WASHINGTON — Facts went adrift on taxes, deregulation and more Thursday when Republican Sarah Palin and Democrat Joe Biden clashed in the vice presidential debate.
PALIN: Said of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama: "94 times he voted to increase taxes or not support a tax reduction."
THE FACTS: The dubious count includes repetitive votes as well as votes to cut taxes for the middle class while raising them on the rich. An analysis by factcheck.org found that 23 of the votes were for measures that would have produced no tax increase at all, seven were in favor of measures that would have lowered taxes for many, 11 would have increased taxes on only those making more than $1 million a year.
BIDEN: Complained about "economic policies of the last eight years" that led to "excessive deregulation."
THE FACTS: Biden voted for 1999 deregulation that liberal groups are blaming for part of the financial crisis today. The law allowed Wall Street investment banks to create the kind of mortgage-related securities at the core of the problem now. The law was widely backed by Republicans as well as by Democratic President Clinton, who argues it has stopped the crisis today from being worse.
PALIN: "Two years ago, remember, it was John McCain who pushed so hard with the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac reform measures. He sounded that warning bell."
THE FACTS: Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska led an effort in 2005 to tighten regulation on the mortgage underwriters — McCain joined as a co-sponsor a year later. The legislation was never taken up by the full Senate, then under Republican control.
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BIDEN: Warned that Republican presidential candidate John McCain's $5,000 tax credit to help families buy health coverage "will go straight to the insurance company."
THE FACTS: Of course it would, because it's meant to pay for insurance. That's like saying money for a car loan will go straight to the car dealer.
PALIN: Claimed she has taken on the oil industry as Alaska governor.
THE FACTS: Palin pushed to impose a windfall profits tax on oil companies and distributed the proceeds to the state's citizens to offset rising energy costs. However, she has also sided with the industry on a number of issues. She sued the Interior Department over its designation of polar bears as an endangered species. That puts her on the same side as the American Petroleum Institute, the oil industry's chief trade association. She also supports the industry's desire to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge — a position at odds with McCain.
BIDEN: Said McCain supports tax breaks for oil companies, and "wants to give them another $4 billion tax cut."
THE FACTS: Biden is repeating a favorite saw of the Obama campaign, and it's misleading. McCain supports a cut in income taxes for all corporations, and doesn't single out any one industry for that benefit.
PALIN: Said the United States has reduced its troop level in Iraq to a number below where it was when the troop increase began in early 2007.
THE FACTS: Not correct. The Pentagon says there are currently 152,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, about 17,000 more than there were before the 2007 military buildup began.
BIDEN: "As a matter of fact, John recently wrote an article in a major magazine saying that he wants to do for the health care industry — deregulate it and let the free market move — like he did for the banking industry."
THE FACTS: Biden and Obama have been perpetuating this distortion of what McCain wrote in an article for the American Academy of Actuaries. McCain, laying out his health plan, only referred to deregulation when saying people should be allowed to buy health insurance across state lines. In that context, he wrote: "Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation."
PALIN: Said Alaska is "building a nearly $40 billion natural gas pipeline, which is North America's largest and most expensive infrastructure project ever to flow those sources of energy into hungry markets."
THE FACTS: Not quite. Construction is at least six years away. So far the state has only awarded a license to Trans Canada Corp., that comes with $500 million in seed money in exchange for commitments toward a lengthy and costly process to getting a federal certificate. At an August news conference after the state Legislature approved the license, Palin said, "It's not a done deal."
PALIN: "Barack Obama even supported increasing taxes as late as last year for those families making only $42,000 a year."
BIDEN: "The charge is absolutely not true. Barack Obama did not vote to raise taxes. The vote she's referring to, John McCain voted the exact same way."
THE FACTS: The vote was on a nonbinding budget resolution that assumed that President Bush's tax cuts would expire, as scheduled, in 2011. If that actually happened, it could mean higher taxes for people making as little as about $42,000. But Obama is proposing tax increases only on the wealthy, and would cut taxes for most others. In the March 14 budget resolution supported by Obama and Biden, McCain actually did not vote.
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