President Barack Obama’s proposals to tighten gun control rules may not accomplish his goal of keeping guns out of the hands of would-be criminals and those who aren’t legally allowed to buy a weapon. In short, that’s because the conditions he is changing by executive action are murkier than he made them out to be.
Some of Obama’s comments and how they compare with the facts:
OBAMA: “A violent felon can buy the exact same weapon over the Internet with no background check, no questions asked.”
THE FACTS: It’s not that straightforward. In fact, federally licensed gun dealers are required by law to conduct background checks for gun purchases no matter where the sale takes place — in a store, at a gun show or online. While private gun sales can be conducted over the Internet, if the sale involves people in different states, a licensed gun dealer in the state where the gun is going still has to be involved in the transfer.
Regardless of the seller, it is illegal for a convicted felon to buy or possess a gun unless they have had their rights restored. But prohibited buyers have evaded the law to buy guns.
OBAMA: “We’re going to require firearms dealers to report more lost or stolen guns on a timely basis.”
THE FACTS: The effect of this is unclear because the government already requires gun dealers to report all lost or stolen guns within 48 hours of discovering that they are missing. This is true for guns in their shops or those being sent to them. Obama did not say how much faster he wants the reporting to be or how he would achieve that.
OBAMA: “Anybody in the business of selling firearms must get a license and conduct background checks, or be subject to criminal prosecutions. It doesn’t matter whether you’re doing it over the Internet or at a gun show. It’s not where you do it, but what you do.”
THE FACTS: “In the business” is the key condition for coming under this requirement, and the definition may have a lot of wiggle room. Federal law defines people who “repetitively buy and sell firearms with the principal motive of making a profit” as being “engaged in the business” of selling guns and requires them to be licensed. The license process includes a $200 application fee and a criminal background check. People who only occasionally sell guns from their personal collections don’t have to apply for a license.
The law does not specify how many guns a person has to sell to be considered “engaged in the business” of selling guns and neither did Obama. His new guidance defines a dealer as one whose “principal motive” is profit.
OBAMA: “Even after San Bernardino, they’ve (Congress) refused to make it harder for terror suspects who can’t get on a plane to buy semi-automatic weapons.”
THE FACTS: That’s at least in part because gun ownership is a constitutional right and getting on an airplane isn’t. Being placed on the government’s no-fly list is a process that generally is not subjected to an independent legal review or a judicial process such as a courtroom trial. A person can be barred from boarding a U.S. airline based merely on suspicion that he or she might pose a threat. Having one’s name removed from the no-fly list is arduous and can take years. The bar is higher, such as a criminal conviction, for the government to take away a person’s constitutional right to own a firearm.
Associated Press writers Eric Tucker and Ted Bridis contributed to this report.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio says he’s the only Republican running for president who’s actually notched a win against President Barack Obama’s health care law, widely loathed on the political right.
“Last year, I stopped an Obamacare bailout and saved taxpayers $2.5 billion,” Rubio tweeted earlier this month. The campaign has amplified that claim on Facebook and media interviews.
But other Republicans who quietly worked to outwit the Obama administration say Rubio is taking credit for a victory he didn’t deliver alone. Rubio was in the game, they say, but he didn’t carry the ball on this particular play.
There’s no dispute that Rubio was among the first politicians to criticize the health care law’s “risk corridors” program, which compensates insurers that sign up sicker-than-expected patients and incur high costs. But his proposals to completely repeal risk corridors have gone nowhere in Congress.
While the frontal assault failed, an inside maneuver succeeded but it wasn’t Rubio’s.
The gambit in 2014 restricted the administration’s legal authority to make payments to insurers under the program, designed to help stabilize premiums in the health law’s insurance markets. The restriction was inserted into a massive government spending bill and got little notice.
But it had consequences. As a result, the administration announced this fall the government could pay only $362 million of $2.87 billion in risk corridor claims from insurers for 2014. The industry says the government still owes $2.5 billion.
In a statement Monday evening, campaign spokesman Alex Conant repeated the claim that Rubio “is the only candidate running for president with a signature win against Obamacare that stopped a $2.5 billion taxpayer-funded bailout of health insurance companies.”
“For over a year, Marco sounded the alarm about the bailout that was coming, introduced legislation to stop it, rallied support from conservative organizations and members of Congress, and ultimately succeeded by making it a Republican priority in the spending bill that became law,” Conant said.
