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FACT CHECK: Perry, Romney Twist Records In Debate

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(credit: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

(credit: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON (AP) — When Mitt Romney and Rick Perry thumped their chests over their job-creation records as governor during the Republican presidential debate Wednesday night, they left the bad parts out.

Yes, employment has grown by more than 1 million since Perry took office in Texas. But a lot of those jobs are not well paid.

True, unemployment dropped to 4.7 percent when Romney was Massachusetts governor. But the state’s employment growth was among the nation’s worst.

A look at some of the claims in the debate, and how they compare with the facts:

PERRY: “Ninety-five percent of all the jobs that we’ve created have been above minimum wage.”

THE FACTS: To support the claim, the Perry campaign provided federal statistics for December 2010 showing only 5.3 percent of all jobs in Texas pay the minimum wage.

But those figures represent all workers, not just the new jobs, for which data are unavailable. And that does not account for low-wage jobs that may be barely above the minimum wage. According to the Texas Workforce Commission, 51 percent of all Texas workers make less than $33,000 a year. Only 30 percent make more than $50,000 a year. Nationally, Texas ranked 34th in median household income from 2007 to 2009.

About 9.5 percent of Texas hourly workers, excluding those who are paid salaries, earn the minimum wage or less, tying Mississippi for the highest percentage in the nation.

——

ROMNEY: “At the end of four years, we had our unemployment rate down to 4.7 percent. That’s a record I think the president would like to see. As a matter of fact, we created more jobs in Massachusetts than this president has created in the entire country.”

THE FACTS: To be sure, 4.7 percent unemployment would be a welcome figure nationally. But Romney started from a much better position than President Barack Obama did. Unemployment was only 5.6 percent when Romney took office in 2003, meaning it came down by less than 1 percentage point when he left office in 2007. Obama inherited a national unemployment rate of 7.8 percent.

——

PERRY: “Michael Dukakis created jobs three times faster than you did, Mitt.”

ROMNEY: “Well, as a matter of fact, George Bush and his predecessor created jobs at a faster rate than you did, governor.”

PERRY: “That’s not correct.”

ROMNEY: “Yes, that is correct.”

THE FACTS: Romney was correct.

Romney accurately stated that George W. Bush — even without his predecessor — saw jobs grow at a faster rate during his 1994-2000 years as governor than Perry has during his 11 years governing Texas. Employment grew by about 1.32 million during Bush’s six years in office. Employment during Perry’s years has grown about 1.2 million, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

As for Perry’s claim about Romney’s record and that of Dukakis, he was at least in the ballpark.

Democratic Gov. Dukakis saw Massachusetts employment grow by 500,000 jobs during his two divided terms, 1975 to 1979, and 1983 to 1991, a rate of more than 41,000 jobs a year.

Romney, governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007, saw employment grow from 3.23 million to 3.29 million, growth of about 60,000 jobs, or a rate of 15,000 a year. That means Dukakis’ job growth rate was nearly three times Romney’s.

——

MICHELE BACHMANN: “Obamacare is killing jobs. We know that from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, but I know it firsthand from speaking to people. We see it this summer. There are 47 percent of African-American youth that are currently without jobs, 36 percent of Hispanic youth.”

THE FACTS: The health care law that Obama pushed and Congress passed last year has long been labeled a job killer by Republicans, who often cite a Congressional Budget Office analysis to buttress their claims. But the CBO at no point said the law would result in job losses. Instead it made the more nuanced assertion that fewer people would chose to work.

“The legislation, on net, will reduce the amount of labor used in the economy by a small amount — roughly half a percent — primarily by reducing the amount of labor that workers choose to supply,” the CBO said in an analysis. That’s not job-killing, that’s workers choosing not to work because of easier access to health care. The budget office said some people might decide to retire earlier because it would be easier to get health care, instead of waiting until they become eligible for Medicare at age 65.

The Minnesota congresswoman also states the percentages of unemployment among minority youth. But there is no evidence that the health care law is responsible for that level of unemployment. In fact, the health care law is still largely unimplemented, with some of its key provisions not taking effect until 2014.

——

PERRY: On global warming, “The science is not settled on this. The idea that we would put Americans’ economy at jeopardy based on scientific theory that’s not settled yet, to me, is just, is nonsense. … Find out what the science truly is before you start putting the American economy in jeopardy.”

THE FACTS: The scientific consensus on climate change is about as settled as any major scientific issue can be. Perry’s opinion runs counter to the view of an overwhelming majority of scientists that pollution released from the burning of fossil fuels is heating up the planet. The National Academy of Sciences, in an investigation requested by Congress, concluded last year: “Climate change is occurring, is very likely caused primarily by human activities, and poses significant risks to humans and the environment.”

——

BACHMANN: “It’s wrong for government, whether it’s state or federal government, to impose on parents what they must do to inoculate their children.”

THE FACTS: She was correct that Perry supported mandatory immunization of girls to reduce future risks of cervical cancer, although the measure was blocked by Texas lawmakers and parents would have had some ability to file a conscientious objection to the requirement. Perry signed an executive order in 2007 directing his state health department to make the human papillomavirus vaccine available to “mandate the age-appropriate vaccination of all female children” before they enter sixth grade. Texas would have been the first state to require the immunizations.

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PERRY: “What I find compelling is what we’ve done in the state of Texas, using our ability to regulate our clean air. We cleaned up our air in the state of Texas, more than any other state in the nation during the decade.” He specifically mentioned successes in reducing nitrous oxide emissions by 58 percent and ozone levels by 27 percent.

THE FACTS: Texas has reduced emissions as Perry described, but most of those reductions were required under the federal Clean Air Act. However, the Environmental Protection Agency recently rescinded the state’s authority to grant some air pollution permits because the state did not comply with federal regulations. Texas, home to America’s oil and gas industry, still emits more carbon dioxide — the chief greenhouse gas — than any other state in the country, according to government data. Several metropolitan areas in Texas still violate health-based limits for smog, and the county that is home to Houston is one of the biggest emitters of hazardous air pollution in the country. The Texas Legislature also passed, and Perry signed, a law that will delay enforcing stiffer clean air regulations by two years.

Associated Press writers Chris Tomlinson in Austin, Texas; Steve Peoples in Exeter, N.H.; Dina Cappiello in Washington; and Brian Bakst in St. Paul, Minn., contributed to this report.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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