NBC News and news services
updated 10/8/2008 8:10:53 AM ET 2008-10-08T12:10:53

Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain stretched facts, sometimes past the breaking point, as they addressed the financial crisis and more during their second presidential debate.

Here are some examples:

McCAIN: Said one way out of the financial crisis is to "stop sending $700 billion a year to countries that don't like us."

THE FACTS: Although he didn't spell it out, he was referring — as he has in the past — to purchases of oil from countries hostile to the U.S. The figure is inflated and misleading. The U.S. is not spending nearly that much on oil imports and roughly one-third of what it does spend goes to friendly countries such as Canada, Mexico and Britain.
— The Associated Press


OBAMA: "I believe this is a final verdict on the failed economic policies of the last eight years, strongly promoted by President Bush and supported by Senator McCain, that essentially said that we should strip away regulations, consumer protections, let the market run wild, and prosperity would rain down on all of us. It hasn't worked out that way. And so now we've got to take some decisive action."

THE FACTS: McCain has indeed favored less regulation over the years but supported tighter rules and accountability on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac two years before the start of a financial crisis prompted in part by those giant mortgage underwriters. Obama was not a leader in that unsuccessful effort. Some of the current problems can be traced to legislation passed in 1999 that lifted many regulations over the financial industry. That deregulation was championed by then-Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, a McCain supporter, but also by President Clinton, who signed the legislation, and by former Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, now a top Obama economic adviser.
— The Associated Press


McCAIN: In a jab at Obama, McCain said that the last president to raise taxes during difficult economic times was Herbert Hoover during the Great Depression.

THE FACTS: While the recession of the early 1990s didn't compare to the Great Depression, Bill Clinton raised taxes — which, as both Clintons like to remind everyone who will listen, led to the greatest economic expansion in the country's history.
— NBC News' blog First Read


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McCAIN: Said he would provide a $5,000 refundable tax credit for families to buy health insurance "rather than mandates or fines for small businesses as Senator Obama's plan calls for."

THE FACTS: Obama's health care plan does not impose mandates or fines on small business. He would provide small businesses with a refundable tax credit of up to 50 percent on health premiums paid on behalf of their employees. Also, large employers that do not offer meaningful coverage or contribute to the cost of coverage would be required to pay a percentage of payroll toward the costs of a public insurance plan. But small businesses would be exempt from that requirement.
— The Associated Press


OBAMA: Said McCain's proposal to give people a tax credit in exchange for treating employers' health insurance contributions as taxable wages amounts to "what one hand giveth, the other hand taketh away."

THE FACTS: Obama's suggestion that McCain's health care plan is a wash for families is misleading. McCain offers families a $5,000 tax credit to help them buy health insurance. The corresponding increase in taxable wages would result in a much smaller cost than the value of the tax credit, at least at first. Over time, the value of the tax credit may diminish as premiums rise. However, the Tax Policy Center estimates that McCain's plan would increase the federal deficit by $1.3 trillion over 10 years — mainly because it would lead to less tax revenue coming in, meaning it is a true tax break overall.
— The Associated Press


McCAIN: Went after Obama's ties to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, especially the campaign contributions Obama has received from their employees.

THE FACTS: What was missing? McCain mentioning the ties his own campaign manager had to both Fannie and Freddie. The New York Times reported that McCain campaign manager Rick Davis' firm received $15,000 per month through August from Freddie Mac. That followed other reporting that Davis received $30,000 per month to head up an advocacy group, the Homeownership Alliance, set up to defend Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to protect it from more government regulations.
— NBC News' blog First Read


OBAMA: "Actually I'm cutting more than I'm spending so that it will be a net spending cut."

THE FACTS: Obama has many ambitious plans to spend more taxpayer dollars on a variety of federal programs, including clean energy technologies and job training. He's said he'll cut pork-barrel programs and the costs of the war in Iraq to pay for it — as well as raise taxes on the wealthy — but the specifics of his new spending plans greatly outweigh the few spending cuts he's identified.
— The Associated Press


McCAIN: Said that Obama has voted to raise taxes 94 times.

THE FACTS: As fact-checkers have constantly pointed out, that is an exaggeration. Per Factcheck.org:

  • 23 votes were for measures that would have produced no tax increase at all; they were against proposed tax cuts.
  • 7 were in favor of measures that would have lowered taxes for many, while raising them on a relative few, either corporations or affluent individuals.
  • 11 votes the GOP is counting would have increased taxes on those making more than $1 million a year — in order to fund programs such as Head Start and school nutrition programs, or veterans’ health care.
  • The GOP sometimes counted two, three and even four votes on the same measure. We found their tally included a total of 17 votes on seven measures, effectively padding their total by 10.
  • The majority of the 94 votes — 53 of them, including some mentioned above – were on budget measures, not tax bills, and would not have resulted in any tax change. Four other votes were non-binding motions related to conference report negotiations.
    — NBC News' blog First Read


McCAIN: Said Obama supported a congressional earmark of "$3 million for an overhead projector at a planetarium in Chicago, Ill. My friends, do we need to spend that kind of money?"

THE FACTS: McCain's phrase suggests Obama spent $3 million on an old-fashioned piece of office equipment that projects charts and text on a wall screen. In fact, the money was for an overhaul of the theater system, which projects images of stars and planets for educational shows at Chicago's Adler Planetarium. When he announced the $3 million earmark last year, Obama said the planetarium's 40-year-old projection system "has begun to fail, leaving the theater dark and groups of school students and other interested museum-goers without this very valuable and exciting learning experience."
— The Associated Press


OBAMA: "We're spending $10 billion dollars a month in Iraq, at a time when the Iraqis have a $79 billion dollar surplus — $79 billion dollars."

Well, not quite. As Factcheck.org put it, "The country was once projected to have as much as a $79 billion surplus, but no more. The Iraqis have $29 billion in the bank, and could have $47 billion to $59 billion by the end of the year."
— NBC News' blog First Read

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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