But according to interviews and documents, the strategy and legal case for the spending restriction were developed over months of work involving the staffs of Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., and Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich. Upton is chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee. At the time, Sessions was the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee.
They also teamed up with former Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., who was chairman of a panel that oversees spending on health care programs.
Asked by The Associated Press who was responsible for the spending restriction, Sessions released a statement earlier Monday that credited his staff, along with the offices of Upton and Kingston. It pointedly omitted Rubio.
“The essential feature of our joint approach was that it did not require the passage of a stand-alone bill,” Sessions said, drawing a contrast with Rubio’s approach to totally repeal risk corridors.
Instead, Sessions added, his approach established that the risk corridor program was legally flawed, lacking its own permanent appropriation, or specific congressional authority, to spend money.
That laid the groundwork “for successfully blocking the illicit transfer of funds in the budget bill,” Sessions said. Without the restrictive language the administration might have been able to shift funds to cover the $2.5 billion shortfall.
Paul Winfree, a former Sessions staffer credited by his boss for uncovering the flaw in the health law, said in an interview that “really, Sen. Rubio’s role in the whole issue was raising awareness of the (risk corridors) program.”
“But most of the work that led to the actual stopping of the bailout wasn’t Rubio,” added Winfree. “That was based on other members.” Winfree now works on economic policy at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.
Kingston, now a principal with a major Washington law firm, said he does not remember dealing with Rubio on the risk corridors issue. But he added he thought it was possible Sessions and Rubio could have been working together.
Sessions did sign an Oct. 2014 letter circulated by Rubio to former House Speaker John Boehner, outlining legal concerns about the administration’s authority to make risk corridor payments. That letter was also signed by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a rival to Rubio for the GOP presidential nomination.
Brian Blase, a former Republican staffer with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said Rubio raised concerns but was not solely responsible for the language that tied the administration’s hands on this issue.
“It’s not fair to say he was solely responsible, but it is fair to say he raised the initial concerns,” said Blase, now working on health care policy at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University in Virginia.
Rubio actually voted against the 2014 spending bill that contained the risk corridors restriction, but so did Sessions and a number of other Senate Republicans. The bill passed.
Rubio has aggressively promoted his risk corridors role on the presidential campaign trail.
In a Fox Business interview earlier this month, Rubio again took full credit. “Last year, I was successful in getting language at the end of the year in the budget bill that took that bailout money away,” he told host Neil Cavuto.
It’s not clear if the damage will be permanent.
Under risk corridors, insurers whose medical claims costs are lower than expected in a given year pay in money to help insurers whose costs are higher. The administration says it will pay outstanding claims with money collected in future years.
If that doesn’t happen, some legal experts say insurers may be able to take the government to court.
Ben Carson botched the economic effect of minimum wage increases. Jeb Bush again pitched a dubious target for economic growth. Marco Rubio, in a tale about plumbers and philosophers, undersold the value of a college education.
And Ted Cruz showed just how hard it can be to name government agencies when, just like Rick Perry four years ago in a famously misbegotten moment in a GOP debate, he messed up the list of departments he would close as president.
The fourth debate of the 2016 Republican presidential campaign was thick on economic policy — and with that came a variety of flubs and funny numbers.
Some of the claims Tuesday night and how they compare with the facts:
CARSON: “Every time we raise the minimum wage, the number of jobless people increases.”
THE FACTS: Actually, that usually doesn’t happen. When the minimum wage was increased in 1996 and 1997, the unemployment rate fell afterward. In June 2007, when the first of three annual minimum wage increases was implemented, the unemployment rate was unchanged until the Great Recession began six months later.
Economic research has found that when states raise their minimum wages higher than neighboring states, they don’t typically fare any worse than their neighbors.
It’s not known, though, what would happen to jobs if the minimum wage were doubled to $15— as many fast-food workers who demonstrated before the debate were demanding.
RUBIO: “Welders make more money than philosophers.”
Not so, on average.
Rubio is arguing that the U.S. has failed to invest in vocational training — a point also stressed by President Barack Obama’s now-defunct jobs council. But Rubio is wrong to suggest that studying philosophy is a waste of money and time.
PayScale, a firm that analyzes compensation, put the median mid-career income for philosophy majors at $81,200 in 2008, with welders making $26,002 to $63,698.
And Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce said in a 2014 analysis that median incomes were $68,000 for people with an advanced degree in philosophy or religious studies.
So knowing Plato and getting a college degree still pays off.
CRUZ, holding out his hand and unfolding one finger at a time to punctuate his point: “Five major agencies that I would eliminate: the IRS (his thumb), the Department of Commerce (index finger), the Department of Energy (middle finger), uh, the Department of Commerce (ring finger), and HUD (pinkie).”
THE FACTS: He flubbed his own list, naming the Commerce Department twice and leaving out one of the agencies he proposes to close, according to his website: the Education Department.
Perry, then Texas governor, had almost precisely the same problem at a GOP primary debate in November 2011, coming up with the names of only two of the three departments he wanted to close, Commerce and Education. “Oops,” he said after failing to name the third agency, Energy, a slip that haunted him for the rest of his campaign.
But Cruz moved on without anyone calling him on the gaffe.
BUSH: “We could get to 4 percent growth.”
THE FACTS: That’s a highly improbable target because of forces in the economy that are beyond the control of any president.
Those forces have been decades in the making: an exodus from the workforce of the huge generation of baby boomers, rising automation and low-wage competition overseas. Those factors and more have limited income growth, which in turn cuts into the consumer spending that drives most economic growth.
Bush frequently holds out hope of 4 percent growth, but even conservative economists who like his fiscal and tax plans consider it a false hope. According to current forecasts, growth is expected to average roughly half that rate.
DONALD TRUMP: The Pacific trade agreement signed by President Obama with 11 other nations “was designed for China to come in through the back door and take advantage of everyone. … China takes advantage (of the U.S.) through currency manipulation.”
THE FACTS: The Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, signed last month, does not include China and is intended to give the United States more influence in Asia as a counterweight to China’s rising economic power. Obama argues that China could join later, but without having any influence on the agreement’s terms.
Regarding currency manipulation, Trump is recycling an outdated claim. He has argued that China keeps its currency undervalued by 15 percent to 40 percent, which would make its exports cheaper and more attractive overseas. Yet the Peterson Institute for International Economics, which had criticized China for keeping its currency artificially low, concluded in 2012 that China’s currency by then was fully valued. The International Monetary Fund has reached the same conclusion.
THE FACTS: President Barack Obama’s health care law may or may not be good for the country on balance. But it’s clearly helping many people.
In the two years it’s been in effect, the share of Americans without health insurance has declined to 9 percent, a historic low. People with pre-existing health conditions can no longer be turned away by insurers, and everyone is required to have coverage or face fines.
While the coverage mandate in Obama’s law remains highly unpopular, state-run high-risk health insurance pools like the one Fiorina proposes to replace the law have been tried before and failed to solve the problem.
CRUZ: Since 2008, the economy has grown on average only 1.2 percent a year, showing “the Obama economy is a disaster.”
THE FACTS: That average is correct as far as it goes, but it masks the fact that Obama inherited a raging recession in his first year, when the economy shrank by 2.5 percent. In the five years since, the economy expanded an average of 2 percent, more than Cruz’s figure but still a relatively weak recovery in historical terms.
TRUMP: “I will tell you, I don’t have to give you a website because I’m self-funding my campaign. I’m putting up my own money.”
THE FACTS: This assertion might have been true months ago but no longer is.
Trump’s latest campaign finance report, filed Oct. 15 with the Federal Election Commission, shows that of $3.9 million his campaign raised in the latest fundraising quarter just $100,000 came from Trump, and the rest from donors. It was a big change from last spring, when he loaned his campaign nearly all of the $1.9 million it received.
BUSH: “We need to raise the (banks’) capital requirements. … Dodd-Frank has actually done the opposite, totally the opposite. … Bigger banks have more and more control over the financial assets of this country.”
THE FACTS: Actually, the Dodd-Frank legislation, passed in 2010 in the wake of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, has pushed banks to raise more capital — in other words, to obtain more of their funding from investment, rather than debt.
In fact, Dodd-Frank was criticized earlier this year by the right-leaning American Action Forum for effectively forcing banks to raise more capital.
Bush and other Republican candidates suggested that Dodd-Frank sparked bank consolidations, but the mergers actually started in 2008 under George W. Bush. During that year alone, as the market melted down, Wells Fargo took over Wachovia, JP Morgan Chase bought Washington Mutual and Bear Stearns, and Bank of America acquired both Countrywide Mortgage and Merrill Lynch.
