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Reviewing the GOP debate

Presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney and Rick Perry had spirited exchanges during the debate. Presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney and Rick Perry had spirited exchanges during the debate. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
September 9, 2011

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Governor Rick Perry of Texas on whether climate change is being impacted by human activities: “The science is not settled on this. The idea that we would put Americans’ economy in jeopardy based on scientific theory that’s not settled yet to me is just nonsense.’’

Perry has repeatedly said the science of climate change is not yet settled.

The Perry campaign cites a petition signed by 31,000 scientists stating that there is no scientific evidence that human release of greenhouse gasses will cause global warming or climate disruption. The petition was generated by the California-based “Petition Project,’’ which was started in 1998 (with a renewed push in 2007) to urge the United States to reject the 1997 Kyoto Accords that would limit greenhouse gas emissions.

But nonpartisan scientists overwhelmingly disagree with that conclusion. A 2011 report by an expert committee selected by the National Academy of Sciences found, “Climate change is occurring, is very likely caused primarily by the emission of greenhouse gases from human activities, and poses significant risks for a range of human and natural systems.’’ The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found in 2009 that “the scientific evidence that our world is warming is unmistakable.’’ The US Global Change Research Program, a program started by Congress in 1990 to coordinate federal research on the global environment, found in 2009, “Observations show that warming of the climate is unequivocal. The global warming observed over the past 50 years is due primarily to human-induced emissions of heat-trapping gases.’’

Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota on President Obama’s health care overhaul: “As I go across the country and speak to small business people - men and women - Obamacare is leading them to not create jobs . . . Obamacare is clearly leading to job-killing regulations not job-creating regulations.’’

This statement relies on a Congressional Budget Office estimate from August 2010 that Obama’s health care reform will reduce the workforce by half a percent - around 800,000 people - “primarily by reducing the amount of labor that workers choose to supply.’’ In other words, workers will choose not to work, rather than employers choosing not to hire. The CBO says that because Medicaid will be expanded, and subsidies for health care insurance provided through exchanges, which will be established in 2014, health insurance will be more affordable. That means some people will no longer seek employment in order to buy or gain access to health insurance. Some older workers will retire earlier because the new laws will make it easier to purchase insurance on their own, rather than through an employer.

The report did say that some employers may hire fewer low-wage workers or may hire more part-time workers rather than full-time workers because of the way penalties are set up for companies that do not offer health insurance. But generally, the report said, it would take several years for such changes to be felt - and it is unclear what the impact will be on economic productivity. Most of the changes will not go into effect until 2014.

After Perry criticized Mitt Romney for low levels of job creation when Romney was Massachusetts governor, Romney had this to say: “Texas has zero income tax. Texas has a right-to-work state, a Republican Legislature, a Republican Supreme Court. Texas has a lot of oil and gas in the ground. Those are wonderful things. But Governor Perry doesn’t believe that he created those things . . . as a matter of fact, George Bush and his predecessor created jobs at a faster rate than you did, Governor.’’

By sheer numbers, Romney is correct that Bush, who was governor of Texas from 1995 to 2000, saw greater job growth at a faster rate than Perry, who has held the role since December 2000. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Perry has overseen the growth of 1.08 million jobs, while Bush oversaw the addition of 1.61 million jobs.

But as Perry’s campaign points out, those numbers do not reflect trends within the general US economy. Under Perry, Texas saw job growth, while the United States as a whole lost jobs. Under Bush, Texas jobs grew by a greater amount - but US jobs were also growing at the same time.

While Perry can accurately brag that since 2009, his state has created more than 220,000 jobs, Romney can also point out correctly that Texas jobs were growing at a fast rate even before Perry took office. And, for example, 40,000 of those jobs were created by the oil and gas industry - which existed before Perry took over.

Shira Schoenberg