WASHINGTON (AP) — Texas Gov. Rick Perry declared in the Republican presidential debate Thursday night that he had never advocated turning Social Security over to the states. His denial was hard to fathom given his past rhetoric about the program.

“Let the states do it,” he said last year, for example.

In the latest debate, Michele Bachmann misread presidential approval polls and denied making a statement that she actually did make just the week before, concerning a vaccine for girls. Mitt Romney denied supporting an Obama administration education program that he had praised.

But the most consequential exchange may have been over Social Security, and Perry’s changing thoughts about it.

A careful parsing of Perry’s words over the past months shows that his position on Social Security is not cut and dried. As he said in the debate, he believes that states should be allowed to exempt certain state or local government employees from the program, in favor of a state-approved alternative. That’s already the reality in some places, including at least three Texas counties.

Far more radical is the idea of essentially dismantling Social Security as a federal entitlement and making states responsible for basic retirement security of all its citizens. He asserted in the debate, “We never said that we were going to move this back to the states.”

But at times, Perry has sounded very much in favor of doing just that. In a November appearance on MSNBC, he said of Social Security, “Get it back to the states. Why is the federal government even in the pension program or the health care delivery program? Let the states do it.”

What’s clear is that Perry, in his book and afterward, trashed Social Security as a “Ponzi scheme” and “crumbling monument to the failure of the new deal” and has since backtracked on such harsh words, especially since rival Romney has come to the defense of the popular entitlement.

A look at some other statements in the Florida debate and how they compare with the facts.

BACHMANN: “President Obama has the lowest public approval ratings of any president in modern time.”

THE FACTS: That’s true, if you leave out Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, George W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Lyndon Johnson, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Gerald Ford. All of them at some point in their terms dipped lower than Obama’s low point of 38 percent job approval, according to Gallup’s comparison.


ROMNEY: “I don’t support any particular program that he’s describing,” he said, disputing Perry’s claim that Romney favors some of President Barack Obama’s education initiatives, specifically the Race to the Top program.

THE FACTS: Romney was reluctant to tell Republican primary voters he doesn’t hate every Obama policy. Romney does indeed support some of the specific policy changes encouraged by the Race to the Top program and said as much earlier in the week. Speaking in Miami on Wednesday, he praised the president’s education secretary, Arne Duncan, for the program. And during the debate, Romney acknowledged supporting elements of the initiative, including teacher evaluations and charter schools.


ROMNEY: “I believe government is too big. It’s gone from 27 percent of our economy in the years of JFK to 37 percent of our economy.”

THE FACTS: Romney is including state and local government spending along with federal spending. His numbers are not far off, but most of the big increases came from Social Security and Medicare payments. Medicare started after Kennedy’s presidency. Now it is one of the biggest government spending programs, and one of the most popular. Federal spending alone accounted for 23.8 percent of the gross domestic product last year and is expected to reach 25.3 percent this year.


PERRY: It’s not the first time that Mitt has been wrong on some issues before. And the bottom line is, we never said that we were going to move this (Social Security) back to the states.”

ROMNEY: “Well, it’s different than what the governor put in his book just, what, six months (ago), and what you said in your interviews following the book. So I don’t know. There’s a Rick Perry out there (who) … says that the federal government shouldn’t be in the pension business, that it’s unconstitutional. Unconstitutional and it should be returned to the states.”

THE FACTS: In his book Perry heavily criticized Social Security, advocated states’ rights and suggested federal entitlements were unconstitutional in general, but he never tied these beliefs together as succinctly as Romney claimed.

Even so, he danced close to branding Social Security as unconstitutional. He called Social Security the best example of a program that tosses “aside any respect for our founding principles of federalism.” He also lamented: “If only the New Dealers had been kind enough to allow workers to make their own choice about whether to participate.” And he said the program was introduced “at the expense of respect for the Constitution and limited government.”


ROMNEY: Obama “addressed the United Nations in his inaugural address and chastised our friend, Israel, for building settlements, and said nothing about Hamas launching thousands of rockets into Israel.”

THE FACTS: Obama in his 2009 address to the U.N. General Assembly by no means ignored the plight of Israelis.

Describing those who pay the “greatest price” for the conflict, Obama spoke of an Israeli girl in the town of Sderot “who closes her eyes in fear that a rocket will take her life in the middle of the night.” Sderot borders the Gaza Strip and has been the target of hundreds of rockets fired into Israel from Hamas-controlled Gaza.