CARSON: Discussing the presence of Russian troops in Syria, added that “the Chinese are there” as well.
THE FACTS: China has no publicly known deployment of military forces in Syria. In recent days, some news reports have suggested that China would send a warship to Syria, but China’s foreign ministry has denied that.
China has used its status as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council to block the U.N. from taking action on Syria, citing a commonly heard argument against violating Syrian sovereignty.
Associated Press writers Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Paul Wiseman and Ken Dilanian contributed to this report.
Republicans seeking their party’s 2016 presidential nomination have the challenging task of trying to stand out among the 17 candidates in the race, and Thursday’s televised debate was the first opportunity for the party to start whittling down its choices. So it’s no surprise that the candidates had a vested interest in puffing up their own records as governors, senators and public figures. And some of them just got the facts wrong.
Some of the claims in the Cleveland debate and how they compare with the facts:
DONALD TRUMP: “If it weren’t for me, you wouldn’t even be talking about illegal immigration.”
THE FACTS: Republicans have been talking about immigration for at least 30 years, including former President George W. Bush and the Republican field in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections. In 2013, an immigration overhaul seeking to address illegal immigration passed the Senate with strong Republican support, although the House never took it up. And Republican debate about immigration has only intensified in the wake of President Barack Obama’s sweeping executive action shielding from deportation millions of immigrants in the U.S. illegally.
JEB BUSH, on his goal of 4 percent economic growth: “We can do this.”
THE FACTS: Most economists say the U.S. under any president is unlikely to grow consistently at even close to 4 percent, largely due to the difficulty of overcoming decades-long trends.
Current forecasts put growth averaging half the rate of Bush’s goal. To grow the economy faster, the country must either add more workers or increase their efficiency so their time on the job generates more income. The retirement of the baby boom generation will shrink the number of workers in the economy, making a huge increase of new employees unlikely.
Only four of the 16 presidential terms since World War II have experienced annual economic growth averaging more than 4 percent after inflation, according to research published last year by Princeton University economists Alan Blinder and Mark Watson.
BUSH: “You get rid of Obamacare and replace it with something that doesn’t suppress wages and kill jobs.”
THE FACTS: According to the Labor Department, the unemployment rate was 9.9 percent in March 2010, when Obama signed the Affordable Care Act. In June of this year, it had fallen to 5.3 percent. The economy has added more than 12 million jobs since March 2010.
While the health care law doesn’t seem to have had a major impact on jobs, some lesser consequences are likely. The Congressional Budget Office projected that having government subsidized health insurance will prompt some people to leave the labor market, since they can get coverage without a job.
And although Republicans may be able to repeal Obama’s law, it’s unclear if and how they would replace it. The party has yet to rally behind a plan of its own, partly because of internal ideological differences. Some Republicans say it would be the 2016 presidential nominee’s job to forge a consensus.
TRUMP: “We’re giving them (Iran) $150 billion plus” in sanctions relief under the nuclear deal.
THE FACTS: That might be an exaggeration.
Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew has said Iran has $100 billion in foreign reserves that it’s been unable to access. After sanctions relief, Treasury estimates that Iran will be able to freely access about half of that $100 billion. He said more than $20 billion is inaccessible because it is committed to projects with China and tens of billions of other restricted funds are in non-performing loans to Iran’s energy and banking sector.
CHRIS CHRISTIE: “We brought the budget into balance with no tax increases.”
THE FACTS: Not exactly.
As New Jersey’s governor, Christie in his first term cut the earned income tax credit, which largely benefits low-income workers, from 25 percent of the federal credit to 20 percent. He surprised Democrats this summer by proposing to bring it up to 30 percent. Democrats quickly approved the change.
Christie also repeatedly delayed implementing the Homestead credit program, which grants property tax relief, even as he capped property tax increases overall. He also extended the sales tax on online purchases to out-of-state retailers and pushed for higher taxes on e-cigarettes, but failed.
So while Christie indeed vetoed a number of proposed tax increases, his record isn’t free of hikes in taxes or their close cousin: fees.
TRUMP: “I built a net worth of more than $10 billion.”
THE FACTS: Trump’s precise net worth has long been a moving target.
