Claim: An advertisement airing on KLAS-TV Channel 8 from Americans For Prosperity, an issue advocacy group that champions reduced government spending and lower taxes, starts off by quoting President Barack Obama as saying in 2009: "I'm pledging to cut the deficit by half by the end of my first term in office." This is followed by numerous overlapping sound bites from newscasts related to the nation's mounting federal debt and a graphic showing the National Debt Clock ticking upward. Obama is then quoted as saying: "I will be held accountable. If I don't have this done in three years, then this is going to be a one-term proposition." The ad ends with a graphic stating: "Let's Make This A One-Term Proposition on November 6th."
Verdict: Partly true and partly misleading. When Democrat Obama took office in January 2009 the nation's federal debt was $10.6 trillion. As of today, the debt exceeds $15.9 trillion. Obama has not yet made good on his promise to slash the nation's deficit in half. One problem with the ad, though, is that it contributes to the confusion between the nation's deficit and its debt. The deficit represents the amount of spending the government does beyond the revenue it takes in for a given year. The debt represents the accumulation of deficit spending over the years. Obama has proposed a budget plan to reduce the deficit by raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans and closing tax breaks such as those enjoyed by oil companies. The Republicans have their own plan, and as The New York Times reported last month, much of the proposal would slash programs for the poor and shift some of that spending to the defense budget. The Times also reported that the deficit for the year ending Sept. 30 would be $1.21 trillion but that the Obama plan would only reduce the deficit to $901 billion in fiscal 2013. By making the pledge, Obama has left himself open to criticism on deficit spending. But the ad overreaches by implying that Obama is solely to blame for the nation's debt. To be sure, the economic stimulus package approved by his administration has contributed to the debt. So, too, have the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that began during the administration of Republican President George W. Bush, as well as the Bush tax cuts and the Medicare prescription drug benefit that kicked in before Obama took office. Economic recessions also have contributed to the debt, as have spending initiatives from Democratic and Republican lawmakers prior to the Bush presidency.