden of the new device tax on top of that, and the industry would pay more like $6 billion in taxes or a roughly 45 percent tax rate - well over the industry-wide average.
The report's authors are making something of an apples-to-oranges comparison. "Effective tax rates" typically refer to corporate taxes - not excise taxes such as the device tax - paid on profits, said William McBride, an economist with the Tax Foundation, though Paulsen doesn't specify "effective tax rate" in his op-ed.
"It's not the standard practice to talk about all sorts of taxes as an effective tax rate because effective tax rates generally refer to corporate taxes on profits as a share of profits," McBride said. "But their point is very legitimate. By being hit by a special excise tax that no other industry pays, they are paying exceptionally high tax rate. Whether they call it an effective tax rate as a share of income or not is a secondary matter."
While it's uncommon for economists to look at all taxes when measuring effective tax rates, McBride added that including industry excise taxes, for instance, does increase the corporate tax rate for all businesses.
Roberton Williams, a senior fellow at the Washington D.C.-based Tax Policy Center, agrees that Paulsen's approach isn't traditional, but is a good way to get an overall idea of what the new tax burden would be on the industry.
"You want to take into account all the taxes you pay" when assessing tax burden, Williams said. "But what they shouldn't say is that this will give them the highest corporate tax in the world."
He also pointed out that the industry will likely be able to pass along the cost of the tax increase to consumers because it's unlikely patient demand for devices, particularly life-saving, devices will decline dramatically. Supporters of the tax say that the health insurance law would mean tens of millions more Americans would have health insurance, and that would increase demand for medical devices.
Paulsen's point that the health care law would greatly increase taxes on the medical device industry is valid.
Some would quibble with how the tax is calculated and exactly how it ranks with other industries. But experts agree medical device companies would face higher taxes - it's just a matter of how much.
It's still unclear exactly how the medical device tax will affect the industry, but because Paulsen's claim is defensible, it leans toward accurate.
The Star Tribune, Device tax, if not stopped, will stifle, by Rep. Erik Paulsen, June 6, 2012
The Tax Foundation, Beyond the Headlines: What Do Corporations Pay in Income Tax?, by William McBride, Sept. 2011
The Tax Foundation, Government Takes a Greater Share than Shareholders, by William McBride, Nov. 2, 2011
Bloomberg Government: Medical Device Industry Overstates Tax Impact, by Christopher Flavelle, Feb. 9, 2012 (subscription only)
Roberton Williams, senior fellow, Tax Policy Center, June 12, 2012
Will McBride, economist, Tax Foundation, June 12, 2012
Matt Caminiti, analyst, Bloomberg Government, June 12, 2012(5 Comments)
One of the DFL's election year messages can be summed up like this: Republican legislators didn't do much this session, and what they did accomplish benefited businesses, not individuals.
At the party's state convention last weekend in Rochester, Gov. Mark Dayton tested that message on a crowd of delegates by talking about a tax bill he vetoed in May.
Republicans "have been claiming all over the state now that their bill would have helped business to add jobs," Dayton said during his speech, referring specifically to a one-year business property tax cut in the legislation.
"The Minnesota Department of Revenue found that a business with less than $150,000 worth of property, which is almost half the businesses in our state, would have received a property tax cut of - are you ready for this? - $27. A larger business with $1 million in property would have received a $228 reduction. Now, can't you just see the explosion of hiring that would occur when Minnesota businesses took their $27 or $228 to the job market?," Dayton said.
Dayton's correct that the property tax cut would not have created much in the way of savings.
This year, Republicans authored two tax cut packages, which included things like sales tax exemptions on business equipment purchases, bigger tax credits for small business investments, and economic development projects.
Republicans said the packages would help spur job growth.
"It's all about jobs, and this bill creates more jobs than the Vikings stadium and the bonding bill combined," said Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, chair of the House Tax Committee, about the second version of the legislation.
Dayton vetoed both bills, saying he didn't want tax cuts or spending increases that widened the state's deficit, and because he felt that the bills favored businesses over homeowners.
In his speech at the DFL convention, Dayton focused on a provision that would have eliminated an expected 2.3 percent increase in the state business property tax from 2012 to 2013. He wrote in a May 14 veto letter that the cut did not produce enough revenue to justify the $46 million cost to the state's general fund.
The Minnesota Department of Revenue looked at how freezing the property tax increase for one year would affect properties of different value.
- The owner of a $150,000 commercial property would save $27 in taxes.
- The owner of a $1 million commercial property would save $228 in taxes.
- The owner of a $10 million commercial property would save $2,364 in taxes.
Dayton left out the last example in his speech, which represents the very high end of what businesses could have saved under the GOP property tax proposal.
But it's important to note that only 1.75 percent of the state's commercial properties - or about 2,200 properties - are valued at more than $5 million, according to the revenue department. That means very few businesses would have gotten the maximum tax cut.
The revenue department says that most of the state's commercial properties are far less valuable. Roughly 44 percent are valued at less than $150,000, and 30 percent are valued at between $150,000 and $500,000. That means most commercial property owners in the state would likely have seen less than $228 in tax savings.
It's possible that business owners would have reinvested their property tax savings in jobs as the Republicans hoped they would. And we'll never know if the rest of the Republican's tax package would have spurred job growth in the state.
But for his part, Dayton accurately characterized the estimated property tax savings the bill would have created. As a result, he earns an accurate for this claim.
Gov. Mark Dayton, speech, Minnesota DFL Convention, June 2, 2012
Gov. Mark Dayton, Veto Letter HF 247, May 14, 2012
Minnesota Public Radio News, Dayton defends veto of GOP-sponsored tax bill, by Tim Pugmire, May 15, 2012
Minnesota Department of Revenue, State Property Tax One-Year Inflation-Adjustment Freeze, by Eric Willette, Property Tax Research Director, May 8, 2012
E-mail exchange, Katharine Tinucci, spokeswoman, Gov. Mark Dayton, June 7, 2012
E-mail exchange Ryan Brown, media coordinator, Minnesota Department of Revenue, June 7, 2012
Rep. Kurt Bills, the Republican-endorsed candidate to challenge incumbent DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar for the U.S. Senate, is making the nation's debt and deficit a big part of his party platform.
On several occasions, he's called out Klobuchar for not doing much on federal spending.
Take, for instance, a line from a press release his campaign sent the day Klobuchar won the DFL endorsement for re-election.
"The United States Senate has failed to pass a budget in more than three years. Klobuchar has produced no specific plans to address annual deficits or national debt," the press release read.
Part of this claim is true, part is misleading.
When Congress passes a budget resolution, it's not law. Rather, it's a framework that outlines revenue and spending; specific spending decisions are made by the appropriations committees.
Congress doesn't grind to a halt if it fails to adopt a budget resolution; both chambers can debate and approve appropriations spending bills regardless.
But as House Republican Budget Chairman Paul Ryan said in a 2011 press release, "The United States Congress has a moral -- and legal -- obligation to propose and pass budgets that tackle our generation's greatest challenge."
The last time the Senate passed a budget resolution was April 29, 2009 for fiscal year 2010.
Some argue that the 2011 Budget Control Act, a bill Klobuchar supported that raised the debt ceiling and cut federal spending by more than $2 trillion, is effectively a budget resolution - and that it's even better because it's enforceable by law.
But generally speaking, Bills is correct: the Senate hasn't passed a budget in three years.
The second part of Bills' claim that Klobuchar has produced "no specific plans" to address the deficit or debt is trickier to sort out. During a recent press conference, Bills pointed to a budget proposal put forth by Sen. Rand Paul, R-KY, that Bills says he will be running on as well.
"A big part of today is for saying, here's where I think we should start and now we should have a dialog," Bills said. "So I hope that there is a plan that comes forward from the other side. In a dream world, Sen. Klobuchar would have her plan now."
It's true that Klobuchar hasn't issued a point-by-point budget proposal as Paul has. Though there's nothing barring Klobuchar from publishing her own proposal as legislation or as part of her campaign, Washington, D.C., budget expert Stan Collender said it's not something that freshmen Senators like Klobuchar typically do; that's the job of the budget chairman.
"It would be a waste of time and staff resources, and it would be for show and not serious," because it's unlikely such a plan would get any attention in the Senate, Collender said. "She is not one of the people who would be responsible for making that happen."
It would also be unfair to say that Klobuchar isn't concerned about the debt and deficit. For instance, in 2010, she withheld her vote to raise the debt ceiling until President Barack Obama agreed to establish the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, the bipartisan group of budget experts who put together the Bowles-Simpson plan, a proposal that encourages tax increases and spending cuts.
Klobuchar campaign spokesman Ben Garmisa pointed out that she supported the Budget Control Act, too.
"Senator Klobuchar voted for the bipartisan Budget Control Act, which will reduce the debt by $2.1 trillion over 10 years and goes further than a traditional budget because it has the force of law," he said.
Klobuchar also meets monthly with a group of 45 senators who are trying to build on the Bowles-Simpson plan, though the group has not produced legislation.
And Klobuchar has also said she supports a mix of revenue increases and spending cuts. She has mentioned closing tax loopholes, allowing the government to negotiate drug prices under Medicare, keeping Bush tax cuts in place for the middle class, and cutting some defense and agriculture spending among other ways to shrink the deficit.
Though some would argue that the debt ceiling deal is effectively a budget, Bills is basically correct on his first point: the U.S. Senate has not passed a budget resolution in three years.
The second part of Bills' claim about Klobuchar's debt and deficit record is thornier. He's right that she hasn't authored a plan as her colleague Paul has. And Klobuchar's support for various debt and deficit proposals is different than issuing a concrete plan.
However, Bills claim implies that Klobuchar hasn't been active on debt and deficit issues when, in fact, she has. Further, Bills hasn't released his own budget plan, either. Rather, he's said he's running on Rand Paul's. For leaving out context, this part of Bills claim is misleading.
Kurt Bills for Senate, Kurt Bills on Klobuchar Receiving the Democratic Party Endorsement, June 2, 2012
Congressional Research Service, Congressional Budget Resolutions: Historical Information, March 13, 2012
THOMAS, S.CON.RES.13: FY 2010 Budget, approved April 29, 2009
Sen. Rand Paul, The Platform to Revitalize America, March 8, 2012
Politico, Wrestling with debt-ceiling strategy, by Manu Raju and Jonathan Allen, April 12, 2011
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Jobs and Economy, accessed June 5, 2012
Mike Osskopp, spokesman, Kurt Bills for Senate, June 5, 2012
Ben Garmisa, spokesman, Amy Klobuchar for Senate, June 6, 2012
Stan Collender, Qorvis Communications, June 6, 2012(1 Comments)
President Barack Obama visited Minnesota today to raise some campaign money and to deliver a speech at Honeywell International in Golden Valley on the economy and a new plan to help veterans find jobs.
PoliGraph checked claims from Obama's speech and from Tim Pawlenty, a surrogate for GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and found some truth and some exaggeration.
President Barack Obama, in his speech at Honeywell International:
Giving a speech about the economy and job creation on a day when the Labor Department announces less than impressive jobs numbers isn't ideal.
But that's exactly the position Obama found himself in. Though the unemployment rate increased and only 69,000 jobs were created in May, the fewest in a year, Obama played up the fact that millions of jobs have been created since February 2010, the low point of the recession.
"Our businesses have created almost 4.3 million new jobs over the last 27 months," Obama said.
That's true of private sector employment according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, though it's important to note that total non-farm employment has increased by only 3.8 million largely due to declines in public sector employment.
And while 4.3 million jobs sounds good, it's still about 4.6 million below where it was in January 2008, the high point of private sector employment before the recession.
So the president's statement is accurate, but it lacks some context.
Obama also talked about specifically about manufacturing jobs.
"Manufacturing is consistently adding jobs for the first time since the 1990s," he said.
The last time the manufacturing industry created jobs was 1997, when 288,000 positions were added in the sector, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But subsequently, the manufacturing sector experienced a net loss every year.
In 2010, things started to turn around. That year, the industry created a net 117,000 jobs; in 2011, a net 181,000 jobs were created; and so far in 2012, 93,000 manufacturing jobs have been created.
The president's statement is accurate.
Tim Pawlenty, on a conference call with reporters:
Pawlenty told reporters that even the president's host for the day is critical of his record.
"In an interesting twist, the CEO of Honeywell, one of the facilities that the president is going to visit today in Minnesota, a Honeywell facility, has specifically cited the president's inability and lack of progress in tackling the deficit and debt in this country as a leading factor for why the economy is not recovering and why it's being stifled," Pawlenty said.
Pawlenty is talking about Honeywell CEO David Cote, a member of Obama's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. Pawlenty's talking point comes from a GOP brief on Cote's comments about the debt and deficit, which he has called the "seeds of the next recession."
Cote has made clear many times that he believes solving the nation's debt problem is critical to create jobs, saying, for instance, that the biggest thing government could do "is to get that debt problem sorted out because if they just remove the uncertainty blanket that's over everything right now, that would do more to stimulate demand and to stimulate confidence."
He's expressed frustration that Washington failed to reach a deal on the debt ceiling last year, and that the Bowles-Simpson Plan, a proposal that Cote helped create as part of Obama's fiscal commission that encourages spending cuts and tax increases to solve the debt crisis, has been largely ignored by leaders from both parties, including the president.
But Cote hasn't singled the president out for criticism. In fact, Obama and Cote appear to have a good relationship. Cote was with Obama during his speech, and he has spoken favorably of Obama's stimulus plan. The Wall Street Journal called him "one of President Barack Obama's go-to CEOs."
When asked by a reporter Pawlenty even conceded later in the call that Cote never criticized Obama directly.
"I don't think he did by name, but he did highlight the problem," said Pawlenty. "And the problem has undeniably been worsened by President Obama."
So, it's true that Cote has criticized Washington in general for not acting to deal with the nation's debt, and that includes the president. But he has not specifically said it's Obama's fault, as Pawlenty implied. That makes Pawlenty's claim misleading.
Republican National Committee, Is the Debt King Listening, May 31, 2012
The White House, President Obama Names Members of Bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, Feb. 26, 2010
Fox Business, Honeywell CEO on the Debt Talks, Jul 27, 2011
Fox Business, Honeywell CEO: Debt is a Huge Issue, Jan. 24, 2012
Honeywell, Dave Cote Introduces President Obama at White House Media Briefing on U.S. Recovery Plan, Jan. 27, 2009
The Wall Street Journal, Honeywell Takes the Lead in Political Giving, by Andy Pasztor and Brody Mullins, Oct. 13, 2010
The Associated Press, As unemployment nudges up, Republicans pounce, by Christopher S. Rugaber, May 31, 2012
The Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics, private and total non-farm employment data, accessed May 31, 2012
The Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics, total manufacturing employment data 1990-2012, accessed May 31, 2012
FactCheck.org, The State of Obama's Facts, January 26, 2012
Now that the Legislature has adjourned for the year, campaign season is underway.
Democrats say they intend to regain control of the Legislature. House Minority Leader Paul Thissen is among the party's loudest cheerleaders, writing in the Star Tribune that a DFL Legislature would adopt policies that help middle-class Minnesotans, that strengthen education and that balance the budget.
On the last point, Republican legislators don't have a great track record, Thissen wrote.
"In February 2011, when the Republicans took charge, the budget deficit was about $5 billion," Thissen wrote. "In January 2013, when the next Legislature returns to St. Paul, the budget deficit will be more than $4 billion."
Depending on your politics and your accounting, there are multiple ways of looking at the coming biennium's deficit, and Thissen's is just one perspective.
Minnesota is expecting a $1.1 billion shortfall in the coming biennium, according to Minnesota Management and Budget's latest forecast.
But that figure doesn't include two other important numbers that Thissen's estimate does.
According to the same MMB forecast, the state can expect to spend an additional $1.06 billion in inflation in the coming biennium. Previously, the state's deficit included inflation projections, but the law no longer requires it.
The state also owes roughly $2.4 billion to public schools to correct a payment shift it enacted to balance the current budget. Current law doesn't require MMB's deficit projection to include this debt either.
So, is Thissen's take on the deficit fair?
Wayne Simoneau, who served as Finance Commissioner under former Gov. Arne Carlson and is a former DFL legislator, says the deficit can legitimately be argued both ways.
Thissen's number "reflects the real world obligations of the Legislature and the finance department," Simoneau said. He said MMB's projection "complies with state statute."
If he were doing the calculations, Simoneau said he would include inflation and the school payments to portray the deficit more accurately.
Former MMB Commissioner Tom Hanson, who served under Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, agrees that inflation should be included in deficit projections.
But the school payment shift is murkier, and Republicans would probably disagree with Thissen's projection because many don't believe schools must be paid right away, Hanson said.
The debate over borrowing money from schools "has become more a philosophical debate on whether the shift is a debt that needs to be immediately paid off versus something that can be paid off over time," Hanson said.
Nevertheless, he doesn't believe that Thissen's statement is misleading or false.
Issuing a ruling on this claim is tricky. On one hand, Thissen is using a higher number to describe the deficit to make a political point.
But just because law doesn't require inflation and the school payments to be included in the deficit doesn't mean the state doesn't owe that money. Two former MMB Commissioners agree that the state's deficit could legitimately be argued both ways.
As a result, this claim leans toward accurate.
The Star Tribune, Minnesotans, bring back a DFL Legislature, by Rep. Paul Thissen, May 20, 2012
Minnesota Management and Budget, February 2012 Forecast, accessed May 25, 2012
E-mail exchange, Mike Howard, spokesman House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, May 24, 2012
Interview, John Pollard, spokesman, Minnesota Management and Budget, May 25, 2012
Interview, Tom Hanson, former MMB Commissioner, May 25, 2012
Interview, Wayne Simoneau, former Finance Commissioner, May 25, 2012(1 Comments)
Last weekend, Republicans endorsed Rep. Kurt Bills to run against U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar this fall. If elected, Bills says cutting government spending will be one of his top priorities.
To stress just how bad things have gotten in Washington, D.C., Bills pointed to the rising cost of the new health care law.
"You have to look at Obamacare that was projected to spend $800, $900 billion and is now at $1.7 trillion," Bills told MPR's Mark Zdechlik in an interview May 21.
It's true that the latest gross cost estimate of the new health care law is about $1.7 trillion, but that's only part of the story.
To make his case, Bills relied on a recent estimate from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office that pegged the gross cost of the health care law at about $1.76 trillion between 2012 and 2022.
In 2010, the CBO projected the gross cost of the law to be $938 billion between 2010 and 2019. In part, the initial 10-year cost was lower because many of the law's key provisions don't go into effect until 2014, ramping up in subsequent years.
But Bills' claim leaves out an important point.
The health care law also collects new revenue to help pay for it, including fees paid by those who don't have insurance and some employers who don't offer coverage, taxes on top earners and provisions meant to slow the growth of Medicare, among other offsets.
Taking that new revenue into account, the CBO estimates the current net cost of the health care to be $1.25 trillion between 2012 and 2022.
So, the cost of the bill has gone up, but not by as much as Bills said.
Other fact-checking organizations and the Washington Post's liberal blogger Ezra Klein also point out that the initial CBO estimate and the latest CBO estimate look at the law's cost over different spans of time. An apples-to-apples comparison of the years 2012-2019, which both CBO reports cover, shows that the net cost has actually declined from $784 billion to $768 billion.
Bills used a gross figure to make his case that the cost of the health care law is growing faster than earlier projected. But he neglects the fact that the net 11-year cost is lower, and that earlier projections were pegged to a different time frame.
The PoliGraph verdict: misleading.
MPR News, Paul-backed Senate candidate: 'I'm a Kurt Bills Republican', by Mark Zdechlik, May 21, 2012
The Congressional Budget Office, Updated Estimates for the Insurance Coverage
Provisions of the Affordable Care Act, March 2012
The Congressional Budget Office, Selected CBO Publications Related to Health Care Legislation, 2009-2010, December 2010
PolitiFact Virginia, Rep. Robert Hurt says $900 million health reform price tag has swelled to $1.8 trillion, by Nancy Madsen, March 26, 2012
The Washington Post, No, the CBO hasn't doubled its cost estimate for health-care reform, by Ezra Klein, March 20, 2012
Factcheck.org, Health Care Costs Didn't Double, by Lori Robertson and Dave Bloom, March 16, 2012
Mike Osskopp, spokesman for Kurt Bills, May 22, 2012(3 Comments)
Before leaving the Capitol for the year, Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL- Cook, bemoaned what he called the "biggest do-nothing legislative session in our state's history."
"We're going to use 250 calendar days," Bakk said. "That, members, is the second longest calendar days since statehood. We're going to pass, assuming this bill gets signed and the Revisor's bill gets signed, about 245 bills. Members, that's the fewest number of bills that has been signed into law since 1869."
Bakk's claim is basically correct.
The Legislative Reference Library keeps track of each two-year session's basics - how long they lasted, how many bills were introduced, and how many bills became law, among other statistics.
Excluding last year's special session to approve budget bills, the current session actually lasted 248 calendar days, so Bakk is two days off.
Nevertheless, this part of Bakk's claim is still on point: this session was the second longest in terms of calendar days since statehood. Legislators used 251 calendar days to get through the 2001-2002 legislative session, according to the library's data.
If you include special session days, which Bakk didn't take into account for his comparison, this session was the fourth longest - still one of the most protracted in state history.
Bakk is also correct that 245 bills became law this session. That's the fewest since 1869, when the same number of new laws were put on the books.
Whether lawmakers got anything accomplished this session is a matter of opinion. But Bakk's numbers are correct.
The PoliGraph rates this claim accurate.
Facts About the 87th Legislature, complied by Senate DFL research
Minnesota Legislative Reference Library, Sessions of the Minnesota State Legislature and the Minnesota Territorial Legislature, 1849-present, accessed May 16, 2012
Minnesota Legislative Reference Library, Number of Bills Introduced and Laws Passed in the Minnesota Legislature, 1849-present, May 16, 2012
Minnesota Session Laws - 2012, Regular Session, accessed May 16, 2012
As the 2012 legislative session comes to a close, Senate Republicans are taking stock of which bills became law, and which stalled in Gov. Mark Dayton's office.
Senate Republicans say that the majority of the bills Dayton has vetoed this year were bipartisan.
"Fact: 86% of Dayton's vetoed bills have been bipartisan," says a flyer being floated by the caucus.
Fact: The Senate GOP gets this claim right.
As of May 10, Dayton had vetoed 30 bills. Of those, 26 had bipartisan support.
The remaining four, which included a bill that would have allowed the state to suspend federal health care laws and regulations and a bill that would allow the state to contract waste services without determining whether state employees can do it, had only Republican support.
In some cases, such as a bill that dealt with annuity products regulation and a bill that would have prohibited the Commissioner of Education from enforcing unadopted rules, the legislation had broad DFL support in one or both chambers.
In other cases, support was narrow; five of the bills Dayton vetoed had only two DFL supporters. But such instances were in the minority.
Though it's important to note that the GOP takes a narrow view of the meaning of "bipartisan" in a few cases, it's true that 86 percent of the bills Dayton has vetoed so far this year had some support from both sides of the aisle.
This claim leans toward accurate.
Scribd, Dayton Vetoes Bipartisan Bills, May 10, 2012
Minnesota Legislature, Veto Details: 2012, Gov. Mark Dayton, accessed May 10, 2012
E-mail exchange, Susan Closmore, Senate Republican Caucus, May 10, 2012
Posted at 2:00 PM on May 9, 2012
by Catharine Richert
Filed under: PoliGraph
A plan to build a new Vikings stadium dominated debate this week in the Legislature, with lawmakers from both parties lining up on either side of the issue.
DFL Sen. John Harrington supported the plan, saying that a relatively small public contribution could reap big financial benefits for the state.
"If we look back historically, the Metrodome was built with about $33 million in public dollars. It has returned to the state $340 million," Harrington said. "I don't have any investments that return that kind of return on investment, and at the same time it has put people to work."
Harrington's claim is on solid ground.
The Metrodome opened in 1982 and cost $55 million to build, according to the Viking's website. The public investment was roughly $33.6 million, including $25.6 million from the City of Minneapolis and $8 million from a seven county liquor tax.
The state did not contribute to the stadium's construction.
In 2009, the Metrodome had generated roughly $320 million for state, Minneapolis and the surrounding area since it opened, according to a 2009 report conducted by RSM McGladrey on behalf of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission. The vast majority of the cash went to the state.
But that tax revenue study is a few years old. More recently, the Vikings say the Metrodome has generated nearly $360 million in tax revenue, with more than $340 million of that going to the state's general fund.
The Vikings estimate they pay roughly $20 million annually in state and local taxes. Roughly $10 million comes from income taxes paid by NFL players, coaches, trainers and other employees with incomes more than $250,000, according to the Minnesota Department of Revenue.
Harrington's claim appears to be in range according to several estimates.
His claim is accurate.
RSM McGladrey, Metropolitan Sports Facility Commission, Analysis of the Estimated Historical Tax Revenue Benefit to State, County and Local Governmental Agencies from Activities Associated With Major Professional Sports Facilities in Minnesota, December 2009
The Minnesota Vikings, New Minnesota Stadium, accessed May 9, 2012
The Minnesota Vikings, Quick Hits - Benefits Downtown East New Stadium, accessed May 9, 2012
Email exchange, John Stiles, spokesman, Mayor R.T. Rybak, May 8, 2012
Email exchange, Ryan Brown, spokesman, Minnesota Department of Revenue, May 8, 2012
With Mitt Romney now certain to be the Republican presidential nominee, President Barack Obama's reelection campaign has started filling battleground state airwaves with negative ads about the former Massachusetts governor.
Here's one claim from Obama for America's latest called "Swiss Bank Account" that criticizes Romney's corporate background:
"As a corporate CEO, he shipped American jobs to places like Mexico and China. As Governor, he outsourced state jobs to a call center in India."
There's some truth to these claims, but the Obama campaign also leaves out some details.
The first part of this ad's claim refers to Romney's role co-founding Bain Capital, a private equity firm.
During Romney's time at Bain, some of Bain's ventures were successful; Romney frequently points to jobs created at Staples and Sports Authority as examples.
Other ventures folded, went bankrupt or experienced significant layoffs to become more profitable.
Holson Burnes Group is an example of a company that ended up shedding workers, according to the Associated Press, which wrote about the firm late last year. After Bain merged two recently purchased companies to form Holson Burnes, a photo album and picture frame company, it opened a factory in South Carolina.
The factory was operating at a loss, so it was shuttered after only a few years, and the operation was moved to New Hampshire. Just a few months later, workers there were laid-off, too. In 1992, Holson Burnes was making 75 percent of its photo frames overseas, the Associated Press reported. According to Securities and Exchange Commission forms, those jobs went to China, among other Asian countries.
The Obama campaign also points to Modus Media, a company Bain had a 39 percent stake in. In June 2000, the company said it would cut 200 jobs in the U.S., and open a plant in Mexico.
But that was after Romney left Bain in Feburary 1999 to run the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City (though Romney has continued to reap some of Bain's profits).
The ad also states that while Romney was governor of Massachusetts, he outsourced state jobs to India.
It's true that under Romney's tenure, the state had a contract with Citigroup to administer its food stamp program, according to reporting by the Boston Globe. Citigroup's operation included a call center in India. At the time, many states were outsourcing jobs to save taxpayer dollars.
Despite an earlier effort to make sure jobs stayed in Massachusetts, Romney vetoed in 2004 an amendment to the state budget that would have prevented firms doing business from outsourcing jobs, though the Democratic controlled legislature didn't try to override the veto, either.
When the food stamp contract came up for renewal, the state signed with a different contractor that housed its call center in Utah, according to the Boston Herald.
Issuing a verdict on this claim was tough.
With Bain involved, some companies laid off workers, as Holson Burnes did. But that's the nature of the business Bain is in, and the ad fails to mention that, in some cases, the firm helped to create jobs.
It's also true that some jobs ended up in other countries - again, Holson Burnes is an example. In Modus Media's case, however, Romney had already left Bain.
Finally, it's true that during his time as governor, Romney's administration hired a firm that outsourced jobs to India. The ad leaves out that his administration eventually brought them back to the country, but not the state.
So there is truth in some of the claims, but the ad leaves out significant details. Because the Obama ad doesn't tell the whole truth, this claim leans toward misleading.
Obama for America, "Swiss Bank Account," May 1, 2012
The Washington Post, The Two Faces of Mitt Romney and Bain Capital, by Suzy Khimm, Jan. 10, 2012
The Charlotte Observer, As Romney's firm profited in South Carolina, jobs disappeared, December 19, 2011
Reuters, Special report: Romney's steel skeleton in the Bain closet, By Andy Sullivan and Greg Roumeliotis, Jan 6, 2012
The Wall Street Journal, Romney at Bain: Big Gains, Some Busts, by Mark Maremont, January 9, 2012
The Miami Herald, In Miami, story of profits and layoffs highlights debate over Mitt Romney's tenure at Bain, by Marc Caputo and Alex Leary, January 18, 2012
The Washington Post Fact Checker, Mitt Romney and 100,000 jobs: an untenable figure, by Glenn Kessler, Jan. 10, 2012
FactCheck.org, Facts Strained in 'King of Bain', January 15, 2012
The Los Angeles Time, Modus Media to Close Plant, Cut 200 Jobs, June 2, 2000
The Daily Deal, Modus Media Withdraws IPO, by Kelly Holman, August 15, 2000
The New York Times, Buyout Profits Keep Flowing to Romney, By Nicholas Confessore, Christopher Drew, and Julie Creswell, December 18, 2011
The Boston Herald, Ted K Slams Mitt for outsourcing jobs; Mass work farmed out to India, Utah, by Kevin Rothstein, Feb. 23, 2006
The Boston Globe, Measure Seeks to Ban State Outsourcing, by Christopher Rowland, June 18, 2004
The Boston Globe, New Obama campaign ad attacks Mitt Romney for outsourcing American jobs, by Callum Borchers, May 1, 2012
GovTech.com, Massachusetts Governor Works to Prevent Outsourcing of Jobs, March 5, 2004
USA Today, States try to keep jobs in the USA, By Julie Schmit, August 31, 2004
The Washington Post, Factchecker, Romney and 'outsourcing': Biden's out-of-context fact, by Glenn Kessler, March 29, 2012
The Boston Globe, Romney vetoes $108.5 million in budget, By Scott S. Greenberger and Raphael Lewis, June 26, 2004
E-mail exchange, Andrea Saul, spokeswoman, Mitt Romney for President
E-mail exchange, Kristin Sosanie, spokeswoman, Obama for America - Minnesota(2 Comments)
Mitt Romney and President Obama are battling over the youth vote, each trying to portray the other as unfriendly to teenagers and young adults.
Recently, Romney's campaign sent out an email illustrating how Obama's economic policies have hurt younger voters.
Among the multiple claims made in the email was this one:
"Under President Obama, 258,000 more young Americans are unemployed, an increase of 1.5 percentage points."
Romney's numbers are right, but he unfairly implies that high youth unemployment is only the result of Obama's policies.
Romney's email cites the Bureau of Labor Statistics as its source. By one measure, Romney is correct: 258,000 more people ages 16 through 24 are unemployed today than they were in January 2009, when Obama was sworn into office. Those workers include teenagers who had informal jobs, such as babysitting or mowing lawns.
Romney also says that it's a 1.5 percentage point increase, but it appears he's underestimating that figure. In January 2009, roughly 3.22 million young people were unemployed. In March, roughly 3.47 million young people were unemployed, which is more like an 8 percentage point increase.
After peaking in early 2010, the number of unemployed 16-24 year-olds has been on the decline according to the same data.
So, more young people are unemployed since January 2009, but are all those jobless youths the product of Obama's economic policies?
The recession, which has hurt the job market generally but the youth job market especially, started before Obama's term. The impact of the recession varies by race, income, education and age, said Andrew Sum, director of the Center for Labor Market Studies and a leading scholar on the youth labor market. For instance, teens have been hardest hit, while recent college grads who have jobs tend to be underemployed.
Further, there's a lot of evidence to suggest that declining employment among young started more than a decade ago.
The reasons are complex, Sum said. 2000 marked the start of a period of weak demand for workers.
"When the labor market is weak, remember who's going to suffer the most," Sum said. "Those people trying to make it in. And who's trying to make it in? Kids."
Sum added that young workers are now competing with older, more educated workers willing to take lower paying jobs. Further, some industries that used to hire teens are now looking for older workers. It's a trend most obvious in the construction, big box retailers and banks, Sum said.
Romney's numbers are right. But his claim implies that the primary reason so many young people are out of work is because of Obama's policies. In fact, the labor market for youth has become weaker over the last decade for an array of reasons, a trend exacerbated by the recession.
Romney's claim is misleading.
Mitt Romney for President, Youth & The Obama Economy, April 24, 2012
Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment data, 16-24 year olds, accessed May 1, 2012
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. labor market shows gradual improvement in 2011, March 2012
Bureau of Labor Statistics, The early 2000s: a period of declining teen summer employment rates, May 2012
Interview, Andrew Sum, Director, Center for Labor Market Studies, May 2, 2012
A talking point at the heart of the debate in Washington, D.C., over whether to extend a low student loan interest rate has made its way to St. Paul.
In a recent press release issued by the DFL, party chair Ken Martin said that if Congress doesn't renew the lower rate by July, many students could see their student loan costs increase.
"If Congress does nothing, interest rates for new subsidized student loans are set to double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on July 1, causing at least 7 million students to be hit with an average of more than $1,000 in additional costs over the life of that loan," Martin said.
Martin and the White House, which came up with the talking point, mislead on how the change would affect students.
Congress has until July to extend the federal Stafford subsidized student loan interest rate for another year. If lawmakers don't, the rate will jump from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent for undergraduate borrowers. Extending the lower rate would cost the government $6 billion.
In an effort to woo young voters and pressure Congress to act, President Obama has made the higher interest rate an issue. The White House has even given its campaign a Twitter hashtag: #DontDoubleMyRate.
Martin's claim stems from data on the White House website. A White House spokeswoman could not provide sourcing for the first part of Martin's claim that at least 7 million students would be hit by the interest rate increase.
But data collected by the College Board supports this part of Martin's claim; roughly 7.7 million students took advantage of the loan in 2010-11 school year.
Martin also said that students will pay a rough average of $1,000 more over the life of the loan.
The White House is assuming that the average Stafford subsidized loan is $4,200 and takes an average of 12 years to pay off. With a 6.8 percent interest rate, students would pay roughly $1,000 in additional interest.
But the White House is making some unrealistic assumptions - even according to the president's own fiscal year 2013 budget, which pegs the average Stafford loan at roughly $3,400 and assumes the standard pay-off period of 10 years. Using the Department of Education's loan repayment calculator, a higher interest rate of 6.8 percent would cost students an average of $524 more.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that average Stafford loan at roughly $3,000 annually well into the future. In this case, students would pay only $384 more in interest.
Martin's talking point, which originated with the White House, is correct that "at least 7 million students" will be hit with more expensive loans if Congress fails to extend the lower interest rate.
But it wouldn't cost students an average of $1,000 more.
This claim is misleading.
The White House, Taking out Stafford Loans to help pay for college?: You could owe an extra $1,000 unless Congress takes action soon, accessed April 26, 2012
The White House, By the Numbers: $1,000, April 26, 2012
Federal Student Aid, Interest Rate Change for New Direct Subsidized Loans, April 23, 2012
The Department of Education, Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Summary, accessed April 26, 2012
The Congressional Budget Office, CBO March 2012 Baseline Projections for the Student Loan and Pell Grant Programs, March 13, 2012
National Public Radio, Student Loan Debt Exceeds One Trillion Dollars, April 24, 2012
The College Board, Trends in Student Aid
Department of Education, Standard, extended, and graduated repayment calculator, accessed April 27, 2012
Office of Management and Budget, Department of Education, accessed April 27, 2012
Office of Management and Buget, Federal Credit Supplement Budget of the U.S. Government, Fiscal Year 2012
Interview, Terry Hartle, Senior Vice President, Division of Government and Public Affairs, April 26, 2012
Interview, Jason Delisle, Jason Delisle, Director, Federal Education Budget Project, New America Foundation, April 27, 2012
E-mail exchange, Caroline Hughes, White House spokeswoman, April 26, 2012
E-mail exchange, Kate Monson, DFL spokeswoman, April 26, 2012
E-mail exchange, Johanna Diaz, spokeswoman for the Project on Student Debt, April 27, 2012(7 Comments)
President Barack Obama's senior campaign adviser David Axelrod was in Minnesota this week, fundraising and meeting with campaign staff.
