"Both sides do it"
"A number of misleading statements were made by both candidates in Wednesday's debate" says the NYT in their leading story on the debate. But reading that story, not just the tease, gives you a very different picture.
- Mr. Romney said Mr. Obama had doubled the deficit. That is not true.
- That $716 billion cut from Medicare: While fact-checkers have repeatedly debunked this claim, it remains a standard attack line for Mr. Romney.
- Romney says that half the companies backed by the president’s green energy stimulus program have gone out of business. That is a gross overstatement. Of nearly three dozen recipients of loans under the Department of Energy’s loan guarantee program, only three are currently in bankruptcy,
- Mr. Romney also said that “many” of the companies that received such [green energy stimulus] loans were supported by campaign contributors. George Kaiser, a major fund-raiser for Mr. Obama’s 2008 campaign, was an investor in Solyndra, the failed solar panel maker, but there are also examples of Republican and Democratic campaign contributors who also invested
- Mr. Romney said that Mr. Obama’s health care overhaul would allow the federal government to “take over health care. The 2010 health care law clearly expands the role of the federal government. But it also builds on the foundation of private health insurance.
- Mr. Obama claims that Mr. Romney has proposed a $5 trillion tax cut. It is true that Mr. Romney has proposed “revenue neutral” tax reform, meaning that he would not expand the deficit. However, he has proposed cutting all marginal tax rates by 20 percent — which would in and of itself cut tax revenue by $5 trillion. To make up that revenue, Mr. Romney has said he wants to clear out the underbrush of deductions and loopholes in the tax code. But he has not yet specified how he would do so.
- Mr. Obama said the oil industry received $4 billion a year in favorable tax treatment, although Mr. Romney said the figure was $2.8 billion. The president’s figure has appeared in budget documents in each of the past three years and has not been disputed by industry.
- Mr. Romney agreed with Mr. Obama that domestic oil and gas production were at their highest levels in years. But he asserted that all of the increase had come on private, not public lands, and that the Obama administration had cut oil and gas permitting in half on public lands. Neither assertion is fully accurate.
- President Obama just said he wanted to “take some of the money we’re saving as we wind down two wars to rebuild America,” repeating a call he has made a number of times. But the pledge has been derided by some fiscal analysts as something of a gimmick: the nation’s annual deficits have been much larger than its yearly war costs in recent years. So even without the expense of the wars, the nation is still expected to run deficits in the years to come — the savings from the wars will not be enough to yield a surplus to spend on things like infrastructure at home. So while the president could certainly change the nation’s spending priorities — and call for more domestic infrastructure spending and less military spending — the end of the wars would not suddenly produce a pot of money for other uses.
There are more fact-checks here. Many are of the "it depends" variety: how many jobs? depends on when you start counting. How many unemployed? depends on who you count. Some are more nuanced: Romney's 'energy independence' is doable, if you don't mind trashing the environment. Household income is down, but is Obama to blame for the recession he inherited? Is government spending 42% of the GDP? If you include state, local and federal spending - but government spending has spiked considerably due to the recession, an important piece of context. Massachusetts has the top-ranked schools? It depends on who's ranking them, and what criteria you use (Education Week put Maryland on top, and Wisconsin, Vermont, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, New Jersey and New Hampshire have better graduation rates).
(And they don't even mention Romney's pre-existing conditions lie that Krugman calls out:.)
But I think it's pretty clear. Although they call out Romney far more than Obama - who gets hit for "war savings" and what they describe as "filling in the blanks of some of Mr. Romney’s vague plans, usually in the least politically palatable way" - they can't help but lead by implying that both men were equally misleading.
This "both sides do it" isn't fair, or balanced - not when the size and number of the "misleading statements" are so overwhelmingly on one side. Pretending that both sides are equally guilty is a "misleading statement" in intself.