Brooks Jackson: A presidential debate fact check
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Democrat Al Gore and Republican George W. Bush used facts as weapons during their first presidential debate Tuesday night in Boston, often leaving viewers to wonder just who was telling the truth.
They argued over whether one Wisconsin couple making $25,000 a year would be covered under Bush's prescription drug plan for Medicare beneficiaries.
Throughout their first head-to-head debate, Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush often used facts and figures more to confuse than to inform
"Under my plan half of their costs would be paid right away," Gore said. "Under governor Bush's plan, they would not get one penny for four to five years."
"I cannot let this go by -- the old-style Washington politics, 'We're going to scare you in the voting booth,'" Bush responded. "Under my plan the man will get immediate help with prescription drugs. It's called Immediate Helping Hand," he said of his proposal.
"Can I make another point?" Gore insisted over Bush's objections. "They get $25,000 a year income. That makes them ineligible."
The fact is, Bush's plan would subsidize premiums for prescription drug premiums only for low-income persons in the first years, just as Gore said. It would phase out
completely for couples at about $20,000 a year.
Bush's plan does call for immediate catastrophic coverage for seniors at
all income levels, paying all prescription expenses over $6,000 per year. So Gore's $25,000 couple would be covered -- sort of.
Throughout the evening, Bush accused Gore of fudging the numbers: "I'm beginning to think that not only did he invent the Internet, but he invented the calculator. It's fuzzy math."
Gore, meanwhile, continued to hammer at Bush's tax plan: "Almost half of all the tax cut benefits as I've said under Governor Bush's tax cut plan go to the wealthiest one percent. I think we have to make the right, responsible choices."
"Well, the man is practicing fuzzy math again," Bush offered by way of rebuttal. "The facts are, after my plan the wealthiest Americans pay more taxes than the percentage of the whole than they do today."
Is that a fact? Well, the bipartisan Joint Tax Committee of Congress analyzed Bush's tax plan and said that after it was mostly phased in, in 2005, persons making over $200,000 a year would be paying 27.4 percent of federal income taxes, exactly the same share as under current law.
By that measure, Bush is wrong.
The same bipartisan analysis showed persons making over $100,000 a year would get 51 percent of the money under Bush's tax cut plan.
Throughout the 90-minute debate, both candidates often used facts and figures more to confuse than to inform. As always, voters would do well to check the facts.