During his stop, Axelrod spoke with reporters, and he pointed out that Obama is supporting an extension of low interest rates on federal student loans.
That's not what Republicans in Congress want, he said.
"Just this week we've had a big debate over whether or not we're going to let student loan interest rates double in June as they would unless Congress acts," Axelrod said. "What's interesting is that the very same Congress that says we can't afford the $6 billion to do that passed a $46 billion unpaid tax cut, half of which would go to high-end people."
Axelrod's statement is right on the cost of the tax cuts, and by at least one estimate, right on the effect of the cut.
Last week, Obama asked Congress to extend the 3.4 percent interest rate on federal loans that students currently pay. If it doesn't, the interest rate will double to 6.8 percent in July.
Likely Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said he supports the idea. But some House Republicans have concerns about approving the $6 billion extension, including Minnesota Rep. John Kline who chairs the House Education and Workforce Committee and who would oversee such a bill.
Last week, the House passed a Republican plan to provide a tax deduction to businesses of any type with fewer than 500 employees that amounts to 20 percent of income in 2012. The deduction would be limited to half of employee wages.
The plan would increase the deficit by $46 billion over 10 years because it's not paid for with spending cuts or other tax increases, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.
Critics say the bill would provide tax breaks to companies that may be small in the sense that they don't have many employees, but otherwise very profitable.
According to the Tax Policy Center, a Washington, D.C.-based partnership between the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute, more than half of the tax change would go to the top 1 percent.
But an estimate conducted by the Joint Committee on Taxation, a committee that consists of House and Senate lawmakers from both parties, is more modest; it estimates that roughly 33 percent of the tax would go to businesses earning more than $500,000 annually.
The different percentages stem from a difference in assumptions, said Joe Rosenberg of the Tax Policy Center. For instance, Rosenberg said his group assumes the tax savings for corporations benefit capital owners, which is the same assumption used by the Congressional Budget Office. The Joint Committee on Taxation does not take the corporate tax into account.
Axelrod's statement is in the ballpark. He describes the small business tax credit bill correctly, but chooses a higher - but not necessarily incorrect - estimate to support his claim that more than half of the bill would benefit the highest earners.
On balance, Axelrod's claim is true.
David Axelrod's press call with Minnesota reporters, April 24, 2012
The New York Times, Student Loan Interest Rates Loom as Political Battle, By Tamar Lewin, April 20, 2012
House Education and Workforce Committee, Kline Statement on Stafford Loan Interest Rates, April 20, 2012
The Washington Post, Competing small business tax cut plans: House Republicans vs. Senate Democrats, by J.D. Harrison, March 27, 2012
The New York Times, Assessing the Small Business Tax Cut, by Robb Mandelbaum, April 23, 2012
The Congressional Budget Office, H.R. 9, Small Business Tax Cut Act, April 9, 2012
The Tax Policy Center, H.R. 9: The Small Business Tax Cut Act: Assumptions, accessed April 25, 2012
The Tax Policy Center, H.R. 9: The Small Business Tax Cut Act; Baseline: Current Law; Distribution of Federal Tax Change by Cash Income Percentile, 2012, March 28, 2012
Letter from the Joint Committee on Taxation regarding H.R. 9, April 13, 2012(1 Comments)
This week, the Minnesota House approved a bill that would require a doctor to be present when a woman takes a pill called RU-486, otherwise known as the abortion pill.
Rep. Joyce Peppin, R-Rogers, is the chief sponsor of the bill. During floor debate, she said that RU-486 is dangerous and needs more supervision during administration.
"The drug is so dangerous that it was banned in places like Canada and China, places that are very liberal on abortion policies in general," Peppin said.
Peppin's claim misses the mark.
Medical abortion is available in Canada, but RU-486 has not been approved there.
Health Canada, which is in charge of approving drugs, would not comment on whether RU-486 is up for approval. But groups that support RU-486 there say the process is ongoing.
Canadian organizations that oppose RU-486 have raised concerns over the drug's safety, pointing to deaths stemming from septic shock. Some of these groups single out a 2001 case that reportedly involved a woman involved in a RU-486 clinical trial.
China, on the other hand, has long allowed the drug. In fact, it was one of two countries where the drug was originally licensed.
Peppin did not respond to PoliGraph's request for sourcing.
To say that RU-486 has been banned in Canada is misleading. It hasn't been approved, though it's unclear if that will ever happen.
Meanwhile, it's false that China has banned the drug.
On balance, this claim leans toward false.
After this story was published, Rep. Peppin raised some concerns about our ruling. She sent two articles - one from 2001 and one from 2008 - citing a Chinese news report and a state drug agency announcement that RU-486 could not be sold in pharmacies.
PoliGraph could not find the original Chinese news reports or a statement from the nation's drug authorities cited in those articles.
A 2001 article from China.org states that drugstores are not allowed to sell the drug because of some of the side-effects, which can include bleeding and cramping. Rather, the drug must be administered in hospitals.
But that doesn't mean the drug is banned in China. In fact, it's widely used and has been for a long time.
A 2012 study in the International Journal of Women's Health makes this clear. According to the study, which compared the effectiveness of the RU0486 dosage regimen recommended by the World Health Organization and the regimen Chinese patients take, studied the experiences of 337 Chinese women who took the drug in clinics around the country.
According to the report, "Approximately two million women in China use this regimen annually."
PoliGraph weighed the additional evidence, and found that there's no reason to change the verdict on this claim.
H.F. No. 2341, accessed April 20, 2012
Minnesota Public Radio News, Abortion bills part of end-of-session mix, by Elizabeth Dunbar, April 19, 2012
Will Canada follow US lead on RU 486?, by Barbara Sibbald,
National Abortion Federation, Frequently Asked Questions about Mifepristone, June 2008
Contraception, Review of medical abortion using mifepristone in combination with a prostaglandin analogue, July 2006
Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, RU486: A risky and deadly abortion drug, accessed April 20, 2012
The Interim, Canadian dies in RU-486 trials, by Tony Gosgnach, October 20, 2001
National Academies Press, A Political History of RU-486, by R. Alta Charo, 1991
Joyce Arthur, Executive Director, Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, April 19, 2012
Olivia Caron, Health Canada, April 20, 2012(6 Comments)
In an appearance on Meet the Press last weekend, Rep. Michele Bachmann did something that may have seemed unusual: she praised and defended Mitt Romney, her former rival for the GOP presidential nomination.
Bachmann dropped out of the race in January, after coming in last in the Iowa caucuses. But she's said she would get behind the eventual nominee.
During an exchange with another guest Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, Bachmann inched closer toward officially throwing her weight behind Romney, who has more delegates than the other contenders.
"Mitt Romney would like to privatize Medicare and Medicaid," Gillibrand said.
"These are patently false statements that are being made about Mitt Romney," Bachmann interjected. "He has not come out and said he's going to do what the Senator is stating."
As it turns out, neither Bachmann nor Gillibrand has the whole story.
Romney wants to give the elderly the option of staying in Medicare or taking financial support from the government to help buy private health care coverage. If Romney implements this plan as president, he's promised it won't apply to those who are 55 and older.
Last November, the Romney campaign told the Wall Street Journal that creating competition among private plans could make them a cheaper alternative to Medicare. Eventually, the elderly may favor private plans over the government option as a result.
Critics say Romney's approach would affectively end Medicare because government subsidies wouldn't keep up with the rising cost of care.
On Medicaid, the federal government currently pays for a percentage of the states' expenses. Poorer states get more federal dollars and wealthier states get fewer.
Romney has proposed slowing Medicaid spending to eventually save $200 billion annually. The federal government would still help pay for the program by giving states block grants.
Romney hasn't provided too many details about his Medicaid plan, but it mirrors one put together by Republican Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office wrote in 2011 that states would surely have more flexibility in how they spend dollars under such a plan, and may achieve greater efficiencies as a result.
"Even with additional flexibility, however, the large projected reduction in payments would probably require states to decrease payments to Medicaid providers, reduce eligibility for Medicaid, provide less extensive coverage to beneficiaries, or pay more themselves than would be the case under current law," the CBO report states.
Gillibrand's statement goes too far, but Bachmann's claim doesn't go far enough.
To say that Romney has no plan to privatize Medicare is misleading. He wants to partially privatize the program.
And while Bachmann is right that Romney doesn't have plans to privatize Medicaid, she leaves out the fact that turning it into a block-grant program could spell big changes in benefits and coverage.
On balance, Bachmann's claim is misleading.
The Washington Post, On Romney's Medicare plan, a devil in the details, by Sarah Kiff, Nov. 4, 2011
The Wall Street Journal, Romney Proposes Voucher Option for Medicare Plan, By Jonathan Weismann and Patrick O'Connor, Nov. 5, 2011
MittRomney.com, Medicare, accessed April 17, 2012
MittRomney.com, Believe in America: Mitt Romney's Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth, accessed April 17, 2012
Medicaid.gov, Financing and Reimbursement, accessed April 17, 2012
Congressional Budget Office, Long-Term Analysis of a Budget Proposal by Chairman Ryan, April 5, 2011
E-mail exchange, Andrea Saul, spokeswoman, Mitt Romney for President, April 17, 2012
In a recent opinion piece, House Minority Leader Rep. Paul Thissen said Republicans favored businesses over individual Minnesotans in their latest tax bill.
To help make his point, he turned to a tax bill recently passed by the Minnesota House.
"99 percent of the Republicans' recent tax bill is directed at tax cuts for corporations, with next to nothing for Minnesota homeowners, Thissen wrote on April 12, 2012, in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Thissen's claim is nearly correct.
The tax bill in question combines an array of tax credits for individuals and businesses, expanding some and shrinking others.
Most of the bill is targeted at businesses, including an expansion to a credit that allows corporations to sell tax liabilities to other businesses, an expansion of the research and development credit, and the gradual elimination of a tax on commercial and industrial properties.
Combined, all those credits would mean nearly $500 million less in the state's coffers.
While the vast majority of these tax breaks are meant for businesses, there are roughly $20 million in tax breaks for individuals in the bill as well. For instance, individuals could benefit from an increase in the angel investment tax credit, and a one-time boost in a property tax relief program.
Thissen's claim is in the ballpark. He said 99 percent of the tax credits in the tax bill are for businesses, with very little for homeowners. In fact, 96 percent of the tax credits are targeted at businesses.
Thissen is off by 3 percentage points, but he's close enough to earn an accurate.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune, GOP's lips say 'yes' to jobs; actions say 'no', by Paul Thissen, April 12, 2012
Tax Provision in HF 2337, Third Engrossment, Based on the February 2012 Forecast, March 21, 2012
Minnesota Office of the Revisor of Statutes, Small Business Investment Tax Credit, accessed April 13, 2012
E-mail exchange, Mike Howard, spokesman, Minnesota House DFL Caucus, April 12, 2012
Interview, Cynthia Templin, House Fiscal Staff, April 12, 2012
Interview, Katherine Schill, House Fiscal Staff, April 13, 2012(1 Comments)
Posted at 2:29 PM on April 11, 2012
by Catharine Richert
Filed under: PoliGraph
Rep. Chip Cravaack is worried about Medicare.
In a press release posted on his website, the 8th Congressional District Republican defended his support for a plan aimed at making changes to the way the government funds health care coverage for the elderly. Democrats oppose the plan because they say it would effectively end Medicare.
To make his point, Cravaack writes that the number of Medicare beneficiaries is rising, but the number of workers per beneficiary is declining.
In 1965, when Medicare was created "8.6 working taxpayers supported each Medicare recipient," Cravaack wrote. "In fact, by 2003, around four workers supported each recipient, and by 2010, there were less than three workers per retiree."
Cravaack's statement exaggerates the trend.
Medicare Part A, which pays for inpatient hospital services, nursing home and hospice care, and in-home care, is financed mostly through payroll taxes, so its financial stability is directly related to the number of people working.
More elderly people are living longer and Americans are having fewer children. That means Medicare Part A has more enrollees than ever before, but fewer workers to support them financially. The trend is expected to continue as more baby boomers enroll in Medicare.
But Cravaack's numbers are only partially correct. In 1966, the year after Medicare was put into place, 4.5 workers supported every Medicare beneficiary, according to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
In subsequent years, the ratio generally got smaller. In 2003, 3.9 workers supported every Medicare beneficiary. In 2010, that number was down to 3.4 workers.
The downward trend is expected to continue, according to CMS. By 2030, roughly 80 million seniors are expected to be enrolled in Medicare, and there will be only 2.3 workers to support each beneficiary.
The first part of Cravaack's statement is false.
Cravaack's spokesman said 8.6 workers was a typo and the press release should have said 4.6 workers, which would have been more accurate. After being alerted by PoliGraph, his campaign changed its website, and so did the organization that Cravaack initially got his information from.
The second part of his statement leans toward accurate, though he's off somewhat on the number of workers supporting each beneficiary in 2010. Cravaack's underlying argument that there are fewer workers to support an aging population, a trend that could create future financial difficulties for Medicare, is correct.
For getting the first part of his statement false and the second part nearly right, Cravaack earns a True/False for this claim.
Medicare obligations must be protected and preserved, by Rep. Chip Cravaack, April 10, 2012
Kaiser Family Foundation, Historical and Projected Number of Medicare Beneficiaries and Number of Workers Per Beneficiary, accessed April 10, 2012
The Social Security Administration, What is Medicare, accessed April 10, 2012
Reasons for the Changes in Medicare Spending over Time, accessed April 10, 2012
Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, How is Medicare Funded?, accessed April 10, 2012
Historical Data, Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, April 11, 2012
Historical Data, Kaiser Family Foundation, April 11, 2012
Phone interview, Michael Bars, spokesman, Rep. Chip Cravaack, April 11, 2012
A union and a liberal organization have teamed up to run a TV ad against 8th District Republican Congressman Chip Cravaack.
The spot targets the first-term lawmaker for voting in favor of Republican Rep. Paul Ryan's fiscal year 2013 budget proposal.
Cravaack voted to give "big oil companies more tax breaks," a woman's voice in the ad states. Her criticism is set to a shot of Cravaack next to the following quote: "Cravaack/Ryan budget '[gives] oil tax breaks worth $40 billion [to] companies such as Exxon."
The ad, which is being paid for by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and Americans United for Change, gets its number right but its description of what Cravaack voted for is misleading.
Like most of his Republican colleagues, Cravaack voted in favor of Ryan's $3.5 trillion fiscal year 2013 budget proposal, which passed the U.S. House largely on party lines. The document is meant to be a blueprint for Congress's spending plans.
Budgets are also used to frame election-year politics, and this one is no exception. There are a lot of things Democrats don't like about Ryan's proposal, including its changes to Medicare and its cuts in domestic spending.
The Cravaack ad highlights another aspect of Ryan's budget that's already become campaign ammunition: gas prices and oil tax breaks.
According to White House Office of Management and Budget, the typical tax perks oil and gas companies take advantage of are worth nearly $40 billion over ten years.
But the ad says Cravaack voted to give oil companies more tax breaks.
To support their claim, Americans United for Change points to a post written by Daniel J. Weiss who is the director of climate strategy for the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank in Washington, D.C.
Weiss wrote that even though oil companies are enjoying a profit, "it appears that House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's (R-WI) proposed FY 2013 budget resolution would retain a decade's worth of oil tax breaks worth $40 billion."
The Ryan proposal doesn't extend oil tax breaks that are set to expire or give oil companies more tax benefits, as the ad implies. Rather, it leaves those tax breaks untouched, while Democrats, including President Barack Obama, have called for their repeal.
Preserving oil and gas tax breaks illustrates a level of hypocrisy on Ryan's part, Weiss said.
"They're cutting billions of dollars for other needs in Medicare, in education, in other programs that are vital to middle class Americans," he said.
Americans United for Change spokesman Jeremy Funk also pointed out that the Ryan proposal would trim the corporate tax rate. But that change would benefit all firms, not just oil and gas companies.
It's just one word, but there's a big difference between "more" and "retain." It's true that current oil and gas tax breaks are worth about $40 billion. And oil and gas companies would likely benefit from cutting the corporate tax rate.
But to say that Cravaack voted to give oil and gas companies more tax breaks is misleading. The Ryan budget simply assumes that those tax benefits remain unchanged.
YouTube, Does Chip Cravaack Think We Were Born Yesterday? Hands Off My Medicare!, accessed April 2, 2012
The Center for American Progress, Ryan Budget Pads Big Oil's Pockets with Senseless Subsidies: Spending Plan Keeps $40 Billion in Tax Breaks for Wealthiest Companies, by Daniel Weiss, March 20, 2012
The Washington Post, House approves $3.5 trillion budget plan proposed by Paul Ryan, By Rosalind S. Helderman and Paul Kane, March 29, 2012
THOMAS, H. Con. Res. 34, accessed April 3, 2012
House Budget Committee, Path to Prosperity: A Blueprint for American Renewal, accessed April 3, 2012
Report: Concurrent Resolution on the Budget - Fiscal Year 2013, March 23, 2012
Office of Management and Budget, Fiscal Year 2013: Cuts, Consolidations, and Savings, accessed April 3, 2012
Interview, Dan Weiss, Center for American Progress, April 3, 2012
Interview, Isabelle Sawhill, The Brookings Institution, April 3, 2012
E-mail exchange, Ben Golnick, adviser, Cravaack campaign, April 3, 2012
E-mail exchange, Jeremy Funk, spokesman, Americans United for Change, April 3, 2012(7 Comments)
The National Republican Congressional Committee is targeting DFL Rep. Collin Peterson's 7th Congressional District seat.
The NRCC, which funds Republican U.S. House candidates, is spending $41,000 on an ad opposing Rep. Collin Peterson, which will air in the Fargo market for a week.
The spot portrays Peterson, a lawmaker some consider a moderate Democrat, as someone who frequently sides with the Obama administration. To make the point, the NRCC calls out Peterson for his votes on the new health care law, which has been the subject of Supreme Court oral arguments this week.
"Peterson voted to keep President Obama's takeover of healthcare, including his half a trillion dollar cut to Medicare," a voice in the ad says.
It's true that Peterson voted to preserve the health care overhaul, but the NRCC's characterization of the law makes this claim misleading.
Peterson doesn't always vote with Democrats. This congressional session he's voted with his party only 56 percent of the time. But during the 110th and 111th Congress, Peterson sided with Democrats around 93 percent of the time.
The health care law is one area where Peterson hasn't always been in step with his party. He was one of the few Democrats who voted against the legislation.
Peterson got a lot of flak for the vote, something he acknowledged at a town hall in March 2010 after the bill passed.
"I'm aware people are very much disappointed in my vote," Peterson said, citing thousands of e-mails and phone calls from constituents, according to the Marshall Independent. Peterson went on to say that, "I will support it, and I will work to make this work."
Less than a year later, Peterson voted against a Republican-led effort to repeal the bill.
But the NRCC mischaracterizes the health care law.
First, it implies that Obama has taken over the nation's health care system. This is not the case, as numerous analysts and fact-checkers have already found. In 2010, national fact-checking organization PolitiFact made the claim its "Lie of the Year."
The law does not take over hospitals, it does not include a new government insurance plan to compete with private insurers, and, while it does require most people to have insurance - the so-called individual mandate that's been at the center of the Supreme Court case - it creates health coverage exchanges where uninsured customers can shop for private plans, PolitiFact explained.
Furthermore, the law does not take a $500 billion bite out of Medicare; rather, it aims to slow future Medicare spending to the tune of $500 billion. Those savings are used to pay for other parts of the law.
Nevertheless, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office projects that Medicare spending will continue to grow into the future - just not as much as it would have without the new law.
It's true that Peterson voted to keep the health care law intact, as the NRCC ad correctly states.
But the NRCC's ad mischaracterizes the law Peterson voted to protect. The health care overhaul maintains - and expands - demand for private insurance and it slows the growth of Medicare spending by about $500 billion.
The NRCC's ad is at best misleading.
National Republican Congressional Committee, New NRCC TV Ad: What's Happened to Colin Peterson? He's Changed, March 29, 2012
Marshall Independent, Candidates, legislators speak at DFL event, By Deb Gau, March 29, 2010
THOMAS, roll call vote on Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, March 21, 2010
MSNBC, GOP-led House votes to repeal health care law, Feb. 1, 2011
THOMAS, roll call vote on Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act, Jan. 19, 2011
PolitiFact, PolitiFact's Lie of the Year: 'A government takeover of health care', by Angie Drobnic Holan, Dec. 16, 2010
FactCheck.org, A Final Weekend of Whoppers?, March 19, 2010
The Washington Post Fact Checker, Myths and facts about 'Obamacare', by Glenn Kessler, January 18, 2011
The Washington Post, U.S. Congress Votes Database, accessed March 29, 2012
National Public Radio, Romney's Support For Ryan Budget Has Democrats Crying Foul, by Tamara Keith, March 29, 2012
PolitiFact, Medicare 'cuts' in the health care law will hurt seniors, says 60 Plus Association, by Angie Drobnic Holan, Sept. 8, 2010
Kaiser Family Foundation, Medicare and Health Reform Tutorial, accessed March 29, 2012
The Congressional Budget Office, The Budget And Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2012 To 2022, Jan. 31, 2012(1 Comments)
Editor's Note: After publishing this story on March 28, Kathy Bonnifield, executive director for Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota, sent PoliGraph this academic paper written by Michael J. Pitts and Matthew D. Neumann at the Indiana University School of Law - Indianapolis.
After the 2008 general election, the authors polled Indiana's 92 counties to find out how many people had to fill out a provisional ballot because they didn't have proper identification, and how many of those ballots were ultimately counted. According to the research, 1,039 voters filled out a provisional ballot because they lacked the right ID, and 137 of those ballots were counted. That means nearly 87 percent of the ballots were not counted.
It's important to point out that we still don't know is why those voters didn't return to their local elections offices to verify their identification or to seek one of several identification exemptions Indiana offers. Some may not have had the proper identification, others may not have had the time or the interest to return.
Still, the research shows that around 83 percent of the provisional ballots cast by those who did not have proper identification were never counted, and it underscores Higgins' underlying point that casting a provisional ballot doesn't meant the vote will be counted.
We've changed this PoliGraph ruling to accurate as a result. The original story - with the original ruling of misleading - remains below.
It appears all but certain a constitutional amendment to require voters to show photo identification at the polls will be on the ballot this fall.
The amendment passed both the Minnesota House and Senate mostly on party lines. A conference committee will now have to iron out differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill.
According to both the versions of the bill, those who don't have proper identification will have to fill out a provisional ballot, which could be counted once a voter's identity is confirmed. DFL Sen. Linda Higgins, who opposed the amendment, said it's a system that hasn't worked that well in other states.
"In Indiana after Voter ID was passed, 83 percent of the provisional ballots were never counted," she said during Senate debate over the bill. "That's appalling."
Higgins is correct that 83 percent of Indiana's provisional ballots were never counted in the 2008 presidential election. But her claim implies that all of them were rejected because of the state's voter ID laws, which is misleading.
Indiana's voter identification rules became law in 2005. Voters who don't have photo ID at the polls can fill out a provisional ballot. It's counted only if the voter can prove their identity or seeks an exemption
by noon on the Monday following an election within 10 days of the election. Some states use provisional ballots even if they don't have voter ID rules, and Indiana was using them before it adopted its new law.
Minnesota does not use provisional ballots because the state allows voters to register the same day as they vote.
Higgins did not return calls to clarify which year she was talking about or to provide sourcing. But data collected after each national election by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission tracks provisional ballot rejections.
After the 2006 election, the first year Indiana's voter identification law was implemented, 1,107 provisional ballots - or about 55 percent of all provisional ballots cast - were not counted. According to the survey, none were thrown out because voters failed to prove their identity.
The 2008 presidential election cycle saw higher turnout and more provisional ballots. Roughly 84 percent of Indiana's provisional ballots were not counted.
But only 14 percent of the rejected ballots were not counted because voters failed to show proper identification. Other ballots were thrown out because the voter wasn't registered in the state, registered in the wrong precinct, or didn't sign his or her ballot, among other reasons.
During the 2010 midterm elections, Indiana did not count 61 percent of the roughly 1,800 provisional ballots cast. Twelve percent of the rejected ballots were not counted because voters failed to present sufficient identification.
It's true that after the 2008 presidential election Indiana rejected roughly 83 percent of its provisional ballots. And Higgins has a point that provisional ballots don't always guarantee a vote.
But Higgins fails to point out that far fewer of the uncounted ballots were rejected because of identification issues, as her claim implies.
On balance, Higgins' claim is misleading.
Minnesota Public Radio News, Senate passes voter ID requirement, critics vow litigation, by Tom Scheck, Minnesota Public Radio News, March 23, 2010
Pew Center on the States, Provisional Ballots: An Imperfect Solution, July 2009
National Conference of State Legislatures, State by State Voter Identification Requirements, accessed March 28, 2012.
U.S. Election Assistance Commission, 2010 Election Administration and Voting Survey, December 2011
U.S. Election Assistance Commission, 2008 Election Administration and Voting Survey, November 2009
U.S. Election Assistance Commission, 2006 Election Administration and Voting Survey, December 2007(2 Comments)
In a recent opinion piece, Pete Hegseth, one of Sen. Amy Klobuchar's potential opponents this fall, wrote that an excise tax in the new health care law will have a significant impact on Minnesota's small and mid-sized medical device companies.
Hegseth wrote Klobuchar should not have voted for the health care overhaul as a result.
"If the tax is allowed to take effect, nonpartisan experts expect major job reductions, with more than 2,700 med-tech jobs lost in Minnesota alone. The 83,000 Minnesotans employed as an indirect result of the industry will also be holding their breath," Hegseth wrote in his March 22, 2012, op-ed.
Health economists say the device industry will feel the impact of the new tax, but are skeptical it will lead to dramatic job losses.
Starting in 2013, the excise tax will apply to the sale of taxable medical devices by the manufacturer or importer of the device. It won't apply to eyeglasses, contact lenses, hearing aids or any other devices that people typically buy at retail, according to the Internal Revenue Service's proposed rule on the tax.
The tax is expected to generate between $20 and $30 billion over 10 years, and is meant to help pay for other parts of the new law. The medical device industry believes the tax will inevitably be passed on to consumers, who will then use fewer of their products. Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen is leading an effort in the U.S. House to repeal the tax.
When the health care bill was first debated in 2009, Klobuchar opposed a higher device tax, and worked to reduce it. Klobuchar also co-chair of the Medical Device Caucus. But she has so far not signed on to bills in the Senate that would repeal the tax.
Hegseth relied on two reports to support his claim, both commissioned by AdvaMed, the medical device lobby; one report was written by two economists who have ties to conservative think-tanks including the American Enterprise Institute, the Hudson Institute and the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research.
According to those reports, Minnesota employs roughly 27,000 people in the medical device field, but the new tax would cut the workforce by 2,700 people, in part by moving jobs overseas.
In February, the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities issued a rebuke of the AdvaMed-commissioned research. Economist Paul N. Van de Water wrote that U.S. device exports are exempt from the tax, and it will apply to devices locally and imported from overseas creating no incentive for manufacturers to move jobs overseas.
The new health care law is designed to increase demand for drugs and devices because it requires everyone to have insurance, said Gerald F. Kominski, a health care economist at UCLA and director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. In theory, what the industry pays in taxes will be offset by more people buying coverage.
But Kominski agreed that there's room for debate on whether the additional demand will be exactly offset by the tax.
Roger Feldman, a health economist at the University of Minnesota who consults for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Congressional Budget Office, agrees.
But he also pointed out that most medical devices are implanted as part of a hospital stay, so they would be covered by insurance, which doesn't typically respond much to price changes.
For the Minnesota medical device industry to lose 10 percent of its workforce, let alone all the workers associated with the industry as Hegseth's claim implies, "demand for medical devices would have to be hugely, hugely more responsive to prices than demand for medical care over all," Feldman said.
Thrivent Financial health care analyst David Heupel said the tax is likely to hit smaller, less profitable companies.
"If you're not that profitable, it will have a more meaningful hit to you than it would to a Medtronic," he said. "But what that means to job cuts is anyone's guess."
Hegseth relied on two studies commissioned by the medical device industry, which opposes the device tax, to support his claim.
Still, PoliGraph couldn't find extensive research to demonstrate that the medical device industry won't be affected by the new tax. And while health care economists are skeptical that the Minnesota device makers would lose a full 10 percent of its workforce, they agree that reasonable minds can argue about exact impact of the new tax on the industry.
Because of the lack of evidence about exactly what impact the medical device tax will have on employers, PoliGraph can only give Hegseth's claim an inconclusive verdict.
Pioneer Press, Pete Hegseth: Medical device tax will hit small and mid-size companies hard, March 21, 2012
Internal Revenue Service, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking: Taxable Medical Devices, Feb. 7, 2012.
White House, Office of Management and Budget, Fiscal Year 2013: Analytical Perspectives, accessed March 22, 2012
The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, Excise Tax on Medical Devices Should Not Be Repealed:Industry Lobbyists Distort, Overstate Tax's Impact, By Paul N. Van de Water, Feb. 14, 2012
The State Economic Impact of Medical Technology Industry, June 7, 2010
Employment Effects of the New Excise Tax on the Medical Device Industry, by Diana Furchtgott-Roth and Harold Furchtgott-Roth, September 2011
Minnesota Public Radio News, Paulsen: Congress to take up medical device tax repeal, by Brett Neely, Jan. 26, 2012
The Star Tribune, Klobuchar, Franken oppose device-firm tax, by Janet Moore, Sept. 16, 2009
Interview, Gerald F. Kominski, Director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, March 22, 2012
Interview, Roger Feldman, professor, University of Minnesota, March 22, 2012(2 Comments)
A proposed constitutional amendment that would require all Minnesotans to show photo identification at the polls has passed the House and is up for debate in the Senate.
Proponents of the bill say the voter ID constitutional amendment is needed to prevent voter fraud. DFL Congressman Keith Ellison says the effort would disenfranchise some Minnesota voters. He voiced his concerns in a March 14, 2012, Star Tribune opinion piece.
"What would photo ID really mean for Minnesotans? Let me put it into perspective," Ellison wrote.
"The number of people affected by the amendment would fill Target Field over 17 times. That includes 215,000 registered voters who don't have a Minnesota driver's license or ID card with a current address on it as well as 500,000 Minnesotans who use same-day voter registration, which would end as we know it."
Ellison's numbers are correct, but it remains to be seen precisely how the proposed amendment would affect same-day voter registration.
The bill approved by the House this week is sponsored by Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake.
The legislation would amend the state's constitution to require voters to show valid government-issued identification before casting their ballot. Those who don't have identification can fill out a provisional ballot, which would be counted later if the voter's identity is verified.
Opponents of the bill say that requiring voter identification would have a disproportionate effect on students and seniors because many don't have driver's licenses.
According to data from the DFL Secretary of State Mark Ritchie's office, Ellison's numbers are correct. And with about 40,000 seats, Ellison's right that all those voters could fill Target Field 17 times over.
But the amendment language doesn't make changes to same-day registration, nor does it stipulate that a valid ID must include a current address.
In fact, the language is written so broadly that it's unclear exactly how voter identification would play out on Election Day, said Ramsey County Elections Director Joe Mansky.
"Because the language being used is undefined at the current time, no one is exactly sure how this will affect operations of elections should the amendment be adopted by the public," Mansky said.
If voters adopt the amendment, the next Legislature would have to work out the mechanics of the new requirement in 2013.
Beth Fraser, government affairs director for the Minnesota Secretary of State's office, believes that the Legislature would have little choice but to eliminate same-day voter registration because the amendment requires all voters to "be subject to substantially equivalent eligibility verification prior to a ballot being cast or counted."
Even if a voter registers on Election Day, there's no way the Secretary of State could verify that person's identity fast enough to allow that person to vote the same day, Fraser said. They'd have to fill out a provisional ballot instead.
But Kiffmeyer said that's not the intent of her amendment and she doesn't expect changes to same-day voter registration. She also doesn't believe the Legislature would ultimately require photo IDs to display current addresses, either.
"I can't imagine that we as Democrats and Republicans coming back to the Legislature and to be so foolish as to put a requirement in that you have to have the address where you live at on your ID," she said.
Ellison got his numbers right.
His underlying point that the proposal would disenfranchise those who don't have identification with a current address or those who opt for same-day registration is a concern shared by other lawmakers and groups who oppose voter ID.
But at this point, the details of how voter ID would play out on Election Day won't be known until the Legislature decides the details.
For now, Ellison's claim earns an inconclusive rating because there are too many unanswered questions about how voter ID would work.
Ellison Op-Ed: One Vote Denied Is One Too Many, March 14, 2012
Minnesota House of Representatives, HF 2738, accessed March 20, 2012
Minnesota Senate, SF 1577, accessed March 20, 2012
MPR News Primer: Voter ID, by Paul Tosto, March 19, 2012
Minnesota Secretary of State, 2011 -2012 Minnesota Legislative Manual (Blue Book), Chapter 10 - Minnesota Votes, accessed March 20, 2012
The Uptake, Voter Photo ID Constitutional Amendment Heard In MN Senate Committee, February 1, 2012
Interview, Joe Mansky, Ramsey County elections expert, March 20, 2012
Interview, Beth Fraser, Government Affairs Director, Minnesota Secretary of State, March 20, 2012
Interview, Rachel Smith, Hennepin County Elections Manager, March 20, 2012(1 Comments)
Posted at 3:00 PM on March 14, 2012
by Catharine Richert
Filed under: PoliGraph
First District Congressional candidate Allen Quist says the new federal health care law will mean married couples will pay more for insurance.
Quist, who is competing for the chance to unseat DFL Rep. Tim Walz, illustrated his point during a speech at the Le Sueur County Republican Convention on March 10.
Take a 60 year old couple making $60,000 who buys their own insurance, Quist said.
"You will pay $10,425 more for your insurance than if you live together unmarried," Quist said during the March 10 event.
Quist's scenario is hypothetical, but it accurately illustrates a wrinkle in the new health care law.
Quist is talking about the new federal mandate that people have insurance. By 2014, those who can't get affordable coverage from their employer, Medicare or Medicaid can buy insurance through new exchanges set up by the states.
Some people can't afford pricey health care, so the federal government is offering a tax credit to help them cover the cost. People making between 133 percent and 400 percent of the poverty level are eligible for the credit, and they can either get the money in advance to pay for insurance, or they can pay up front and get reimbursed when filing their income tax return.
Things get tricky, though, if a married couple claims the tax credit, said Robert Field, a health care policy and law expert at Drexel University.
"You would be eligible for a subsidy at a higher income if it's a joint income, but it wouldn't be as beneficial as if you were each buying a separate individual policy," he said.
Quist's hypothetical example is drawn from a Heritage Foundation report: a 60-year old married couple making $60,000 annually would be at the very top of the eligibility limits and would have to cover nearly all its health care costs.
Whether it costs the couple precisely $10,425 depends on a number of variables. For instance, if that couple had two children at home, they'd still get a sizable tax credit. Government support changes depending on a couple's age and how much health care costs in their region, too.
It's worth pointing out that Quist's underlying point that the bill will discourage marriage is a matter of opinion.
Field says the bill wasn't designed to keep people from marrying. Married couples who file taxes jointly face the same issue when it comes to other tax credits.
"I strongly doubt that this was intentional," Field said. "It's obviously a very complicated law."
Quist's numbers may not be precise, but it's true that under the new law eligible married couples will get less government assistance to pay for health care coverage.
Quist's claim earns an accurate from PoliGraph.
Allen Quist, speech to Le Sueur County Republican Convention, March 10, 2012
The Kaiser Family Foundation, Questions about Health insurance Subsidies, accessed March 13, 2012
The Kaiser Family Foundation, Health Reform Subsidy Calculator, accessed March 13, 2012
U.S. House of Representatives Oversight Committee, Uncovering the True Impact of the Obamacare Tax Credits: Increases the Deficit, Expands Welfare through the Tax Code, and Implements a New Marriage Tax Penalty, Oct. 27, 2011
The Heritage Foundation, The New Federal Wedding Tax: How Obamacare Would Dramatically Penalize Marriage, By Robert Rector, January 20, 2010
Phone interview, Allen Quist, March 13, 2012
Phone interview, Robert Field, Drexel University, March 13, 2012
Phone interview, Larry Levitt, The Kaiser Family Foundation, March 14, 2012
Long before it was on the books, Rep. Michele Bachmann positioned herself as one of the most vocal critics of the new federal health care law.