In the 2009 speech, Obama also did reject the “legitimacy” of Israeli settlement construction in lands the Palestinians want for their state, but those terms are largely reflective of American thinking over the last three-and-a-half decades. The Obama administration later vetoed a U.N. resolution that would have condemned Israel for the policy.


BACHMANN: “I didn’t make that claim nor did I make that statement,” she said when asked by a moderator if she stood by her comment that the HPV vaccine against cervical cancer was “potentially dangerous.”

THE FACTS: Bachmann can’t escape the tape. Bachmann used that exact phrase during the last debate when she criticized Perry for trying to order pre-teen girls to get the vaccine in Texas. “Little girls who have a negative reaction to this potentially dangerous drug don’t get a mulligan. They don’t get a do-over,” Bachmann said then. Bachmann has tried to distance herself from remarks she made after the debate linking the vaccine to mental retardation — a claim debunked by scientists. She said then and now she was relaying the story of another mother whose daughter had the shot.

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

Comments (14)
  1. Ricky says:

    All these grand ideas to sway the uneducated, uninformed, and easily impressed. We know they do it every election. This time it simply has the impact of the utter non-sense of the tea-baggers, who are the most uneducated, uninformed and easily impressed. The worst part is the number of voters who won’t look deeper into the issues and discover the background and the positive effects from the New Deal Programs. I get an ongoing giggle out of listening to conservative voters discuss the issues. They want all the programs cut and government to be reduced in size; UNTIL IT AFFECTS THEM PERSONALLY. THEN THEY TURN ON THEIR OWN POLITICS. When the voting’s all done, and the boomers, who are the largest population demographic, AND the largest voting constituency, vote, they are not going to want their social security benefits reduced or eliminated. Same for their medicare benefits.
    Then again, those of us in Minnesota know from years of listening to her statements while in state politics, she is the least expensive comedy show in town.

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  2. Kris says:

    Republicans can’t handle FACTS, it gets in the way of their grand Illusion!

    1. Dale Gribble says:

      Your “president’ is worse than Stalin, Hitler, Mao and Pol Pot, combined. He is a traitor and pure-evil incarnate, as well as an illegal alien and Muslim.

      1. jan says:

        Did your information come in a vision? I’ll bet God consults you frequently regarding the state of the world!

        1. Jim says:

          Crazy Republicans like Dale Gribble do more good for Democrats with their wacky rantings than any Democrats could do for themselves. Keep up the good work, Dale!

      2. MET says:

        “Your president?” What country are you living in? If it’s the US, he’s your president, too. You may not have voted for him, but that’s the way that goes!!
        What a stupid statement!! Have you listened to any of the GOP candidates? If this is what you think of President Obama, what must be your opinion of that group of loonies!!

        1. Dale Gribble says:

          I hold no allegiance to an illegitimate, fraudullentlly elected foreign natinoal who is the agent of anti-American foreign powers and the member of an anti-American religion. He may be in the White House, but he is not President. He is a pretender. Any legitimate constitutional scholar could tell you that.

          1. MrB says:

            You should change your name to “Dale Dribble”, that’s all that seems to come out of your mouth!

          2. MET says:

            I don’t know, buddy! I think you have the ‘anti-american’ problem!! And maybe a little bigotry mixed in!!

            1. Dale Gribble says:

              I admit it. I”m bigotted against the enemies of Liberty and Freedom.

  3. Texasdumdum says:

    Perry also called it. “Medicaid Part D” which it isn’t. Medicare.

  4. Rodrigo says:

    it should have been ankle irons hterar than platinum parachutes with the level of corrupt practices the previous govt performed, not that the current one has changed anything much for the benefit of the people who want create jobs, and help rebuild our once great little nation and get us back into the top 20 OECD nations again.Why is it Holden that you assume right wingers hate science and knowledge? Is it a blanket hatred? Or is it just a hatred of corrupted scientists and their phoney results?Are you basing your knowledge on the bible belt of America and some of those people having a belief in Creationism, and categorising them as right wingers? Would you consider a muslim capitalist a right winger? Their holy book describes embryology and cell structures and all manner of biological science. Is someone who believes in evolution too intelligent to be a right winger? Are all those capitalists who developed every advancement e.g. medicines, treatments, computers, software, fertilisers, efficiency enhancing or problem solving devices etc. and took them to market for the betterment of mankind whilst earning a buck for their efforts, are they all left wingers because they believed in a piece of science or knowledge, and hence they were obviously too bright to be Right winger creationist Neanderthals?

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