Fact-checking yesterday's political rallies

Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin
Sarah Palin, left, waves to the rally crowd after a campaign appearance for Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., Wednesday April 7, 2010 in Minneapolis.
AP Photo/Jim Mone

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin hosted a private fundraiser last night for Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., and the Minnesota Republican Party.

Palin, the Republican nominee for vice president in 2008, also attracted thousands to an afternoon campaign rally that featured several speakers. We looked at some of the statements made by those speakers, as well as DFLers who held their own rally earlier in the day, to test their accuracy.

One of the most popular talking points at the Republican rally was repeated by Palin and Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen, that the health care reform law is "a government takeover of health care."

But that assertion isn't correct. In fact, under the new law, a majority of Americans would continue to get health coverage from private insurance companies, which is paid for by individuals and businesses.

The law does allow for the creation of a health care exchange by the federal government or the states. Those exchanges won't offer government coverage. They're aimed at providing a virtual marketplace to help people who have trouble getting insurance.

The law would also give states more money to expand health insurance for the poor. The Congressional Budget Office says that would add roughly 11 million people to Medicaid -- far short of the 47 million people currently without health insurance.

REp. Bachmann also referenced the health care overhaul during her speech. She said the health law, along with bailouts for Wall Street, car companies and mortgage companies mean the federal government now controls a majority of the American economy.

Rep. Michele Bachmann
U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., speaks to several thousand people at a rally at the Minneapolis Convention Center Wednesday, April 7, 2010. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin appeared at the rally to support Bachmann's re-election campaign in the 6th Congressional District.
MPR Photo/Mark Zdechlik

"If you add all of that together, that's 51 percent of the private economy in 18 months is now either directly owned or controlled by the federal government," Bachmann said.

Bachmann's spokesman has said a study by an Arizona State University economist claims that one-third of the economy is controlled by the federal government. Bachmann uses that figure and adds the entire health care economy to get to 51 percent.

But we've already pointed out that the federal government isn't taking control of health care. The federal government's Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that federal government spending made up 8 percent of the economy in 2009.

Bachmann also criticized the Obama Administration for being soft on the war on terror, and for giving the Miranda warning to a Nigerian man who allegedly tried to blow up an American passenger plane on Christmas.

"Their conclusion was to give him the right to remain silent, and a tax-paid-at-your-expense attorney and told to be quiet," Bachmann said. "And he was. It's shameful. Absolutely shameful."

What Bachmann failed to mention is that the Bush administration offered the same legal protections to a terrorist who tried to blow up a plane in 2001.


Republicans weren't the only ones who made some mistakes at campaign rallies on Wedneday.

Several hundred union members and Democrats attended a counter-rally at the State Capitol. The event featured Democratic U.S. Reps. Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum. While Republicans criticized the health bill, McCollum was quick to praise it.

"Our vote, my vote, was to end existing conditions that are allowed by the insurance companies to just kick people off, to rescind their unemployment, to discriminate against pre-existing conditions and to end gender discrimination against women once and for all," she said.

However, the National Organization for Women and the National Woman's Law Center both say McCollum's statement is only partially true.

The federal law would prohibit insurance companies from penalizing women when setting health insurance premium costs for businesses that employ fewer than 100 people. Insurance companies would be able to continue the practice for companies with more than 100 workers.

And as far as stopping health insurance companies from denying coverage to anyone with pre-existing conditions, that won't take effect until 2014. HMOs can't deny coverage for children with pre-existing conditions after September of this year.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that federal government spending made up 21 percent of the economy in 2009. The correct number is 8 percent. The 21 percent figure also includes state and local government spending.

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