Economics professor, voters weigh in on political ads

by: Torie Wells Updated:


CHARLOTTE, N.C. - With all the money being spent in North Carolina on ads for your vote, Eyewitness News is looking at some of those ads and testing the facts.

"Dear daughter, welcome to America. Your share of Obama's debt is $50,000," the announcer in a recent Mitt Romney ad says.

"I think it's generous to say it's a half-truth," said Dr. Ben Russo, an economics professor at UNC Charlotte.

Russo said that if you divide the deficit by the population, the math does check out. But he points out that Obama inherited a good chunk of that. If we look at the Obama years…

"It's about a quarter of what's being reported in the ads," he said.

The Romney ad goes on to say that poverty for women is the highest in 17 years, which is true, according to Census data. But it was already going up before 2008.

The ad also says that 5.5 million women are looking for work. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, that is true when you look at women 16 and older.

"Here in North Carolina, we are not better off under President Obama," the announcer on another Mitt Romney ad says.

That ad cites a George Mason Study and claims that Obama's defense cuts will threaten thousands of jobs in North Carolina.

That study was actually part of a larger study on automatic cuts that go into effect Jan. 2 if Congress doesn't act.

Eyewitness News showed this ad to voters and asked them about the claim that Romney would "create over 350,000 new jobs for North Carolina."

"I just don't buy it," said Mary Martha Weiner, from south Charlotte.

Eyewitness News emailed the Romney campaign, asking where that number came from. They say they estimate that a Romney presidency could create 12 million jobs in its first term. That breaks down to hundreds of thousands in North Carolina.

"That would be difficult for any president to achieve," said Russo.

Russo said that claim assumes that the economy would grow quickly, back to historic trends. But with Europe and Asia in flux, he's not sure that could happen.

Eyewitness News also showed voters some Obama campaign ads.

"Which candidate is more likely to return us to full employment? It's a clear choice," said President Bill Clinton in one ad.

"It's a president being backed by another president, so I have faith in that one," one voter said.

Russo said not so fast. He said it will be a long time before we're to full employment, where all people who are eligible to work can find a job. In the ad, Bill Clinton goes on to talk about a strong middle class like when he was president. Russo said this recession is very different and bringing the 90s into the conversation is a reach.

The ad goes on to say the Republican plan is to cut more taxes on upper-income people.

Russo said that is true, but the proposal is to cut 20 percent across the board.

Eyewitness News also looked into another Obama ad that brings up Romney's 47 percent comment. It points out that 47 percent pay Social Security, state and local taxes.

"Romney paid just 14 percent in federal taxes on $13 million in income," the announcer in the ad says.

Russo said that is still about $2 million. He said the facts are not incorrect, but that comparing federal taxes to state, local and Social Security taxes isn't comparing apples to apples. He also said continuing to use the 47 percent number without explaining it doesn't help people to understand.

"People don't know where to look, so they rely on the commercials," said Russo.

Voters Eyewitness News spoke with say they don't believe everything they hear. But they don't have time to research all the claims either.

The Romney campaign released this statement to us:

“President Obama continues to deliver false attacks that independent fact checkers - and even his own campaign - have admitted are false.  It’s clear that President Obama is willing to say anything and spread any falsehood to avoid talking about his own record of fewer jobs, declining incomes, and record poverty. As President, Mitt Romney will implement pro-growth reforms that cut taxes for middle class Americans, grow the economy, and create good-paying jobs.” - Robert Reid, Romney spokesman

The Obama campaign released this statement to us:

"Given the Romney campaign's record of deception and distortion, the falsehoods in these TV ads should come as no surprise to the people of North Carolina. Romney's deceptive practices were on full display last week during the Presidential debate, where Romney abandoned his core campaign platforms on live television in a desperate attempt to appeal to the 47 percent of voters he has dismissed as victims who refuse to take personal responsibility for their lives. The truth about Romney's failed, top-down policies of the past is that they would hurt the middle class and crash our economy once again."