Fact-checking the VP debate between Pence and Kaine
WASHINGTON — Not all the claims in the vice presidential debate stand up to scrutiny. A look at some of them and how they compare with the facts:
REPUBLICAN MIKE PENCE: "The fact that under this past administration, we've almost doubled the national debt is atrocious.... Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine want more of the same."
THE FACTS: As a share of the total U.S. economy, the national debt has gone up 35 percent; not a doubling.
Still, the debt has ballooned to $19.6 trillion. This largely reflected efforts by the Obama administration to stop the Great Recession.
Would Clinton similarly increase the debt? Not according to an analysis by the independent Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.
The Clinton plan with its tax increases would increase the gross debt — both privately and publicly held— by $450 billion over 10 years. Mind you, that is on top of an $8.8 trillion increase already projected by the government under current law.
As for Donald Trump, the committee says his tax-cut-heavy plan would increase the gross debt by $4.3 trillion —nearly 10 times more than Clinton's plan would do.
DEMOCRAT TIM KAINE, on fighting the Islamic State: "Donald Trump doesn't have a plan."
THE FACTS: Clinton also doesn't have a plan that is materially different than what President Barack Obama is already doing.
She's described a three-part strategy that involves crushing IS "on its home turf" in the Middle East, disrupting its infrastructure on the ground and online, and protecting America and its allies. All are current elements of the Obama administration's strategy, so it's not clear what would change or if she would accelerate any portions of it.
It's also the case that Trump has not laid out a clear plan.
PENCE, calling Clinton the "architect of the Obama administration's foreign policy," says the crisis in Syria was the result of a "failed and weak foreign policy that Hillary Clinton helped lead."
THE FACTS: Clinton, as secretary of state, actually pushed for increased U.S. intervention after Syrian President Bashar Assad used chemical weapons against rebels. But Obama is the commander in chief and nothing has swayed him thus far. Whatever her failings might be on foreign policy, it's a stretch to accuse her of helping to lead a weak policy on Syria.
PENCE: "We've seen an economy stifled by more taxes, more regulation, a war on coal."
THE FACTS: The coal industry's woes don't come solely from onerous federal regulations. Pence omitted the effects of steep competition from cheap natural gas.
A string of major coal companies have filed for bankruptcy in recent years, including Arch Coal, Alpha Natural Resources and Peabody Energy. Layoffs and cutbacks have spread economic suffering through coal country in the Appalachians and Wyoming's Powder River Basin. By contrast, these are boom times for natural gas extraction, mostly due to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
Still, the Obama administration has implemented rules that aren't making the coal industry's life any easier. Obama last year imposed a rule requiring coal-fired power plants to cut their carbon emissions as part of his effort to combat climate change. The rule has been suspended pending a legal challenge. Obama also has halted new coal leases on federal lands until it completes a comprehensive review.
PENCE, saying he's proud that "the state of Indiana has balanced budgets."
THE FACTS: True, but that's not exactly to his credit as governor of Indiana. A balanced budget is required by law, as it is in every state except Vermont.