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FACT CHECK: Convention Speakers Stray From Reality [VIDEO]

Sounding the keynote for his party’s national convention, Chris Christie promised that GOP nominee Mitt Romney will lay out for the American people the painful budget cuts it’ll take to wrestle the government’s debt and deficit woes under control.

Gov. Chris Christie waves as he takes the stage during the Republican National Convention
Gov. Chris Christie waves as he takes the stage during the Republican National Convention (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The combative New Jersey governor’s hopeful words, however, flew into a headwind of reality: In nearly a year of campaigning, Romney has yet to detail how he would do that.

Former senator and presidential candidate Rick Santorum became the latest Republican to stretch the truth in taking President Barack Obama to task over his administration supposedly waiving work requirements in the nation’s landmark welfare-to-work law.

A closer look at some of the words spoken at the GOP convention in Tampa, Fla.

CHRISTIE: “Mitt Romney will tell us the hard truths we need to hear to end the torrent of debt that is compromising our future and burying our economy…Tonight, our duty is to tell the American people the truth. Our problems are big and the solutions will not be painless. We all must share in the sacrifice. Any leader that tells us differently is simply not telling the truth.”

THE FACTS: Romney has made a core promise to cut $500 billion per year from the federal budget by 2016 to bring spending below 20 percent of the U.S. economy, and to balance it entirely by 2020.

His campaign manifesto, however, is almost completely devoid of the “hard truths” Christie promises. In fact, Romney is promising to reverse $716 billion in Medicare savings achieved by Obama over the coming decade and promises big increases in military spending as well, along with extending tax cuts for everyone, including the wealthiest.

The few specifics Romney offers include repealing Obama’s health care law, cutting federal payrolls, weaning Amtrak from subsidies, cutting foreign aid and curbing the Medicaid health care program for the poor and disabled.

But it’ll take a lot more than those steps for Romney to keep his vague promises, which are unrealistic if he’s unwilling to touch Medicare and Social Security in the coming decade. Even the controversial budget plan of his vice presidential nominee, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., largely endorsed by Romney, leaves Medicare virtually untouched over the next 10 years.

What’s left for Romney to cut is benefit programs other than Medicare and Social Security, which include food stamps, welfare, farm subsidies and retirement benefits for federal workers. The remaining pot of money includes the day-to-day budgets of domestic agencies, which have already borne cuts under last year’s budget deal. There’s also widespread congressional aversion to cutting most of what remains on the chopping block, which includes health research, NASA, transportation, air traffic control, homeland security, education, food inspection, housing and heating subsidies for the poor, food aid for pregnant women, the FBI, grants to local governments, national parks, and veterans’ health care.

Rick Santorum speaks on stage during the Republican National Convention
Rick Santorum speaks on stage during the Republican National Convention (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

SANTORUM: “This summer (Obama) showed us once again he believes in government handouts and dependency by waiving the work requirement for welfare. Now, I helped write the welfare reform bill. We made a lot crystal clear. No president can waive the work requirement, but as with his refusal to enforce our immigration laws, President Obama rules like he is above the law.”

THE FACTS: The administration did not waive the work requirement. Instead, it invited governors to apply on behalf of their states for waivers of administrative requirements in the 1996 law. Some states have complained those rules tie up caseworkers who could be helping clients directly.

In a July 18 letter to congressional leaders, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that to be eligible for a waiver, governors must commit that their plans will move at least 20 percent more people from welfare to work. Moreover, states must show clear progress toward the goal within a year, or lose the waiver.

“We will not accept any changes that undercut employment-focused welfare reforms that were signed into law fifteen years ago,” Sebelius wrote.

Ron Haskins, a former senior Republican House aide who helped write the welfare-to-work law, has said “there is merit” to the administration’s proposal and “I don’t see how you can get to the conclusion that the waiver provision undermines welfare reform and it eliminates the work requirement.”

Haskins, now co-director of the Brookings Center on Children and Families, says the administration was wrong to roll out its proposal without first getting Republicans to sign off on it. But he said the idea itself is one both parties should be able to agree on, were it not for the bitter political divisions that rule Washington.


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