Fact-checking the first presidential debate

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama on stage with Jim Lehrer facing away from camera in the foreground in Denver, Colorado 3 October 2012

Fact-checkers have been dissecting the claims made during Wednesday's Denver debate by President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney.

At one point, Mr Romney said: "Mr President, you're entitled as the president to your own airplane and to your own house, but not to your own facts."

Here are some of the assertions that went under the microscope:

Romney's '$5 trillion tax cut'

Mr Obama told the audience that his opponent's budget plans would include a "$5tn tax cut [£3.1tn] on top of the extension of the Bush tax cuts. That's another trillion dollars", a statement that drew a quick denial from Mr Romney.

According to the Washington Post's fact-checker blog, Mr Romney's proposal to lower taxes by 20%, abolish estate tax and the alternative minimum tax would reduce tax revenue by $5tn over 10 years.

Mr Romney has said he would make up for the lost revenue by eliminating exemptions and deductions in the tax code, but The Tax Policy Center, an independent group, has said there are not enough loopholes to cover the cost of the tax cut.

Obama's '5 million jobs'

Mr Obama also said that "over the last 30 months, we've seen 5 million jobs in the private sector created".

Fact checkers seem to agree that the president exaggerated this claim by almost half a million jobs, citing current Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) figures. Those numbers show 4.6 million jobs were created between February 2010 and August 2012.

Factcheck.org has said the president included a preliminary revision of the jobs data in his statement, but the BLS will not finalise that until next year.

National deficit

Later in the evening, Mr Romney accused the president of doubling the national deficit. But The New York Times has said that claim is false, as the federal deficit was already projected to hit $1.2tn when Mr Obama took office.

For the most recent fiscal year, which ended last week, the deficit was expected to come in at $1.1tn.

Gutting Medicare?

The candidates also traded barbs over Medicare, a popular government healthcare programme for the elderly. Mr Romney said the 2010 Affordable Care Act - Mr Obama's signature legislative achievement - would take $716bn out of the programme and use it to pay for the healthcare bill.

The figure refers to savings in healthcare costs over the course of 10 years, mainly by reducing payments to hospitals and other care providers.

But Politifact.com notes that Mr Romney's assertion implies the money would be taken away from patients, and adds that the savings would be used to offset the costs of extending coverage to nearly 30 million Americans.

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