It remains a signature issue for the 6th Congressional District Republican, and earlier this week she found a new flaw in the law: it could allow the government to limit insurance coverage for births.
"Women have a lot to lose under 'Obamacare,'" Bachmann said during a March 6, 2012 interview on a Glenn Beck TV program called Real News From the Blaze. Bachmann claimed Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius "said that it's important that we have contraceptives because that prevents pregnancy, and pregnancy is more expensive to the federal government."
"Going with that logic, according to our own Health and Human Services secretary, it isn't far-fetched to think that the President of the United States could say 'We need to save health care expenses. The federal government will only pay for one baby to be born in the hospital per family, or two babies to be born per family.'"
Bachmann goes further to say that she does not think President Barack Obama's administration is considering such caps. But her leap in logic is misleading.
The health care law requires that new private health insurance plans cover an array of preventative care. In 2011, the Institutes of Medicine suggested contraception should be included, which most government plans, including Medicaid, already pay for.
Religiously-affiliated employers, including Catholic hospitals and charities, said paying for contraceptives would violate their beliefs. As a result, the Obama administration ultimately decided that insurers, rather than religiously-affiliated employers, would fully cover contraception.
That means a female professor working at a Catholic university will still have access to free contraception, but her employer won't have to pay for it.
It is true Sebelius said that contraception could lower the cost of health care by preventing unintended pregnancies.
"Providing contraception as a critical preventative health benefit for women and their children reduces health care costs," she argued during a House committee hearing on the new contraception rules.
But that's where Bachmann's claim gets off track. To say that the contraception policy is just a step away from a government policy that limits births is far-fetched.
The new health care law does not cap insurance for child birth, nor does it give the Obama administration new authority to do so.
Further, the Obama administration has not indicated it wants to change insurance coverage for child birth.
Bachmann spokeswoman Becky Rogness explained in an e-mail that Bachmann's comments were meant to underscore her concern that Obama has overstepped his authority on the contraception rule.
"There is a fundamental difference between her position, and that of the Obama Administration," Rogness wrote. "That is, no presidential administration should ever be able to mandate who pays for certain services."
Bachmann's statement is carefully worded. She doesn't go so far as to say that the administration is implementing this policy, only that it could.
But the new health care law does not limit how many births are covered by insurance, nor has the administration in any way indicated that it would ever adopt such a policy in the first place.
Bachmann's claim is at best misleading.
The Blaze, Bachmann Warns: Feds Could Use Budget to Limit Number of Babies Born per Family, March 6, 2012
The News House, Sebelius Explains White House's Contraception Compromise, Feb. 10, 2012
Kaiser Family Foundation, Insurance Coverage of Contraceptives, February 21, 2012
YouTube, Sebelius on contraception, March 1, 2012
CNN, Birth control should be fully covered under health plans, report says, by Madison Park, July 19, 2011
Institute of Medicine, Clinical Preventative Services for Women: Closing the Gaps, July 19, 2011
The Kaiser Family Foundation, Summary on New Health Reform Law, accessed March 8, 2012
E-mail exchange, Becky Rogness, spokeswoman, Rep. Michele Bachmann, March 8, 2012
A plan to build a new Vikings stadium in downtown Minneapolis is starting to take shape - but not everyone is behind the latest proposal, as Gov. Mark Dayton recently pointed out.
Among those still on the fence are some members of the Minneapolis City Council who oppose city funding for the stadium without a public referendum.
Dayton said that those members should remember that the plan includes property tax relief, which could have an especially large impact on downtown businesses and residents.
"The enterprises and residents in downtown Minneapolis pay one-third of all the property taxes throughout the entire city of Minneapolis," Dayton said in a March 5, 2012 interview with MPR's Kerri Miller. "So it's the vitality of the downtown, a property tax relief fountain for people who live elsewhere in the city. I think it's shortsighted on their part."
Dayton's claim is easily checked, and it offers a chance to take a closer look at the stadium financing plans.
Dayton is highlighting the property tax issue because stadium backers want to use a financing mechanism that would both pay for the new stadium and pay off debt on the Target Center.
The plan would extend the life of city sales taxes that are currently being used to pay off bonds for the Convention Center. In 2020, those bonds will be paid off, and that means some of the sales tax can be used for the stadium.
The city envisions chipping in $150 million help pay for building the stadium, and an additional $7.5 million annually for operating costs.
That approach still leaves sales tax cash available for other things, including paying off debt on the Target Center, which is covered Minneapolis property taxes. If sales taxes were instead used to pay the city's roughly $5 million in Target Center debt, it would mean a roughly 2 percent property tax reduction for Minneapolis residents and businesses, said R.T. Rybak spokesman John Stiles.
Dayton argues that the plan would be especially beneficial for those in downtown Minneapolis, who pay a third of the city's property taxes.
According to data provided by the city's finance office, Dayton is in range: Downtown residents and businesses paid 28 percent of the nearly
$52 million $267.1 million in property taxes collected last year.
Still, at least one Minneapolis council member says the benefit isn't worth the additional debt because many residents wouldn't see huge changes in their property taxes.
"It's not a good trade-off to take $20 dollars off a property tax bill," said Gary Schiff who represents the city's Ninth Ward.
Dayton's claim about property taxes in downtown Minneapolis is nearly correct: businesses and residents in the heart of the city paid a little less than a third of all the city's property taxes last year.
MPR News, Gov. Dayton on the Vikings stadium, budget, March 5, 2012
MPR News, Vikings stadium meets skeptical Minneapolis City Council, by Curtis Gilbert and Jon Collins, March 1, 2012
Property tax data, City of Minneapolis, March 6, 2012
Phone interview, John Stiles, spokesman, Mayor R.T. Rybak, March 6, 2012
Phone interview, Gary Schiff, Ninth Ward Council Member, March 7, 2012(1 Comments)
With gas prices on the rise, Republicans are taking on the Obama administration for not doing enough to support domestic energy production.
It's a talking point the National Republican Congressional Committee is using against U.S. House Democrats it seeks to unseat in this year's election.
U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, a Democrat who represents Minnesota's 1st District, is among the lawmakers the NRCC has targeted.
"Despite his lip service now that gas prices are at record highs, Tim Walz has a clear record of discouraging badly needed energy independence," NRCC Communications Director Paul Lindsay wrote in a Feb. 29, 2012 press release.
In fact, Walz has a clear record of encouraging domestic energy production.
To support its claim, the NRCC points to Walz's recent vote against a bill that would allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, offshore drilling in the Atlantic, Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico and allow the Keystone XL oil pipeline to move forward.
The bill passed with the help of 21 Democrats, but Walz was not among them. His spokesman said that Walz did not agree with drilling in Alaska, but that he did support every amendment to the legislation that would have allowed the Keystone pipeline to move forward.
NRCC spokeswoman Andrea Bozek also pointed out in an e-mail that Walz voted against legislation that would have sped up Environmental Protection Agency air-permitting decisions on off-shore drilling proposals and a separate bill that would have required the president to speed approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.
But while Walz did vote against those bills, it's unfair to say that he has a "clear record" of discouraging energy independence.
In the summer of 2008, when oil prices skyrocketed, Walz was part of a bipartisan group that proposed legislation that would allow more offshore oil drilling and use the royalties to help pay for alternative forms of energy.
Three years later, Walz, and other members of the original group, among them Republican U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen of Minnesota's 3rd District, reintroduced that legislation. It included provisions to use royalties to expand alternative energy and energy efficiency, improve roads and bridges, and shrink the deficit.
In 2009, Walz and Paulsen also teamed up with business and labor groups to call on the Minnesota Legislature to repeal a law that blocks nuclear power plants from being built in the state. A bill to lift the ban stalled in the Legislature last year. The duo has also praised President Barack Obama for pushing nuclear energy production nationwide.
It's true that Walz has not always backed Republican efforts to expand domestic energy production. But since he became a member of Congress, Walz has been involved in other high-profile efforts to allow more offshore drilling and nuclear energy production, frequently with members of the Republican party.
The NRCC's claim is false.
Clerk of the House, Final Vote Results for Roll Call 71, Feb. 16, 2012
Clerk of the House, Final Vote Results for Roll Call 650, July 26, 2011
The Hill, House Passes GOP Energy Bill, By Pete Kasperowicz, Feb. 16, 2012
Mankato Free Press, Oil gridlock under attack Walz part of bipartisan group, By Mark Fischenich, July 30, 2008
H.R. 1861, accessed March 2, 2012
Website of Congressman Tim Walz, Congressman Walz and Congressman Paulsen Join Broad Coalition in Support of Bipartisan, Comprehensive Approach to Energy Independence, accessed March 2, 2012
Minnesota Public Radio News, Walz and Paulsen push bipartisan energy plan, by Brett Neely, May 12, 2011
Minnesota Public Radio News, Reps. Paulsen and Walz call to lift ban on nuclear power, by Tom Scheck, November 24, 2009
The Star Tribune, A consensus is emerging on nuclear power, by Reps. Erik Paulsen and Tim Walz, March 2, 2010
E-mail exchange Andrea Bozek, spokeswoman, NRCC, March 2, 2012
Interview, Tony Ufkin, spokesman, Rep. Tim Walz, March 2, 2012
Posted at 2:00 PM on February 29, 2012
by Catharine Richert
Filed under: PoliGraph
Jim Messina, President Barack Obama's campaign manager, was in Minnesota last week, raising cash and trying to get students excited about this year's election.
At Macalester College in St. Paul, Messina argued that Obama did quite a bit during the first two years of his administration. Even a leading presidential historian said so, Messina claimed.
"The historian Doris Kearns Goodwin just said that the president got more done in the first two years than any president since Roosevelt," Messina said. "Can you imagine what he can get done if you give him four more years?"
Messina's statement is overblown - even by Obama and Goodwin's standards.
Messina didn't make clear whether he was talking about Theodore or Franklin Delano Roosevelt. But given that Obama is frequently compared to F.D.R. because of the economic challenges both men faced in office, and because F.D.R was more recently in the White House, it appears Messina was referring to the latter president.
Obama's advocates point out that he was able to overhaul the healthcare system, pass stimulus legislation, repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, enact new financial rules, and start pulling combat troops out of Iraq within his first two years in office, among other things.
In an October 2010 Rolling Stone article, Obama earned praise from Goodwin, Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute and Rice University historian Douglas Brinkley for his early accomplishments.
When compared to the two Democratic presidents before him, "when you look at what will last in history... Obama has more notches on the presidential belt," Goodwin told Rolling Stone.
For their part, Ornstein and Brinkley pointed out that Obama's accomplishments in his first two years were among the most impressive, but that it didn't surpass that of F.D.R's or Lyndon B. Johnson's.
Indeed, Johnson's first two years were particularly productive. After he was sworn into office on Nov. 22, 1963, the day John F. Kennedy died, he signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964; the Voting Rights Act of 1965; the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which laid the groundwork for our current immigration system; the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which provides funding for public schools; and Medicare and Medicaid.
Even Obama appears to agree with Brinkley and Ornstein's assessment.
"I would put our legislative and foreign policy accomplishments in our first two years against any president -- with the possible exceptions of Johnson, F.D.R., and Lincoln -- just in terms of what we've gotten done in modern history," Obama said during a December 2012 interview with "60 Minutes."
Meanwhile, PoliGraph did not find evidence of Goodwin saying that Obama got more done in his first two years in office since Roosevelt. (She did not respond to e-mail inquiries.)
In fact, Goodwin reacted to Obama's "60 Minutes" comments by saying that it's too soon to judge Obama's legacy.
"None of that is being absorbed right now because people are not happy with the economy," she said on MSNBC's Morning Joe. "So it's almost going to have to wait five, 10 years for people to look back and see those accomplishments," she said.
She added that Harry Truman, Roosevelt's successor, should be considered among the most successful presidents for the Marshall Plan, NATO and the desegregation of the Army.
While leading presidential historians, including Goodwin, have praised Obama's record so far, Messina's claim is off-base for several reasons.
First, PoliGraph could find no evidence that Goodwin believes Obama's two-year record was a good as F.D.R's. In fact, Goodwin said it's too soon to tell if he belongs in the ranks of F.D.R, Johnson or Truman.
Even Obama seems to side with Goodwin on this one, saying that he's done a lot - but not as much as at least a few of his predecessors.
For misquoting a leading presidential historian and for overstating Obama's record, Messina's claim leans toward false.
CBS This Morning, Presidents Day: A look at Obama so far, with Doris Kearns Goodwin and Douglas Brinkley, Feb. 20, 2011
The Atlantic, Obama, Explained, by James Fallows, March 2012
Rolling Stone, The Case for Obama, by Tim Dickinson, October 2010
The Brookings Institution, President Barack Obama's First Two Years: Policy Accomplishments, Political Difficulties, Nov. 4, 2010
The Charlie Rose Show, Roundtable on Presidential Leadership, Feb. 20, 2012
Obama and 'the fourth-best president' in context, By Jonathan Capehart, Dec. 21, 2011
Morning Joe, Roundtable with Doris Kearns Goodwin, Dec. 21, 2011
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, History of Medicare and Medicaid, accessed Feb. 22, 23, 2012
Email exchange, Kristin Sosanie, spokeswoman, Obama for America - Minnesota, Feb.
Last week, PoliGraph gave Rep. Torrey Westrom a false rating for his claim that in-home child care providers who are not allowed to vote on whether to unionize will be forced to pay fair-share dues.
That's because Gov. Mark Dayton has been clear on how he wants his executive order allowing child care providers to unionize to be executed: no one would have to join the union if they don't want to, and because day care providers are not considered public employees, they would not have to pay fair share dues.
Westrom's claim was made in a letter to constituents on Dec. 2.
But in a second letter dated Dec. 15, Westrom is revising his claim. Here's what he wrote:
I would like to correct an inadvertent error made in the December 2nd letter regarding how the childcare union election may affect you. The second paragraph of that letter should have stated: "All child care providers may have to live with the decisions of a union, but only the 4,287 providers who receive state subsidies will vote on its formation. The other 7,000 providers may be forced to pay "fair share" union dues, and could be subject to additional regulation, even though they were denied the right to vote in this election.
You can read the rest of the letter here.
Westrom makes reasonable arguments that Dayton's executive order does not guarantee that the unions won't try to collect such dues in the future, or necessarily prevent a court from deciding in the future that such dues could be collected (see the comments section of the previous PoliGraph post).
But despite that uncertainty - and PoliGraph agrees that there are some important unanswered questions about how unionization would play out - right now, we know that those who don't want to be in the union won't have to pay dues because they are not considered public employees.
PoliGraph will be keeping tabs on the issue to see if that changes.
The fact-checkers were out in full force during Thursday night's Republican presidential debate in Sioux City, Iowa.
It was the last gathering of the candidates before the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3.
Several fact-checking outlets looked at claims made by Rep. Michele Bachmann on topics ranging from Iran's nuclear capabilities to the number of jobs that would be created during by building an oil pipeline.
So instead of doing our own check today, here's PoliGraph's round up of last night's best reports.
"We have an IAEA report that just recently came out that said literally Iran is within just months of being able to obtain that weapon," said Bachmann.
She is referring to a recent report by the International Atomic Energy Agency regarding Iran's nuclear program.
As FactCheck.org points out, unnamed sources told the Los Angeles Times shortly before the report came out that Iran had the technical ability to design a nuclear weapon within six months if it wanted to.
But FactCheck.org also writes that the actual report isn't so definitive. While the Agency believes that Iran has "serious concern regarding possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear programme" and that intelligence gathered on the issue is "overall, credible," it stops short of saying that the country is "within months" of having an operative weapon.
The delayed Keystone XL pipeline "would have brought at least 20,000 jobs," Bachmann contended.
Several of the candidates, including Bachmann, criticized President Barack Obama for delaying action on the oil pipeline that would start in Canada and stretch as far as Texas.
Bachmann's jobs estimate is one frequently touted by TransCanada Corporation, the company proposing the project, and other proponents.
But it's on the high-end, because it assumes that only one person holds a pipeline related job for one year, FactCheck.org reports. So, if a pipeline construction job lasts for two years and the same person has the job, the number of jobs created declines.
Meanwhile, the State Department estimates that between 5,000 and 6,000 construction jobs would be created.
"The evidence is that Speaker Gingrich took $1.6 million [from Freddie Mac]. You don't need to be within the technical definition of being a lobbyist to still be influence peddling with senior Republicans in Washington, D.C., to get them to do your bidding," Bachmann said.
CNN previously reported that Newt Gingrich's consulting group had taken between $1.6 million and $1.8 million from Freddie Mac for its services.
But CNN said Bachmann's claim was misleading.
"While Freddie Mac was a Gingrich Group client, Bachmann did not offer hard evidence that Gingrich lobbied for Freddie Mac."
PolitiFact.com came to a similar verdict about Gingrich's history with Freddie Mac, writing that "Gingrich is technically correct that he was not a registered lobbyist for Freddie Mac. But it appears he took pains to avoid being subject to the rules. Giving strategic advice is widely considered a way of using political influence without having to register."
Two Minnesota unions want to organize Minnesota's in-home child care workers, and the effort has sparked a heated battle between the Dayton administration and Republicans in the Legislature.
Among those who oppose the effort is Rep. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, who sent a letter to child care providers encouraging them to reject unionization.
On Dec. 2, he wrote that, while only some day care providers will be able to vote on whether to unionize, "the other 7,000 providers will be forced to pay full or 'fair share' union dues, and will be subject to additional regulation, even though they were denied the right to vote in this election."
Westrom's claim is false.
Two Minnesota unions - American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees and the Service Employees International Union - are trying to unionize the state's in-home day care providers.
On Nov. 15, Gov. Mark Dayton issued an executive order that would allow Minnesota's day care providers who are licensed and registered, and who participate in a state program that subsidizes child care to vote on unionization. That's roughly 4,200 providers out of the approximately 11,000 in the state.
If the majority of those 4,200 agree, it would give the union the right to hash out issues, such as regulation and subsidy rates, with the administration. At this point, a court has put a restraining order on Dayton's executive order but Dayton plans to contest that order.
So, Westrom is correct that only some child care providers will be able to vote on whether there should be a union. But he's wrong that those who don't want to be in the union would have to pay fair share union dues.
A Frequently Asked Questions document on the executive order from Dayton's office is clear on this:
"The Minnesota Fair Share law (Minn. Stat. § 179A.06, subd. 3), which requires all public employees to contribute 'a fair share fee for services rendered by the exclusive representative,' would not apply to these family child care providers."
Dayton's executive order makes clear that, "nothing in this order shall be construed to require participation, or the involuntary payment of dues by any family child care provider."
As for additional regulation, Westrom is off the mark there as well. At this point, unionization doesn't come with additional regulations, let alone regulations that all of Minnesota's 11,000 in-home child care workers would be subject to.
Westrom conceded that given the complexity of the issue and the amount of context needed, the sentence may have been better written as: "The other 7,000 providers may be forced to pay full or "fair share" union dues, and will be subject to additional regulation, even though they were denied the right to vote in this election."
Under Gov Dayton's order child care providers who are not allowed to vote on unionization will not have to pay fair share dues.
Westrom's claim is false.
Letter, Rep. Torrey Westrom to constituents, Dec. 2, 2011
Office of Gov. Mark Dayton, Governor Dayton issues executive order calling for union election among child care providers, November 15, 2011
Office of Gov. Mark Dayton, Frequently Asked Questions about Child Care Collective Bargaining, accessed Dec. 13, 2011
Associated Press via Minnesota Public Radio News, Dayton to contest child care unionization ruling, December 8, 2011(4 Comments)
A constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage will be on the ballot next fall. Between now and then, voters will be barraged with ads, opinion pieces, and direct mail opposing and favoring the effort.
Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, fired an early shot in the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Those who argue that banning same-sex marriage will be bad for the economy are wrong, he wrote in a November 21, 2011, opinion piece.
"To the contrary, the facts show that states with a marriage protection amendment are our top performing economic states," he wrote. "For example, eight of the top 10 'best states for business' according to a survey of 556 CEO's by Chief Executive Magazine have a state marriage amendment in their constitution. "
Drazkowski's claim is misleading.
Chief Executive Magazine surveyed 556 chief executive officers who rank the best states for business.
It's true that eight out of the top 10 states listed in the survey have constitutional amendments that ban same-sex marriage.
But Chief Executive Magazine Editor JP Donlon said that Drazkowski is wrong to link a ban on same-sex marriage to economic performance.
"We neither looked or thought about such a correlation because it doesn't have a bearing on a state's performance one way or another," Donlon said.
Rather, the survey asked the CEOs questions about taxes and regulatory issues, quality of workers and living environment in each state.
It's also useful to look at other rankings. For example, Forbes Magazine released its list in November, and it includes Iowa, where same-sex marriage is allowed. A recent study conducted by the Williams Institute found that legal same-sex marriage boosted the wedding and tourism industries in Iowa by upwards of $13 million.
That's not to say that families aren't important to the economy, said Skip Burzumato, assistant director of The National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia. Drazkowski also cites one of the Marriage Project's recent papers in his op-ed.
The project has found that "when children are raised in intact, married families, they cost the state less," Burzumato said. "They require special education at a lower rate and they encounter the criminal justice system at a lower rate."
But the group hasn't looked at how same-sex families affect the economy.
Mark Regnerus, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin has just started looking at how children of same-sex parents fare. He said it's too soon to tell whether their employment futures, for instance, are any better or worse than those who grow up with opposite-sex parents.
"In general, stable parental marriage is good for subsequent personal employment of the children [as adults]," he said. "If gay marriage fostered the same stable traits that now occur in married, mom/dad families, then it would foster greater employment. It is, of course, too soon to say whether gay marriages will closely mimic straight ones. Maybe; maybe not."
Drazkowski's claim is misleading. While eight of Chief Executive Magazine's top 10 states best for business have constitutional amendments that ban same-sex marriage, there's no correlation between the bans and the business ranking.
The Red Wing Republican Eagle, Column: Citizens should favor marriage amendment, by Rep. Steve Drazkowski, Nov. 21, 2011 (subscription only)
Chief Executive, Best/Worst States for Business, by JP Donlon, May 3, 2011
Texas Constitution, Article 1, Section 32, accessed Dec. 9, 2011
Florida Constitution, Article 1, Section 27, accessed Dec. 9, 2011
Georgia Constitution, Article 1, Section IV, accessed Dec. 9, 2011
Virginia Constitution, Article 1, Section 15-A, accessed Dec. 9, 2011
South Carolina Constitution, Article XVII, Section 15, Dec. 9, 2011
Utah Constitution, Article 1, Section 29, Dec. 9, 2011
Nevada Constitution, Article 1, Section 21, Dec. 9, 2011
ABC News, Gay Marriage Has Boosted Iowa's Economy, Study Concludes, by Elizabeth Hartfield, Dec. 8, 2011
The Williams Institute, Estimating the Economic Boost of Marriage Equality in Iowa: Sales Tax, December 2011
Interview, JP Donlon, editor, Chief Executive Magainze, Dec. 8, 2011
Interview, Skip Burzumato, Assistant Director, The National Marriage Project, Dec. 9, 2011
E-mail exchange, Mark Regnerus, associate professor, University of Texas at Austin, Dec. 9, 2011
E-mail exchange, Jason Wenisch, spokesman, Rep. Steve Drazkowski, Dec. 9, 2011
After last summer's budget breakdown, the state got some good financial news: it will have an $876 million budget surplus going into the coming legislative session.
But that bright spot was quickly overshadowed by the fact that the state is still projected to have a $1.3 billion deficit in the coming fiscal year - and that doesn't include the money the state borrowed from schools to help close the current budget cycle's deficit, some lawmakers point out.
Among them is Sen. Richard Cohen, DFL-St. Paul, who issued this reminder during a press conference after Minnesota Management and Budget released the latest forecast.
"We've used school shifts over the years. This isn't the first time," he said. "But there's always been some ability to see ahead to pay back that school shift... This is the first time we've had a shift that goes on forever."
Cohen appears to be correct that the governor and lawmakers have entered uncharted territory when it comes to using this budget fix.
Many times, the state has given schools only part of their annual aid one year and the rest the following year; it's a trick that allows the Legislature and governor to borrow money from schools in the short term to balance the general fund books, without actually cutting the amount schools are owed.
The proportions have changed depending on the state's budget outlook, but, at best, schools get 90 percent of their aid in one fiscal year, and the remaining 10 percent the following.
To solve Minnesota's most recent debt problems, schools are now getting 60 percent of their aid in one year and the remainder in the next. It's not technically a cut, but the latest change has created cash flow issues for some schools who've had to take out loans or use reserves to make ends meet between checks.
If the state decided today to revert to its old formula, it would cost $2.1 billion (that's not including a separate school-related budget trick that saved the state $600 million.) That figure is not included in the coming two-year budget cycle's $1.3 billion projected deficit.
To assess Cohen's claim, PoliGraph put itself in the shoes of a Minnesotan who might not know much about education funding. From that perspective, Cohen's claim is confusing because he makes it sounds as if latest shift is unprecedented because there's no plan to pay it off.
But back in 1983, schools started receiving only 85 percent of their payment one year, and the remaining 15 percent the next - and that went on for 15 years without an end in sight.
It's also worth noting that the law requires the state to give schools extra cash when it has it; surpluses, such as the one Minnesota has now, must first be used to beef up the state's cash flow and budget reserve accounts, and leftovers must be given to schools to make up for the shift. (There's not enough of a surplus to do that this time around, though.)
So, while we don't know when the current round of schools borrowing will end, there is a mechanism in state law that requires schools are paid back.
Cohen said he was trying to underscore how enormous this particular shift is compared to others.
"No one has a realistic idea of how to pay back $2.1 billion," he said.
Cohen has a point: according to historical data provided by the Minnesota Legislature's House Research staff, schools are getting paid a much smaller portion of their aid each year than they have in the past.
And so far, it's the most expensive shift. For instance, in 1997, when lawmakers ended that 15-year-long payment shift, it only cost the state $156 million
Cohen is right that the state has borrowed money from schools in the past to make ends meet, including one stretch that lasted 15 years with no specified end date.
But this fix is different even from that one. Never before has the state delayed such a large percentage of school payments. And while technically the governor and Legislature created a mechanism to correct the shift, it is hard to see how that will happen, given how expensive it would be to pay off today.
This claim earns an accurate on the PoliGraph test.
Minnesota Management and Budget, November Forecast, accessed Dec. 6, 2011
Minnesota Public Radio News, Budget surplus gives state officials wiggle room in legislative session, by Tom Scheck, Dec. 2, 2011
Minnesota Statute 16A.152, accessed Dec. 6, 2011
Minnesota Public Radio News, Video: Budget deal explained, by Molly Bloom and Curtis Gilbert, July 15, 2011
Minnesota Legislature House Fiscal Analysis, State Education Funding Accounting Shifts, January 2011
Interview and e-mail exchange, Greg Crowe, House Research analysis, Dec. 6, 2011
Interview, Rep. Mindy Greiling, Dec. 6, 2011
Interview, Sen. Richard Cohen, Dec. 6, 2011(1 Comments)
To make their case against unionization of Minnesota's in-home child care providers, a coalition of groups has produced a new web ad that tells a cautionary tale about a similar situation in Michigan.
"In Michigan, unions have gone so far as to skim millions from Medicaid that would otherwise have gone to help disabled children," an ad by Childcare Freedom warns.
Childcare Freedom is right that some Medicaid money is going to union dues in Michigan. But its claim that the money would have gone to children is misleading.
Gov. Mark Dayton has ordered about 4,200 in-home child care providers who participate in a state-subsidized program to vote on unionization. It's still unclear how unionization would affect the roughly 7,000 providers who don't get to vote.
The vote, which will begin next week, has prompted a lawsuit by a group of providers who oppose the effort. They're backed by Childcare Freedom, a coalition of conservative groups including Minnesota Family Council, Minnesota Free Market Institute and Minnesota Majority.
Childcare Freedom's ad features a Mafioso smoking a cigar - the background music would remind you of the soundtrack to The Godfather - and demanding a union vote. The claim in question is voiced-over a picture of a disabled child in a wheelchair; the statement refers to a similar effort in Michigan to unionize roughly 42,000 in-home care providers who take care of the elderly or people over 18 with developmental disabilities.
Members of the Michigan union, which were organized in 2005, consist mostly of people who are taking care of their adult children, elderly parents or other family members, as well as providers who work for themselves, says Susan Steinke, executive director of the Michigan Quality Community Care Council. Created in 2004 by the state, MQCCC effectively serves as the workers' employer.
Many workers are forgoing regular jobs to take care of family members, relying on Medicaid checks to cover bills instead, she said.
Because the Michigan workers collect Medicaid to cover the cost of care, they are considered employees of the state. That means 2.75 percent is taken out of every check to cover union dues. Since 2007, an average of $5.6 million has been collected annually in union dues, according to the Department of Community Health.
So, Childcare Freedom is correct that SEIU has collected millions from Medicaid checks.
The ad's underlying implication is that unions are strong-arming workers into unionization in other states, and it's a reasonable matter of debate among home-care providers in Michigan.
Some say they didn't know there was a vote. They don't want to be members because they are taking care of their own family members, and aren't getting union benefits such as more vacation time. (Members can opt out, but still must pay a fair-share fee.)
Mackinac Center Legal Foundation director Patrick J. Wright, who opposes unionization, says that only a fraction of the home care workers voted, and that the community care council was formed under union pressure; SEIU wanted an employer to organize against, so the state created one, he said. This fiscal year, the Michigan Legislature defunded the council, though the group is still functioning on a limited budget and union dues are still being collected.
On the other side, Steinke points out that the council offers workers training opportunities that would otherwise be unavailable, and that union members are paid more after SEIU's intervention.
"If you were making $5.15 an hour and now you're making $8 an hour, you're still only paying 2.75 percent in dues," Steinke said. "That's 22 cents to make $2.85 more."
Taken as a whole, this ad implies that unions are forcing workers in many sectors into collective bargaining. In Michigan's case, that's a matter of debate.
Childcare Freedom is correct that SEIU has collected millions in union dues from Medicaid checks over the last few years.
But to say that it has been "skimmed" implies the money was obtained illegally, which is false. And it's wrong to say that the union dues would otherwise go to children because the program in question is for adults.
It's a close call, but PoliGraph rates this claim misleading.
Childcare Freedom, Union Shakedown Childcare Providers, accessed Dec. 1, 2011
WJBK Fox 2, Forced To Join a Union: SEIU Getting Money From Michigan Medicaid Checks, Nov. 15, 2011
Minnesota Public Radio, Conservative-backed group sues over child care union vote, by Tim Pugmire, November 28, 2011
Interview, Patrick Wright, director, Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, Dec. 1, 2011
Interview, Steinke, executive director of the Michigan Quality Community Care Council, Dec. 2, 2011
Republicans and Democrats can agree on one thing: Both sides say former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has changed his views on a range of issues to make good with conservative voters.
The latest attack comes from Democratic National Committee, which launched a new website this week highlighting Romney's flip-flops.
DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin headlined a press conference to introduce Minnesotans to the site, saying, "Romney once supported Ted Kennedy and John McCain's immigration reform bill, but last week he said he's willing to kick out of America families who have lived in the United States for over a generation."
Martin's statement uses hyperbole to score a point against a Republican presidential hopeful, but it's true that Mitt Romney has shifted the way he talks about immigration.
In 2005, Republican Sen. John McCain, and Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy were leading an effort to overhaul federal immigration rules. Among other things, their proposal would have created a path to citizenship for immigrants not legally in the United States, as long as they worked, declined public benefits and paid fines and back taxes.
According to a March 2007 Boston Globe story, Romney said in 2005 that the McCain-Kennedy plan and others were "reasonable proposals" because they didn't simply hand out citizenship to illegal immigrants - a process known as amnesty often criticized by some on the right.
"[The bill is] saying you could work your way into becoming a legal resident of the country by working here without taking benefits and then applying and then paying a fine," Romney told the Globe in 2005.
The Globe reported that Romney stopped short of endorsing the McCain-Kennedy bill, as Martin's claim implies. But he signaled that he generally supported a plan that would allow some illegal immigrants to stay in the country.
In March 2006, Romney told The Lowell Sun that while he didn't believe in amnesty, he also didn't believe "in rounding up 11 million people and forcing them at gunpoint from our country."
"Let's have them registered, know who they are," Romney said. "Those who have been arrested or convicted of crimes shouldn't be here. Those that are here paying taxes and not taking government benefits should begin a process towards application for citizenship, as they would from their home country."
Romney made similar comments to Bloomberg News in 2006, and again suggested that some illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay in the United States.
"We need to begin a process of registering those people, some being returned, and some beginning the process of applying for citizenship and establishing legal status," Romney said according to a recent Bloomberg story on his immigration record.
But by 2007, as he launched his first bid for the White House, Romney's tone had changed.
Westy Egmont, who co-chaired an immigration advisory committee during Romney's tenure, says the shift was driven by McCain's presence in the race.
"Romney went from trying to figure out a position where he could turn off the magnets and yet appear to offer an understanding that people needed to get themselves right in status," Egmont said. "With that not working, and with McCain being competitive for the presidency, I saw him taking a position challenging McCain for amnesty. He became hardline with respect to McCain."
Romney's comments at a 2007 event in Arizona with Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whose aggressive views on illegal immigrants make him a controversial figure, underscore Egmont's observations.
"My view is there should be no advantage for those that are here illegally in pursuing a course of permanent residency," Romney said. He said that legislation that would allow some illegal immigrants a path to citizenship "could result in virtual amnesty," according to the Globe.
When pressed on his 2006 comments to the Lowell Sun on a 2007 episode of Meet the Press, Romney said what he meant was that illegal immigrants should "have a set period during which... they sign up for application for permanent residency or for citizenship. But there's a set period where upon they should return home... For the great majority, they'll be going home."
Romney's 2007 comments were reflected in the Nov. 11, 2011, Republican debate Martin references.
At the event, GOP contender Newt Gingrich said that illegal immigrants who have been here for "25 years and you got three kids and two grandkids, you've been paying taxes and obeying the law, you belong to a local church, I don't think we're going to separate you from your family, uproot you forcefully and kick you out."
When CNN host Wolf Blitzer asked Romney if he thought that Gingrich's approach amounted to amnesty, and entice others to come to the United States illegally, Romney's response was unequivocal.
"There's no question," Romney said. "To say that we're going to say to the people who have come here illegally that now you're all going to get to stay or some large number are going to get to stay and become permanent residents of the United States, that will only encourage more people to do the same thing."
But when pressed by Blitzer to say whether he would let some long-time illegal immigrants stay, Romney dodged the question.
"I'm not going to start drawing lines here about who gets to stay and who get to go," Romney said. "The principle is that we are not going to have an amnesty system that says that people who come here illegally get to stay for the rest of their life in this country legally."
Romney's flip-flop on immigration reform is not as dramatic or clear-cut as Martin makes it out to be; Romney always talked around the edges of the issue, and never officially endorsed any specific immigration proposal.
But it's true that Romney's tone on immigration has changed in recent years, especially as he has run for president.
So, while Martin is guilty of hyperbole, it would be misleading to say that Romney hasn't changed his views on immigration.
It was a tough call, but because Romney initially called the McCain-Kennedy approach reasonable and now says he will not support a system that allows illegal immigrants to stay, PoliGraph says that Martin's statement leans toward accurate.
Thomas, Summary of H.R. 2330: Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act, accessed Nov. 29, 2011
The Boston Globe, Romney's words grow hard on immigration, by Scott Helman, March 16, 2007 (subscription only)
The Boston Globe, Romney's shifting stance on immigration, by Matt Viser, Nov. 29, 2011 (subscription only)
The Lowell Sun, Romney supports immigration program, but not granting 'amnesty', March 30, 2006 (subscription only)
Bloomberg News, Romney in 2006 Backed Immigration Stance He Now Deems 'Amnesty', by Julie Hirschfield Davis, Nov. 27, 2011
Meet the Press, transcript, Dec. 16, 2007, accessed Nov. 29, 2011
Time Magazine, Transcript of Nov. 22 CNN GOP debate, accessed Nov. 29, 2011
E-mail exchange, Carlie Waibel, DFL spokeswoman
E-mail exchange, Andrea Saul, spokeswoman, Romney for President
While U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann touts her consistent positions on an array of issues dear to conservatives, in a new ad the Republican presidential hopeful says that her GOP opponents have records filled with surprises.
