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The Boston Globe February 03, 2005

A Closer Look At Some Of Presidents's Assertions

By Charlie Savage

President Bush's State of the Union address last night contained several factual assertions that merit a closer look:

CLAIM #1:

"Thirteen years from now, in 2018, Social Security will be paying out more than it takes in. And every year afterward will bring a new shortfall, bigger than the year before. For example, in the year 2027, the government will somehow have to come up with an extra $200 billion to keep the system afloat, and by 2033, the annual shortfall would be more than $300 billion. By the year 2042, the entire system would be exhausted and bankrupt. If steps are not taken to avert that outcome, the only solutions would be drastically higher taxes, massive new borrowing, or sudden and severe cuts in Social Security benefits or other government programs."

ANALYSIS:

This passage contains three statements worth scrutiny. First, the statement that starting in 2018 the government "will somehow have to come up with" extra billions to stay afloat ignores the fact that there exists a substantial trust fund now invested in US treasury bonds and will make up the shortfall for several decades. Second, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has projected the trust fund will be exhausted in 2052; the year 2042 is an older figure that came from the Social Security Trustees, who used a different set of economic assumptions. Finally, even after 2052, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has noted the system could still pay out 80 percent of normal benefits without new taxes or borrowing.

CLAIM #2:

"America's economy is the fastest growing of any major industrialized nation. In the past four years, we have provided tax relief to every person who pays income taxes, overcome a recession, opened up new markets abroad, prosecuted corporate criminals, raised homeownership to the highest level in history, and in the last year alone, the United States has added 2.3 million new jobs."

ANALYSIS:

Most of these figures are correct, but the job-growth assertion may be slightly exaggerated. According to the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics, the US economy added 2.2 million jobs in 2004.

CLAIM #3

"In Iraq, 28 countries have troops on the ground, the United Nations and the European Union provided technical assistance for elections, and NATO is leading a mission to help train Iraqi officers."

ANALYSIS:

According to GlobalSecurity.org, a national security think tank, 28 non-US military forces have troops on the ground in Iraq. The group also notes that three of them Poland, the Netherlands, and Bulgaria plan to withdraw later this year.


Copyright 2005, Globe Newspaper Company