FACT CHECK: Pawlenty’s ‘Truth’ Campaign Is Already Littered With Lies

By Igor Volsky and Pat Garofalo

This morning, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty (R) formally announced his candidacy for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination in Des Moines, Iowa, promising Americans “a different approach” to his campaign and potential presidency. “I am going to tell you the truth. The truth is, Washington’s broken,” Pawlenty declared. “It’s time for new leadership. It’s time for a new approach. And, it’s time for America’s president — and anyone who wants to be president — to look you in the eye and tell you the truth.”

From there, Pawlenty preceded to list various “truths” about the state of the nation, many of which appear — on closer examination — to be either completely untrue or grossly exaggerated:

T-PAW TRUTH: Health care reform has added to the national debt. Social Security is in peril. “Our national debt, combined with Obamacare, have placed Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid in real peril. I’ll tell young people the truth that over time and for them only, we’re going to gradually raise their Social Security retirement age.”


ACTUAL TRUTH: Health care reform reduced health care spending. According to the Congressional Budget Office, enacting the Affordable Care Act “will produce a net reduction in federal deficits of $143 billion over the 2010–2019 period.” Similarly, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) concluded that Medicare spending will decline $86.4 billion and that by 2019, it is projected to grow 7.7 percent — 0.9 percentage point more slowly” than if the law had not passed.

ACTUAL TRUTH: Social Security is not in real peril. It can pay full benefits through 2036 and close to full benefits for decades after that, according to the latest trustee’s report. Moderate tweaks to the system, including raising the cap on the payroll tax can more than make up for the program’s long-term shortfall. Raising the retirement age is not only unnecessary, but is a hugely regressive change. Furthermore, the Affordable Care Act and the national debt have nothing to do with the financial health of Social Security.

T-PAW TRUTH: Block granting Medicaid will “solve problems.” “And, we need to block grant Medicaid to the states. There, innovative reformers closest to the patients can solve problems and save money.”

ACTUAL TRUTH: Millions of lower-income Americans will lose health coverage. As a recent Kaiser Family Foundation report pointed out, converting the existing matching rate formula into a block grant would give states less money that they would have otherwise received and force local governments to cut eligibility to the program

. Kaiser examined different scenarios for state responses to reduced federal Medicaid spending and estimated 31 to 44 million Americans could lose their health insurance coverage. T-PAW TRUTH: Reformed health system in Minnesota. “I know how to do health care reform right. I’ve done it at the state level. No mandates, no takeovers. and it’s the opposite of Obamacare.”

ACTUAL TRUTH: Number of uninsured increased under his governorship. Pawlenty did experiment with different methods of bundling payments to providers — creating baskets for certain conditions — and implemented pay-for performance initiatives, but as Minnesota Public Radio has reported, it’s unclear if his small efforts have actually saved the state any money. But most importantly, as David Frum has pointed out, the number of Minnesotans without health care actually increased during his time as governor from 395,000 citizens without health insurance in 2003, to 446,000 in 2008, the last year before the recession struck.

T-PAW TRUTH: The United States is broke. “Our country is going broke.”

ACTUAL TRUTH: The United States isn’t broke. As the Center for American Progress’ Michael Linden and Michael Ettlinger note, “The notion that the United States is ‘broke’ is a popular talking point for conservative lawmakers…But we’re not broke. Not at all. If we were, it would mean that we were out of money, unable to pay our bills, or meet our financial obligations. We are none of those things.” Bloomberg’s David Lynch has more.

T-PAW TRUTH: Against bailouts and “too-big-to-fail”. “I’m going to New York City, to tell Wall Street that if I’m elected, the era of bailouts, handouts, and carve outs will be over. No more subsidies, no more special treatment. No more Fannie and Freddie, no more TARP, and no more “too big to fail.”

ACTUAL TRUTH: Pawlenty would preserve too-big-to-fail and has flip-flopped on bailouts. The Dodd-Frank financial reform law signed by President Obama last year includes important powers for the government to dismantle large, failed financial firms without resorting to ad-hoc bailouts; Pawlenty opposes those powers. Pawlenty was also for TARP before he was against it, saying in 2008 that TARP “is an imperfect solution, but, like has been said, [the banks] are too big, the consequences are too severe for innocent bystanders to allow them to fail.”

T-PAW TRUTH: The NLRB can dictate to companies where to move. “It especially means the National Labor Relations Board will never again tell an American company where it can and can’t do business.”

ACTUAL TRUTH: The NLRB has not told an American company where it can and can’t do business. Pawlenty has been criticizing a decision by the NLRB that would prevent mega-manufacturer Boeing from shifting a production line from Washington state to South Carolina as retribution against workers who engaged in strikes. Under labor law, it is illegal to retaliate against striking workers by shifting production, but the NLRB has made it abundantly clear that Boeing is free to open new facilities wherever it pleases, provided it complies with the law.

T-PAW TRUTH: Against energy subsidies. “As part of a larger reform, we need to phase out subsidies across all sources of energy and all industries, including ethanol. We simply can’t afford them anymore.”

ACTUAL TRUTH: For oil and gas subsidies. Just a few weeks ago, Pawlenty said that cutting subsidies to oil and gas companies is “ludicrous.” “I mean the worst thing we could do is raise the cost burden on costs on energy and oil…It’s preposterous,” he said.


The AP has more.