They've flip-flopped on abortion, immigration, health care and gay marriage, among other things, Bachmann says.
The new talking point represents a subtle shift in Bachmann's tactics in the lead-up to the all-important Iowa caucuses. Rather than contrast her record against that of President Barack Obama, who has largely been the target of her criticism up until now, Bachmann is highlighting her record against those of her GOP opponents.
During a Nov. 13, 2011, Meet the Press interview, Bachmann singled out former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
"There's certainly a sharp contrast between myself and Gov. Romney," she said. "He has been pro-choice, I am pro-life. He has been for marriage between people of the same sex. I am for marriage between one man and one woman."
Romney has flip-flopped on abortion, but not on same-sex marriage.
Unlike Bachmann, who has always opposed abortion, Romney's stance on the issue has turned 180 degrees since he took the national stage.
In 1994, while challenging Democrat Ted Kennedy for his Senate seat, Romney said that he was personally opposed to abortion, but that he would not force his belief on others.
"I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country," he said during the debate. "I believe that since Roe vs. Wade has been the law for 20 years, that we should sustain and support that law and the right of a woman to make that choice."
In 2002, while running for governor of Massachusetts, Romney said he would "preserve and protect a woman's right to choose, and am devoted and dedicated to honoring my word in that regard."
In the intervening years, as Romney aimed for the White House, he changed his tune.
Recently, he wrote in the National Review that he is "pro-life and believe[s] that abortion should be limited to only instances of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother." He also wrote that he would support the reversal of Roe vs. Wade, a departure from his 1994 comments, among other proposals that would limit abortion.
While Bachmann has always opposed gay marriage, Romney's shifting positions on gay rights are far more nuanced. While running for Senate, Romney won the support of the Republican Log Cabin Club of Massachusetts by promising to support efforts that would end discrimination against gays and lesbians. "We must make equality for gays and lesbians a mainstream concern," Romney wrote in a 1994 letter to the group. "My opponent cannot do this," he said of Kennedy. "I can and will."
During his run for governor, Romney also said that he would support giving same-sex couples benefits such as hospital visitation rights and inheritance rights. That same year, after Romney's wife, son and daughter-in-law signed a petition to put a gay marriage constitutional amendment on the ballot, his spokesperson told the Bay Window newspaper that Romney "is opposed to gay marriage, but in the case of the 'defense of marriage' amendment Mitt believes it goes too far in that it would outlaw domestic partnership for non-traditional couples."
In October of that year, Romney drove that message home. "Call me old fashioned," he said, "but I don't support gay marriage, nor do I support civil union if it is the exact embodiment of marriage."
One New York Times article reported that Romney told the Log Cabin Club in 2002 that he opposed gay marriage, but he wouldn't fight the state's Supreme Court if it ultimately ruled gay marriage to be legal.
But that's exactly what Romney did in 2003 when same-sex marriage was made legal. Romney said he disagreed with the ruling because marriage should be between a man and woman.
"I will support an amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution that makes that expressly clear," he said, according to a Nov. 20, 2003 New York Times article. "Of course, we must provide basic civil rights and appropriate benefits to nontraditional couples, but marriage is a special institution that should be reserved for a man and a woman."
In subsequent months, the Boston Globe reported that Romney asked lawmakers to vote for such a ban, but not one that would prevent civil unions.
Today, Romney's rhetoric on the subject isn't much different, though it is more direct, and, say some of his critics, more severe. Romney has signed a pledge to support a federal ban of gay marriage, among other things. But he's also said that he still supports giving same-sex couples some benefits, such as hospital visitation rights.
Bachmann's clearly correct that Romney flip-flopped on abortion.
And it would be fair to say that Romney's record on gay rights has been a bit muddy; at times he's appeared to court gay supporters, and at others, he's appeared to reject gay rights.
But he's always said that he opposes same-sex marriage, so the second part of Bachmann's claim is incorrect.
Meet the Press, Nov. 13, 2011 episode
Footage from the 1994 Kennedy/Romney debate, accessed Nov. 15, 2011
Footage from 2002 Massachusetts Gubernatorial debate, accessed Nov. 15, 2011
The Boston Globe, Why I vetoed contraception bill, By Mitt Romney, July 26, 2005
The National Review, My Pro-Life Pledge, by Mitt Romney, June 18, 2011
The New York Times, Romney's Tone on Gay Rights Is Seen as Shift, by Michael Luo, Sept. 8, 2007 MICHAEL LUO
1994 letter from Romney to Log Cabin Club of Massachusetts, accessed Nov. 16, 2011
The New York Times, Romney's Gay Rights Stance Draws Ire, by Adam Nagourney and David D. Kirkpatrick, Dec. 9, 2006
CNN, Interview with Mitt Romney regarding gay adoption, accessed Nov. 16, 2011
The Bay Window, Gay GOP touts Romney as good for the community, March 28, 2002
The New York Times, Marriage by Gays Gains Big Victory in Massachusetts, by Pam Belluck, November 20, 2003
The New York Times, Obey Same-Sex Marriage Law, Officials Told, by Katie Zezima, April 26, 2004
C-SPAN, Massachusetts Gubernatorial Debate, Oct. 1, 2002
The Huffington Post, Mitt Romney Supports 'Partnership Agreements,' Not Marriage, For Gay Couples, by Sam Stein, Oct. 11, 2011
CBS News, Mitt Romney pledges opposition to gay marriage, By Brian Montopoli, Aug. 4, 2011
While the Occupy Wall Street protests continue across the nation, Democratic U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison believes that people are still confused about the movement's message. To clarify, Ellison created a brief video to explain what Occupy Wall Street is all about - and that income inequality is among the group's top frustrations.
"For the last 30 years, the average working American has seen their pay stay flat," Ellison says in the video as a graph appears beside him. "During the same period, the top one percent have seen their income grow."
It's true that the rich have gotten richer by leaps and bounds in the last 30 years and that everyone else has struggled to increase their earnings. But to say that the average American's pay has been stagnant is incorrect.
The graph that appears in Ellison's video is from an article in the publication Mother Jones, said Ellison's spokesman. Using inflation-adjusted data from the period between 1978 and 2008, it shows that the bottom 90 percent's income has been stagnant over the last 30 years - averaging about $31,000 - and that the top 1 percent's income has risen dramatically.
But lumping together income for everyone in the bottom 90 percent disguises the fact that lots of people saw income increases in the last 30 years; the data for the 90 percent used by Mother Jones cannot be parsed more narrowly, so the income gap appears more dramatic as a result.
A recent report from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, illustrates income inequality more clearly.
- For those in the 81st through 99th percentiles, after-tax, inflation-adjusted average income grew by 65 percent between 1979 and 2007.
- Those in the 21st through the 80th percentiles - the middle of the income scale - saw their average income grow by nearly 40 percent during the same period of time.
- And for everyone in the lowest income percentile, average income grew by 18 percent.
Certainly, those are small gains when compared to the top 1 percent, who saw their income increase by 275 percent between 1979 and 2007, according to the CBO report. And it's clear that income has grown far slower for those in the lower and middle classes than it has for top earners.
To that end, Ellison's underlying point that the income gap is expanding is undeniable, said Chad Stone who is chief economist for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
"The one thing that stands out almost no matter how you do it is that huge gains have accrued to the top one percent of households, while growth, to the extent that there has been growth farther down the income distribution has been much slower," Stone said. "There's an unmistakable widening of inequality."
Ellison is clearly correct that the rich have gotten much, much richer in the last 30 years. And his underlying point that the income gap has grown substantially is spot-on.
But a CBO report shows that the first part of his claim, that the average worker's pay has remained stagnant for three decades, is incorrect.
So, for getting the first part of his statement wrong, and the second part right, PoliGraph is issuing a rarely-used "True/False" ruling for this claim.
YouTube, DFL Rep. Keith Ellison on the Occupy Wall Street movement, Nov. 2, 2011
Mother Jones, Charts: Who Are the 1 Percent?, by Dave Gilson, Oct. 10, 2011
The World Top Incomes Database, accessed Nov. 10, 2011
The Economist, The 99 percent, Oct 26th 2011
The Congressional Budget Office, Trends in the Distribution of Household Income Between 1979 and 2007, Oct. 2011
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Income Gaps Between Very Rich and Everyone Else More Than Tripled In Last Three Decades, New Data Show, by Arloc Sherman and Chad Stone, June 25, 2010
Interview, Chad Stone, Chief Economist at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Nov. 11, 2011
Posted at 2:00 PM on November 4, 2011
by Catharine Richert
Filed under: PoliGraph
With jobs and the economy emerging as the defining issue of the 2012 presidential campaign, President Barack Obama is trying to make clear the nation is much better off than it was before he took office in 2009 - but that there's still a long way to go.
To highlight the nation's economic progress, and to sell his new jobs plan that he says will make the economy even better, Obama invited nine local television stations from across the country to the White House. WCCO-TV was among them.
During his brief chat with anchor Amelia Santaniello, Obama made two claims about the economy's performance during his time in office.
PoliGraph checked both of them and found that Obama's statements are basically correct.
"In the private sector, we've seen over 2 million jobs created. This year alone, over a million jobs created."
Obama's benchmark is February 2010, the nadir of employment when the nation had 106.7 million private sector jobs, according to seasonally adjusted employment figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Currently, we have more than 109.5 million private sector jobs - a difference of nearly 2.8 million.
Obama's also correct that more than 1 million jobs have been added since the beginning of 2011.
Obama got his facts straight on this one, and for that, his claim is accurate.
Next, a look at Obama's claim that the economy has grown during his tenure.
Here's what he said:
"The thing I'm proudest of is having stabilized the economy, even though it's not where it needs to be. Keep in mind that when I came in office, the economy had contracted by 9 percent, which is the most since the Great Depression. By 2010, the economy had grown by 4 percent, so that was a huge reversal."
Right before Obama was sworn into office in 2009, the recession had already taken a toll on the economy. Case in point: gross domestic product had fallen by 8.9 percent in the last quarter of 2008, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) - roughly the 9 percent Obama mentioned in his interview.
Obama is also correct that, in the first quarter of 2010, GDP had grown 3.9 percent over the last quarter of 2009.
As for the recession's historical significance, Obama's in the ballpark. PoliGraph found two instances since the Great Depression of steeper annual or quarterly GDP declines than the one in the last quarter of 2008.
But the BEA told us that the most recent recession, from start to finish, represents the most dramatic economic contraction since the government started collecting quarterly GDP data in 1947. (Before that, the government only collected annual data, which makes it difficult to measure the significance of older recessions compared to the most recent one.)
It's also important to point out that, while the economy continues to grow, its expansion has slowed some since the start of 2010. BEA attributes the deceleration to a variety of factors, including fluctuating consumer spending, struggling exports and increasing imports, and periodic dips in government spending.
All in all, Obama gets this claim correct as well.
WCCO-TV, Amelia Santaniello interviews President Barack Obama, Nov. 1, 2011
CNN, Recession officially ended in June 2009, By Chris Isidore, Sept. 20, 2010
National Bureau of Economic Research, US Business Cycle Expansions and Contractions, accessed Nov. 3, 2011
The Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics - CES (National), accessed Nov. 3, 2011
Bureau of Economic Analysis, Table 1.1.1. Percent Change From Preceding Period in Real Gross Domestic Product (A) (Q), accessed Nov. 3, 2011
E-mail exchange, Caroline Hughes, spokeswoman, The White House, Nov. 3, 2011
E-mail exchange, Thomas Dail, spokesman, Bureau of Economic Analysis, Nov. 3, 2011
Interview, Steve Hine, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, Nov. 3, 2011
Republican legislators say their big goal for the coming legislative session is to grow jobs by reducing taxes and rolling back regulations, among other things.
To underscore the need for the state Senate Republican's plan to grow jobs, Deputy Senate Majority Leader Geoff Michel pointed out that the number of private sector jobs in Minnesota has fallen to 1998 levels.
"We have the same number of jobs in 2011 as we did in 1998," Michel said in an Oct. 24, 2011, press conference to announce his caucus's plan. "Since the recession hit in 2007, 2008, we have fallen back to 1998 private sector job levels."
Though Minnesota's employment took a hit with the recession, the state still has more jobs now than it did in 1998.
The average number of private sector jobs for the first three quarters of 2011 is about 2.242 million, according to data from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. That's using non-seasonally adjusted employment counts.
That's about 78,000 more jobs than the average of 2.164 million in the first three quarters of 1998. To put that figure in perspective, 78,000 jobs is roughly the same number of jobs 3M has worldwide.
Even looked at another way - a month-to-month comparison -- Minnesota has more jobs now than it did in 1998. A comparison of jobs figures that are seasonally adjusted yields the same result.
Chris Van Guilder, a spokesman for Michel, pushed back. He said that in the context of the millions of jobs the state supports, the difference of 78,000 jobs over more than a decade isn't significant enough to label his boss' statement false.
UPDATE: On Saturday, Oct. 29, Sen. Michel sent PoliGraph this graph as additional sourcing for his claim. The visual still shows that Minnesota has more jobs now than it did in 1998, but Michel said he relied on the graph because it makes his broader point that the state lost a significant number of jobs in recent years. The graph shows a sharp decline in jobs around the time of the recession; according to DEED's numbers, Minnesota has roughly the same number of jobs now as it did between 2003 and 2004.
Though Minnesota lost a lot of jobs as a result of the recession, Michel is incorrect that Minnesota has the same level of private sector employment now as it did in 1998.
PoliGraph rates this claim false.
Minnesota State Senate, clips from Oct. 24, 2011, press conference, accessed Oct. 28, 2011
Minnesota State Senate Republican Caucus, Senate Republican Caucus Announces Jobs Agenda for 2012 Legislative Session, Oct. 24, 2011
Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, Total Minnesota private sector employment 1990-2011, accessed Oct. 28, 2011
Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, Total Minnesota employment, seasonally adjusted 1990-2011, accessed Oct. 28, 2011(2 Comments)
After a drawn-out debate over the budget, lawmakers have turned their attention to another delayed decision: whether to green-light a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings.
Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, is ranking member of the state Senate's tax committee, and he opposes the effort because it is too expensive for taxpayers.
"Zygi Wilf and the Vikings are attempting to make their Ramsey County stadium deal sound like a run-of-the-mill, routine proposal. It is not," Marty wrote in an Oct. 23 opinion piece in the Twin Cities Daily Planet. "The Vikings are asking for the #1, all-time, biggest taxpayer subsidy of any sports franchise anywhere in American history!"
Marty wrote a commentary on the subject for Minnesota Public Radio News Oct. 21.
For the first time, PoliGraph tackles sports, and finds Marty's claim mostly accurate.
The proposed Arden Hills Vikings stadium is expected to exceed $1 billion. The current plan would require the state to chip in $300 million, Ramsey County to pay for $350 million of the project's cost by raising the sales tax, and the Vikings to contribute $407 million.
That doesn't include losses in tax revenue that Marty argues would effectively increase the public's contribution further, nor does it factor in a Metropolitan Council report that predicts the project will exceed cost projections.
To support his claim, Marty relied on research conducted earlier this year by two economists associated with the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts. The report looked back at the costs of all sports arenas in the United States going back as far as 1990.
The most expensive buildings on the list include the Indianapolis Colts stadium, which cost taxpayers roughly $620 million (the Holy Cross report incorrectly states the cost as $720 million), the Washington Nationals field, which cost the public $611 million, and the Orlando Magic arena, which cost the public $430 million.
PoliGraph looked back even further using research by the National Sports Law Institute at Marquette University, and found only one facility more costly to the public than the Vikings stadium is expected to be: Madison Square Garden in New York City.
The Garden's most recent construction occurred in 1968 and cost $123 million in taxpayer dollars. Accounting for inflation, the stadium would have cost roughly $762 million today.
Madison Square Garden beats the Vikings' proposal when adjusted for inflation, but the building is more than 40 years old. When it comes to stadiums built in the last 20 years, the planned Vikings stadium comes out on top.
For getting his facts nearly correct, Marty's claim leans toward accurate.
The Twin Cities Daily Planet, Let's inject fiscal sanity into stadium debate, by John Marty, Oct. 23, 2011
The Minnesota Vikings, the New Minnesota Stadium: FAQ, accessed Oct. 24, 2011
National Public Radio, The Nation: Stop The Subsidy-Sucking Sports Stadiums, by Neil Demause, August 5, 2011
Metropolitan Council, Stadium Proposal Risk Analysis, Oct. 2011
Financing Professional Sports Facilities, By Robert A. Baade and Victor A. Matheson, January 2011
Marquette University Law School, National Sports Law Institute, Sports Facility Reports Volume 12, Summer 2011
Interview, Heidi Mallin, spokeswoman, Lucas Oil Field
Email exchange, Victor Matheson, economist, College of the Holy Cross, Oct. 26, 2011
As a special panel created by Gov. Mark Dayton convened this week to make recommendations on the state's election rules, a group that supports a voter identification law is touting a new report about voter fraud convictions associated with the 2008 election.
"As of August 10th, 2011, 113 individuals are now known to have been convicted for voter fraud committed in 2008," the report from Minnesota Majority, a right-leaning group, states.
Minnesota Majority may be in range, but it is difficult to pin down a precise number.
Minnesota Majority's report largely focuses on felons who were ineligible to vote in the 2008 election, but did anyway. The group argues that the number may be much higher than that, but many who violate election rules avoid punishment if they can prove they did not know they were ineligible to cast a ballot.
The number of convictions represents weaknesses in the state's same-day registration policy, the group contends.
In Hennepin County, 23 people have been convicted of voter fraud and eight cases are pending. In Ramsey County, 36 convictions have resulted from the 2008 elections as of last spring, including cases involving ineligible voters who registered, but who did not end up voting.
PoliGraph also requested voter fraud conviction data for every county in the state. The data, collected by the Minnesota Supreme Court, shows that 144 people have been convicted of voter fraud since 2009.
The Supreme Court numbers are not a perfect comparison to the Minnesota Majority's report because the data include some cases associated with the 2010 election, and are not limited to cases involving felons who voted illegally.
Ramsey County Elections Manager Joe Mansky, who sits on the governor's special committee and is widely considered to be a state expert on voting, said that the vast majority of such cases involve people who have been convicted of a felony, are ineligible to vote, but do anyway.
But these are isolated cases that could not be solved by implementing a voter identification law, he said. And unlike other states, there's no evidence that Minnesota has had large, organized attempts to violate the law, Mansky said.
"This is just individuals acting on their own, with imperfect information, no information," he said.
Furthermore, those who were found to violate the law represent far less than 1 percent of the roughly 2.9 million Minnesotans who voted in the 2008 election.
Based on independent information, it appears that Minnesota Majority's estimate that 113 people have been convicted of voter fraud may be in the ballpark, though a precise number is elusive.
As a result, their claim rates inconclusive.
Minnesota Majority, Felon Voter Fraud Convictions Stemming from Minnesota's 2008 General Election, October 13, 2011
Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota, Facts About Ineligible Voting and Voter Fraud in Minnesota: Based on data from Minnesota County Attorneys, November 2010
In 5-Year Effort, Scant Evidence of Voter Fraud, By Eric Lipton and Ian Urbina, April 12, 2007
Voter fraud conviction data, Minnesota Supreme Court, Oct. 20, 2011
Voter fraud conviction data, Hennepin County, Oct. 20, 2011
Interview, Dan McGrath, Minnesota Majority, Oct. 20, 2011
Interview, Joe Mansky, Ramsey County Elections Manager, Oct. 21, 2011
Interview, John Kingrey, Executive Director, Minnesota County Attorneys Association, Oct. 20, 2011(6 Comments)
Cities and towns across the state are weighing whether to increase their property tax levies. Complicating the question is a new program included in the latest budget meant to reduce the property tax burden for some homeowners.
House Minority Leader Rep. Paul Thissen says the state's new approach to property taxes won't provide relief.
"The bottom line: Republicans eliminated a program that provides $538 million each biennium in property tax relief and replaced it with a program that provides $0 in property tax relief," Thissen wrote in a recent e-mail to constituents.
Thissen's claim is correct.
Previously, people who owned property valued at less than $413,800 got a tax break. The credit got bigger as property value declined. The state reimbursed communities for the property tax loss.
But in recent years, the state wasn't always coming through with the money, so the Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton eliminated the credit program in the latest budget to save some cash. It was replaced with an alternative that is still meant to target those owning property valued at less than $413,800, but now the state won't be reimbursing taxing jurisdictions for the money they miss out on as the result.
So, the state is providing "$0 in property tax relief" to local governments. According to the Minnesota Department of Revenue, eliminating the credit will save $538 million in the next biennium - the equivalent that would have been "provided" to communities as Thissen said.
Many property owners will see higher taxes because Minnesota taxing jurisdictions are weighing property tax increases to make up for lost state aid.
As an aside, it's important to point out that, while Thissen and the other House Democrats voted against the tax portion of the final budget, he frames the elimination of the credit as a Republican effort. The GOP effectively endorsed the plan by voting for the bill, and Dayton did, too, by signing it.
Thissen claimed that the new property tax plan provides "$0 in property tax relief" and he's correct: The state will no longer reimburse localities for the lost aid. And while some properties will be taxed less under the new plan, most will be taxed more.
MPR's Ground Level blog, St. Paul property taxes go down (for a few) and up (for many), by Dave Peters, Oct. 6, 2011
Minnesota Public Radio News, Tax hike saddles business, property owners, by Tom Robertson, October 13, 2011
Minnesota House Legislative Research, Homestead Market Value Credit, accessed Oct. 11, 2011
Minnesota House Legislative Research, The Homestead Market Value Exclusion, accessed Oct. 11, 2011
Minnesota Department of Revenue, Understanding Recent Changes in Homestead Benefits
Minnesota House Legislative Research, Alternative: Pay 2011 under MVHC conversion with no levy change, Sept. 9, 2011
Minnesota House Legislative Research, Alternative: Pay 2011 under MVHC conversion with no levy change, Sept. 20, 2011
Rep. Michele Bachmann was among the Republican presidential hopefuls who participated in the Washington Post/Bloomberg News debate on Oct. 11.
PoliGraph looked at five statement she made during the discussion, which focused on the economy.
Claim: The federal government caused the economic collapse.
The Facts: It's true that the government played a role in the economic collapse, but the situation is more complicated than Bachmann makes it seem.
In the early 2000s, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development was trying to put more low-income Americans in homes. News reports at the time of the economic downturn show that HUD urged Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to purchase loans made to borrowers who couldn't afford them.
In 2008, the Washington Post reported on the subject, writing
"The agency neglected to examine whether borrowers could make the payments on the loans that Freddie and Fannie classified as affordable. From 2004 to 2006, the two purchased $434 billion in securities backed by subprime loans, creating a market for more such lending. Subprime loans are targeted toward borrowers with poor credit, and they generally carry higher interest rates than conventional loans."
Still, it's not just the government that's culpable.
FactCheck.org addressed the issue back in 2008 and came up with this long list of actors in the crisis, which includes the Federal Reserve ("which slashed interest rates after the dot-com bubble burst, making credit cheap"), homebuyers ("who took advantage of easy credit to bid up the prices of homes excessively") and Wall Street ("who paid too little attention to the quality of the risky loans that they bundled into Mortgage Backed Securities [MBS], and issued bonds using those securities as collateral").
The Claim: Nine years from now, Medicare Part B will be "dead, flat broke."
The Facts: It's Medicare Part A, which covers inpatient care, that could soon be suffering financially. But not in nine years, as Bachmann said. Rather, this year's Medicare trustees' report pegs the insolvency date at 2024.The same report says that Medicare Part B, which pays for outpatient care, will be fine for the foreseeable future.
The Claim: The U.S. just eliminated a tax in 2006 that was meant to help pay for the Spanish-American War.
The Facts: Bachmann made this claim to support her case against new taxes, and she's correct. Back in 1898, the federal government imposed a tax on long-distance calls. The levy was initially meant to target the wealthy, who were more likely to have the new technology in their homes. The IRS stopped collecting the 3 percent tax on long-distance calls in 2006.
The Claim: Texas Gov. Rick Perry increased spending by 50 percent during his tenure.
The Facts: Bachmann's in range with this one. PolitiFact Texas looked at the issue recently, and found that spending of state general revenue went up 44 percent during Perry's tenure. That figure drops by 6 percentage points when population growth and inflation are taken into account.
The Claim: The new health care law is the "number one reason" why employers aren't hiring.
The Facts: During the last debate, Bachmann made a similar claim and PoliGraph rated it misleading for several reasons. First, it cites a report that says the new health care law is "arguably" the primary reason employers aren't hiring; it doesn't rely on any sort of formal survey of businesses, and lists 10 other reasons, ranging from the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts to environmental regulation, that are preventing employers from bringing on new workers.
We also talked to economists - both conservative and liberal - who said that new coverage rules in the health care law may be a top reason why some businesses aren't hiring, but that lagging consumer demand and general economic uncertainty are far more prominent reasons for most businesses.
Further reading: Check out the Washington Post's FactChecker. Their team covered a few of Bachmann's debate claims that we didn't, including her assertion that the U.S. spends 40 percent more than we take in, and that Obama has a secret plan to end Medicare.
The New York Times also fact-checked the debate in real time. Check out their work here.(5 Comments)
Posted at 2:09 PM on October 7, 2011
by Catharine Richert
Filed under: PoliGraph
Here's a recent tweet from U.S. Rep. John Kline's Twitter feed:
"2.5 yrs after stimulus, Minn. has LOST 49,500 jobs - a far cry from the 66,000 White House said would be CREATED in MN," wrote Kline, who represents the state's 2nd Congressional District.
Government stimulus is once again a hot topic in Washington, D.C., as President Barack Obama pressures Congress to pass a bill that he contends could keep or create 1.9 million jobs nationally.
Kline essentially gets his numbers right, but 140 characters on Twitter don't tell the whole story.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Minnesota had 2.7 million jobs in February 2009, when Obama signed the stimulus bill. At that time, the administration predicted that the legislation would create or preserve 3.5 million jobs nationally within two years, 66,000 of them in Minnesota.
Two and a half years later - a slightly longer timeframe than the White House's - Kline claims that the state lost 49,500 jobs. As his source, Kline points to a memo drafted by Republicans on the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee in early September when the most recent jobs numbers available were from July.
Between February 2009 and July 2011, the state lost 44,000 jobs, according to BLS data. So, Kline's estimate is off, but not by much.
Put in context, Kline's claim is on much shakier ground.
First, Minnesota's jobs outlook has bounced around a lot since the stimulus bill was passed, as it has in many states. In some months, the workforce shrank, and in others it expanded. In fact, the latest employment numbers for August show Minnesota has lost only 15,000 jobs since February 2009.
There are all sorts of complicated reasons why the workforce remains unstable. For instance, consumer demand is lagging, so there's no need for companies to hire more workers to expand supply.
Further, Kline's claim implies that the stimulus bill hasn't created jobs, but that's not true. In June of this year, between 1 million and 2.9 million people owed their jobs to the stimulus bill, according to an August 2011 report from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.
In Minnesota, roughly 61,000 stimulus jobs were created through the fourth quarter of 2010, according to a March 2011 report by the administration's Council of Economic Advisors. That's not the 66,000 the White House predicted back in 2009, but it is close.
Kline's numbers are more or less correct, and so is his implication that Minnesota hasn't regained the jobs it had back in February 2009. But his underlying implication that the stimulus bill hasn't created jobs is false.
As a result, Kline's tweet is misleading.
The White House, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act: State-by-State Jobs Impact, Feb. 13, 2009
The U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, Another Unhappy Labor Day for American Workers: Obama Stimulus Created More Unemployment and Debt, but Not the Jobs It Promised, Sept. 2, 2011
The Bureau of Labor Statistics, Regional and State Employment and Unemployment - August 2011, Sept. 16, 2011
The Congressional Budget Office, Estimated Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act on Employment and Economic Output from April 2011 Through June 2011, August 2011
Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, New CBO Report Finds Up to 2.9 Million People Owe Their Jobs to the Recovery Act, By Michael Leachman and Christine Mai, August 30, 2011
Executive Office of the President: Council of Economic Advisers, The Economic Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Sixth Quarterly Report, March 18, 2011
After years of languishing, trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama are moving swiftly through Congress.
U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen, a Republican who represents Minnesota's 3rd Congressional District, is a fan of the pacts because they aim to produce jobs in the United States.
"These agreements will increase U.S. exports of goods and services and support the creation of over 250,000 new U.S. jobs," he said on Oct. 3.
Just how many jobs the deals will create is a matter of debate, and Paulsen's estimate is on the high end.
The U.S. Trade Representative's office (USTR) says the South Korea deal could create 70,000 jobs.
The administration isn't giving a jobs estimate for Colombia deal, but a rough ballpark estimate would be about 6,000 jobs based on numbers from the trade office.
As for the Panama deal, there is no export estimate because the effects of the agreement would be very small on the U.S. export market, according to the U.S. International Trade Commission's 2007 analysis of the agreement.
A separate estimate conducted by Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon who chairs a Senate trade subcommittee, shows that, taking into account changes in the economy since the recession, the South Korea agreement alone could create 280,000 jobs.
All those estimates leave out an important factor: Open trade will increase U.S. exports, but it will also increase U.S. imports, which means some people could lose their jobs. For instance, the Wyden report points out that employees in the manufacturing sector will be vulnerable as a result of the South Korea deal.
Robert Scott, an economist with the Economic Policy Institute, ran the numbers, too, and found that the South Korea and Colombia agreements would result in the loss of 214,000 jobs within seven years of ratification.
Paulsen's jobs estimate is on the high end of a range of estimates. As a result, PoliGraph rates this claim inconclusive.
Rep. Erik Paulsen, Paulsen Statement on Submission of Long-Awaited Trade Agreements, Oct. 3, 2011
YouTube, speech on the floor of the House of Representatives, Rep. Erik Paulsen, Oct. 3, 2011
The House Ways and Means Committee, Camp Sets Deadline for Moving the Three Pending Trade Agreements, But When Will the Administration Act?, Feb. 11, 2011
Bloomberg News, Obama Submits Pending Free-Trade Agreements to Congress, by Eric Martin, Oct. 3, 2011
Bloomberg, Obama Says U.S.-China Trade Spurs Prosperity for Both, By Edwin Chen and Julianna Goldman, Nov. 16, 2009
The New York Times, Free Trade Standoff Is Resolved, by Binyamin Appelbaum, Oct. 3, 2011
The United States International Trade Commission, The U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement: Potential Economy-wide and Selected Sectoral Effects, Dec. 2006
The United States International Trade Commission, The U.S.-Korea Trade Promotion Agreement: Potential Economy-wide and Selected Sectoral Effects, Sept. 2007
The United States International Trade Commission, The U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement: Potential Economy-wide and Selected Sectoral Effects, Sept. 2007
The White House, Statement by the President Announcing the U.S.-Korea Trade Agreement, December 3, 2010
The White House, Fact Sheets: U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement, April 19, 2011
The White House, Fact Sheets: U.S.-Columbia Trade Agreement and Action Plan, April 6, 2011
Public Citizen, The Incredible Shrinking FTA Jobs Claim, by Travis McArthur, March 25, 2011
The Economic Policy Institute, Trade policy and job loss, By Robert E. Scott, February 25, 2010
E-mail correspondence, Tom Erickson, spokesman, Rep. Erik Paulsen, Oct. 4, 2011
Interview, Robert Scott, economist, Economic Policy Institute, Oct. 5, 2011
The third quarter of this year's campaign fundraising cycle ends today, and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann is making a last-minute push to make some extra cash.
To grab the attention of potential contributors, Bachmann wrote a fundraising e-mail highlighting a recent poll conducted in Iowa, where she is determined to win the primary.
"As one of my most valued supporters, I wanted to let you in on a secret," Bachmann wrote in the Sept. 29 note. "Our campaign's rising poll numbers have not gone unnoticed. The latest Iowa poll has our campaign in second place, just behind Mitt Romney and ahead of Rick Perry."
Bachmann's spinning the poll numbers.
Bachmann's referring to a new poll conducted by the American Research Group (ARG) of 600 likely Republican caucus-goers living in Iowa.
Among the voters surveyed, 15 percent would vote for Bachmann in the caucuses. That's second to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who has 21 percent support among the same group of people.
But here's what Bachmann left out of her e-mail: The last time ARG conducted their survey in July, she had 21 percent support and was leading the pack of candidates.
So, Bachmann's support has actually declined according to this poll.
ARG's survey is the most recent conducted in Iowa since the end of August, according to Real Clear Politics, a website that houses a range of polling data. Back then, Bachmann was capturing between 15 and 22 percent of the Iowa GOP vote, depending on the poll. So, even compared to other surveys, Bachmann's support has dipped.
It's possible that Bachmann is referring to recent national studies, most of which have her polling in the single digits. But those are surveys of voters throughout the country, not in Iowa.
Bachmann also claims that she has more support than Texas Gov. Rick Perry, her biggest rival in the nomination process. It's true that the ARG poll shows Perry with 14 percent support. But with a margin of error of 4 percentage points, it's not a statistically significant difference.
Bachmann said her support is growing in Iowa. But compared to the last time the same survey was conducted, her support has declined. It's the same story when compared to other recent polls conducted in Iowa. Further, she's not ahead of Perry in the ARG poll; the two are effectively tied for second place.
This claim is misleading to the point of being false.
American Research Group, Iowa Poll, Sept. 22-27, 2011
Real Clear Politics, Polls: Iowa Republican Presidential Caucus, accessed Sept. 30, 2011
Real Clear Politics, Polls: 2012 Republican Presidential Nomination, accessed Sept. 30, 2011
FiveThirtyEight, Perry slumps in polls but not to Romney's gain, by Nate Silver, Sept. 29, 2011
FiveThirtyEight, ARG my brain hurts, by Nate Silver, July 14, 2011
FiveThirtyEight, Pollster Ratings v4.0: Results, by Nate Silver, June 6, 2011(2 Comments)
As property owners await news of whether their taxes will go up next year, Senate Tax Committee Chair Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, says legislators aren't to blame if they do.
She made her case in an opinion piece published in the Star Tribune on Sept. 20, 2011, pointing out that the conventional wisdom that property taxes go up as state aid declines doesn't always hold true.
"Back in 2010, as now, some at the Capitol assumed local officials would dramatically raise property taxes," she wrote. "In reality, property tax levies across the state went up just 1.9 percent from 2010 to 2011 - the smallest increase since 2002."
Ortman's claim is correct, but it deserves some context.
State aid and property taxes have a long and complicated relationship. For many years, the state has doled out cash to local governments to help them pay for services, such as police and parks, without raising property taxes. The idea is to ensure that less affluent communities - and therefore communities with smaller property tax bases - can provide the same services that wealthy communities can.
In recent years, as Minnesota's budget deficit grew, state aid has frequently been the target of cuts, and in some cases, communities have had to increase property taxes to keep services intact. And relatively slow-growing school funding means some school districts have asked for more tax dollars to pay for education programming.
Ortman's correct that statewide tax levies increased by 1.9 percent between 2010 and 2011, and that it's the smallest increase since 2002, according to data provided by the Minnesota Department of Revenue.
Her claim comes with a few important qualifiers, however.
First, she's talking about a statewide statistic. Some communities saw much larger property tax increases last year, and others saw their property taxes decline. And in other recent years, property taxes statewide have gone up quite a bit. For instance, between 2002 and 2003, taxes increased by 8.8 percent and in 2006, they increased by 9.2 percent from the year before.
Further, there were big changes in the latest budget that will have a significant impact on property taxes going forward. To save money, legislators eliminated the market value homestead credit, which provided some homeowners with property tax breaks and reimbursed cities, counties and school districts for the tax shortfall.
Lawmakers replaced the program with a new tax break, but the state will no longer be making up the cash communities are missing as a result of a smaller tax base.
That means some communities will likely increase their tax levy. And even if they don't, some property owners will find themselves paying more in taxes regardless, local officials say.