Documents filed with the Federal Election Commission put Trump’s wealth at $8.7 billion. But the form requires disclosures of value ranges, not precise sums. The FEC also doesn’t specify how to value real estate, leaving Trump free to assess many of his proprieties in the highest bracket — over $50 million.
Trump argues many of his properties are worth even more, a claim that cannot be verified without access to his private documents. He’s valued his personal brand and marketing deals at $3.3 billion.
Yet other assessments put his wealth at far less. Forbes Magazine valued his brand at just $125 million, and last month, Bloomberg News estimated his total worth at $2.9 billion.
BUSH: “During my eight years in office, 1.3 million jobs were created, and we left the state better off.”
FACT CHECK: Yes, but by December 2009, 900,000 of those 1.3 million jobs had been eliminated.
During Bush’s tenure as governor, the state benefited from a huge housing bubble that then burst just as he left the governor’s mansion. Home prices jumped 160 percent in Florida from 1999 through 2006 — more than double the national increase of 74 percent —according to real estate data provider Zillow.
That growth fueled a 50 percent jump in construction jobs, and the boost to home values made many Floridians feel wealthier, leading them to spend more. Home prices started to fall in 2006, Bush’s last year in office.
BEN CARSON: “Our Navy is at its smallest size since 1970, our Air Force since 1940.”
THE FACTS: Actually, the U.S. Air Force was created in 1947. Established initially as the Aeronautical Division of the U.S. Army Signal Corps in 1907, the force went through a number of iterations before becoming a full-fledged branch of the military equal to the Army and the Navy in the wake of World War II.
A dearth of reliable public data makes it difficult to examine Carson’s broader argument that the military’s capacity is smaller now than in 1940. But it’s true that the number of U.S. military aircraft has diminished in recent decades.
Associated Press writers Alicia A. Caldwell, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Deb Riechmann, Christopher S. Rugaber, Lisa Lerer and Jill Colvin contributed to this report.
After stirring up a furor with his dismissive remarks about John McCain’s Vietnam war experience, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump went after the Arizona senator’s record on veterans issues, accusing him of abandoning those who served their country in uniform.
A look at the some of the claims Trump has made about McCain’s record and how they compare with the facts:
TRUMP: “I’m very disappointed in John McCain because the vets are horribly treated in this country. I’m fighting for the vets. I’ve done a lot for the vets … He’s done nothing to help the vets. And I will tell you, they are living in hell.”
THE FACTS: McCain has a long record of supporting veterans’ issues in Congress. He was instrumental in a landmark law approved last year to overhaul the scandal-plagued Department of Veterans Affairs. McCain worked with the chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont, as well as Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House veterans panel, to help win passage of the law, which aims to alleviate long delays veterans faced in getting medical care.
The VA says it has completed 7 million more appointments for care in the past year, compared with the previous year, but veterans still face increased wait times in Phoenix, Las Vegas and other places. “As we improve access, even more veterans are coming to VA for their care,” Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson told Congress last month. As a result, waiting times for appointments longer than 30 days are up 50 percent from a year ago, he said.
McCain pushed for a provision in the law allowing veterans who live more than 40 miles away from a VA health care site to get government-paid care from a local doctor. McCain and Miller also pushed to make it easier to fire senior VA employees for poor performance.
McCain also was central in a law enacted this year aimed at reducing a suicide epidemic among military veterans that claims the lives of an estimated 22 every day. The law is named for Clay Hunt, an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran who killed himself in 2011. It requires the VA and the Pentagon to submit to independent reviews of their suicide prevention programs and offers financial incentives to psychiatrists and other mental health professionals who agree to work for the VA.
Paul Rieckhoff, founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, credited McCain for his leadership in both the VA overhaul and the Clay Hunt law. While McCain “is very capable of defending himself,” Rieckhoff said, “a public attack on one veteran’s service is an attack on us all.”
Rieckhoff was referring to Trump’s comment that McCain is only seen as a war hero because he was captured, and “I like people that weren’t captured.” McCain, son of an admiral, served 5 1/2 years in a North Vietnamese prison and endured torture, after being shot down in 1967. The Navy aviator turned down offers of early release because he would have left imprisoned comrades behind, and was awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Distinguished Flying Cross.
