By Jonathan Roos and Jeff Zeleny/Register Staff Writer
November 8, 1999
Web posted at: 2:09 p.m. EST (1909 GMT)
DES MOINES, Iowa (Des Moines Register) -- The Register is again critiquing campaign ads to help voters make sense of their assertions. Here's a review of an ad now on television in Iowa for Texas Gov. George W. Bush, a Republican running for president:
TITLE: Successful Leader
SPONSOR: George W. Bush
LENGTH: 30 seconds
THE AD: This commercial tries to make the case that Bush has been a strong, effective leader of Texas, tackling the issues people care about most. It shows snippets of the candidate shaking hands, sitting among admiring children and hugging his wife.
The narrator says Bush has been hailed as the GOP's best hope to win the White House. He concludes by calling Bush "a compassionate conservative leader. A fresh start for America."
ASSERTION: The ad says Bush "reduced the growth of state government spending to the lowest in 40 years."
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: The rate of annual spending growth during Bush's tenure - about 5 percent on average - has indeed been smaller than in previous years. But at the same time, Texas government spending has outpaced inflation and percentage increases in the federal budget. Under the last two-year budget of Bush's predecessor, in 1994-1995, state spending totaled nearly $75 billion. Under the budget for 2000 and 2001, combined spending will top $98 billion. Population growth and more money for education and property tax relief have helped drive the budget higher.
ASSERTION: Bush "signed the two largest tax cuts in Texas history."
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: In 1997 and 1999, Bush signed tax cuts totaling about $3.2 billion. Most of it went to reducing property taxes for schools, although critics question whether property owners have really been helped much. In 1997, the governor also proposed a new business tax and sales-tax increase as part of a tax overhaul plan that the Texas Legislature rejected.
ASSERTION: Bush "improved public schools by restoring local control, raising standards and returning to basics."
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Student performance, as measured by the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills, has improved during his term. But Texas still lags behind many other states on various education indicators. Although Bush has pushed higher standards and greater school accountability, his predecessors also deserve credit for school reforms.
ASSERTION: Bush "cut welfare rolls in half."
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Statistics from the Texas Department of Human Services indicate welfare rolls have been reduced by about half since 1995, after the state passed its version of welfare reform one year before major federal reform took effect. During the 1990s, many other states reduced welfare rolls at similar levels.
ASSERTION: Bush "cut juvenile crime 38 percent" and "reduced junk lawsuits."
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Juvenile crime has dropped under Bush's watch, as it has nationally. But according to the Texas Criminal Justice Policy Council, overall juvenile crime declined only 7 percent. It was violent crime specifically - murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault committed by 10- to 16-year-olds - that actually fell more than 30 percent among juveniles.
Since his first state of the state address in 1995, Bush has been committed to reducing "junk lawsuits," including limiting damage awards and curbing frivolous lawsuits. But citizen groups criticized Bush and the Texas Legislature for bowing to corporate interests to limit their liability in injury and defective product cases.
THE BOTTOM LINE: There's more to Bush's record than meets the eye in a commercial that wants to leave viewers with the indelible image of a winner who gets things done. As is the case in most campaign ads, this commercial leaves out important facts and details that would provide voters with a more complete account of his performance in office.