While it's important to view Ortman's claim in context, she's correct that last year's levy increase was the smallest in nearly a decade. This claim earns an accurate.
The Star Tribune, Local taxes come from local governments (don't blame GOP), by Sen. Julianne Ortman, Sept. 20, 2011
The Minnesota Department of Revenue, Certified 2011 Property Tax Levies, accessed Sept. 27, 2011
Minnesota Public Radio News, Minnesota's property tax change comes into focus -- kind of, by Dave Peters, Sept. 23, 2011
Email exchange, Peter Winiecki, spokesman, Sen. Julianne Ortman, Sept. 27, 2011
Email exchange and data from Lisa Erickson, spokeswoman, Minnesota Department of Revenue, Sept. 27, 2011(3 Comments)
Last night, the GOP presidential candidates met in Orlando, Fla., to debate, and all the candidates were generous with their misstatements, exaggerations and falsehoods.
PoliGraph looks at two claims made by presidential hopeful Rep. Michele Bachmann during the event.
"President Obama has the lowest public approval ratings of any president in modern times."
Currently, Obama's approval rating is around 43 percent, according to several recent polls; the lowest of his term was 41 percent, according to the Roper Center, which collects public opinion data.
Still, Obama's lowest approval rating is higher than every other president before him going back to John F. Kennedy, whose lowest approval rating was 56 percent. The lowest of the last 13 presidents was George W. Bush, who had a 19 percent approval rating in October 2008 - right around the time the economy plummeted.
Bachmann gets this claim wrong.
"This week, a study came out from UBS that said the number-one reason why employers aren't hiring is because of Obamacare."
Bachmann's talking about a recent UBS Investment Research report that says that "arguably the biggest impediment to hiring (particularly hiring of less skilled workers) is healthcare reform."
It doesn't appear that the authors from the financial firm did any sort of formal survey to support the statement, and the report goes on to list 10 other issues, from the expiration to the Bush tax cuts to air pollution rules, that are causing employers to be wary of adding to payrolls.
But the authors of the report give special attention to the health care law, writing that "it impedes employment by systematically raising the price of labor, by making it much more complicated for small companies to increase payrolls, and by encouraging companies to stay 'under the limit' of 50 employees."
"Under the limit" refers to a new requirement that employers with more than 50 workers must offer health insurance or pay a fine instead. The prospect of the higher cost may be deterring some business owners from hiring, said Michael Tanner, who's a senior fellow with the Cato Institute, a free-market think-tank.
But executives are also worried about tax and regulatory uncertainty, not to mention lagging consumer demand, Tanner said.
"To say [the health care law] is the biggest reason, that's a stretch," he said.
Ken Goldstein, an economist with the Conference Board, agrees with Tanner's point about consumer demand. Employers don't hire when consumers aren't buying and it becomes "a vicious cycle," Goldstein said. "They're both waiting, they're both stuck."
Bachmann cites the report accurately. But it's just one study, and it makes a conclusion about the effect of the health care law on hiring without backing it up with specific data. Economists generally agree that employers aren't hiring for a complicated web of reasons, not primarily the new health care law. As a result, PoliGraph finds the claim misleading.
Listen to reporter Catharine Richert discuss Bachmann's claims on Friday's All Things Considered:
Politisite.com, Transcript of Fox News-Google GOP Presidential Debate, Sept. 22, 2011
The Wall Street Journal, How the Presidents Stack Up, accessed Sept. 23, 2011
The Roper Center, Presidential Approval Highs and Lows, accessed Sept. 23, 2011
UBS Investment Research, Great Suppression II: Revolt of the Employers, Sept. 19, 2011
The Washington Post, With consumers slow to spend, businesses are slow to hire, by Neil Irwin, Aug. 21, 2011
The New York Times, In the real world will the jobs plan make a difference, Employers Say Jobs Plan Won't Lead to Hiring Spur, by Motoko Rich, Sept. 9, 2011
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, The State of American Business 2011, Jan. 11, 2001
Interview, Michael Tanner, senior fellow, the Cato Institute, Sept. 23, 2011
Interview, Ken Goldstein, economist, the Conference Board, Sept. 23, 2011(5 Comments)
This fall, roughly 130 Minnesota school districts will put school levies to a vote.
Some of them will be asking for more tax money to fund education programming, an effort that has caught the attention of some Republican lawmakers who say schools got a big boost in the state's new budget and shouldn't be asking for more.
Democrats are defending the proposed levy increases, saying this biennium's education financing isn't as robust as Republicans say it is.
Two lawmakers at the center of the issue, state Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, and Rep. Mindy Greiling, DFL-Roseville, debated the subject on the Sept. 16 episode of TPT's Almanac. Garofalo is chairman of the House Education Finance Committee and Greiling is the ranking member.
As voters consider the levies, they'll be hearing a lot of conflicting, confusing numbers from both sides of the aisle.
Here's how PoliGraph sorts them out.
Republicans are inflating school funding by "counting things like local school levies."
During the interview, Greiling said that Republicans, including Garofalo, are using accounting tricks to boost funding numbers.
Her claim stems from a flier circulated earlier this month by the House GOP caucus that showed a statewide average increase in per-pupil funding of $488, and major funding increases in some individual districts.
To come up with that figure, the GOP compared the previous biennium's education budget to the current biennium's education budget which includes some funding sources outside the Legislature's control, namely local referendum dollars. While the Legislature approves caps on levies, it's up to the voters in each district to decide how much is ultimately approved.
Some school districts will receive $400, $500 or $600 more per student in state funding.
Even without accounting for local levies, some districts will see large per-pupil funding increases, as Garofalo correctly pointed out in the Almanac interview. More than 100 of the state's 521 districts and charter schools will get per-pupil funding increases of more than $400 in fiscal year 2013.
State aid for schools is increasing by $650 million this biennium.
During the interview, Garofalo also said that state aid is increasing by more than $650 million this biennium. He's using solid numbers, but his claim also leaves out some details.
In the last biennium, the state spent about $13.8 billion on K-12 education, and the current biennium it will spend about $14.5 billion - a difference of roughly $700 million and in range of the $650 million Garofalo mentioned in the interview.
The increase is comprised of about $500 million in automatic spending increases, such as special education aid, and about $200 million in new funding approved by the Legislature in the most recent budget.
Democrats and Republicans have been at odds all session over how to measure education spending changes, and Garofalo's claim underscores that dispute.
DFLers say that Republicans are wrong to publicize the $500 million in automatic spending as an increase because schools would have received it regardless of legislative action; schools typically prepare budgets based on what they'll get in addition to automatic aid. Democrats argue that even those regular increases don't always cover the costs of education programming because they haven't kept up with the rate of inflation.
Republicans counter that an increase in state aid is an increase in state aid; lawmakers could have voted to scale back those automatic spending boosts but didn't.
Minnesota Public Radio News, GOP lawmakers question need for school district levies, by Tim Pugmire, Sept. 12, 2011
Minnesota Public Radio News, School districts defend funding, ballot referendums, by Tom Weber, Sept. 16, 2011
Minnesota Public Radio News, Some GOP lawmakers don't follow Garofalo's lead opposing school levies, by Tim Pugmire, Sept. 20, 2011
MinnPost, Accounting Trick Explains Minnesota Schools' So-Called Windfall, by Beth Hawkins, Sept. 8, 2011
GOP flier, Kids first: Making education a priority during challenging times, accessed Sept. 20, 2011
Fiscal Year 2013 K-12 Major Revenue: Special Session Compared to Baseline, accessed Sept. 21, 2011
Fiscal Year 2013 K-12 Major Revenue: Special Session Compared to FY 11, accessed Sept. 21, 2011
Interview, Rep. Pat Garofalo, Sept. 20, 2011
Interview, Greg Crowe, House Fiscal Staff, Sept. 19, 2011
Interview, Tom Melcher, Minnesota Department of Education, Sept. 20, 2011
Interview, Charlie Vander Aarde, DFL spokesman, Sept. 20, 2011
President Barack Obama unveiled his plan to grow jobs earlier this month, and he said it's getting great reviews from economists.
"When you look at what independent economists are saying about the American Jobs Act... uniformly what they are saying is this buys us insurance against a double-dip recession, and it almost certainly helps the economy grow and will put more people back to work," he said in an interview with NBC News's Brian Williams.
Uniform approval? No. Lots of compliments with a few important caveats? Yes.
Among other things, Obama's job plan would extend and expand the Social Security payroll tax cut; give businesses a $4,000 tax break for hiring the long-term unemployed; extend unemployment benefits; and increase spending on public works projects.
Many economists say they like Obama's plan, and that the plan would help stave off a second recession and create jobs.
For instance, Mark Zandi, chief economist with Moody's Analytics and former economic adviser to Sen. John McCain, called it a "laudable effort" that would "go a long way toward stabilizing confidence, forestalling another recession, and jump-starting a self-sustaining economic expansion."
He estimates that Obama's plan would add nearly 2 million jobs to the workforce, reduce the unemployment rate by a percentage point, and boost economic growth by 2 percentage points next year.
An estimate by another firm called Macroeconomic Advisers was similarly optimistic, saying the plan would boost GDP by total of 1.3 percent and create roughly 1.3 million jobs by the end of 2012.
Still, even economists who support the plan have some qualms. Some expressed concern that it doesn't deal with mortgage debt, which many economists say is the root of the nation's financial woes.
Others question whether consumers will spend the extra cash they get from the payroll tax cut. And if they do, some suggest that the money will end up creating jobs overseas because the nation imports a lot of goods.
Of course, the plan has critics, too. James Sherk of the conservative-leaning Heritage Foundation wrote that unemployment benefits should not be extended because they do little to boost the economy.
And Peter Morici, a professor at the University of Maryland's business school, wondered in an op-ed how the plan's $447 billion price tag fits into the long-term goal of dealing with the deficit.
Obama exaggerated a bit by saying that, uniformly, economists say his plan will work; some take serious issue with the proposal. Still, many have mostly good things to say about the strategy, and at least two estimates support the underlying goal of Obama's plan, which is to grow jobs and boost the economy.
For his first PoliGraph test, Obama's claim leans toward accurate.
NBC News, Obama: Jobs plan is insurance against a 'recession', Sept. 12, 2011
The White House, Fact Sheet and Overview, Sept. 8, 2011
The Los Angeles Times, Economists give Obama's jobs plan mixed reviews, By Don Lee and Jim Puzzanghera, Sept. 8, 2011
The Washington Post, Obama jobs plan: Economists give good reviews but say more needed on mortgage debt, by Zachary A. Goldfarb, Sept. 9, 2011
USA Today, Many economists say Obama jobs plan will help, by Paul Wiseman
National Public Radio, Economists weigh effectiveness of Obama jobs plan, by Marilyn Geewax, Sept. 9, 2011
Moody's Analytics, An analysis of Obama's jobs plan, by Mark Zandi, Sept. 9, 2011
Macroeconomic Advisers, American Jobs Act: A Significant Boost to GDP and Employment, Sept. 8, 2011
UPI, Will Obama put Americans' jobs ahead of his own?, by Peter Morici, Sept. 16, 2011
The Heritage Foundation, Extended UI Payments Do Not Benefit the Economy, by James Sherk, Sept. 8, 2011(1 Comments)
In recent weeks, school funding has become a flashpoint between DFL and Republican lawmakers.
Republicans say they've increased school funding, a claim that PoliGraph ruled misleading. And they're speaking out against districts that are trying to increase levies to pay for schools.
Meanwhile, DFL leaders are claiming that a decision to delay payments to school districts included in the state's budget was a Republican idea.
During a press conference to announce a state-wide tour to talk about school support, House Minority Leader Paul Thissen said, "The school shift is a Republican policy that comes from the fact that they're unwilling to ask millionaires to help out and resolve our state budget deficit."
It's difficult to pinpoint when the accounting move originated because budget negotiations were held behind closed doors. But it's clear that both sides agreed to the budget fix.
Delaying school payments is a budget balancing technique that's used regularly. Schools are given some state aid immediately, and the rest later. Technically, it is not considered a cut in funding, but the delays do complicate the budgeting process for schools; some have been forced to borrow money.
Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty delayed payments to schools to close the state's budget gap. During his campaign, Gov. Mark Dayton said he would pay back $1.4 billion in delayed aid during his first budget cycle.
But when faced with the state's massive budget deficit, Dayton abandoned his plan and instead pushed-off the payments a second time.
Throughout the legislative session, lawmakers worked to close the deficit, and in the final days before the government shutdown that started on July 1, 2011, they were still $1.4 billion short.
It's hard to say exactly when talk of delayed payments to schools resurfaced because lawmakers held their negotiations behind closed doors. Thissen said the GOP first raised the possibility of saving $350 million by delaying additional school payments on June 29, and shared notes from that meeting with MPR News to support his claim.
But a spokeswoman for the House GOP said she couldn't confirm the discussion.
Over the following two days, the parties exchanged offers on paper. According to a letter dated June 30, Dayton considered making up most of the $1.4 billion shortfall by delaying half of the money schools were promised.
The same day, the GOP countered with a scaled back version of the delayed payments that would save $700 million in addition to the $1.4 billion already included in Dayton's initial budget, and that's the combination of savings that ended up in the final funding deal.
Thissen contends Republicans forced the Legislature to adopt additional school payments. While it's true that the first round of delays wouldn't have been on the books had it not been for Pawlenty, both parties at one point or another put additional school funding delays on the table during budget negotiations.
Thissen's claim is misleading.
Minnesota Public Radio News, DFLers plan statewide meetings critical of GOP education policies, by Tim Pugmire, Sept. 6, 2011
Minnesota Management and Budget, Gov. Mark Dayton's FY 2012-2013 Biennial Budget, accessed September 14, 2011
MPR's Shutdown 2011 Blog, Final budget offers, accessed September 14, 2011
Interview, Rep. Paul Thissen, September 8, 2011
Email exchange, Jodi Boyne, spokeswoman House GOP, September 8, 2011
During the Republican presidential debate at the Reagan Library, Rep. Michele Bachmann raised a talking point that's become standard fare at her campaign events:
Government regulation is expensive for businesses and will result in job losses.
Bachmann hinted that even President Barack Obama agrees.
"I think it's important to note that the president recognized how devastating the [Environmental Protection Agency] has been in their rulemaking, so much so that the president had to suspend current EPA rules that would have led to the shutting down of potentially 20 percent of all of America's coal plants," she said during last night's debate.
Bachmann is overestimating.
Bachmann's spokeswoman did not respond to an email to clarify her boss's statement, but it appears Bachmann is talking about Obama's controversial withdrawal of a rule that would have put stricter regulations on smog.
In that case, Bachmann's context is correct. In a statement, Obama said he stopped the proposed rules from moving forward because he's worried about the impact on the recovering economy. The administration estimates that the rules would have cost between $19 billion and $90 billion.
But Bachmann is conflating her facts.
First, this is just one rule, not several as Bachmann said. It's one of four the coal industry is especially worried about, the rest of which are still in the works, according to Luke Popovich, a spokesman for the National Mining Association.
All together, the impact of those rules could close 20 percent of the nation's coal-fired plants, according to the trade organization. Other studies support that figure, though it's important to note that 20 percent is on the high end depending on the scope of the new rules. And it appears that much of the impact would come from a rule dealing with mercury and air toxics standards for power plants.
The coal industry is worried about several proposed rules, not just the smog rule that Obama shelved. If all those regulations go into effect, upwards of 20 percent of the nation's coal-fired power plants could close.
For getting her facts mixed up, Bachmann's claim rates a false.
The New York Times, The Republican Debate at the Reagan Library, Sept. 7, 2011
Minnesota Public Radio News via the Associated Press, Concerned about jobs, Obama ditches tough EPA smog rule, by Julie Pace and Dina Cappiello, Sept. 2, 2011
The White House, Statement by the President on the Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards, Sept. 2, 2011
Charles River Associates, A Reliability Assessment of EPA's Proposed Transport Rule and Forthcoming Utility MACT, Dec. 16, 2011
Reuters, U.S. rules seen shutting 20 percent of coal power capacity, July 27, 2011
Environmental Protection Agency, Air Toxics Standards for Utilities, accessed Sept. 8, 2011
ICF International, Retiring Coal Plants While Protecting System Reliability, July 26, 2011
Posted at 2:00 PM on September 2, 2011
by Catharine Richert
Filed under: PoliGraph
In a role reversal, some Republicans are advocating for what amounts to a tax increase and some Democrats are pushing for a tax cut.
At issue is the extension of a payroll tax cut Congress passed last year. It's due to expire in December.
During a press conference on Aug. 26, state Democratic-Farmer-Labor party chairman Ken Martin asked the state's GOP delegation to make clear where they stand on the issue. He also highlighted President Obama's tax record.
"President Obama has cut taxes for 95 percent of working families and has cut taxes for small businesses 17 times," he said.
Martin's statement is true.
The stimulus bill included a handful of tax cuts that affected roughly 96 percent of the population, according to the Tax Policy Center, a tax think-tank in Washington, D.C.
According to the same group, nearly all workers are benefiting from last year's agreement to lower workers' Social Security payroll contributions from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent of their wages.
Since Obama took office, taxes have been cut for small businesses - and larger companies, too - 17 times. The perks are buried in different bills, and include a tax credit for hiring people who have been out of work for at least two months, a new deduction for health care expenses for the self-employed, and eliminating the capital gains tax on some small business investments.
The White House touts those 17 cuts on its website, and the president's critics don't dispute the figure. They do, however, point out that taxes have also increased for some of these same businesses; a penalty on employers with more than 50 workers that do not offer health insurance is a frequently cited example. The fine goes into effect in 2014.
Others, argue that because the cuts are targeted, they're more like loopholes or tax expenditures. Will McBride, an economist at the conservative Tax Foundation, said such cuts only serve to make the tax code more complex.
"It doesn't sound like good tax policy," he said.
Martin's statement is correct. Between the stimulus bill and the payroll tax cut, taxes have been cut for about 95 percent of taxpayers. And since Obama's been in office, small businesses have benefited from 17 tax cuts.
DFL press conference, Aug. 26, 2011
PolitiFact.com, Tax cut for 95 percent? The stimulus made it so, by Angie Drobnic Holan, January 28, 2010
The White House Blog, Seventeen Small Business Tax Cuts and Counting, Feb. 25, 2011
The New York Times, For Some in G.O.P., a Tax Cut Not Worth Embracing, by Jennifer Steinhauer, Aug. 25, 2011
The Kaiser Family Foundation, Summary of the new health reform law, accessed Sept. 1, 2011
PolitiFact, The Obama administration has cut taxes on small businesses 17 times, by Robert Farley, June 12, 2011
The Internal Revenue Service, The Making Work Pay Credit, accessed Sept. 1, 2011
Email exchange, Kristin Sosanie, spokeswoman, Minnesota DFL, Sept. 1, 2011
Interview, Roberton Williams, the Tax Policy Center, Sept. 1, 2011
Interview, Will McBride, the Tax Foundation, Sept. 2, 2011
Posted at 2:00 PM on August 31, 2011
by Catharine Richert
Filed under: PoliGraph
While Gov. Mark Dayton tours the state to talk jobs, the Senate Republican Caucus is circulating a flier via Twitter that criticizes what they call Dayton's anti-job administration.
During the legislative session, Dayton wanted to raise taxes on the state's wealthiest, which the GOP said would discourage businesses from hiring.
To make their case, the Republicans say in the flier that, "After cutting taxes and declaring the state 'open for business,' Wisconsin created 12,900 new private-sector jobs in June. ... This represents the largest one-month gain of private-sector jobs in Wisconsin since 2003."
The Senate GOP gets its numbers right, but the job situation in Wisconsin is far more nuanced than the flier lets on.
It's true that Wisconsin added 12,900 private sector jobs in June - the largest since 2003. In fact, the state's Department of Workforce Development later increased that figure to 14,800 private sector jobs.
These numbers are seasonally adjusted, but economists in Wisconsin point out that many jobs added in June were food service and leisure positions, which tend to disappear once the weather gets colder.
Economists also highlight that in July, the previous gains in the private sector were wiped out when Wisconsin lost 12,500 jobs from nearly all the state's industries.
On the whole, Wisconsin has been gaining jobs since January, 2010, when the state had its lowest post-recession job numbers. But month-to-month numbers are all over the map.
"A big jump up followed by a big jump down means the recovery is still rickety," said Laura Dresser, associate director of the Center on Wisconsin Strategy, a economics think tank.
Wisconsin's job climate reflects national trends, she said. Republican Gov. Scott Walker's administration echoed that observation when the July numbers came out.
If it were specifically Walker's policies at play, job growth would be sustained month-to-month, Dresser added.
That's precisely the point the Senate GOP's flier tries to make: Walker's new tax cuts led to job growth.
While several business-friendly, but relatively small, tax perks were adopted shortly after Walker entered office, they aren't immediate. So it's impossible to say whether they are directly related to the June jobs increase, economists say.
Still, it's possible businesses are hiring based Walker's overall tax platform, said Abdur Chowdhury, chair of the Department of Economics at Marquette University.
"The perception among the business community has been more positive," he said.
It's true that Wisconsin saw substantial job growth in June. But it lost an equal number of job losses the following month, which economists say mean one thing: much like the rest of the nation, Wisconsin's jobs climate is still a roller coaster.
As a result, the GOP flier is misleading.
Senate Republican Caucus flier on Dayton's job record, Aug. 30, 2011
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, State reports a gain of 12,900 private-sector jobs, by John Schmid, July 21, 2011
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel,Wisconsin loses 12,500 private-sector jobs in July, by John Schmid, Aug. 18, 2011
The Department of Workforce Development, June Jobs Report, July 21, 2011
The Department of Workforce Development, July Jobs Report, Aug.18, 2011
Fox News, Channel 6, Governor Scott Walker signs tax cut bill, Jan. 31, 2011
FactCheck.org, Walker's Tax Cuts, by Eugene Kiely, March 4, 2011
Wisconsin Budget Project, Live by jobs report, die by jobs report, Aug. 18, 2011
Center on Wisconsin Strategy, Wisconsin saw job growth in June, but the state is still suffering, June 2011
Email exchange, Chris Van Guilder, spokesman, Senate Republican Caucus, Aug. 30, 2011
Email exchange, John Dipko, spokesman, Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, Aug. 31, 2011
Interview, Laura Dresser, Center on Wisconsin Strategy, Aug. 31, 2011
Interview, Abdur Chowdhury, Marquette University, Aug. 30, 2011
Interview, Andy Feldman, BadgerStat, Aug. 30, 2011
If you've been filling up at gas stations in Minnesota's third congressional district, you may have noticed this political ad at the pump:
"Congressman Erik Paulsen voted to cut taxes for millionaires and end your Medicare."
The signs are part of a media blitz paid for by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the fundraising arm for Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives. The effort targets 44 Republicans including U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen.
The DCCC's ad treads a fine line between accurate and misleading.
The DCCC ad focuses on a budget resolution written by Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan and passed by the House in April.
Paulsen voted for the resolution. It's important to know that the bill is basically Congressional guidance for spending and revenue changes. So even if Ryan's plan had passed the Senate - which it didn't - it would not have cut taxes or changed Medicare.
It's true that the resolution included a provision to lower the top income tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent, which could have affected the nation's top earners.
The second part of the DCCC's ad - that Paulsen voted to "end your Medicare" - is more nuanced.
The Ryan plan would have changed Medicare for those currently younger than 55, not seniors already enrolled or about to enroll in the program, as the DCCC ad implies.
Furthermore, Ryan's plan would not have ended Medicare per se, but it would have changed it dramatically for those 55 or younger.
Currently, the government pays doctors and hospitals for treating Medicare patients. Ryan's plan would have replaced the system with a voucher program. Beneficiaries would have used the cash to buy a private health insurance policy best suited for their medical needs.
Ryan also proposed linking the value of those vouchers to the Consumer Price Index, which has lagged behind increases in the cost of medical care. Over time, the payments Ryan proposed would buy less coverage as a result, and seniors would end up paying extra for coverage, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Experts PoliGraph spoke with are split on whether the DCCC's claim is fair. Some, including Richard Kaplan, an elder law expert at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, say that Ryan's plan would have meant big changes to the current program, but it still would have provided government support.
Meanwhile, Karen Davis, a health policy expert with the Commonwealth Fund, agrees with the ad because Ryan's plan would have gutted Medicare's financial commitments and made the current program unrecognizable.
It's true that Paulsen voted for a budget framework that proposed cutting taxes for the nation's wealthiest and big changes to Medicare.
But the DCCC ad leaves out some important nuances, including the fact that Ryan's proposal wouldn't have affected those currently enrolled or about to enroll in Medicare. Furthermore, the Ryan proposal didn't "end" Medicare; it changed it dramatically.
For leaving out some important details, PoliGraph says this ad is misleading.
The Star Tribune, Democrats hit Paulsen at the pump, by Jeremy Herb, Aug. 23, 2011
The DCCC, DCCC Launches 'Accountability August': Republicans' Choosing Millionaires over Medicare, Aug. 9, 2011
The Washington Post, Votes on the FY 2012 Budget Resolution, accessed Aug. 24, 2011
The Congressional Budget Office, letter to Rep. Paul Ryan, April 5, 2011
ABC News, House passes Paul Ryan budget proposal in partisan vote, by John Parkinson, April 15, 2011
Health Affairs Blog, Vouchers or premium support: What's in a name?, by Henry Aaron, April 6, 2011
The Internal Revenue Service, 2011 tax rate schedules, accessed Aug. 24, 2011
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Ryan Plan's "Path to Prosperity" Is Just for the Wealthy, by Chuck Marr, April 6, 2011
The Wall Street Journal, GOP Aim: Cut $4 trillion, by Naftali Bendavid, April 4, 2011
Interview, Jesse Ferguson, spokesman, DCCC, Aug. 24, 2011
Interview, Henry Aaron, the Brookings Institution, Aug. 23, 2011
Interview, Karen Davis, the Commonwealth Fund, Aug. 24, 2011
Interview, Richard Kaplan, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Aug. 23, 2011
Interview, Jack Hoadley, Georgetown University Health Policy Institute, Aug. 24, 2011(5 Comments)
Rep. Chip Cravaack was one of four Minnesota lawmakers who voted against the bill to raise the nation's $14.3 trillion debt ceiling.
Among his reasons for rejecting the measure is that it would cut defense spending by half.
The debt ceiling "bill risks cutting 50 percent in current military spending, endangering our national security amid an ever-increasing and varied level of credible threats targeting the U.S. and our military operations," he wrote in an Aug. 3, 2011, Duluth News Tribune opinion piece.
Cravaack's claim is false.
The debt ceiling deal immediately trims $917 billion in discretionary spending over 10 years. Those savings are achieved in part by capping "security" spending, which includes the Department of Defense, the State Department, and the Department of Homeland Security, among other branches of government. Congress will ultimately work out the details, but the White House projects that $420 billion will be saved.
The second round of cuts is less certain. A House and Senate panel is supposed to put together a plan by Thanksgiving to slash an additional $1.2-to-$1.5 trillion in spending; it could include defense spending cuts, but no one knows for sure - it's all up to Congress.
What it seems Cravaack is talking about is the worst case scenario, one that budget and defense analysts say is unlikely to occur given how the bill is set up.
If lawmakers can't agree on additional cuts by Thanksgiving, spending would automatically be reduced by $1.2 trillion. Half of those cuts would come from defense spending, and half would come from other areas of government spending. The idea is that conservatives won't want to dig deep into the defense budget, and liberals won't want to cut social safety net programs.
In that regard, Cravaack's statement is inaccurate. He says that the bill "risks cutting 50 percent in current military spending," which is not the case. Rather, half the $1.2 trillion will come from defense spending, which is largely Department of Defense spending.
Budget officials estimate that the federal government is slated to spend in the range of $6 trillion on peacetime defense activities over the next 10 years. To cut that in half would mean trimming $3 trillion from the defense department's budget.
Even if Congress can't work out additional spending cuts by Thanksgiving, the automatic spending cuts would only reduce the defense department's budget by about $490 billion over 10 years (the rest of the $600 billion would be made up in interest savings.) That's still far less than Cravaack's statement implies.
We sent an email to Cravaack's staff asking him to clarify his statement, but received no response.
Update: Cravaack's spokesman did get back to us, saying that his boss was referring to 50 percent of the $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts.
Cravaack is wrong. The bill would not cut military spending in half. Instead, if lawmakers can't lay out a plan, half of the $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts would come from defense.
The Duluth News Tribune, Congressman's view: Constituents asked for vote against debt deal, by Rep. Chip Cravaack, Aug. 3, 2011
The Cable, Levin and McCain: We have no idea how much debt deal cuts defense, by Josh Rogin, Aug. 2, 2011
Defense Buck Does Not Stop with This Debt Deal, by Winslow T. Wheeler, Aug. 2, 2011
A Dangerous Debt Ceiling Deal, By Kim R. Holmes, Ph.D. August 1, 2011
The Washington Post, Will the defense cuts stick?, by Brad Plumer, Aug. 2, 2011
The House Rules Committee, Text of the Budget Control Act, accessed Aug. 4, 2011
National Public Radio, Pentagon Could See Deep Cuts In Debt Deal, by Rachel Martin, Aug. 3, 2011
The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, How the Potential Across-the-Board Cuts in the Debt Limit Deal Would Occur, by Richard Kogan, Aug. 4, 2011
Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, Defense Funding in the Budget Control Act of 2011, by Todd Harrison, August 2011
The White House, Security Spending in the Deficit Agreement, by Office of Management and Budget director Jack Lew, Aug. 4, 2011
The Congressional Budget Office, estimated impact of the Budget Control Act of 2011, Aug. 1, 2011
Interview, Winslow Wheeler, the Center for Defense Information, Aug. 4, 2011
Interview, Lawrence Korb, the Center for American Progress, Aug. 4, 2011
Interview, James Carafano, the Heritage Foundation, Aug. 4, 2011
Interview, Todd Harrison, the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, Aug. 5, 2011
Email exchange, Michael Bars, spokesman for Rep. Chip Cravaack, Aug. 4, 2011
Hours before the U.S. House of Representatives voted to raise the debt ceiling, Minnesota DFL Rep. Keith Ellison announced he couldn't support the plan because it cuts spending too deeply.
He also said the deal is unprecedented.
"This is the first time in the history of the United States that a debt ceiling increase, which is a routine thing, has been linked to deficit cuts, right - and budget cuts," he said. "This is the first time."
Several lawmakers, including Ellison, have repeated this claim. And they're all wrong.
The deal signed into law this week would raise the debt ceiling immediately by $900 billion and cut spending by $917 billion over 10 years. Congress will next have to approve a second ceiling increase of between $1.2 trillion and $1.5 trillion later this year, after a joint congressional committee identifies up to $1.5 trillion in additional cuts.
Automatic spending cuts kick in if Congress can't follow the plan.
Certainly the deal is unique in its savings and debt targets, but it's not the first time Congress has linked spending cuts to an increase in the debt ceiling:
1985: As part of a $175 billion debt limit increase, Congress first approved the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act. While there were no specific spending cuts outlined in the legislation, the language set deficit reduction targets. Across-the-board cuts were built into the bill to keep the deficit from exceeding those targets - much like the triggers in the most recent debt deal.
1997: Former President Bill Clinton struck a deal with congressional Republicans to cut a net of $122 billion in mandatory spending over five years and raise the debt limit to $5.95 trillion from $5.5 trillion as part of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997.
2010: A $1.9 trillion debt ceiling increase also revived statutory pay-as-you-go rules that require spending cuts under certain circumstances. If Congress were to cut taxes or mandated spending increases, spending would automatically be cut in other areas, though programs such as Social Security and Medicaid are exempt.
In other instances, lawmakers have attached a debt ceiling increase to budget bills essentially to accommodate projected spending.
Ellison's spokeswoman could not provide sourcing for the claim, saying that the lawmaker had heard it from colleagues.
Ellison said raising the nation's borrowing limit has never been paired with deficit cuts. But a look back on the debt ceiling's history shows that it's not the first time Congress has linked cuts and debt targets.
His claim is false.
National Public Radio News, Ellison Offers Progressive View Of Debt Deal, Aug. 1, 2011
The Congressional Budget Office, the Budget Control Act of 2011, Aug. 1, 2011
The Associated Press, Questions and answers about the debt-deficit deal, by Jim Abrams, August 2, 2011
The White House, Office of Management and Budget, Historical Table: Debt Limit Increases, accessed July 28, 2011
Reuters, Factbox - Key elements of U.S. debt deal, Aug. 1, 2011
The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, Understanding the Debt Limit, July 14, 2011
PolitiFact Florida, Allen West says spending cuts are part of the debt ceiling increase for the first time in history, by Angie Drobnic Holan, July 29, 2011
The Congressional Research Service, The Debt Limit: History and Recent Increases, July 20, 2011
THOMAS, Summary of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, accessed Aug. 2, 2011
The Congressional Research Service, Debt-Limit Legislation in the Congressional Budget Process, May 8, 1998
Interview, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, Aug. 2, 2011
Interview, Ed Lorenzen, Senior Advisor, Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, Aug. 2, 201111 Comments)
In a speech at the National Press Club Thursday, Rep. Michele Bachmann focused on the national debt, the debt limit debate raging in Washington, D.C., and what she perceives as unwelcome government intrusion under President Obama's administration.
PoliGraph reviewed three of her statements and found mixed verdicts.
President Obama's debt limit increase "will be the largest debt increase in the history of the nation."
Amidst ongoing negotiations over the debt ceiling, the new limit is a moving target. But generally, Obama wants to raise the $14.3 trillion debt cap by about $2.4 trillion - enough credit to keep the nation from having another vote on the issue before the 2012 elections.
A $2.4 trillion increase would be the largest in nominal and inflation adjusted dollars since1940, the year after Congress created a universal cap for all the nation's debt (previously, there had been separate caps for different types of spending).
Bachmann gets this claim correct.
"If we allow President Obama to pass the proposed increase in the national debt, we will have - and catch your breath - almost doubled our national debt from the 2006 level when I was elected to Congress."
At first blush, Bachmann's claim is correct. On Dec. 31, 2006, the nation's debt was roughly $8.67 trillion, according to the Treasury Department. If Obama gets the $2.4 trillion increase he's seeking, the $14.3 trillion debit limit will rise to $16.7 trillion.
But Bachmann's claim is misleading because it implies that it's Obama's spending habits that caused the financial mess; it's more complicated than that.
It's true that in 2009, Obama's first year in office, the deficit was a whopping $1.4 trillion, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) - about $960 billion more than the previous fiscal year. And in fiscal year 2010, the nation's debt increased by about $1.7 trillion.
But the trend started under the Bush administration. In fiscal year 2009, the nation's debt increased by about $1.9 trillion. About $245 billion of new spending inherited by Obama stemmed from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and payments to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. And in Bush's last year in office, revenue declined by $419 billion as the result of the economic downturn.
Our debt also stems from Bush's tax cuts and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan accounted for $500 billion of the deficit in 2009 and will account for $7 trillion in deficits through 2019, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.
Of course, Obama's responsible, too. His stimulus bill added $200 billion to the 2009 deficit. And for fiscal year 2011, which ends on Sept. 30, CBO projects a $1.5 trillion deficit, in part due to the extension of the Bush tax cuts under Obama's administration.
Bachmann leaves out details about the origin of our debt, so this claim is misleading.
"Twenty-five years ago or so, almost all student loans were private. Today, 100 percent of student loans are government."
Bachmann's staff didn't provide background for this claim, but 25 years ago in 1986, federally guaranteed aid was available. According to the College Board, roughly $17.6 million of the $38 million in all education aid given out that year was in the form of government in loans.
In school year 2009-10, 44 percent of all school aid came from the federal government, with the rest coming from private loans, colleges and employers.
So, clearly, the federal government isn't giving out all education loans these days; students can easily get a private loan to subsidize their education. According to FinAid, a website that helps students navigate their loans more than $100 billion in federal loans and $10 billion in private student loans are given each year.
Her claim is false.