TRUMP: “Thanks to McCain and his Senate colleague Bernie Sanders, their legislation to cover up the VA scandal…made sure no one has been punished, charged, jailed, fined or held responsible. McCain has abandoned our veterans. I will fight for them.”
THE FACTS: The VA says it has removed or forced into retirement at least six senior executives since the wait-time scandal emerged last year, including Sharon Helman, the former director of the Phoenix VA health care system, who was fired last year. The Phoenix VA was the epicenter of the wait-time scandal.
The VA announced last week it has placed an Augusta, Georgia, VA official on administrative leave following his indictment by the Justice Department on charges of falsifying medical records of numerous patients.
Despite these actions, McCain and other Republicans have pushed for the VA to do more to fire poor-performing employees. The new law gives the VA secretary greater authority to fire senior executives, with a final decision required within 28 days.
McCain slammed the VA earlier this month for failing to fix its “broken bureaucracy,” but he and other lawmakers have little ability to affect the agency’s day-to-day actions beyond changes to its budget and new legislation.
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Chris Christie certainly tells it like he sees it. That’s not to say he always tells it like it is.
In a Republican presidential kickoff speech centered on a pledge to talk straight, the New Jersey governor sometimes exaggerated his record and skipped over more troublesome realities in a state with a struggling economy, a chronically underfunded state pension system and an increasingly gridlocked government.
A look at the some of the claims in his speech this week and how they compare with the facts:
THE FACTS: Not quite.
During his first term, Christie cut the earned income tax credit, which largely benefits low-income workers, from 25 percent of the federal credit to 20 percent. He surprised Democrats last week by proposing bringing it up to 30 percent in the budget year that started Wednesday. Democrats quickly approved the change.
Christie also repeatedly delayed implementing the Homestead credit program, which grants property tax relief, angering elderly and low-income homeowners, even as he capped property tax increases overall. He also extended the sales tax on online purchases to out-of-state retailers and pushed for higher taxes on e-cigarettes, but failed.
This, while criticizing the previous Democratic administration for raising taxes and fees more than 100 times. To be sure, Christie has vetoed a number of proposed tax increases but his record is not free of raising taxes or their close cousin, fees.
CHRISTIE: “We rolled up our sleeves and we went to work and we balanced six budgets in a row.”
THE FACTS: He had no choice. The New Jersey constitution requires balanced budgets, as many states do, and they are achieved one way or the other, often with some accounting tricks. Christie also has one of the most powerful governorships in the country, and has the power to veto whatever spending items he chooses.
CHRISTIE: “We made the difficult decisions to reform pensions and health benefits and continue that fight today.”
THE FACTS: The governor indeed overhauled the pension and health benefits system for public employees, with the help of unions and Democratic lawmakers. But the deal that made that happen has been branded unconstitutional — by his own administration.
The deal involved union concessions such as higher retirement ages and health care contributions. In return, the state agreed to put more money into the system. But when tax revenues came in far lower than expected last year, Christie reneged on his side of the agreement.
The state Supreme Court ruled the governor wasn’t on the hook for the payments. In a peculiar twist, his administration’s lawyers had challenged the constitutionality of the agreement. Christie’s political action committee even sent a fundraising pitch saying the court’s ruling means taxpayers won’t shoulder “an impossible tax burden from a union agreement that never even met the standards of the New Jersey Constitution.”
Christie’s further efforts to fix the pension system appear to be going nowhere.
CHRISTIE: “We need to get our economy growing again at 4 percent or greater.”
THE FACTS: Few economists, liberal or conservative, think that’s likely.
A 4 percent target, also prominently preached by Christie’s Republican rival Jeb Bush, would require a doubling of growth from the current level, and big trends are pushing against that prospect. Among them, baby boomer retirements are limiting the number of workers in the economy. More automation and low-wage competition overseas are contributing to meager income growth, which has restrained the consumer spending that drives the majority of economic activity.
The odds of achieving sustainable 4 percent growth were low even when the demographic trends were more favorable.
Only four of the 16 presidential terms since World War II have experienced annual economic growth averaging more than 4 percent after inflation, according to economists at Princeton University.
Harry Truman saw it happen as U.S. manufacturers helped rebuild post-war Europe. Tax cuts contributed to a boom in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. Bill Clinton benefited during his second term from low interest rates and what eventually became a tech-stock bubble.
Woodward reported and AP Economics Writer Josh Boak contributed from Washington.