PolitiFact Georgia last week reviewed a mix of state and national issues, resulting in wide-ranging results from the AJC Truth-O-Meter.
We reviewed campaign contributions from the medical industry to some Georgia senators to check a claim implying that the money swayed votes. We examined veterans administration data on pending disability claims. We also went across the water to determine how former Soviet Bloc countries levy taxes.
We ended the week with a two-part look at a claim involving comprehensive immigration reform and the state of employment in South Carolina’s meatpacking industry.
Abbreviated versions of our fact checks are below, and full versions can be found at: www.politifact.com/georgia/.
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U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall: “Do you know those former Soviet Bloc countries have all moved to flat taxes?”
Woodall, a Republican from Lawrenceville, is a strong supporter of the Fair Tax, a plan to replace the patchwork of federal income taxes with a “flat” 23 percent sales tax. He made this claim during a floor speech last month in hopes of getting some action on his stalled Fair Tax bill.
Assuming Woodall was talking about the 15 countries left behind when the USSR dissolved, 10 have adopted the flat tax; five have not. The trend is not restricted to the former Soviet states. Some former satellite states have instituted a flat tax, and others, such as Slovakia, had it and then scrapped it.
So Woodall was mistaken when he said all “Soviet Bloc” countries have embraced the flat tax. Many former communist countries, however, have adopted flat taxes, which was his larger point.
Our research also found that those nations with a flat tax still tax income. Woodall’s Fair Tax would tax sales, which is a different conversation.
We rated Woodall’s claim Half True.
U.S. Rep. Tom Graves: “Despite having their budget increased by over 40 percent since 2009 … pending claims for benefits with the (Department of Veterans Affairs) have increased from 391,000 to 890,000 under the Obama administration.”
Graves, a Republican from Ranger, called the backlog of veterans’ disability claims being handled by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs “immoral” in an April op-ed, and he used this claim to demonstrate how bad the problem has become.
The VA’s own figures show that the department’s budget jumped 43.6 percent since 2009, or as Graves said, an increase of “over 40 percent.” The VA’s weekly disability claims reports also confirm Graves’ claim about the number of pending disability claims that have skyrocketed from some 391,000 to 890,000 under the Obama administration.
Graves also was accurate in noting that the increase took place under the president’s watch. While the VA’s benefits system has been troubled since well before President Barack Obama took office, efforts during his administration have not prepared the department for its current challenges.
We rated Graves’ statement True.
Sen. Renee Unterman: Says state Senate leaders have accepted $142,400 in campaign contributions from dentists and pharmacists during the past two years.
Unterman caused a stir when she gave a speech in March accusing some of her state Senate colleagues of being beholden to some influential industries because of their support for a bill changing regulation for some medical professions.
Our research found that most of the contributions Unterman counted dated back more than two years ago, and some were from the 2006 election cycle. The senator said her research was intended to go back to 2008, and she admitted her mistake.
Her research included contributions to eight members of a Senate committee that is not part of the current Senate leadership but who are on the committee that vetted the bill. If you include those senators, Unterman’s claim nearly hits the mark. If you exclude those senators, the claim is off by nearly 40 percent.
Unterman’s dollar figure is accurate, but there’s some important context missing here.
We rated Unterman’s claim Half True.
The Dustin Inman Society: U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham says South Carolina “has a labor shortage and wants more immigration.”
A Georgia anti-amnesty group, the Dustin Inman Society, criticized Graham on a billboard advertisement posted last month in Cherokee County, for his comments that his state has a labor shortage in some areas.
Graham, who supports immigration reform, has repeatedly made the labor shortage claim, specifically mentioning the meatpacking industry as an area needing workers.
The society’s claim contains some truth but ignores the senator’s focus on that specific industry. And the society went on to claim on the billboard that South Carolina welcomes undocumented immigrants. That is inaccurate. The guest worker program Graham supports would create a legal means for immigrants to work. We rated the society’s claims Mostly False.
U.S. Sen Lindsey Graham: Says South Carolina has a labor shortage, specifically in the meatpacking industry.
Graham, R-S.C., in a February 2013 Senate hearing and in similar comments to a Rotary Club, said his state had a problem filling certain jobs, particularly in the meatpacking industry, even amid high unemployment.
In that industry, the nature of the work and the wages often turn off many American workers, those on both sides of the immigration debate said. Graham’s statements lacked that context.
We rated Graham’s claim Mostly True.