Minnesota Public Radio News, Midday: Rep. Michele Bachmann speaks at the National Press Club, July 28, 2011
Bloomberg News, Reid to Move on Defeating House Debt-Ceiling Plan Tonight, July 28, 2011
Politico, Reid plan's savings trump Boehner's, by David Rogers, July 27, 2011
The White House, Office of Management and Budget, Historical Table: Debt Limit Increases, accessed July 28, 2011
The Congressional Research Service, The Debt Limit: History and Recent Increases, April 29, 2008
The U.S. Treasury Department, The Debt to the Penny and Who Holds It, accessed July 28, 2011
The Washington Post, CBO projects U.S. budget deficit to reach $1.5 trillion in 2011, highest ever, by Lori Montgomery, Jan. 27, 2011
The Congressional Budget Office, Revenues, Outlays, Deficits, Surpluses, and Debt Held by the Public: 1971 to 2010, in Billions of Dollars, accessed July 28, 2011
The Congressional Budget Office, Monthly Budget Review, November 2009
The Cato Institute, Don't Blame Obama for Bush's 2009 Deficit, by Daniel J. Mitchell, Nov. 19, 2009
The New York Times, How the U.S. Got $14 Trillion in Debt and Who Are the Creditors, July 28, 2011
The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, Economic Downturn and Bush Policies Continue to Drive Large Projected Deficits, May 10, 2011
The New America Foundation, Federal Student Loan Programs - History, accessed July 28, 2011
Education Sector, Drowning in Debt: The Emerging Student Loan Crisis, July 9, 2008
The College Board, Trends in Student Aid 2010
The College Board, Grants, Loans, and Tax Benefits per Full-Time Equivalent Student over Time, accessed July 29, 2011
Email exchange, Doug Sachtleben, spokesman, Rep. Michele Bachmann, July 28, 2011
Interview, Erin Dillon, Senior Policy Analysis, Education Sector, July 28, 2011
DFL House leader Paul Thissen wasted no time using the final budget agreement to solicit cash from voters.
The day after the deal was signed, Thissen penned a fundraising letter, claiming that Republican leadership wouldn't compromise with his party on Gov. Mark Dayton's plan to temporarily raise taxes on Minnesotans wealthiest, "even though it would only affect 7,700 people, and even though only half of those people are Minnesota residents!"
Thissen's claim is basically correct.
During the campaign, Dayton maintained he'd raise taxes on the state's wealthiest to close the budget gap. Once he took office, that plan narrowed. In the final throes of the budget battle, Dayton offered to raise taxes only on Minnesotans making more than $1 million in taxable income annually, and only through 2013.
Republicans roundly rejected the idea, as they have all of Dayton's efforts to increase taxes; they contend that tax hikes will hurt small business owners and potentially prompt people to leave the state.
Thissen points out that half the people who would have been taxed don't live here.
According to the Minnesota Department of Revenue, 7,700 millionaires are expected to file with the state for tax year 2011. About 3,900 of those returns are coming from year-long Minnesota residents.
The rest are from part-time or out-of-state filers. The former are people who move in the middle of the year and pay taxes in Minnesota and another state as a result. Non-residents are those who make money in Minnesota, such as income from a business or rent, but live somewhere else.
The revenue department can't say precisely how many returns are from part-time residents and how many are from non-residents, but estimates that most are from the latter group.
Thissen said that half of the millionaires Dayton's new plan would have taxed don't live in Minnesota year-round. For the most part, he's correct. According to the revenue department, about half of the 7,700 returns from millionaires come from people residing elsewhere.
Letter from Rep. Paul Thissen, July 21, 2011
Minnesota Public Radio News, Dayton puts two new offers on the table, by Catharine Richert, July 6, 2011
Interview, Carrie Lucking, spokeswoman, House DFL Caucus, July 26, 2011
Interview, Minnesota Department of Revenue, Tax Research Division, July 26, 2011(5 Comments)
Once again, state lawmakers have agreed to delay payments to schools as a way to balance Minnesota's books.
During a Midday interview on July 20, 2011, Senate Assistant Majority Leader David Hann said the accounting mechanism isn't ideal, but its effects are also short term.
The shifts don't "do anything to diminish the program of education. It doesn't bring any harm to any classroom programs, to any funding," said the Republican. "The total funding is there, it just delays the delivery of the funding for a period of time, and that effect is relatively short term once you get past the initial year of a shift."
Hann's correct, but the issue also deserves some context.
To close the budget gap for the coming two-year budget cycle, Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican legislators agreed to delay $700 million in school payments. That's in addition to $1.4 billion in payments already put off to the next biennium.
Hann is correct that this doesn't represent a cut in school funding - schools will get their state aid, just later than expected. Minnesota law requires future budget surpluses be used to pay cash the state owes the schools.
And he's also correct that schools take the biggest hit in the first year of the shift.
Here's how it works: For the school year that started on July 1, schools will get 60 percent of what they are owed this year, and 30 percent of what they are owed from the previous school year. That means they'll be short 10 percent. To soften the blow, the Legislature also approved a $50 per pupil funding increase this year and next.
But for the school year that starts July 1, 2012, schools will get 60 percent of what they are currently owed, and 40 percent from the year before - 100 percent of their funding.
Hann's larger point, that these shifts don't have a huge impact on schools, is more difficult to measure because schools are coping with the payment delays differently.
This is the third year in a row that the state has changed the school payment formula, so some schools have sought short-term revenue by taking out loans or by selling certificates to investors backed by future aid payments or tax collections. Charter schools are in the same bind, but don't have access to the same low-interest borrowing options that school districts do.
All this short-term borrowing means schools are paying interest and other administrative costs rather than investing that cash in schools, says Charlie Kyte who is executive director of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators.
"The interest they pay on it is money that's not available," Kyte said. "Will they take it out of reserves? Will they take it from their gyms? Will they lay off teachers?"
Schools with larger cash reserves have so far faired better than districts that are struggling, he said. But based on anecdotal evidence, Kyte says his organization estimates 70 percent of Minnesota schools will have to borrow.
While we know that some schools will have to borrow to make it through the latest shift - or have had to borrow already - it's difficult for PoliGraph to say whether Hann's underlying point, that schools aren't cutting programming as a result of the shift, is accurate.
But Hann is correct that schools will eventually get all their money back, and that the effects of payment delay are most burdensome in the first year of the shift.
Minnesota Public Radio News, Midday, July 20, 2011
Minnesota House Legislative Staff, Minnesota School Finance
A Guide for Legislators, September 2010
Minnesota Public Radio News, Delayed payments balances books, but burden schools, by Tom Weber, July 5, 2011
School payment shifts illustration, provided by the Senate Education Committee, July 21, 2011
Interview, Dr. Chris Richardson, Northfield public schools superintendent, July 21, 2011
Interview, Scott Croonquist, executive director, Association of Metropolitan School Districts, July 21, 2011
Interview, Jeff Solomon, business manager for Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan school district, July 21, 2011
Interview, Eugene Piccolo, Executive Director Minnesota Association of Charter Schools, July 21, 2011
Interview, Peter Winiecki, spokesman, Sen. David Hann, July 22, 2011
In an effort to help Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican lawmakers overcome their budget stalemate, a group of six budget experts have suggested a temporary 4 percent income tax increase on all Minnesotans.
Dayton wants to raise income taxes on the state's highest earners to close the budget gap - but not on everyone else.
Property taxes are the reason, he said in a press release responding to the plan.
"Most other Minnesotans are already over-taxed, due primarily to the 75 percent increase in property taxes statewide during the previous eight years."
Dayton's claim is largely accurate.
There are two ways to measure how much property taxes increased over the last eight years.
First, there are local property taxes. They're used to support schools and other local services. In calendar year 2002, property tax revenue amounted to roughly $4.02 billion. In calendar year 2010, local property taxes came in around $7.12 billion.
That's an increase of 77 percent.
If you factor in the property taxes the state collects, which are imposed on businesses and recreational homes, revenue in 2002 was about $4.6 billion. In 2010, property taxes came in at 7.88 billion, amounting to a 71 percent increase - less, but still in range.
As an aside, local property tax increases are an indirect product of decisions made in the Capitol. When state aid declines, as it did during former Gov. Tim Pawlenty's administration, it's city and county officials, not the governor or the Legislature, who decide how much to increase property taxes to continue supporting local services.
All together, property taxes have increased 71 percent over the last eight years. Dayton's off by a few percentage points, but he's basically correct.
Gov. Mark Dayton, Governor Dayton's statement on recommendations from budget committee, July 7, 2011
MPR News, Mondale/Carlson Commission: Tax cigs, alcohol and income, July 7, 2011
Minnesota Department of Revenue, Price of Government, March 2011
The day before formally announcing her candidacy for president, Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann did a wide-ranging interview with CBS's Face the Nation.
When host Bob Schieffer quizzed Bachmann about the congressional showdown over raising the debt ceiling, she said President Obama's administration is using "scare tactics" to convince people that it's necessary to increase the amount the nation can borrow.
"The interest on the debt isn't any more than 10 percent of what we're taking in... And so, the Treasury secretary can very simply pay the interest on the debt first then we're not in default."
Bachmann's strategy is easier said than done.
Congress must approve increases to the nation's debt limit, but Congressional leaders and the president have been unable to reach agreement. If Congress doesn't raise the $14.3 trillion ceiling by Aug. 2, the U.S. will be unable to borrow more money to pay for its spending obligations. As a result, it will face default.
Let's now consider the Bachmann's proposal: Delay default by paying bondholders the interest due to them before covering other government costs.
Bachmann's staff didn't respond to our requests for sourcing, but according to the Congressional Budget Office's (CBO) baseline budget projections, the U.S. will bring in about $2.6 trillion in fiscal year 2012, and it will owe about $257 billion in interest payments.That's about 10 percent of revenue, which means Bachmann is correct that the U.S. has enough money to cover the interest payments.
Theoretically, it works: The U.S. never has to raise the debt ceiling and could continue to prioritize making interest payments to avoid default. But budget experts think Bachmann's approach provides a false sense of security and ignores significant spending commitments. The U.S. spends more than it collects in revenue, and that means all sorts of other financial obligations, including federal worker salaries, tax refunds, and Medicare and Medicaid payments, could be delayed.
"Even though it's not as bad as debt default, it still would paint the U.S. as a deadbeat," wrote Donald Marron, director of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center and former CBO director, in a recent commentary.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has argued that paying interest on the debt - and not fulfilling other obligations -- could ruin the country's reputation in the global market. To underscore that point, he made this analogy:
"A homeowner could decide to 'prioritize' and continue paying monthly mortgage payments, while opting to cease paying other obligations, such as car payments, insurance payments... Although the mortgage would be paid, the damage to that homeowner's creditworthiness would be severe."
Bachmann is correct that there's plenty of revenue to cover U.S. interest on its debt. But her claim is misleading because she makes it sound as if the strategy is a quick fix. In fact, freezing the debt ceiling and paying interest only could create big problems for the U.S. when it comes to other financial obligations.
Face the Nation, transcript, June 26, 2011
The Congressional Budget Office, An Analysis of the President's Budgetary Proposals for Fiscal Year 2012, April 2011
The Economist, Dancing on the ceiling: Talk of America defaulting on its debt is just that, Jan 13. 2011
The Economist, The debt ceiling and default, Jan. 13, 2011
The Treasury Department, Debt Subject to Limit, accessed June 27, 2011
The Washington Post, What's the debt ceiling and why is everyone talking about it?, by Ariana Eunjung Cha, April 18, 2011
The Christian Science Monitor, America is playing with fire with its default talk, by Donald Marron, June 23, 2011
The Treasury Department, Secretary Geithner Sends Debt Limit Letter to Congress, Jan 1, 2011
The Treasury Department, letter to Sen. Patrick Toomey, Feb. 3, 2011
Interview, Alan Viard, resident scholar, the American Enterprise Institute, June 27, 2011
Interview, Daniel Mitchell, senior fellow, the Cato Institute, June 27, 2011
Interview, Eileen Appelbaum, senior economist, the Center for Economic and Policy Research, June 27, 2011
Interview, Bill Frenzel, guest scholar, the Brookings Intitution, June 27, 2011
President Obama on Wednesday outlined his plans to pull troops out of Afghanistan.
Here's how Rep. Betty McCollum responded to Obama's proposal to bring home some of the 33,000 troops he sent there in 2009.
"It is time for the U.S. to bring our troops home and limit the more than $2 billion per week being spent on this war while we face a serious fiscal crisis at home," she said in a June 23, 2011 press release. "After 10 years of service and sacrifice from American troops and a $400 billion investment by U.S. taxpayer dollars, the people of Afghanistan need to take control of their destiny and demonstrate to the world they can stand on their own."
McCollum's right: The war is costing a lot of money.
About $113 billion will be spent on Afghanistan operations in fiscal year 2011, or, about $2.4 billion each week, according to a Congressional Research Services report.
The U.S. hasn't always spent that much money in Afghanistan. In fiscal year 2003, the U.S. spent $306 million. In 2009, when Obama sent in more troops, the costs soared. .
On the second part of her claim, McCollum's estimate is a bit low. The U.S. has spent around $444 billionon Afghanistan war, which began right after 9/11. That includes funding for war operations, diplomatic efforts and the medical care for war vets, according to the same CRS report.
McCollum's claim is right. She gets an accurate.
Rep. Betty McCollum, Congresswoman Betty McCollum Responds to President Obama's Plan to Withdraw U.S. Troops from Afghanistan, June 23, 2011
The White House, Remarks by the President on the Way Forward in Afghanistan, June 22, 2011
CNN, Obama announces Afghanistan troop withdrawal plan, June 22, 2011
The Congressional Research Service, The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other
Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11, by Amy Belasco, March 29, 2011
The Christian Science Monitor, Afghanistan troop drawdown: why Congress doesn't like it, by Gail Russell Chaddock, June 23, 2011
Interview, Maria Reppas, spokeswoman, Rep. Betty McCollum, June 23, 2011
As the state's political leaders stare down a government shutdown, Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton is repeating that his plan to raise taxes - a cornerstone of his budget proposal - would affect very few Minnesotans.
"[My plan] only raises taxes on the wealthiest 2 percent of Minnesotans and does not raise a single dollar of income taxes or any property taxes on the other 98 percent of Minnesotans," he said during a press conference in response to a new GOP plan.
Dayton's right that few people will feel the brunt of his tax plan.
Dayton's proposal would create a new 4th income tax bracket that would impose a 10.95 percent rate on single Minnesotans making more than $150,000, heads of household making more than $200,000, and joint filers making more than $250,000 annually - all after deductions.
According to the state revenue department, about 2 percent - or 45,440 of the state's roughly 2.4 million filers - would pay Dayton's new higher income tax rate.
Everyone else would see no change in their income taxes. And at this point, Dayton's plan doesn't alter state property taxes, nor does it cut city and county aid, which can lead to local property tax increases, so he can claim that his proposal won't increase property taxes, either.
But here's the part Dayton leaves out: his plan also expands and increases the sales tax on some products and services, including box seats and suites at sports stadiums, admissions to events such as car and home shows, and charges for digital video recording and satellite TV, among other things.
Dayton's plan also proposes increasing corporate taxes, which the revenue department predicts will trickle down to Minnesota residents.
All together, these new taxes would affect everyone, rich and poor. But the impact would be very small - less than a 1 percent increase for most consumers. For instance, if you make $85,000 annually, you're probably paying in the range of $1,300 in sales taxes every year. Dayton's plan would add an additional $8.50 to that.
For the most part, Dayton's plan doesn't weigh much on most Minnesotans. And while he doesn't mention that everyone will see a slight uptick in sales and corporate taxes under his plan, he is right that most Minnesotans would not see a property tax increase or an income tax increase as a result of his budget plan.
Dayton's claim gets an accurate.
Gov. Mark Dayton, June 16, 2011, press conference
The Minnesota Revenue Department, Tax Incidence Study of the Governor's Tax Proposals, June 8, 2011
Minnesota Management and Budget, Supplemental Budget Update #1, March 21, 2011
As the state faces a government shutdown, Senate Republican Majority Leader Amy Koch has been pointing out that Dayton said he would never let it come to this.
"Gov. Dayton promised voters he would not shut down government," Koch said in a press release June 10, the day 36,000 state workers were sent lay off notices.
In fact, Dayton did say he would reject a government shutdown during the 2010 campaign.
Dayton and the Republican-controlled legislature are at an impasse over $1.8 billion in spending for the next biennium. Dayton wants to raise taxes on the wealthiest Minnesotans to expand the budget, but Republicans are not on board.
Both sides have offered concessions since Dayton vetoed the Republican's $34 billion budget in May. Dayton said he would trim his tax plan and support more spending cuts. Republicans are willing to shift $202 million in tax breaks to other programs. If they can't reach a deal by July 1, state government will shut down. This week Dayton filed a court petition laying out his plans for which agencies would remain open during a shutdown.
During a debate in late October 2010, KSTP-TV reporter Tom Hauser asked Dayton what he would do in a situation very similar to the one the state is facing now. Dayton, at that point in time, was proposing raising taxes on many more people to raise $4 billion in new revenue.
"If you can't get the tax increases that you want, and you can't get the Legislature to go along with the vision that you have, how far would you be willing to go," Hauser asked. "Would you allow government to shut down in order to try to get things the way you see them?"
"No, I would not shut government down," answered Dayton. "Government imparts important services to the people of Minnesota and those services need to continue - public safety, the education system and the like."
A bit later, Dayton seemed to back track, saying that he "would not compromise on the principle that we need to make taxes more progressive in Minnesota."
Dayton's spokeswoman Katharine Tinucci says the situation is very different now.
"The legislature failed to pass a budget that [Dayton] could sign, and he is now working every day to find compromise, so they can pass a budget he will sign into law," she wrote in an email.
Koch says that Dayton promised no government shutdown. While she fails to point out that he made this comment during the campaign -- long before the current stalemate -- he was responding to a question that described a situation very similar to the one the state is in now.
As a result, Koch's first PoliGraph test is accurate.
Sen. Amy Koch, Republican Legislative Leaders Comment on Layoff Notices Sent to 36,000 State Workers, June 10, 2011
C-SPAN, Minnesota gubernatorial debate, Oct. 24, 2010
Minnesota Public Radio News, Dayton revises budget offer, by Tom Scheck, May 16, 2011
Interview, Michael Brodkorb, spokesman, Sen. Amy Koch, June 16, 2011
Interview, Katharine Tinucci, spokeswoman, Gov. Mark Dayton, Jun
Rep. Michele Bachmann took part in her first presidential debate this week, and in addition to announcing she'll run for the White House, she made this statement about the new health care law.
"This is a job killer," she said. "The [Congressional Budget Office] has said that 'Obamacare' will kill 800,000 jobs."
Bachmann's claim contains some truth but leaves out some finer points that are worth exploring.
In August 2010, the CBO, Congress's nonpartisan number cruncher, released its Budget and Economic Outlook. It included an assessment of how the new health care law would affect the labor market. According to the report, provisions in the new law would reduce the amount of labor by about 0.5 percent.
That amounts to about 800,000 out of the 160 million projected workers in 2021, said CBO director Douglas Elmendorf in testimony on Capitol Hill in February.
But does that mean that the health care will "kill" 800,000 jobs? Not necessarily.
First, the CBO makes clear that, while some employers may choose to hire fewer people as the result of penalties brought about by the new law, the law "will reduce the amount of labor used in the economy...primarily by reducing the amount of labor that workers choose to supply."
However, a key assumption in the CBO analysis is that some people are only working to get benefits. And because the law offers new ways to get insurance that don't involve working, the CBO foresees two outcomes:
- Some people may opt to work less.
- Or, some people will leave their jobs and get coverage through Medicaid, which was expanded to include low-income, childless adults, or with government subsidies through the health care exchanges.
Medicaid benefits and health care exchange subsidies are only available to lower income earners, so the CBO predicts that the government assistance will effectively discourage some people from working to keep their income levels low.
Bachmann is correct that the CBO has predicted approximately 800,000 people won't work in 2021 as a result of the new health care law.
But she says those jobs will be "killed." In fact, the CBO assumes that many if those people may not want to work because they can get health coverage without having a job.
Without providing the full context around the number, Bachmann's statement is misleading.
Minnesota Public Radio News, GOP debate, June 13, 2011
The Congressional Budget Office, The Budget and Economic Outlook: An Update, August 2010
Politico, Health law to shrink workforce by 800,000, by J. Lester Feder and Kate Nocera, Feb. 10, 2011
CBO's Analysis of the Major Health Care Legislation Enacted in March 2010, Statement of Douglas Elmendorf, Director, Congressional Budget Office, March 30, 2011
PolitiFact, Adam Hasner cites CBO, says health care law cuts 800,000, by Aaron Sharockman, June 8, 2011
The Washington Post, Fact Checker: Playing games with CBO testimony on jobs and the health-care law, By Glenn Kessler, Feb. 11, 2011(2 Comments)
Republican presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty recently laid out his plan to grow the economy, which relies heavily on tax and spending cuts.
"Cutting just 1 percent of overall federal spending for 6 consecutive years would balance the federal budget by 2017."
Pawlenty is right on the spending side of the equation. Cutting spending would help balance the budget. But his plan to cut taxes makes a balanced budget unlikely.
Pawlenty spokesman Alex Conant says cuts would be made starting with a "base year" and spending would be reduced 1 percent each year going forward. During that time, spending would be frozen.
In the current fiscal year, the nation spent about $3.6 trillion, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). One percent of that is $36 billion, leaving a fiscal year 2012 budget of roughly 3.59 trillion.
If the 1 percent spending cuts continued, by 2017 total federal spending would be around $3.4 trillion - about $1.26 trillion less than what the federal government would spend without the cuts. Assuming the Congressional Budget Office's 2017 revenue projection of about $4.07 trillion is in the ballpark, the nation would have a surplus of about $670 billion.
The math works out, but it doesn't tell the whole story of Pawlenty's vision for the budget. Along with the 1 percent cuts, Pawlenty is proposing big tax cuts, which would make it much harder to balance the budget in the future.
Specifically, he wants to lower the corporate tax rate from 15 percent to 35 percent and create only two individual income tax rates of 10 percent for the first $50,000 of income and 25 percent for the rest. Further, he wants to ax the capital gains tax, interest income tax, dividends tax and the estate tax.
In his speech, Pawlenty suggested that 5 percent economic growth over the next 10 years and the elimination of tax loopholes would help offset the tax cuts. But many economists have said that the goal is unrealistic; 5 percent economic growth is difficult to achieve even in good years.
Based on current law and CBO growth projections, Pawlenty's plan could cost upwards of $11.6 trillion over the next 10 years, according to an analysis done by the Tax Policy Center.
In 2017, that could mean nearly $1.3 trillion in revenue lost to the federal budget, according to a separate analysis conducted by Michael Linden, director of budget and tax policy for the left-leaning Center for American Progress. If so that means the 1 percent cuts wouldn't balance the budget after all.
Furthermore, budget experts are quick to point out that, while 1 percent may seem small, Pawlenty's cuts would be difficult to achieve without cuts to Medicare, Social Security and military spending, which dominate federal spending and account for much of the nation's projected spending increases.
Pawlenty's claim is correct: cutting 1 percent of spending annually would balance the budget by 2017.
But that assumes no changes in the tax code, and that's an unlikely scenario. While it's difficult to say precisely how Pawlenty's tax changes will affect the nation's coffers, initial estimates show that it could result in significant revenue losses.
So, Pawlenty's claim that a 1 percent cut in federal spending would balance the budget is accurate - but only if the government does not enact the tax cuts he proposes. Otherwise, it is unlikely.
Tim Pawlenty, A Better Deal: Governor Tim Pawlenty's Economic Policy Remarks, June 7, 2011
The Congressional Budget Office, An Analysis of the President's Budgetary Proposals for Fiscal Year 2012, accessed June 9, 2011
The Congressional Budget Office, Budget Projections, January 2011
The Washington Post, Tim Pawlenty's Dubious Economic Assertions, June 8, 2011
The Washington Post, Pawlenty's magical economic plan, by Ruth Marcus, June 9, 2011
Interview, Alex Conant, spokesman, Gov. Tim Pawlenty, June 9, 2011
Interview, Michael Linden, Director of Tax and Budget Policy, The Center for American Progress, June 9, 2011
Interview, Gene Steuerle, the Urban Institute, June 9, 2011
Interview, Isabel Sawhill, The Brookings Institution, June 9, 2011
Interview, Eric Toder, the Urban Institute, June 10, 2011(2 Comments)
Tim Walz recently introduced a bill that would expand oil and gas production in the United States.
To build support for the legislation, Walz frequently points out that the nation spends big bucks daily on oil imports.
"America has talked about eliminating our dependence on foreign oil for decades, but we continue to spend too much time talking and too little time acting," he wrote in a May 31, 2011 op-ed in the Rochester Post-Bulletin. "Each day, we send $1 billion overseas that can't be used to invest in our own economy."
Walz gets this one right.
The price of oil fluctuates daily and so does the amount of oil the United States imports.
But using recent Energy Information Administration data, Walz's estimate is essentially correct.
For instance, in January, the United States imported about 11.9 barrels of oil daily for an average cost of $1.1 billion. In March, the country spent an average of $1.2 billion a day on oil imports.
In 2010, the cost was similar: Every day, the cost of oil imports was in the ballpark of $1 billion.
Walz is correct: the United States spends about $1 billion on oil imports daily.
The Rochester Post-Bulletin, It's time to unleash America's energy potential, May 31, 2011
Tim Walz, Bipartisan Energy Working Group Unveils Plan for Job Creation, Energy Independence, accessed June 7, 2011
U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, May 2011
The Energy Information Administration, U.S. Imports by Country of Origin, accessed June 6, 2011
The Energy Information Administration, Crude Oil Prices, accessed June 6, 2011
The Energy Information Administration, Merchandise Trade Value, accessed June 6, 2011
The Truman National Security Project, Oil Addiction: Fueling Our Enemies, Feb. 17, 2010
Interview, Sara Severs, spokeswoman for Rep. Tim Walz, June 7, 2011(4 Comments)
As Gov. Mark Dayton and GOP legislative leaders look for an overall budget deal, individual parts of the budget are causing partisan friction.
One area is education funding. DFL lawmakers say the Republican majority is cutting K-12 funding by $44 million. Republican leaders say they're increasing funding substantially.
"This bill spends $450 million more on education than last session," said Republican Rep. Pat Garofalo, who chairs the Education Finance Committee, during a debate over the issue with Rep. Mindy Greiling, the top DFLer on the committee, on the May 23, 2011 broadcast of Midday.
Education finance is complicated stuff, and so is Garofalo's claim.
Including $500 million in federal stimulus dollars and delayed payments of $1.9 billion to schools, the state spent about $13.812 billion on K-12 education in the last biennium. Republicans are proposing a $14.278 billion education budget, which is an increase of about $466 million over last session.
So, by that standard, Garofalo's claim is accurate: Republicans are proposing more spending compared to the last biennium.
But state law requires all sorts of automatic spending increases to compensate for higher student enrollment, growth in special education and other factors.
And that's where DFLers make their point. Though the Republican bill covers the bulk of those automatic spending increases, it's still about $44 million short of the $14.321 the state was projected to spend in the coming biennium. (For their part, Republicans argue their plan is only $15 million less because of a new provision that requires school districts to pay back state loans for new buildings.)
DFLers also point out that the GOP proposal means cuts for individual school districts, including the Minneapolis, Albert Lea and St. Cloud districts, and spending increases for others, including many of the state's charter schools.
This is partly because the current bill shifts money from one program to another. For instance, 18,000 more students will be enrolled in public schools over the next two years, and the bill increases per pupil spending from $20 to $21. But those new dollars are being funded by cuts to special education funding, according to Tom Melcher, the state's education finance director.
On one hand, Garofalo's claim is correct. His panel's bill would increase education spending compared to the last two years and increase spending on some things, including per pupil spending.
But he neglects a fact that DFLers highlight: funding falls short of what the state would be spending if it followed current law, and that means some school districts will see cuts.
For leaving out those facts, Garofalo's claim is misleading.
Minnesota Public Radio News, Midday, May 23, 2011
Gov. Mark Dayton, Letter to Rep. Kurt Zellers, May 24, 2011
Session Daily, House approves amended omnibus K-12 finance bill, by Kris Berggren, May 18, 2011
Minnesota House Fiscal Staff, General Fund Allocations - Projected FY 2012-13 Compared to FY 2010-11, March 2011
Minnesota House Fiscal Staff, Education Finance Committee: 2011 Session Appropriation Tracking, May 11, 2011
Interview, Rep. Pat Garofalo, May 31, 2011
Interview, Scott Russell, Policy Analyst, Minnesota Budget Project, June 1, 2011
Interview, Tim Strom, Legislative Analyst, Minnesota House of Representatives, June 1, 2011
Interview, Greg Crowe, Legislative Analyst, Minnesota House of Representatives, June 1, 2011
Interview, Tom Melcher, Program Finance Director, Minnesota Department of Education, June 2, 2011
Less than a day after Republican Tim Pawlenty announced he's running for president, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) posted an ad that implies the former governor has no idea why he wants to be in the White House.
Toward the end of the ad, the question, "Why are you running?" flashes across the screen.
"I don't know," and "I wish I had a better answer for you."
The ad takes Pawlenty's words out of context.
Citing a May 2011 Time magazine article, the ad claims even Pawlenty doesn't know why he's running for office.
But here's the rub: the author of that article asked Pawlenty when he started considering a run for president, not why.
"When I ask Pawlenty... exactly when he decided he was up to the grand challenge of the presidency, he answers in less than grandiose terms, explaining how he'd set up a political-action committee in 2009," wrote Time reporter Michael Crowley. "I try again, saying I am curious about when he first imagined himself worthy of the history books, ready to send soldiers to their deaths and endure the national stage's harsh toll. 'I don't know,' he replies. 'I wish I had a good answer for you on that.' "
Crowley wrote on May 23 that the DNC's ad was a "distortion" of his exchange with Pawlenty.
"Although our conversation touched on Pawlenty's rationale for running, my questions were after something different," Crowely wrote. "I was curious to know when Pawlenty, whose strength and weakness is his regular-guy persona, came to think of himself as presidential material."
The ad is meant to push Pawlenty to define his candidacy, says Alec Gerlach, DNC spokesman.
"Is he running as a tea party candidate, is he running as a moderate, or is he running on his record, which is abysmal?" Gerlach said.
The DNC twists Pawlenty's words, implying he doesn't know why he wants to run for president. Pawlenty said he didn't know when he started thinking of himself as presidential material.
The claim is misleading to the point of being false.
The Democratic National Committee, Ad: Why?, May 23, 2011
YouTube, Tim Pawlenty - A Time For Truth, May 22, 2011
Time Magazine, Pawlenty Makes GOP Bid Official: Is He Too Nice for His Own Good?, Michael Crowley, May
Time: Swampland, What Pawlenty Said, by Michael Crowely, May 23, 2011
Interview, Alec Gerlach, spokesman, Democratic National Committee, May 31, 2011
There's a cardinal rule of presidential primary politics: don't knock ethanol in corn-state Iowa.
But that didn't stop former Gov. Tim Pawlenty from telling an audience there he'd phase-out ethanol subsidies if elected president.
"Even in Minnesota, when we faced fiscal challenges, we reduced ethanol subsidies," he said during his announcement Monday that he's running for president. "That's where we are now in Washington, but on a much, much larger scale."
Pawlenty cut state ethanol subsidies - but he left out that he also promised to pay them back later.
Minnesota ethanol producers have been enjoying subsidies since 1987. For a long time, they got 20 cents from the government for every gallon of fuel they produced. The subsidy was meant to jumpstart small, farmer-owned operations.
When Pawlenty took office in 2003, the state was facing a budget shortfall. Pawlenty cut $20 million in ethanol subsidies that year - roughly three-fourths of the $26.8 million in payments slated to go out - and followed-up with a plan to reduce the payments to 10 cents per gallon in the coming biennium.
Pawlenty's plan didn't fly with rural lawmakers. Ultimately, he and the Legislature agreed to draw down the subsidy to 13 cents per gallon through fiscal year 2007, and pay producers the difference later on. According to a Legislative Auditor's report, the state paid out $50.5 million in so-called deficiency payments during the last biennium.
Furthermore, the program was always slated to end in 2010, so the ethanol subsidies would have halted regardless of Pawlenty's actions (though deficiency payments are still trickling out.)
Though Pawlenty wanted to cut ethanol subsidies, he also pushed to expand the state's requirement that every gallon of gasoline be blended with 10 percent ethanol. In 2005, the state approved Pawlenty's plan to require gas be mixed with 20 percent ethanol by 2013, a government mandate that's bolstered the market for the corn-based fuel.
It is true Pawlenty cut Minnesota ethanol subsidies, but he glosses over the fact that ethanol producers eventually got their money anyway.
That's enough to make this claim misleading.
YouTube.com, Tim Pawlenty in Des Moines - 2012 Announcement Speech, May 23, 2011
Minnesota Public Radio News, Lawmakers resist Pawlenty's proposal to cut ethanol subsidies, January 16, 2003
Minnesota Public Radio News, Ethanol bill nears crucial test, by Laura McCallum, March 16, 2005
Minnesota Department of Energy, Gasoline Pricing Facts for Consumers, accessed May 25, 2011
Office of the Legislative Auditor, Biofuel Policies and Programs, April 2009
The Minneapolis Star Tribune, Cuts in the pipeline: Subsidies keep ethanol industry from fizzling, by Joy Powell, March 11, 2003
The St. Paul Pioneer Press, Session out but not over, by Patrick Sweeney and Bill Salisbury, May 20, 2003
Interview, Ralph Groschen, Senior Marketing Specialists, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, May 24, 2005
The Humphrey School
MPR News is hosting an online debate about ethanol. Find it here.(2 Comments)
Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R- Maple Grove, may have heard from some angry professors this week.
During a discussion about cuts to the state's higher education budget, Zellers said that college professors have seen their pay rise while other workers are getting paid less.
"It's... troubling when families have had a 30-or-40 percent pay cut and you see a college professor get a 20-or-30 percent increase in pay," he told Midday host Gary Eichten.
That's not correct. Most public school professors have seen pay cuts and salary freezes, not pay increases.
In 2009, faculty working for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system (MnSCU) agreed to a two-year pay freeze.
There were a few exceptions to this rule. Teachers at two-year schools could get a salary bump if they completed additional graduate work. Professors at MnSCU's universities received a 4.8 percent salary increase if they met career milestones. And university faculty promoted during the freeze earned more pay.
The University of Minnesota also tightened pay. During the most recent fiscal year, faculty salaries were cut by 1.15 percent. And in 2010, faculty salaries were frozen.
Daniel Wolter, spokesman for the U of M, says about 100 of the university's 4,100 faculty members at the Twin Cities campus were offered retention pay, which is given to teachers in particularly competitive fields who may be looking to leave the school. He said amounts of that pay vary based on the job and the type of research the professor is doing.
In a separate interview, Zellers said he misunderstood the headline of a 2009 MPR News story that focused on the $300,000 in bonuses paid to top MnSCU administrators, not faculty.
In some instances, college faculty saw pay increases in the last couple of years. But the majority of Minnesota's public school professors have been working under pay freezes and pay cuts.
Zellers' claim is false.
Minnesota Public Radio News, Midday, May 16, 2011
The University of Minnesota, Equity During Budget Cuts, March 31, 2011
Minnesota Public Radio News, MnSCU bonuses to top staffers nears $300K, by Tim Post, Sept. 17, 2009
Minnesota State University - Mankato, State university faculty, MnSCU system reach tentative salary accord, Feb. 23, 2009
Interview, Daniel Wolter, News Service Director, University of Minnesota, May 19, 2011
Interview, Melinda Voss, spokeswoman, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, May 19, 2011
Interview, Russ Stanton, MnSCU Interfaculty Organization, May 20, 2011
The Humphrey School(2 Comments)
The Legislature is weighing a controversial bill that would require voters to present a state-issued photo identification to vote.
Opponents say the proposal would block the state's elderly from casting ballots, as they are less likely to drive.
Among the opponents is Rep. Steve Simon, DFL - St. Louis Park, who frequently says that, "25 percent of seniors don't even have a photo ID."
That's the case in Wisconsin-- but not in Minnesota.
There's a lot of evidence that older people and minorities are less likely than the general population to have photo identification.
But to support their claim, opponents of the bill point to a 2005 Wisconsin study driver license data that found that only 25 percent of those over 65 have a driver's license or a photo ID.
