AP FACT CHECK: Skewed GOP claims on taxes

Posted at 9:26 AM, Feb 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-07 10:26:19-05

WASHINGTON (AP) — Viewers of the latest Republican presidential debate didn't get a straight story from the candidates on U.S. taxes vs. the world, the state of the health insurance marketplace under "Obamacare" or what might happen if that law is taken away.

In his zeal to condemn the Obama administration's immigration record, Ted Cruz once again vastly overstated deportations under the previous two presidents. And he continued, as in a previous debate, to struggle with the meaning of carpet-bombing.

A look at some of the claims Saturday night and how they compare with the facts:

DONALD TRUMP: "Right now, we're the highest taxed country in the world."

THE FACTS: Far from it. The U.S. tax burden pales in comparison with that of other industrialized countries.

Taxes made up 26 percent of the total U.S. economy in 2014, according to the 34-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. That measure looks at the entire tax burden, which is different than tax rates that can be gamed through loopholes, deductions and credits.

In Sweden, the tax burden is 42.7 percent of the economy. It's 33.6 percent in Slovenia (Trump's wife, Melania, was born in the part of Yugoslavia that became Slovenia). Britain clocks in at 32.6 percent, while Germany's burden is 36.1 percent.

Where is the tax burden lower than the United States?

South Korea, Chile and Mexico.


TED CRUZ: "We will adopt commonsense reforms, No. 1, we'll allow people to purchase health insurance across state lines that will drive down prices and expand the availability of low-cost catastrophic insurance."

THE FACTS: Allowing the interstate sale of health insurance policies is not a new idea, and not the straightforward solution that it may sound.

This long-standing Republican proposal has previously run into opposition from regulators in many states. State insurance and consumer protection regulators say such an approach could trigger a "race to the bottom," allowing skimpy out-of-state policies to undercut benefits that individual states require. Proponents of interstate competition say a basic benefits plan would be spelled out.

Some insurance industry insiders see another complication: Out-of-state companies may not have adequate local networks of hospitals and doctors.

It's a tricky position for Republicans in Washington, who argue broadly (Cruz included) that the federal government should defer to state and local decision-making. On this matter, many states don't want the solution that Republicans are pushing.


TRUMP: "The insurance companies are getting rich on Obamacare."

THE FACTS: Although some insurance companies are making a profit from their business under President Barack Obama's health care law, the industry's biggest player lost money.

United Health last year reported deep losses from its business on the health law's insurance exchanges and said it will re-evaluate whether it wants to continue in that market. Anthem, the second-largest insurer, said its enrollment in the law's markets fell, and the business has been less profitable than expected.

Aetna, the third-largest insurer, said it has been struggling with customers who sign up for coverage outside the health law's annual enrollment window and then use a lot of care. This dumps claims on the insurer without providing enough premium revenue to counter those costs.

Some industry analysts say insurers are struggling to attract enough healthy patients, and it's too easy for customers to manipulate the system by doing things like signing up for coverage, using health care, and then stopping premium payments.

A dozen of the 23 nonprofit health insurance co-ops created under the law have folded.


CRUZ, defending his vow to deport 11 million people living in the U.S. illegally: "I would note that in eight years Bill Clinton deported 12 million people. In eight years George Bush deported 10 million people. Enforcing the law. We can do it."

THE FACTS: Statistics from Immigration and Customs Enforcement show that roughly 1.6 million were deported under Bush, not 11 million. Under Clinton, about 870,000 immigrants were deported, not 12 million, according to the Migration Policy Institute. So far, about 2.4 million have been deported under the Obama administration.

To get the swollen figures, Cruz appears to be combining deportations with arrests made by the Border Patrol in the previous administrations, according to the institute.


CRUZ, defending his vow to "carpet bomb" to defeat the Islamic State: "When I say saturation carpet bombing, that is not indiscriminate. That is targeted at oil facilities. It's targeted at the oil tankers... It's using overwhelming air power."

THE FACTS: Cruz is trying to rewrite the dictionary, which defines the term as dropping many bombs on a small area to prepare it for advancing ground troops. The U.S. military uses precision-guided bombs against the kinds of specific targets that Cruz is talking about, which also reduce the risk of killing civilians — a goal the U.S. military has embraced under Republican as well as Democratic presidents.