FACT CHECK: Overreaching in State of Union speech

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 13, 2013 at 10:19 am •  Published: February 13, 2013
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OBAMA: "I urge this Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago. But if Congress won't act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy."

THE FACTS: Obama failed to get a global warming bill through Congress when both Houses were controlled by Democrats in 2010. With Republicans in control of the House, the chances of a bill to limit the gases blamed for global warming and to create a market for businesses to trade pollution credits are close to zero. The Obama administration has already acted to control greenhouse gases through existing law. It has boosted fuel-efficiency standards and proposed rules to control heat-trapping emissions from new power plants. And while there are still other ways to address climate change without Congress, it's questionable regulation alone can achieve the reductions needed to start curbing global warming.

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FLORIDA SEN. MARCO RUBIO, in the Republican response: "The real cause of our debt is that our government has been spending $1 trillion more than it takes in every year. That's why we need a balanced-budget amendment."

THE FACTS: That statement may reflect the math behind recent debt, but it doesn't get directly to the cause — the worst recession since the Depression and its after-effects. The deficit is not only caused by spending, but by reduced tax revenues. And during the recession, revenues from both individual and corporate taxes fell markedly.

The steep increases in debt and the measures that should be taken to ease the burden are central to the debate in Washington. But there is no serious move afoot to amend the Constitution to prohibit deficit spending.

The ability to take on debt has been used by governments worldwide and through U.S. history to shelter people from the ravages of a down economy, wage war and achieve many other ends. An effort to amend the Constitution for any purpose faces daunting odds; this would be no exception. Most state constitutions demand a balanced budget, but states lack some big obligations of the federal government, including national defense. And Washington's ability to go deeper into debt provides states with at least a minimal safety net in times of high unemployment.

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RUBIO: "Obamacare was supposed to help middle-class Americans afford health insurance. But now, some people are losing the health insurance they were happy with. And because Obamacare created expensive requirements for companies with more than 50 employees, now many of these businesses aren't hiring. Not only that, they're being forced to lay people off and switch from full-time employees to part-time workers."

THE FACTS: Rubio's assertion repeats longstanding Republican charges about Obama's health care law, but so far such drastic consequences have not been the norm. It's true that the health care law adds new requirements for employers and insurers, but the government's nonpartisan analysts say the Affordable Care Act has had a minimal impact on health care costs up to now. That will change when millions of uninsured people start getting health insurance next year, but most experts expect employer coverage to remain the mainstay for workers and their families. Some large employers with many low-wage workers have been experimenting with limited hours, but it's unclear what their final decisions will be.

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Associated Press writers Tom Raum, Dina Cappiello, Andrew Taylor, Christopher S. Rugaber, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Alicia A. Caldwell and Philip Elliott contributed to this report.