That data is old and based on information from another state.
According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, about 10.5 percent of Minnesotans 65 and older do not have some form of photo identification. The figure is based on 2009 demographic data and is adjusted for annual mortality rates among the elderly.
Far more of Minnesota's oldest residents have photo identification than Simon contends. His claim is false.
Minnesota House of Representatives, Reps. Simon and Winkler Respond to Photo ID Demonstration, Jan. 26, 2011
The Driver License Status of the Voting Age Population in Wisconsin, by John Pawasarat, Employment and Training Institute, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, June 2005
Brennan Center for Justice, Citizens Without Proof: A Survey of Americans' Possession of Documentary Proof of Citizenships and Photo Identification, Nov. 2006
U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder, accessed May 10, 2011
Interview, Carrie Lucking, spokeswoman, House leadership, May 5, 2011
Interview, Patricia McCormack, Director of Driver Vehicle Services Division, Minnesota Department of Public Safety, May 13, 2011
Interview, Keesha Gaskins, Senior Counsel, Brennan Center for Justice, May 10, 2011(6 Comments)
There was emotionally charged debate on the Minnesota Senate floor this week as legislators weighed a constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and woman.
In the end, the Republican-controlled Senate passed the bill largely along party lines. But
Sen. Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-St. Louis Park, who opposed the measure, says public opinion on the issue is shifting.
"I predict that over the arch of time, we will have marriage equality," he said in an interview with Morning Edition's Cathy Wurzer on May 11, 2011. "I think that when you look at the poll numbers, particularly amongst young people, they're off the charts."
"Off the charts" is an overstatement, but national support for same-sex marriage is growing.
A recent ABCNews/Washington Post poll shows 53 percent support same-sex marriages. That's up from just 32 percent in 2004, representing a "dramatic, long-term shift in public attitudes" on the subject, according to the survey report. The Pew Research Center and CNN/Opinion Research Corporation also recently reported increasing support, though a Pew poll showed that opponents and proponents of gay marriage still evenly split.
Minnesota appears to follow the national trend. A Star Tribune poll released May 13, 2011, with a 4.7 percentage point margin of error shows that 55 percent of Minnesotans would oppose an amendment to ban gay marriage; in 2004, the same poll showed that 58 percent supported such an amendment.
On his FiveThirtyEight blog, statistics guru Nate Silver analyzed data on public opinion on same-sex marriage going back to 1988. His conclusion: the gap between supporters and opponents is narrowing. But while opponents are now in the minority, Silver wrote, "it is too soon to say with confidence that support for gay marriage has become the plurality position (let alone the majority one)."
So, support is on the rise, but it's not "off the charts" as Simon said.
Simon is correct that the majority of younger people tend to support same-sex marriage, and have for a while. For instance, the ABCNews/Washington Post poll showed that 68 percent of those younger than 29 support it. The Star Tribune poll found that 60 percent of those younger than 34 would oppose a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.
Simon's overall point is correct. Support for same sex marriage is growing, especially among younger people.
Minnesota Public Radio News, Morning Edition, May 11, 2011
ABCNews/Washington Post Poll:Gay Marriage, March 18, 2011
The Pew Research Center, Fewer Are Angry at Government, But Discontent Remains High, March 3, 2011
CNN/Opinion Research Corporation, Poll: April 19, 2011
PollingReport.com, Same-Sex Marriage, Gay Rights, accessed May 12, 2011
FiveThirtyEight, Gay Marriage Opponents Now in Minority, April 20, 2011
Pew Research Center, Support for Same Sex Marriage Edges Upward, Oct. 6, 2010
The Star Tribune, Minnesota Poll: Support falls for ban on gay marriage, by Rachel Stassen-Berger, May 13, 2011
The Star Tribune, Minnesota Poll: Majority oppose gay marriage ban, May 13, 2011
The Humphrey School(2 Comments)
Minnesota Republicans are aiming to put issues on the ballot in 2012 election, among them a constitutional amendment that would define marriage in Minnesota as only between a man and a woman.
"I know that 78 percent...of the people in Minnesota want this decision to be given to them on a ballot," said bill sponsor Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, during an April 26, 2011, press conference.
Limmer's numbers are coming from one poll commissioned by groups that support a statewide vote on the issue.
The Senate has approved the amendment, and the House is expected to. Same-sex marriage is already illegal in Minnesota, but Limmer and other supporters of the bill say that changing the state constitution is necessary to prevent the law from being overturned.
One recent poll backs Limmer's contention that a broad majority of the public wants the issue on the ballot, about 74 percent of Minnesota voters. (Limmer's spokeswoman Susan Closmore said that he incorporated the 4 percentage point margin of error when making the statement.)
But it's important to highlight where those numbers are coming from. The poll, which surveyed about 600 Minnesota voters Jan. 10-13, 2011, was commissioned by the Minnesota Family Council and the National Organization for Marriage, two organizations that support the amendment.
Furthermore, the company hired to conduct the poll, Lawrence Research, is operated by pollster Gary Lawrence, who, according to news reports in the Minnesota Independent and the Washington Post, organized
members of the Mormon Church Mormons in support of Proposition 8, an amendment to the California Constitution that prevents gay marriage from being recognized by the state. Lawrence did not return calls to provide more details on his polling results.
So, Limmer is basing his claim on one poll commissioned by organizations that support putting a marriage amendment to a vote.
There's little current information for comparison, but polls done in 2009 and 2010 provide some context:
• A 2009 KSTP/SurveyUSA poll found that only 52 percent of Minnesotans would support a statewide vote to ban gay marriage.
• A 2010 Minnesota Public Radio News/Humphrey School of Public Affairs poll showed that 49 percent of Minnesotans oppose same-sex marriage.
• A 2009 Star Tribune poll found that a third of Minnesotans would support a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages.
Limmer's claim is rooted in a survey commissioned by two groups that have a stake in the debate over same-sex marriages. Because there are no other current polls to compare Limmer's numbers to, this PoliGraph test rates an inconclusive.
TheUptake, Constitutional Amendment Defining Marriage Press Conferences, April 26, 2011
The Minnesota Family Council, Let the people vote on marriage!, by Chuck Darrell, April 14, 2011
The Star Tribune, Minnesota Poll: A Subtle shift on gay unions, by Mark Brunswick, May 1, 2009
Minnesota Public Radio News, Poll shows slight shift in gay marriage opinions, by Tim Pugmire, Sept. 28, 2006
Results of KSTP/SurveyUSA Poll, May 11, 2009
Minnesota Public Radio News, MPR-Humphrey Poll: Obama could struggle in MN in 2012, by Mark Zdechlik, Sept. 30, 2010
Smart Politics, How Supportive Are Minnesotans of Gay Rights?, by Eric Ostermeier, Oct. 11, 2009
The Humphrey School(3 Comments)
During the first Republican presidential debate of the 2012 campaign, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty reminded viewers that President Barack Obama was against a requirement that everyone buy health insurance before he was for it.
Just a few years ago, Obama "promised the nation he would do health care reform focused on cost containment, he opposed the individual mandate," Pawlenty said on
May 5, 2011.
Pawlenty got this one right.
While campaigning for the White House, then-Sen. Barack Obama wanted everyone in the country to have health care - he just didn't want to require people to buy it.
In fact, Obama and former Sen. Hillary Clinton frequently traded barbs over the issue: Clinton highlighted the so-called individual mandate in her plan, claiming her strategy would cover more Americans than Obama's would. Obama would counter that not everyone could afford health insurance.
"If a mandate was the solution, we could try that to solve homelessness by mandating everybody buy a house," he told CNN in 2008. "The reason they don't have a house is because they don't have the money."
In 2009, just as debate over the health care bill was starting to heat up, a CBS News interviewer asked Obama, "Do you believe that each individual American should be required to have health insurance?"
"I have come to that conclusion," Obama responded. "During the campaign I was opposed to this idea because my general attitude was the reason people don't have health insurance is not because they don't want it, it's because they can't afford it."
Ultimately, the individual mandate became a focal point in the health care debate. The final law requires that everyone have health insurance by 2014. Those who don't will pay a fine.
It's true that Obama once opposed the individual mandate. Pawlenty's claim is accurate.
Fox News, Republican Presidential Debate, May 5, 2011
PolitiFact.com, Obama flip-flops on requiring people to buy health care, by Angie Drobnic Holan, July 20, 2009
FactCheck.org, They've Got You Covered?, by Lori Robertson and Jess Henig, February 14, 2008
CBS News, The Future of Health Care Reform, July 15, 2009
The New York Times, transcript of the Democratic debate in South Carolina, Jan. 21, 2008
The Cato Institute, Obama Flip-Flops on the Individual Mandate (Again), by Michael Cannon, July 19, 2010
The Kaiser Family Foundation, Summary of Coverage Provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, April 14, 2011
The Humphrey School
U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan's budget proposal includes a big change to Medicare. Most notably, the Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee aims to convert the program into a system that offers what he calls "premium support," which his detractors call vouchers. Among those defending Ryan's proposal is Rep. Chip Cravaack of Minnesota.
"The [new Medicare] benefits being proposed is what I receive in Congress right now," Cravaack assured listeners of April 14, 2011, Midmorning broadcast.
On the surface, there are similarities between the two plans. Look deeper, and the differences are stark.
Currently, the government pays doctors and hospitals for treating Medicare patients, though some beneficiaries also pay premiums and other costs.
The Ryan plan would change all that for those who are younger than 55. Starting in 2022, the government would provide beneficiaries with a payment, which they would use to buy insurance that meets standards set out by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), a branch of government that also sets standards for federal employee coverage. Just as federal employees do, Medicare beneficiaries would be able to choose a private plan from an array of choices.
That's where similarities between the plans end.
The federal employee plan isn't much different from private sector employee-sponsored coverage: the federal government - or the "employer" - pays roughly 75 percent of premium costs, and federal employees pick up the remainder.
That ratio is commonly called the "Fair Share" formula because even if health care costs rise, the federal government is required by law to pick up the bulk of the tab.
Ryan proposes to link Medicare payments to the consumer price index, which has lagged behind increases in the cost of medical care. Over time, the payments Ryan is proposing would buy less coverage as a result, potentially making it difficult to purchase plans similar to those enjoyed by federal employees.
In fact, the Congressional Budget Office predicts that, under the Ryan plan, by 2030, the average 65-year-old beneficiary would be paying 68 percent of his or her benefits compared to 25 percent under current law.
It's also worth pointing out that no detail has been given on how OPM would structure these plans and what sort of benefits insurance providers would be required to include. So, it's impossible to say whether Medicare coverage would be like coverage Cravaack gets.
There's a nugget of truth in Cravaack's claim: the Republican plan envisions that Medicare and federal employee benefits would have to meet standards set by the same branch of government, and that both groups would get to choose from an array of private plans.
But Cravaack's statement that the GOP Medicare proposal is "what I receive in Congress right now" is misleading to the point of being false because the government is guaranteed to cover 75 percent of his premium costs, regardless of how expensive health care gets. That's not the case for the new Medicare plan proposed by the GOP; in fact, it is likely beneficiaries will end up paying far more than they do now.
Minnesota Public Radio News, Midmorning, April 14, 2011
The Path to Prosperity: Restoring America's Promise, accessed May 3, 2011
The Congressional Budget Office, Letter to Paul Ryan regarding proposed changes to Medicare and Medicaid, April 5, 2011
The New York Times, Comparing Ryan's Medicare Plan to What Congress Gets, by Uwe E. Reinhardt, April 18, 2011
The Congressional Research Services, Health Benefits for Members of Congress, by Barbara English, Sept. 25, 2007
The U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Federal Employees Health Benefits Program Handbook, accessed May 3, 2011
The Commonwealth Fund, Stark Choices: The Health Care Budget Proposals from the President and the House of Representatives, April 29, 2011, by Karen Davis
PolitiFact.com, Mike Pence said the Republican Medicare proposal will allow seniors to buy the same kind of health care as Congress, by Angie Drobnic Holan, April 13, 2011
The Washington Post, Fact Checker: GOP Medicare plan 'just like' Congress's coverage?, by Glenn Kessler, April 30, 2011
Interview, Shawn Ryan, spokesman, Rep. Chip Cravaack, May 2, 2011
Interview, Jack Hoadley, Georgetown University Health Policy Institute, May 3, 2011
Interview, Stuart Guterman, Vice President for Payment and System Reform, the Commonwealth Fund, May 3, 2011
The Humphrey School(3 Comments)
Before former Gov. Tim Pawlenty arrived in Boston, Mass., a few weeks ago to speak at a tea party rally, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak gave his take on the former governor's record.
"The facts are this: Under Tim Pawlenty, the average tax rates went up for the bottom 90 percent... of Minnesotans. The richest 10 percent had their average taxes go down," Rybak said during an April 14, 2010, conference call with Boston reporters. "So if the Tea Party wants to represent the top 10 percent of the country and raise 90 percent of the people's taxes, they'll love Tim Pawlenty."
There's truth to Rybak's claim, but he leaves out an important detail.
Rybak is talking about the effective tax rate, which is the ratio of taxes to income.
Generally speaking, he's correct. Between 2002, the year before Pawlenty took office, and 2008, the wealthiest Minnesotans - the top 10 percent - saw their effective state and local sales tax rate decline slightly. Meanwhile, lower earners generally saw their rates increase slightly.
And Pawlenty's policies played a role in that shift. For example, he supported cuts to Local Government Aid, which prompted some local governments to raise property taxes for many Minnesotans. That increase largely hit middle-and-lower income earners, according to the Minnesota Department of Revenue. A new cigarette fee backed by Pawlenty also changed effective tax rates.
But something else happened during Pawlenty's time in office: The richest Minnesotans got richer, in part due to unusually high capital gains income. So, while taxes may have increased for everyone in the state, in terms of percent of income, those changes were less dramatic for the state's wealthiest.
Rybak is correct that effective tax rates went up a bit for lower earners, and down slightly for higher earners. These changes have to do with how much money Minnesota's wealthiest made during Pawlenty's tenure, but they were also affected by changes in tax policy.
Though Rybak didn't provide all the details in his conference call, his claim is close enough to be accurate.
Minnesota Department of Revenue, 2011 Tax Incidence Study, March 2011
Interview, John Stiles, spokesman, R.T. Rybak, April 28, 2011
Interview, Aaron Twait, Research Director, Minnesota Taxpayers Association, April 28, 2011
Interview, Paul Wilson, Director of Tax Research, Minnesota Department of Revenue, April 29, 2011
The Humphrey School(6 Comments)
Recently, DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar teamed up with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Gov. Mark Dayton to talk about alternative fuels.
"We are making almost as much biofuels now as we import oil from Canada," Klobuchar said during an April 20, 2011 news conference.
Klobuchar got this one wrong. The United States imports a lot more oil than the biofuel it produces.
The most recent annual data on oil imports and ethanol production is from 2010. According to the Energy Information Administration, U.S. companies produced a daily average of 883,000 barrels of ethanol and biodiesel combined. Meanwhile, the nation imported an average of 1.88 million barrels of oil from Canada.
So, Canadian oil imports are almost twice the amount of biofuel we produce.
Klobuchar based her calculation on the actual gasoline produced from oil imported from Canada, says spokesman Linden Zakula. Generally speaking, a 42 gallon barrel of oil makes about 20 gallons of gasoline. "In the future she looks forward to using the more exact term," Zakula said.
Among other sources, Klobuchar's staff points to a report put together by Growth Energy, a Washington, D.C.-based group that represents ethanol producers, which shows that in 2009, the U.S. made about 750,000 barrels of ethanol daily and imported a little over 1 million barrels of gasoline from Canada.
But even then, energy experts point out that a gallon of ethanol doesn't contain as much energy as a gallon of gasoline. They say comparisons among fuels are more accurate when they're based on energy content.
Klobuchar said that we make nearly as much biofuel as we import oil from Canada. In fact, the U.S. imports about twice as much Canadian oil as domestically produced alternatives.
Her claim is false.
YouTube, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on biofuels, April 20, 2011
Minnesota Public Radio News, USDA chief discusses renewable energy in Minn., by Tom Scheck, April 20, 2011
The Energy Information Administration, Fuel Ethanol Overview, March 2011
The Energy Information Administration, Biodiesel Overview, March 2011
The Energy Information Administration, Monthly U.S. Net Imports from Canada of Crude Oil (Thousands of Barrels per Day), accessed April 27, 2011
The Energy Information Administration, Biofuels in the U.S. Transportation Sector, February 2007
The Energy Information Administration, Crude Oil and Total Petroleum Imports Top 15 Countries, March 30, 2011
Growth Energy, Ethanol: America's Growth Energy, accessed April 26, 2011
U.S. Department of Energy, Gasoline Gallon Equivalent (GGE) Definition, accessed April 26, 2011
Interview, Linden Zakula, spokesman, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, April 26, 2011
Interview, Chris Thorne, spokesman, Growth Energy, April 26, 2011
Interview, Steven G. Grape, U.S. Energy Information Administration, Office of Oil, Gas, and Coal Supply Statistics, April 26, 2011
Interview, Elizabeth Wilson, Associate Professor of Energy and Environmental Policy and Law at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, April 26, 2011
The Humphrey School(5 Comments)
On the campaign trail, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty likes to tout Q Comp, a program that pays teachers more when their students perform well.
"We were the first state to go statewide in the country to have performance pay for teachers to pay them other than just on seniority but on performance," Pawlenty said in a speech in Iowa last month.
Pawlenty's claim needs a lot of context.
Q Comp is a voluntary program that the state approved in 2005. Any school district in the state can apply, but must meet five criteria to be accepted. Among those requirements are regular teacher evaluations, teacher skill development, and school and classroom-wide performance standards; there's a lot of flexibility in what standards or goals schools choose.
To get paid more, teachers must meet those standards.
Minnesota wasn't the first to adopt a plan that pays teachers based on performance as Pawlenty said, though it's fair to say that the state has been among the earlier adopters.
According to Vanderbilt University's National Center on Performance Incentives, which keeps a database of all current federal, state and local programs, Arizona launched a statewide form of merit pay in the 1980s that allowed teachers to advance in salary if they gained new teaching skills and their students did better in class. No new funding has been approved since the mid-90s, but the program still serves a handful of Arizona school districts that enrolled early on. In 2000, the state approved an education sales tax to fund district pay-for-performance plans.
Meanwhile, North Carolina has been giving high-performing teachers annual bonuses since 1996 as part of a statewide program to improve school performance, though funding for those bonuses has been frozen for the last three years.
Pawlenty also said that the program is statewide. It's a phrase Pawlenty uses to distinguish Q Comp from regional or local programs in other states, said his spokesman Alex Conant. While it's true the program is available across the state, it's important to point out that only 50 school districts - or about 15 percent of the state's 339 districts - are participating in the 2010-2011 school year. Roughly 40 percent of the state's charter schools are involved.
Pawlenty walks a fine-line with this claim. Minnesota wasn't the very first state to adopt a statewide merit pay program, but it was one of the earlier adopters. Furthermore, Pawlenty's distinction that the program is statewide can be confusing to those listening to his speeches. It's available statewide, but only a fraction of schools are enrolled.
For both those reasons, Pawlenty's claim is misleading.
Minnesota Department of Education, Quality Compensation for Teachers (Q Comp), accessed April 21, 2011
Minnesota Office of the Revisor of Statutes, 122A.414 Alternative Teacher Pay, accessed April 21, 2011
Office of the Legislative Auditor, State of Minnesota, Q Comp: Quality Compensation for Teachers, Feb. 2009
The Minnesota Secretary of State, School Districts in Minnesota, accessed April 21, 2011
National Center on Performance Incentives, State-By-State Resources, accessed April 21, 2011
National Center on Performance Incentives, Arizona State Incentives, accessed April 21, 2011
Education Commission of the States, Pay for Performance Proposals in Race to the Top Round II Applications, By Stephanie Rose, July 20, 2010
Education Commission of the States, Classroom Site Fund (CSF), accessed April 21, 2011
Arizona Department of Education, Career Ladder, accessed April 21, 2011
Education Commission of the States, Teaching Quality--Compensation and Diversified Pay--Pay-for-Performance, accessed April 21, 2011
Interview, Steve Dibb, Acting Director, Q Comp, Minnesota Department of Education
Interview, Student Performance Improvement Program Coordinator, Independent School District 15-St. Francis, April 21, 2011
Interview, Susan Burns, program manager, National Center on Performance Incentives, April 21, 2011
Interview, Kathy Christie, Chief of Staff, Education Commission of the States, April 21, 2011(5 Comments)
During a recent House Tax Committee hearing, Rep. Steve Gottwalt, R-St. Cloud, made an oft-repeated claim about Gov. Mark Dayton's budget.
"The governor's proposal expands state government," he said on April 13, 2011. "It expands state government 22 percent."
Gottwalt isn't telling the whole story of the state's finances.
In the current biennium, the state expected to spend about $30.2 billion from the general fund, the state's primary pot of money. Dayton says he wants to spend about $37.3 billion in the upcoming biennium.
That's about a 23.5 percent increase in spending. So, on one hand, Gottwalt's claim is within range.
However, Gottwalt sidesteps two important facts: In the current biennium, Minnesota received $2.3 billion in federal stimulus money to stabilize the state's budget and help pay for Medicaid. And to balance the budget, the state agreed to put off paying schools an additional $1.9 billion. Despite the delay, the state has told schools to continue spending normally by tapping reserves or using credit.
According to the Minnesota House Fiscal Staff, those actions allowed the state to pay for about $4.2 billion more than the general fund would support in the current biennium, essentially bringing general fund spending to $34.4 billion.
Factor in federal dollars and the school payment shifts, and Dayton is proposing only an 8.4 percent spending increase.
In the current biennium, it looks like the state will spend about $30.2 billion. But that number is artificially low because of one-time federal stimulus dollars and a school payment shift.
As a result, Gottwalt's claim is misleading.
Minnesota House Fiscal Staff, General Fund Spending Increase: FY 2010-11 to FY 2010-13, March 2011
Minnesota Management and Budget, Gov. Mark Dayton's FY 2012-13 Biennial Budget, Feb. 12, 2011
Minnesota Management and Budget, General Fund: Fund Balance Analysis, Governor's Revised Recommendations, March 16, 2011
Minnesota Management and Budget, February 2011 Budget Forecast, accessed April 19, 2011
Interview, Rep. Steve Gottwalt, April 19, 2011
Interview, Bill Marx, Chief Fiscal Analysis, Minnesota House of Representatives, April 19, 2011
The Humphrey School
U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson says the House Agriculture Committee is taking a disproportionate hit under GOP Rep. Paul Ryan's proposed budget plan.
"Overall, we're talking about a 25 percent cut for [the Agriculture Committee], and we're not seeing 25 percent cuts to other parts of the budget bill," the 7th District Democrat told the Fergus Falls Daily Journal on April 12, 2011.
The Agriculture Committee, which Peterson serves on, could see big budget cuts, but it isn't the only one.
The Ryan proposal outlines future spending for 16 House committees. Six of them, including Armed Services, which is slated to get $1.7 trillion over 10 years and Foreign Affairs, which is expected to get $242 billion over 10 years, would see no budget cuts.
The remaining 10 committees would see billions slashed from their allowances, including the Agriculture Committee. Under current law, Peterson's panel is expected to get about $760 billion over the next 10 years. If Ryan's budget is adopted, that figure would be reduced to about $585 billion - about a 25 percent reduction in the panel's budget authority.
Those cuts include a $30 billion reduction in farm subsidies and a $127 billion reduction in spending on food stamps.
But Peterson is incorrect when he implies that other committees aren't seeing 25 percent cuts. For instance, the Education and Workforce Committee will see a more than 250 percent cut in its budget authority. The Homeland Security Committee will see an 88 percent cut in its budget authority. And the Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over health programs including Medicare, would see a 30 percent reduction in its pool of cash.
It's worth noting that the committees that would see the largest percentage cuts would produce the smallest savings. For instance, cutting the Homeland Security's budget will only save the government $16.6 billion compared to the $177 billion Ryan wants to pull from the farm committee's pockets.
Still, even when it comes to dollar amounts, the Agriculture Committee comes in a distant third compared to the Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means committees, which would both see about $1.3 trillion in cuts over the next decade.
Peterson correctly points out that his committee would see a 25 percent reduction in spending if the Ryan budget is passed. That's a lot of money, but Peterson misleads people when he contends that other committees aren't in the same boat. In terms of percentages and dollar amounts, other panels would see bigger cuts.
The Fergus Falls Daily Journal, Peterson: Ag subsidy cuts excessive, by Tom Hintgen, April 12, 2011
The House of Representatives Budget Committee, Concurrent Resolution on the Budget - Fiscal Year 2012, accessed April 14, 2011
Congressional Research Service, Reductions in Mandatory Agriculture Spending, Jim
Monke and Megan Stubbs, May 19, 2010
Interview, Liz Friedlander, spokeswoman, House Agriculture Committee, April 14, 2011
Interview, Brian Riedl, The Heritage Foundation, April 14, 2011
The Humphrey School(2 Comments)
DFL U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison isn't too happy about a deal to keep the government funded through September.
In an April 11, 2011 interview on MPR News, Ellison said that the 11th-hour compromise relies too much on spending cuts and not enough on revenue.
"The problem is not that we need to cut, cut, cut, the problem is that we have two-thirds of all American corporations that don't pay any taxes," he said.
Ellison is on solid ground with his claim.
Ellison points to a 2008 Government Accountability Office report to support his claim. The study, which looked at corporate income taxes paid between 1998 and 2005, appears to be the most recent analysis of the issue.
According to the report, about 66 percent of all United States corporations didn't pay any income tax in 2005, the last year included in the study. That percentage didn't change much between 1998 and 2004. It's important to point out that only 3 percent of all the firms reported no income taxes in every year examined in the study.
There are plenty of reasons why a business doesn't report corporate income tax. For instance, some may have had an operating loss in previous years, and newer operations may not be making enough to be taxed.
Ellison is correct: based on the most recent data, roughly two-thirds of all U.S. corporations don't pay income taxes.
Minnesota Public Radio News, Midmorning, April 11, 2011
The Government Accountability Office, Comparison of the Reported Tax Liabilities of Foreign- and U.S.-Controlled Corporations, 1998-2005, July 2008
Associated Press, Most Companies Pay No Federal Income Tax, Aug. 12, 2008
Tax Policy Center, Boring Report Prompts Sensational Claims on Corporate Tax Avoidance, by Eric Toder, Aug. 20, 2008
Interview, Micah Clemens, spokesman, Rep. Keith Ellison, April 11, 2011
Interview, James White, Government Accountability Office, April 12, 2011
Interview, Eric Toder, Urban Institute, April 12, 2011
Interview, Alan Viard, American Enterprise Institute, April 12, 2011
Interview, Chuck Marr, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, April 12, 2011
The Humphrey School(1 Comments)
Minnesota House Minority Leader Paul Thissen says Republican budget plans put jobs at risk.
"Last week, the House Higher Ed budget put 1,200 employees at Minnesota's colleges and universities on notice" he wrote in an April 5, 2010, press release. "The tax bill will slash another 1,700 jobs in counties and cities across Minnesota... With [the state government jobs] bill, the Republican Majority not only hands out an additional 754 pink slips, but also slashes support for private sector job creation."
Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, is right that cutting government spending would cost jobs, but his numbers are hard to pin down.
The House version of higher education funding bill would cut about 17.7 percent from the University of Minnesota's budget and mandate a tuition cap of up to 5 percent. That could mean the loss of 600 to 700 jobs, said Richard Pfutzenreuter who is the Treasurer for the University of Minnesota.
But he points out that those numbers include employees who will retire early and jobs that will remain vacant. Only a fraction will be layoffs, he said. Further, it's unlikely the university would balance its budget only by cutting jobs, he said. Rather, it will be a mix of trims.
Meanwhile, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) budget would be cut nearly 16 percent. As a result, the system is looking at either 554 staff reductions or 490 faculty reductions, including retirements and unfilled positions. That's about 3 percent of the system's 19,300 person workforce, according to spokeswoman Melinda Voss.
All told, that's about 1,200 jobs. But Thissen's figure is on the high end because it's unlikely all cuts would come from layoffs. And those figures include retirements and unfilled positions as well.
Thissen points to an estimate from Gov. Mark Dayton's office to support the second part of this claim that the House tax bill will result in 1,700 job losses. The bill cuts state aid to communities, which must be made up through property tax increases or by cutting spending and jobs.
Finally, Thissen underestimates the number of jobs lost as the result of the state government funding bill. That legislation requires a 15 percent across the board cut of all state executive branch employees by 2015, which translates to about 4,900 jobs - not 754 jobs as he states. Those jobs can be cut through layoffs, retirements or hiring freezes.
Thissen's numbers are based on fact, but he leaves out some important points. For instance, he doesn't mention that it's unlikely that the University of Minnesota will cut only jobs to save money, nor does he point out that employment reductions would be made through retirements and hiring freezes, not just layoffs. And his claim on the tax bill relies on just one source--Gov. Mark Dayton.
Given all these caveats, it was a tough call. But overall, Thissen is correct that the spending bills being debated in the House would likely mean government job losses throughout the state.
Rep. Paul Thissen, Laying Waste to the Job Creation Foundation: Statement from Minority Leader Paul Thissen on House Pink Slip Bill, April 5, 2011
Minnesota House of Representatives, Summary: Higher Education Omnibus Appropriations, March 30, 2011
Facts about the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, accessed April 7, 2011
Legislative Testimony by President Robert H. Bruininks, Minnesota House Higher Education Committee, Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2011
On Campus, Why do college officials use dire but impossible budget scenarios, By Alex Friedrich, February 25, 2011
Minnesota House of Representatives, State Government Finance Omnibus Bill, accessed April 7, 2011
Minnesota Management and Budget, Workforce Report 2010, accessed April 7, 2011
Minnesota House of Representatives, Tax Omnibus Bill, accessed April 7, 2011
Interview, Carrie Lucking, spokeswoman, Rep. Paul Thissen, April 7, 2011
Interview, Richard Pfutzenreuter, Treasurer, University of Minnesota Board of Regents, April 7, 2011
The Humphrey School(1 Comments)
Congress has until the end of the week to broker a deal to fund the government through September. If they don't, some lawmakers warn that governmental activities will come to a halt.
But U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann says that a government shutdown is "actually a slowdown."
"About one-fourth of the federal workforce would be furloughed. Three-fourths of the federal workforce would stay in place, Social Security checks would continue to go out, the military would continue to be paid, and all essential services" would remain active, said Bachmann she said during a March 31, 2010 interview with reporters.
Bachmann's claim is correct.
Republicans and Democrats are at an impasse over how much to cut spending. If Congress fails to approve funding this week, the government is legally required to shutdown.
But that doesn't mean Washington will go dark.
President Barack Obama and members of Congress would stay. And a White House official confirmed that military personnel would be retained and continue to earn money, but they wouldn't be paid until funding is approved. Jobs that protect life or property, such as law enforcement officials, would also be exempted.
The White House also confirmed that roughly 800,000 workers would be furloughed. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the federal government employs roughly 2.8 million civilians, so that means roughly 28 percent would be temporarily out of work. Bachmann's estimate is in range.
Social Security checks will continue to go out, so on that point, Bachmann is also correct.
But approval of Small Business Administration loans would be put on hold, national parks and museums would be closed, and at the height of tax season, the Internal Revenue Service will stop processing paper returns.
Bachmann is correct that a shutdown is more like a slowdown.
Rep. Michele Bachmann, speaking with reporters on March 31, 2011
Congressional Research Service, Shutdown of the Federal Government: Causes, Processes, and Effects, Clinton T. Brass, Feb. 18, 2011
The U.S. Constitution, Article 1; Section 9, accessed April 4, 2011
The Office of Management and Budget, Sec. 124 - Agency Operations in the Absence of Appropriations, accessed April 4, 2011
The House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, Government Shutdown I: What's Essential, Dec. 6 and 14, 1995
The Bureau of Labor Statistics, number of federal employees 1995-1996, accessed April 4, 2011
The Social Security Administration, History of the SSA 1993-2000, accessed April 4, 2011
Reuters, Factbox: What happens in a U.S. government shutdown?, Feb. 28, 2011
The Christian Science Monitor, If a government shutdown occurs, what actually happens?, by Gail Russell Chaddock, Feb. 23, 2011
The Humphrey School(8 Comments)
Once upon a time, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty supported a cap-and-trade plan to lower greenhouse gas emissions. Cap-and-trade sets an overall limit on pollution and lets businesses bid for the right to continue emissions.
Now, Pawlenty says his support for cap-and-trade was "a mistake." But he's also pointed out that he's not the only potential Republican candidate who has a mixed record on the issue.
"Everybody in the race - at least the big names in the race - embraced climate change or cap-and-trade at one point or another," he said on the March 28, 2011, episode of the Laura Ingraham radio show. "Every one of us."
Not every GOP hopeful has tried to tackle climate change, but many of them did.
Pawlenty's spokesman did not respond to questions about who the "big names in the race" are, but it's clear that a number of Republicans who are frequently mentioned as potential candidates have changed their position on climate change.
• Sarah Palin: As governor of Alaska, Palin formed a subcabinet to tackle climate change, and she became involved in the Western Climate Initiative, a group with the goal of lowering greenhouse gas emissions. She also supported capping emissions as Sen. John McCain's running mate in the 2008 presidential election. But just months after McCain lost, she wrote in an op-ed that President Barack Obama's cap-and-trade plan was a "threat to our economy."
• Newt Gingrich: In 2007, the former House Speaker said that "mandatory carbon caps combined with a trading system" is something he would "strongly support," and in 2008, he made an ad with Rep. Nancy Pelosi saying that the country, "must take action to address climate change." Since then, Gingrich has blasted legislation to cap emissions.
• Mitt Romney: As Massachusetts governor, Romney first supported a regional plan to curb greenhouse gas emissions, but ultimately backed-off because he feared it would be too expensive for consumers. More recently, he's said that cap-and-trade would have a "devastating impact" on the economy.
• Mike Huckabee: The former Arkansas governor has also sent mixed messages about his stance on climate change.
Still, there are three potential candidates in the field who have not changed their position on climate change.
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman has been a leading GOP advocate for climate action, setting a goal to bring Utah's emissions down to 2005 levels by 2020. So far, it appears he's not wavered on the issue.
Meanwhile, it appears former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who once lobbied for energy companies, and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann have never flirted with the idea of supporting cap-and-trade.
Minus Barbour and Bachmann, Pawlenty is right that most potential GOP candidates have "embraced climate change or cap-and-trade at one point or another."
Pawlenty isn't precise on this one, and it's also tough to say just who is and who isn't a big name in the race right now. He's close enough that his claim passes the PoliGraph test.
YouTube, The Laura Ingraham Show, March 28, 2011
Minnesota Public Radio, Pawlenty, Doyle and other Midwest governors sign on to global warming pact, by Stephanie Hemphill, Nov. 15, 2011
Minnesota Public Radio, Pawlenty's current climate change stance differs from past , by Tom Scheck, Sept. 23, 2009
PolitiFact.com, Palin flips on her support of cap-and-trade, by Catharine Richert, July 20, 2009
The Washington Post, The 'Cap And Tax' Dead End , by Gov. Sarah Palin, July 14, 2009
Time.com, On Global Warming, No Clear Skies For Most 2012 GOP Contenders, by Michael Scherer, March 24, 2011
YouTube, Nancy Pelosi and Newt Gingrich Commercial on Climate Change, accessed March 31, 2011
Frontline, Interview with Newt Gingrich, February 15, 2007
Atlanta Journal Constitution, Newt Gingrich: Cap-and-trade is 'an energy tax' and a job-killer, by Jim Galloway, April 24, 2009
ABC News, Gingrich Rips Obama Budget's 'Energy Tax'; OMB Says Higher Costs Offset by Tax Credit, by Teddy Davis, February 27, 2009
YouTube, Mitt Romney on Cap and Trade, October 7, 2009
Grist, Is Jon Huntsman the greenest GOP presidential hopeful?, by Lisa Hymas, February 2, 2011
The Associated Press, The 2008 Democratic and Republican presidential candidates' positions on the issues, by Calvin Woodward, Dec. 18, 2007
The Boston Herald, Romney OK with plan on emissions, July 24, 2003
The Star Tribune, Michele Bachmann: 'Cap and trade'? More like 'tax and spend', by Rep. Michele Bachmann, June 9, 2008
The Humphrey School(1 Comments)
As Rep. Michele Bachmann tours the country testing the waters for a potential presidential run, she'll be talking a lot about Congress's recent health care overhaul.
