AP Fact Checks GOP Debate: Skewed Claims On Taxes, Health Insurance

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February 7, 2016 9:49 a.m.

EDITOR’S NOTE: A look at political claims that take shortcuts with the facts or don’t tell the full story

WASHINGTON (AP) — Viewers of the latest Republican
presidential debate didn’t get a straight story from the candidates on
U.S. taxes vs. the world, the state of the health insurance marketplace
under “Obamacare” or what might happen if that law is taken away.

Among other fumbles:

—Marco Rubio seemed unaware that Kurds are Sunnis.

—In
his zeal to condemn the Obama administration’s immigration record, Ted
Cruz once again vastly overstated deportations under the previous two
presidents. And he continued, as in a previous debate, to struggle with
the meaning of carpet-bombing.

—Chris Christie misstated the U.S. policy on paying ransom to hostage-takers.

A look at some of the claims Saturday night and how they compare with the facts:

DONALD TRUMP: “Right now, we’re the highest taxed country in the world.”

THE FACTS: Far from it. The U.S. tax burden pales in comparison with that of other industrialized countries.

Taxes
made up 26 percent of the total U.S. economy in 2014, according to the
34-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. That
measure looks at the entire tax burden, which is different than tax
rates that can be gamed through loopholes, deductions and credits.

In
Sweden, the tax burden is 42.7 percent of the economy. It’s 33.6
percent in Slovenia (Trump’s wife, Melania, was born in the part of
Yugoslavia that became Slovenia). Britain clocks in at 32.6 percent,
while Germany’s burden is 36.1 percent.

Where is the tax burden lower than the United States?

South Korea, Chile and Mexico.

___

CRUZ,
defending his vow to deport 11 million people living in the U.S.
illegally: “I would note that in eight years Bill Clinton deported 12
million people. In eight years George Bush deported 10 million people.
Enforcing the law. We can do it.”

THE FACTS: Statistics from
Immigration and Customs Enforcement show that roughly 1.6 million were
deported under Bush, not 11 million. Under Clinton, about 870,000
immigrants were deported, not 12 million, according to the Migration
Policy Institute. So far, about 2.4 million have been deported under the
Obama administration.

To get the swollen figures, Cruz appears to
be combining deportations with arrests made by the Border Patrol in the
previous administrations, according to the institute.

___

TRUMP: “The insurance companies are getting rich on Obamacare.”

THE
FACTS: Although some insurance companies are making a profit from their
business under President Barack Obama’s health care law, the industry’s
biggest player lost money.

United Health last year reported deep
losses from its business on the health law’s insurance exchanges and
said it will re-evaluate whether it wants to continue in that market.
Anthem, the second-largest insurer, said its enrollment in the law’s
markets fell, and the business has been less profitable than expected.

Aetna,
the third-largest insurer, said it has been struggling with customers
who sign up for coverage outside the health law’s annual enrollment
window and then use a lot of care. This dumps claims on the insurer
without providing enough premium revenue to counter those costs.

Some
industry analysts say insurers are struggling to attract enough healthy
patients, and it’s too easy for customers to manipulate the system by
doing things like signing up for coverage, using health care, and then
stopping premium payments.

A dozen of the 23 nonprofit health insurance co-ops created under the law have folded.

___

RUBIO:
“Under Chris Christie’s governorship of New Jersey, they’ve been
downgraded nine times in their credit rating. This country already has a
debt problem, we don’t need to add to it by electing someone who has
experience at running up and destroying the credit rating of his state.”

CHRISTIE: “Incorrect and incomplete information.”

THE
FACTS: Rubio is right that the state’s credit rating has been
downgraded nine times since Christie took office, a reflection of
concern by the major rating agencies about New Jersey’s fiscal health
and pension system.

___

CHRISTIE: “The president and his
former secretary of state are for paying ransoms for hostages. When
(you) do that, you endanger even more Americans around the world to be
the subject of this type of hostage-taking and illegal detention.”

THE
FACTS: President Barack Obama said exactly the opposite in June, when
the White House reaffirmed its opposition to paying ransom to terrorist
groups that hold American citizens hostage.

The president said
such payments only serve to endanger more Americans and finance “the
very terrorism that we’re trying to stop” — points that Christie
actually echoed during the debate.

Though the new White House
policy precludes ransom payments by the U.S. government, the Obama
administration did leave open the door to communication with
hostage-takers — whether by the government, families of victims or
third-parties — and said relatives who on their own decide to pay ransom
won’t be threatened with prosecution.

___

CRUZ: “We will
adopt commonsense reforms, No. 1, we’ll allow people to purchase health
insurance across state lines that will drive down prices and expand the
availability of low-cost catastrophic insurance.”

THE FACTS:
Allowing the interstate sale of health insurance policies is not a new
idea, and not the straightforward solution that it may sound.

This
long-standing Republican proposal has previously run into opposition
from regulators in many states. State insurance and consumer protection
regulators say such an approach could trigger a “race to the bottom,”
allowing skimpy out-of-state policies to undercut benefits that
individual states require. Proponents of interstate competition say a
basic benefits plan would be spelled out.

Some insurance industry
insiders see another complication: Out-of-state companies may not have
adequate local networks of hospitals and doctors.

It’s a tricky
position for Republicans in Washington, who argue broadly (Cruz
included) that the federal government should defer to state and local
decision-making. On this matter, many states don’t want the solution
that Republicans are pushing.

___

RUBIO on fighting the
Islamic State group: “The Kurds are incredible fighters and they will
liberate the Kurdish areas, but Kurds cannot and do not want to liberate
and hold Sunni villages and towns.”

THE FACTS: The Kurds are
overwhelmingly Sunni. Rubio did not distinguish between Sunni Arabs and
Sunni Kurds. The areas predominantly held by IS fighters are in Sunni
Arab territory. They did infiltrate Kurdish regions in both Iraq and
Syria, but it is problematic to paint this picture with a broad
sectarian brush.

___

CRUZ, defending his vow to “carpet
bomb” to defeat the Islamic State: “When I say saturation carpet
bombing, that is not indiscriminate. That is targeted at oil facilities.
It’s targeted at the oil tankers… It’s using overwhelming air
power.”

THE FACTS: Cruz is trying to rewrite the dictionary, which
defines the term as dropping many bombs on a small area to prepare it
for advancing ground troops. The U.S. military uses precision-guided
bombs against the kinds of specific targets that Cruz is talking about,
which also reduce the risk of killing civilians — a goal the U.S.
military has embraced under Republican as well as Democratic presidents.

___

Associated Press writers Alicia A. Caldwell, Deb Riechmann, Eric Tucker and Vivian Salama contributed to this report.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights
reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or
redistributed.

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