In a March 23, 2010 speech in Iowa, Bachmann said that most Americans want to overturn the law.
"From the day it passed one year ago until today, there hasn't been one week that a majority of Americans haven't said 'kill that bill,'" she said.
Bachmann's claim is hard to substantiate, in part because she uses only one poll to back it up.
Bachmann spokesman Andy Parrish points to a Rasmussen Reports poll that's been taken regularly since Congress passed the health care overhaul in March 2010. (As far as PoliGraph can tell, this is the only poll that's asked the question weekly for the past year).
According to that data, a majority of likely voters said they would support repealing the new law. The most recent numbers show that 58 percent of those polled strongly favor or somewhat favor getting rid of the bill.
But that's just one poll. In fact, the numbers are all over the map.
• A Kaiser Family Foundation poll done earlier this year found that 39 percent of participants supported Congress replacing the health care law with a Republican alternative or axing it all together.
• A recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that 45 percent would support eliminating the law and 46 percent would support keeping the law.
• A January 2011 CNN poll found that 50 percent of voters would support repealing all provisions of the law compared to 42 percent who would support keeping the law intact.
• And a New York Times/CBS poll conducted three times in the last six months shows that less than 50 percent of respondents would support repealing the health care overhaul.
Some of these polls show that voters only want parts of the law overturned, not all of it.
Bachmann's correct that there's solid support for repealing some or all the health care bill. What's unclear is whether the majority of Americans do, or if they have every week for the last year. One poll supports this claim, others don't.
As a result, Bachmann's claim is Inconclusive.
Michele Bachmann, Facebook profile, speech, March 23, 2011
Rasmussen Reports, Health Care Law: 58% Now Favor Health Care Repeal, March 28, 2011
Kaiser Family Foundation, Kaiser Health Tracking Poll: February 2011, accessed March 29, 2011
The New York Times, CBS poll, January 15-19, 2011, accessed March 29, 2011
CNN Opinion Research: January 14-16, 2011, accessed March 29, 2011
NBC/Wall Street Journal Survey, January 13-17, 2011, accessed March 29, 2011
Pollster.com, Health care plan: Favor/Oppose, accessed March 29, 2011
The Washington Post, Is support for repeal vastly overstated?, By Greg Sargent, Jan. 21, 2011
The Humphrey School
Republican legislators are targeting local government aid as they attempt to erase the state's $5 billion deficit.
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak defended the program on his blog, arguing against the contention that state aid is a handout.
"Minneapolis helps keep the state afloat," Rybak wrote. "This year alone, we will send $367.5 million more to the state in sales and property taxes than the state has promised us back in LGA."
Rybak's numbers are on point.
LGA is given to Minnesota communities that would have a hard time paying for services with property taxes alone. Both the House and Senate are debating bills that would cut LGA; the House bill would phase out aid for Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth.
Rybak lays out a lot of reasons why he thinks cutting LGA is a bad idea, pointing out that Minneapolis puts more in the state coffers than it takes out in state aid.
City budgeters estimate that the state will collect roughly $380 million in sales taxes and roughly $75 million in commercial property taxes from Minneapolis.
Minus the $87.5 million in LGA Minneapolis is slated to get in 2011, the city is expected to provide the state with $367.5 million this year.
For his first PoliGraph test, Rybak earns an Accurate.
The Mayor's Blog, Urgent: Need your help today to hold the line on property taxes, by Mayor R.T. Rybak, March 18, 2011
Minnesota State Legislature, House Research: The City LGA Program, by Pat Dalton, January 2009
Minnesota Public Radio News, Senate GOP bill slashes local government aid, by Tim Pugmire, March 23, 2011
The City of Minneapolis, 2011 Budget, accessed March 23, 2011
The Minnesota Department of Revenue, Minnesota Sales and Use Tax: Instruction Booklet, accessed March 23, 2011
Interview, John Stiles, spokesman, Mayor R.T. Rybak, March 22, 2011
The Humphrey School(4 Comments)
To slash the deficit, lawmakers in Washington, D.C., need to go after the big bucks, says Sen. Al Franken.
Case in point: tax breaks for oil and gas companies.
"Over the past decade, the five largest oil and gas companies have made $1 trillion in profit," Franken said during a March 9, 2011, floor speech after the Senate rejected a bill to cut spending. "Yet they are benefiting from tax subsidies that have been in place since as far back as 1916. Eliminating these wasteful subsidies will bring in about $64 billion over 10 years."
Franken's savings estimate is off by billions, but his underlying point is on target.
In inflation adjusted dollars, it's true that the largest oil and gas companies operating in the United States made about $893 billion over the last decade. Franken said $1 trillion, but he's still in the ballpark.
It's also true that oil and gas companies benefit from a slate of tax breaks and subsidies meant to spur investment and production, some of which have been in place for many decades. If they were all eliminated, it would save the government roughly $46 billion over 10 years, according to the Office of Management and Budget. An additional $10 billion could be saved by axing a foreign tax credit that largely benefits oil and gas companies, a perk that Franken also advocates eliminating.
Still, Franken's saving estimate is high because he's also counting the nonconventional fuels credit, a tax break that's no longer available to the vast majority of oil and gas producers. Franken's office estimated it would $20 billion over 10 years; in reality, it will only cost $100 million through 2014.
Franken's numbers are off by 12 percent, but he is essentially correct. Eliminating tax breaks for oil and gas companies would save billions.
It's a close call given the bad math, but Franken's claim passes the PoliGraph test.
Sen. Al Franken, floor speech, March 9, 2011
Budget of the U.S. Government, Fiscal Year 2011, accessed March 21, 2011
The Center for American Progress, Eliminating Tax Subsidies for Oil Companies, by Sima J. Gandhi, May 13, 2010
The Center for American Progress, Big Oil's Lust for Tax Loopholes: Oil Prices and Profits Rise While Big Oil Defends Its Tax Loopholes, by Daniel J. Weiss, January 31, 2011
The Environmental Law Institute, Estimating U.S. Government Subsidies
to Energy Sources: 2002-2008, September 2009
The Congressional Research Service, Oil and Gas Tax Subsidies:
Current Status and Analysis, February 27, 2007
The U.S. Treasury Department, General Explanations of the Administration's Fiscal Year 2010 Revenue Proposals, February 2011
The Joint Committee on Taxation, Estimates Of Federal Tax Expenditures For Fiscal Years 2010-2014, December 2010
Interview, Ed Shelleby, press secretary, Sen. Al Franken, March 14, 2011
Interview, Daniel Weiss, senior fellow, Director of Climate Strategy, The Center for American Progress, March 14, 2011
Interview, Seth Hanlon, Director of Fiscal Reform, Doing What Works program, March 18, 2011
Interview, Lisa Goldman, senior attorney, Environmental Law Institute, March 21, 2011
The Humphrey School(2 Comments)
On the floor of the Minnesota Senate, Tax Committee Chair Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, made this prediction about Gov. Mark Dayton's income tax plan:
"The Senate fiscal staff has prepared an analysis, Madam President," Ortman said on March 3, 2011. "It's dated 2/24/11, and it shows that Gov. Dayton's proposal would actually impose that 10.95 percent on all income earners in the state of Minnesota within 15 years, because the governor doesn't index the top bracket."
Ortman's claim that all Minnesotans would pay higher taxes because Dayton's plan does not account for inflation is an exaggeration.
Ortman is talking about is "bracket creep" - the movement of taxpayers into higher brackets when their income increases due to inflation.
As Dayton's plan stands, the new tier would not be indexed for inflation, unlike Minnesota's current brackets. That means more people would end up paying the higher rate over time.
But the Senate fiscal report Ortman refers to does not support the claim that all Minnesota taxpayers would be affected by the 10.95 percent rate within 15 years. In fact, it doesn't even project that far. For all taxpayers to be captured by the new rate within the next 15 years would require an explosion in wages or a significant increase in inflation, say tax experts.
"The point is that everybody is going to be affected by this," Ortman said of her claim. "Yes, it's theoretical, but it's there."
It is highly unlikely all Minnesota taxpayers will be paying Dayton's proposed top rate in 15 years.
Ortman's claim does not pass the PoliGraph test.
Senate Fiscal Report: Analysis of Gov. Dayton's 4th Tier Without Inflation Adjustment, Feb. 24, 2011
MPR News, FAQ: Making sense of Dayton's budget proposal, by Madeleine Baran, and
Elizabeth Dunbar, February 15, 2011
Minnesota Management and Budget, Minnesota Biennial Budget: FY 2012-2013, accessed March 10, 2011
Supporting documents from Sen. Ortman, March 10, 2011
Interview, Sen. Julianne Ortman, Tax Committee Chair, March 3, 2011
Interview, Mark Haveman, Executive Director, Minnesota Taxpayers Association, March 10, 2011
Interview, Kit Borgman, spokeswoman, Minnesota Department of Revenue, March 9, 2011
Interview, John Spry, Associate Professor, University of St. Thomas, March 10, 2011
The Humphrey School(2 Comments)
Michele Bachmann has a bone to pick with the authors of the health care reform bill.
"There was a Congressional Research Service report that just was issued in February, and we discovered that secretly, unbeknownst to members of Congress, over $105 billion was hidden in the Obamacare legislation to fund the implementation of Obamacare," she said during her March 6, 2011 appearance on Meet the Press.
In a separate press release issued March 4, she said the funding was a "new $105 billion levy on American taxpayers."
Bachmann's figure of $105 billion is in the ballpark. But she's wrong to say the number was a secret.
Bachmann's office did not return PoliGraph's emails or phone calls for clarification on her statement, but it appears she's referring to a February, 2011, Congressional Research Service report that outlines appropriations and funding transfers in the health care overhaul.
According to that CRS report, the bill includes nearly $105 billion in spending through 2019 for new programs created by the health care bill, such as the health insurance exchanges, and existing programs, such as the Children's Health Insurance Program.
But to say that this funding was somehow hidden from lawmakers is false. Spending was clearly outlined in the legislation, and lawmakers had about three months to read the text before voting on it. Furthermore, many of these provisions, such as a temporary program for those who have pre-existing conditions, which will get $5 billion, and a plan to create health insurance co-ops, which will get $6 billion, got a lot of media attention throughout the health care debate.
Bachmann's separate claim that the $105 billion in spending is a "levy on American taxpayers" is false. While the health care bill is paid for partly with tax increases and partly with savings from programs like Medicare, Bachmann is referring to spending appropriations, not new taxes as her claim would imply. And at least $11.8 billion of that funding is simply being transferred from existing spending, such as Medicare Part A, to new programs.
Bachmann is correct to say that there is $105 billion in funding in the health care bill. But her claim makes it appear that this is news. It is not. And the appropriations she's referring to are not tax increases.
By cloaking the numbers in claims that the Obama administration is hiding the money, her claim goes beyond misleading to false.
Meet the Press, Sunday, March 6, 2011
Press Release, Bachmann Calls on President to Apologize, March 4, 2011
The Congressional Research Service, Appropriations and Fund Transfers in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), by C. Stephen Redhead, October 14, 2010
The Congressional Research Service, Appropriations and Fund Transfers in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), by C. Stephen Redhead, February 10, 2011 (Get link)
The House of Representatives, Compilation of Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as amended through May 1, 2010, accessed March. 7, 2011
Thomas, Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, accessed March 7, 2011
Thomas, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, accessed March 7, 2011
The Kaiser Family Foundation, Summary of the New Health Reform Law, March 26, 2010
The Congressional Budget Office, Selected CBO Publications Related to Health Care Legislation, 2009-2010, December 2010
Reuters, FACTBOX-Major tax provisions in U.S. healthcare bill, March 22, 2010
The Humphrey School(14 Comments)
During his recent rounds on radio and television, Gov. Mark Dayton has been touting the fact that neither he nor his Republican colleagues in the House and Senate have a mandate to govern because no one got the majority of the vote.
"I was elected with 43 percent of the people who voted in the last election and the Republican majorities in the Senate and the House were elected with 41 percent and 40 percent respectively," he said during an interview on TPT's Almanac last month.
He repeated a similar claim Tuesday on MPR News' Midday.
Dayton's numbers don't hold up.
Of the nearly 2.1 million votes cast for governor in 2010, Dayton got roughly 919,000 votes - or about 43 percent. So he gets that percentage right.
About 2 million people voted for candidates for the Minnesota Senate. Of those votes, 49.72 were for a Republican; not a majority, but a lot closer than Dayton's claim.
Additionally, roughly 2 million people voted in Minnesota House races. Of those, 50.44 percent cast ballots for a Republican.
Dayton's staff responded, saying that he's talking about the percentage of voters who elected winning candidates - the votes that helped the GOP take both chambers.
By that measure, Dayton's contention would have been better served if he had the percentages right -- 35 percent went to winning GOP candidates in both chambers, not "41 percent and 40 percent respectively."
Dayton only considered the percentage of voters who cast ballots for winning candidates. His comparison fails to point out that far more people voted for Republican legislators in the 2010 election.
The governor's statement is misleading to the point that it earns a false on the PoliGraph test.
MPR News' Midday, March 1, 2011
TPT, Almanac, Feb. 18, 2011
Minnesota Secretary of State, General Election Results for Governor, last updated Jan. 19, 2011, accessed March 3, 2011
Minnesota Secretary of State, Senate Race Results, accessed March 4, 2011
Minnesota Secretary of State, House Race Results, accessed March 4, 2011
Interview, Katie Tinucci, spokeswoman, Mark Dayton, March 3, 2011
Interview, Steven Schier, professor, Carleton College, March 4, 2011
The Humphrey School(4 Comments)
As a battle over public employee bargaining rights rages in Wisconsin, Minnesota labor leaders are touting the positive effects of union membership.
For instance, Eliot Seide, Executive Director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, defended the benefits of unionization during an interview with MPR News last week:
"The 10 states where [unions are] most dense, the poverty rate is lower, health care is better, household income is higher, education spending per pupil is higher, and frankly the quality of life is better because trade unions in this country - public and private - have created the middle class and are essential to a democracy in this country."
Seide's facts are correct and comparisons are fair. But whether unions lead to a better quality of life is another story.
Seide is comparing states with the largest percentage of unionized workers, which include New York, Alaska and Washington, to states with the lowest percentage, which include South Dakota, Oklahoma and a handful of southern states.
According to Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics data, Seide's comparisons are all correct. For instance, the average annual median income in states with robust unions is $56,412, while states with sparse unionization have an average median income of $43,816. Poverty rates in these states tend to be lower and more people have health care coverage.
Coincidence? Yes and no.
Labor academics and economists agree that it is misleading to imply that unions are responsible for creating a better quality of life, because there are many other factors that lead to higher income and lower poverty rates.
That said, labor experts also noted that unions have historically supported and backed politicians who support policies that lead, for instance, to higher education spending; public employee unions have long pushed for more education dollars because their members, namely public school teachers, benefit from such spending increases.
This is a tough claim to rate because of Seide's concluding assertion -- that unions are responsible for a better quality of life. It's simply an overstatement. Still, his facts are accurate and comparisons are correct. It's also accurate to say that unions have played a role in shaping public policy, including efforts to increase education spending and lower the poverty rate.
So with those important caveats, Seide's claim passes the PoliGraph test.
Minnesota Public Radio, Midday, Feb. 25, 2011
The AFL-CIO, Right to Work for Less, accessed March 1, 2011
AFSCME, Minnesota Council 5, Why Unions?, accessed March 1, 2011
The AFL-CIO, Unions Raise Wages for All Worker, accessed March 1, 2011
The Bureau of Labor Statistics, Union affiliation of employed wage and salary workers by state, accessed Mar. 1, 2011
The U.S. Census Bureau, Income data, 2009, accessed March 1, 2011
The U.S. Census Bureau, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2009, Sept. 2010
The U.S. Census Bureau, Health Insurance Coverage Status by State for All People: 2009, accessed March 1, 2011
The U.S. Census Bureau, Public Elementary-Secondary Education Finance Data, accessed March 1, 2011
The Washington Post, How Do Unions Affect State Spending and Taxation?, by Ezra Klein, Feb. 25, 2011
Interview, Jennifer Munt, spokesperson, AFSCME Council 5
Interview, Morris Kleiner, professor, The Humphrey School of Public Affairs, The
University of Minnesota - Twin Cities, March 2, 2011
Interview, Alex Keyssar, professor, The Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, March 1, 2011
Interview, Daniel DiSalvo, professor, The City College of New York - CUNY, March 2, 2011
Interview, Richard Levins, professor emeritus, Department of Applied Economics, The University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, March 1, 2011
Minnesota Republicans' biggest complaint about Gov. Mark Dayton's budget proposal can be summed up in one word: taxes.
They claim Dayton's proposed $4 billion in new revenue will hurt small businesses, as House Speaker Kurt Zellers pointed out in a Feb. 18, 2011 email to constituents.
"These tax increases will fall disproportionately on job creators," Zellers wrote. "Approximately 92 percent of small businesses pay their taxes through the individual income tax."
Zellers is exaggerating the impact of Dayton's proposal.
Zellers' concern centers on Dayton's proposal to impose a 10.95 percent income tax rate on single filers making more than $85,000 in after tax income and couples making more than $150,000 in after tax income. Those making more than $500,000 in taxable income annually would see an additional 3 percent surtax, making Minnesota's top income tax rate 13.95 percent. GOP legislators, including Zellers, say these income tax hikes will hurt small businesses most.
There are several ways to measure the size of a small business. In some cases, the Small Business Administration (SBA) looks at a firm's annual receipts; in others, it focuses on the number of employees. Regardless, Zellers is correct that about 92 percent pay taxes through the individual return.
But the SBA definitions don't mean much when it comes to taxes because some large companies pay their taxes through the individual return, and some very small companies pay corporate taxes.
Instead, The Minnesota Department of Revenue examines how much money individuals report from a business enterprise on their personal income tax returns. These dollars come from sole proprietorships, S-corporations and partnerships, which tend to have fewer employees.
Each year, about 360,000 individuals - or about 16 percent of all tax returns - report some sort of flow-through income, according to revenue department. Of those, only about 40,000, or 11 percent, would be affected by Dayton's new tax plan - that is, people making more than $85,000 in after-tax income and couples making more than $150,000 in after-tax income.
Zellers is wrong that the impact of Dayton's proposal would hurt the vast majority of Minnesota's small businesses, as his claim implies.
The verdict on Zellers' claim is false. He correctly points out that 92 percent of "small" Minnesota firms pay taxes through the individual return. But from there, the facts to support his claim get murky. It is false that most small businesses would be hit by the new tax, as Zellers' claim implies; only 11 percent would feel the effect.
This claim fails the PoliGraph test.
The Small Business Administration, Minnesota: Small Business Profile, accessed Feb. 23, 2011
The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, Fiscal FAQ, accessed Feb. 24, 2011
The Minnesota Department of Revenue, Governor's Proposed Income Tax Changes and Flow-Through Businesses, accessed Feb. 24, 2011
The Minnesota Legislature, Taxation and Small Business in Minnesota, by Nina Manzi and Joel Michael, January 2011
Minnesota Public Radio, U of M economist on how state tax rates affect jobs, by Tom Crann, Feb. 16, 2011
The Small Business Administration, Table of Small Business Size Standards
Matched to North American Industry Classification System Codes, accessed Feb. 23, 2011
Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, Employment Distribution by Size of Firm and Major Industry Division, accessed Feb. 24, 2011
Growth and Justice, An Analysis of a Proposal to Add a Fourth Tier to Minnesota's Individual Income Tax, By Marsha Blumenthal, Ph.D. and Charles Quimby, May 11, 2009
Interview, Jodi Boyne, spokeswoman, House Speaker Kurt Zellers, Feb. 24, 2011
The Humphrey School(7 Comments)
Gov. Mark Dayton's $37 billion budget plan has not been warmly received by Republicans.
For instance, GOP House Majority Leader Matt Dean objects to the $4 billion in new taxes and surcharges contained in the bill. They represent "the largest tax increase in Minnesota's history," Dean said during a Feb. 15, 2011 press conference.
Largest in the state's history? Maybe.
In an attempt to reduce the state's deficit, Dayton's budget proposes tax increases and new fees amounting to $4.129 billion over the 2012-2013 budget period - roughly 11 percent of Dayton's overall two- year general fund budget.
This claim is tricky to sort out. First, the state doesn't have adequate tax data going back to Minnesota's earliest days, so it's difficult to say whether Dayton's plan would be the largest in Minnesota's history.
Still, there are some notable tax moments in Minnesota's recent history that serve as good benchmarks.
The "Minnesota Miracle": For many years, communities relied on local taxes to support their schools and services. But in the late 1960s, less affluent towns were having trouble raising enough money to adequately support education and services. In 1971, the Legislature approved a sweeping package of tax changes meant to equalize school and services funding across all Minnesota towns. Called the "Minnesota Miracle," it was estimated to generate $580 million over two years in new revenue - about $3 billion in today's dollars - and represented about 20 percent of the 1972-1973 $2.8 billion general fund.
Income Tax Surcharges: In the early 1980s, the state was facing major revenue shortfalls. In an attempt to make up for the loss, the legislature approved more than $1 billion in new taxes between 1981 and 1984. Today, those changes would be valued at more than $2 billion. But each tax change was relatively small. For instance, a 7 percent income tax surtax - later increased to 10 percent - raised roughly $230 million in new revenue between 1981 and 1983, or nearly $500 million today. It represented about 3 percent of the 1982-1983 $8.2 billion general fund.
The 2008 Transportation Taxes: In 2008, the Legislature overrode Gov. Tim Pawlenty's veto of a massive transportation bill, which raised the gas tax by 5.5 cents per gallon and included other transportation fees. At the time, legislative researchers estimated the bill would raise roughly $6 billion over 10 years. Based on that projection, the taxes will add an average of $1 billion to the state's coffers every two years.
Dean's claim is Inconclusive because it's difficult to check it against every tax increase in the state's history. However, it appears that Dayton's revenue proposal is quite large compared to some of the state's recent tax increases. But as a percentage of the two-year general fund budget it would still be smaller than the "Minnesota Miracle."
The Uptake, GOP, DFL Leadership Reacts to Gov. Dayton's Budget, Feb. 15, 2011
Minnesota Management and Budget, FY 2012-2013 Biennial Budget, accessed Feb. 15, 2011
Minnesota Management and Budget, Historical Expenditures: General Fund and All Funds, accessed Feb. 17, 2011
The Minnesota Historical Society, Public Education - The Minnesota Miracle, accessed Feb. 16, 2011
The William Mitchell Law Review, The Minnesota Disparities Act of 1971: The Twin Cities' Struggle and Blueprint for Regional Cooperation, by Myron Orfield and Nicholas Wallace, March 7, 2007
Minnesota History, The Minnesota Miracle: A Roundtable Discussion, Winter 2007-2008
Strong Towns, A Brief History of Minnesota's System of Local, Government Finance: 1960‐2010, accessed Feb. 15, 2011
Minnesota Legislature, Laws 2008, Chapter 152: Preliminary Resource Estimates (FY 2009 - FY 2018), accessed Feb. 16, 2011
Center for Educational Policy Studies, Chronology of Minnesota's Fiscal Crisis July 1, 1979 though Dec. 31, 1982, January 1983
Minnesota Legislature, Fiscal Review 1981-1981, January 1985, accessed Feb. 16, 2011
The Star Tribune, Editorial: Fact or fallacy: Legislators blur the line, March 1, 2008
Minnesota Public Radio, State's Gas Tax Goes Up Today, by Tom Weber, April 1, 2008
Interview, Mark Haveman, Executive Director, Minnesota Taxpayers Association, Feb. 17, 2011
Interview, Rep. Phil Krinkie, President, Taxpayers League of Minnesota, Feb. 15, 2011
Interview, Scott Russell, Policy Analyst, Minnesota Budget Project, Feb. 16, 2011
Interview, Joel Michael, House Legislative Researcher, Feb. 15, 2011
The Humphrey School(2 Comments)
During his State of the State speech, Gov. Mark Dayton made some troubling observations about Minnesota's economy, including this one:
"Our employment growth averaged in the bottom 10 among the 50 states during the past decade," he said on Feb. 9, 2010.
While the state's job growth in the last decade has been lackluster, Minnesota's rank is difficult to pinpoint.
Dayton's facts come from a report by Minnesota2020, a left-leaning think tank that argues the state is in poor economic health. According to the report, Minnesota's employment growth rate rank sank from 26th in 2002 to 46th in 2007, but was on the uptick again toward the end of the last decade.
PoliGraph crunched the numbers, too, and found that between 2000 and 2010, Minnesota's rank hovered around 30th place - not in the bottom 10.
It appears the Minnesota2020 report used employment data from the Local Area Unemployment branch of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which can include those who are self-employed and farm workers. PoliGraph used employment data based on the number of payroll jobs in the country from the Current Employment Statistics branch of the BLS, which likely accounts for the different rankings.
But regardless of where Minnesota ranks, the data underscore Dayton's overall point: The state's unemployment growth has been less than impressive over the last decade, lagging behind other states and the national average.
The state experienced above average population growth throughout the 1990s, and that translated to more jobs. But in 2001, the country fell into a recession. Minnesota's job growth stalled around that time, and it hasn't been able to bounce back since.
The reasons are a bit mysterious, according to state economists. In part, Minnesota's job growth deteriorated along with national declines in manufacturing. Other industries, including financial services and the airline business, have suffered, and slow housing and construction industries may also have played a role. And it may be that some employers have been more productive with a smaller workforce.
All that said, employment growth is just one of many factors used to gauge a state's economic health. Indeed, the state's unemployment rate has consistently remained below the national average, Minnesotans make more income per capita than many other states, and Minnesota's employment ratio - meaning the percent of working age people that do have a job - ranks among the top 10 in the nation.
PoliGraph ranks this claim Inconclusive because Minnesota's employment growth ranks differently depending on the way you measure it. That said, Dayton's overall point is correct: Minnesota job expansion in recent years has been modest at best compared to other states.
Minnesota2020, On Our Way to Average: Ranking Minnesota's Economic Performance, by Jeff Van Wychen, January, 2010
Employment Growth Rankings: 2000-2010, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Non-Farm Employment, Seasonally Adjusted, created Feb. 11, 2011
Minnesota Management and Budget, Minnesota Economic Outlook, Nov. 2010
Minnesota Management and Budget, State Revenues on Forecast Since November, Jan. 2006
Minnesota Management and Budget, State Revenues on Forecast in February and March, April 1999
Management and Budget, November and December Revenues Less than Forecast, January 2001
Minnesota Management and Budget, Economic Outlook, Nov. 2008
The Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs, Economic Challenges Facing the Upper Midwest, March 2004, accessed Feb. 12, 2011
Minnesota's Economics and Demographics: Looking 2030 and Beyond, by Tom Stinson and Tom Gillaspy, July 2008
Minnesota State Demographic Center, The Long Run Has Become the Short Run: Budget Implications of Demographic Change, Feb. 3, 2011
The Bureau of Labor Statistics, Differences Between Data Series, accessed Feb. 16, 2011
Interview, Jeremy Drucker, spokesman, Gov. Mark Dayton, Feb. 9, 2011
Interview, Art Rolnick, former director of research, Minneapolis Federal Reserve; Senior Fellow, the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, Feb. 11, 2011
Interview, Tom Gillaspy, State Demographer, Feb. 14, 2011
Interview, Catherine Varner, Economist, Bureau of Labor Statistics
The Humphrey School
Minnesota's economy was the theme of Gov. Mark Dayton's first State of the State speech delivered Wednesday.
To help make his point, Dayton said that fewer people are working today than were working eight years ago.
"Last December, there were over 77,000 more Minnesotans unemployed than in December 2002, just before Gov. Pawlenty took office," he said on Feb. 9, 2011. "There were 5,881 fewer people working in Minnesota than there were eight years ago, even though our state's population grew during that time by over 286,000 people."
Dayton's numbers are right, but they deserve some context.
In Dec. 2002, roughly 128,000 people were unemployed. Now, that number stands at approximately 206,000 unemployed - a difference of about 78,000, as Dayton estimated. Further, it's correct that 5,881 fewer people working in Minnesota these days, according to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. Dayton's also in the ballpark on population growth.
But while Dayton's numbers are right, it's important to consider them in context. The national recession had a sizeable impact on Minnesota, including significant job losses between 2008 and 2009; the peak came in May of 2009, when more than 250,000 people were out of a job. In fact, before the middle of 2008, it was unusual for more than 140,000 people to be jobless.
So, Dayton's figures may be rosier had there been no recession.
With some context, Dayton's good on his numbers.
The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, Minnesota Unemployment Statistics, Dec. 2002 - Dec. 2010, accessed Feb. 9, 2011
The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, Minnesota Population Estimates, 1998-2009, accessed Feb. 9, 2011
The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, The Recession Hits Home, by Dave Snef, June 2009
The Minnesota Geospatial Information Office, Minnesota Population Estimate, accessed Feb. 9, 2010
Interview, Jeremy Drucker, spokesman, Gov. Mark Dayton, Feb. 9, 2010
The Humphrey School(1 Comments)
Editor's Note: This replaces a previous post that contained incomplete information leading to a "false" rating. Other sources show the governor can make a case for his comments based on averages, which was not clear from his original statement.
Gov. Mark Dayton gave his first State of the State address Wednesday, so over the next few days we'll take a look at some of his statements. In the speech, Dayton argued that Minnesota isn't doing enough to support public schools.
In higher education, he said a decline in state investment has translated to higher tuition in two-and-four year universities.
"Tuition in our state's two-year public colleges has risen to the third-highest in the nation; tuitions in our four-year universities are among the top-ten highest."
Dayton's statement is misleading.
No single Minnesota school ranks that high, but on average they do.
The University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities ranks 40th out of 598 four-year public universities in in-state tuition, and 278th in out-of-state tuition, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. The U also isn't among the most expensive schools in the country when you factor fees and room and board.
The most expensive two-year Minnesota school is Dakota County Technical College in Rosemount, Minn., which charges $5,298 a semester, and ranks 28th among two-year public colleges, according to the publication.
However, Dayton's office sent us studies that calculated averages for four-and-two year public institutions.
A report by the CollegeBoard Advocacy and Policy Center puts Minnesota's four-year public school average tuition fee of $8,665 in 10th place. And Minnesota's average community college tuition of roughly $4,700 ranked third.
So, when it comes to averages, Minnesota's at the top of the pack. When it comes to individual schools, Minnesota's well out of the top 10.
There's more than one way to look at the cost of the higher education. Dayton was using averages in his speech, but he didn't make that clear. This PoliGraph test is misleading.
Gov. Mark Dayton's State of the State speech, Feb. 9, 2011
The Chronicle of Higher Education, Tuition and Fees, 2009-2010 and 2010-2011, Public two-year schools, accessed Feb. 9, 2011
The Chronicle of Higher Education, Tuition and Fees, 2009-2010 and 2010-2011, Pubic four-year schools, accessed Feb. 9, 2011
CollegeBoard study of average costs
Washington State Higher Education Coordinating Board annual study
The Humphrey School(3 Comments)
Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, may not be a household name but he recently spoke about an issue that's making headlines all over Minnesota: the state's projected $6.2 billion deficit.
In debate on the House floor on a Republican-backed proposal to cut $1 billion in state spending, Marquart said this on Jan 27: "Make no doubt about it, this bill creates up to over $300 million of new property tax increases on our senior citizens on fixed incomes, our families, our farmers and our small businesses."
Marquart is on firm ground with his numbers, but local governments will make the final decision on property taxes.
Marquart voted against the Republican-controlled Legislature's first stab at reducing the state's deficit. The legislation would make permanent many of the one-time spending cuts Gov. Tim Pawlenty and the Legislature agreed on last year. Included in those cuts is a $487 million reduction in state aid to local governments and counties.
The Minnesota Department of Revenue estimates that these cuts will result in more than $300 million in new property taxes. To come up with this figure, budget crunchers use a formula that predicts property taxes will increase roughly 66 cents for every dollar the state cuts in aid. The assumption is based on historical data, and is reviewed annually by researchers at the revenue department and the Legislature.
So, Marquart's claim is plausible. But it's important to point out that the Legislature doesn't set property taxes; local governments do.
Further, the budgeting formula is based on an estimate. For example, it would be incorrect to assume that all local governments will increase property taxes. In fact, researchers at the revenue department and in the Legislature say the formula may be on the high end because many local governments have not raised property taxes as a result of the recession.
While it remains to be seen how much property taxes will increase, Marquart has a firm foundation for making his prediction.
His statement ranks an accurate on this PoliGraph test.
Minnesota State Legislature, text of H.F. 130, accessed Feb. 1, 2011
Minnesota State Legislature, Summary H.F. 130, accessed Feb. 1, 2011
Minnesota Department of Revenue, Analysis H.F. 130, Jan. 25, 2011
Minnesota Public Radio, Minn. House passes $1 billion state budget cut, by Tom Scheck, Jan. 28, 2011
Interview, Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, Jan. 31, 2011
Interview, Pat Dalton, House Research Department, Feb. 1, 2011
Interview, Eric Willette, Property Tax Research Director, Minnesota Department of Revenue, Feb. 1, 2011
This is the fifth and final in a series of fact checks this week reviewing former Gov. Tim Pawlenty's book - Courage to Stand - as he tours the nation promoting it and exploring the possibility of a run for president.
Like many of his fellow Republicans, Pawlenty believes that public sector workers are overpaid.
"Why are government employees making 22 percent more than their private-sector counterparts, plus enjoying better benefits and nearly perfect job security?," Pawlenty wrote on page 276.
Pawlenty gets this one right, with a few caveats.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), public sector workers - including all federal, state and local employees - make roughly 22 percent more in raw wages compared to the private sector.
Generally speaking, public sector employees get a wider variety of benefits as well, such as health care, pension and better paid leave. For instance, in 2010, it cost state and local governments an average of $13.85 per worker to cover benefits compared to an average of $8.20 in the private sector.
Many economists argue the disparity between private sector pay and public sector pay is due to the larger number of blue-collar jobs in the private workforce. These jobs pay less, effectively drawing down average wages.
Note that Pawlenty is talking about an overall average. In many instances, job-to-job comparisons show that public workers make less than their private sector counterparts. For instance, a lawyer working for the government makes an average of $98,120 annually, while a lawyer working in the private sector makes $137,540 a year - a significant difference. And government economists make about one-third less than their private-sector counterparts.
All in all, this claim is accurate.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2009 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates by ownership: Cross-industry, private ownership only, accessed Jan 27, 2011
The Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2009 National Industry-Specific Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: Federal, State and Local Government, accessed Jan. 26, 2011
The Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employer Costs for Employee Compensation - Sept. 2010, Dec. 8, 2010
The Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employer costs for employee compensation, September 2009
The New York Times, Are Federal Workers Overpaid?, by Nancy Folbre, Oct. 13, 2009
The Cato Institute, Employee Compensation in State and Local Governments, by Chris Edwards, Jan. 2010
The Cato Institute, Federal Pay Continues Rapid Ascent, by Chris Edwards, Aug. 24, 2009(7 Comments)
This is the fourth in a series of fact checks this week reviewing former Gov. Tim Pawlenty's book - Courage to Stand - as he tours the nation promoting it and exploring the possibility of a run for president.
Pawlenty frequently says that he drove down state spending during his administration.
Here's what he wrote about the issue on page 183 of his book:
"The average two-year increase in Minnesota state spending from 1960, the year I was born, until I became Governor was about 21 percent. We brought that down dramatically to an average of 1.7 percent per year during my time as Governor. And for the first time in the 150-year history of Minnesota, we reduced state spending in real terms."
At first blush, his claim checks out. But a deeper look reveals Pawlenty is being selective with the numbers and is omitting important context and adjustments.
Minnesota writes new budgets every two years, so spending can be measured in one- and-two year cycles.
Yes, according to Minnesota Management and Budget, the average two-year spending increase between 1960 and 2003, the year Pawlenty took office, was indeed roughly 21 percent.
However, the numbers used to figure the rate of increase were not adjusted for inflation or population growth. Accounting for these variables would show flatter state spe