Republican debate: CNN’s Reality Check Team inspects the claims

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WASHINGTON (CNN) – The Republican candidates for president gathered in Miami on Thursday, and CNN’s Reality Check Team spent the night putting their statements and assertions to the test.

The team of reporters, researchers and editors across CNN selected key statements and rated them true; mostly true; true, but misleading; false; or it’s complicated.

Donald Trump

Reality Check: Trump on unemployment and GDP

By Tami Luhby, CNNMoney

Donald Trump is billing himself as the candidate that will bring back jobs to America and revive the economy. But he got some basic facts about the U.S. economy wrong Thursday night.

Trump erroneously said that the U.S. economy isn’t growing: “GDP was zero essentially for the last two quarters. If that ever happened in China, you would have had a depression like nobody’s ever seen before. They go down to 7%, 8%, and it’s a national tragedy. We’re at zero, we’re not doing anything.”

We’ll allow that he meant GDP growth, not the gross domestic product itself. But he’s still wrong that the U.S. economy has completely stalled. GDP growth came in at 1% during the most recent quarter and at 2% the quarter before. Granted, it’s not going gangbusters, but it’s not flat, either.

Trump also blasted the nation’s trade negotiators, saying they’ve agreed to terrible deals that have cost the country good jobs. But he botched the way the jobs report classifies the employed and unemployed.

“You look at the recent jobs reports, which are really done so that presidents and politicians look good because all of these people looking for jobs, when they give up, they go home, they give up and they are considered statistically employed,” Trump said.

The way the unemployment rate is calculated has been criticized because it only counts those who are out of work but have looked for a job over the past four weeks. Some say that method underestimates the true number of the unemployed.

However, people who completely give up looking for work are are considered out of the labor force, not employed or unemployed.

Verdict: False.

Reality Check: Trump on the feds taking over Common Core

By Kate Grise, CNN

Trump kicked off the latest round of Republican sparring by taking on Common Core education standards and accusing the federal government of having “taken over” the standards.

“It’s all been taken over by the bureaucrats in Washington and they are not interested in what’s happening in Miami or in Florida and in many states,” Trump said.

Has the federal government really taken over common core?

Common Core standards are benchmarks in English and math that specify a bar students in each grade level should be able to hit. They standardize that bar across the country, but states choose to opt into the standards. Forty-two of them, plus the District of Columbia, have chosen to do so.

The standards were developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers in consultation with teachers, parents, and experts, and the Common Core program says the federal government did not play a role in developing the standards.

The only reading required by the Common Core throughout a student’s entire education career pop up in the 11th and 12th grades. Students are expected to understand the Declaration of Independence, the preamble to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and former President Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address. There are plenty of recommended readings in the Core’s Appendix B, but they are just suggested texts that the developers of Common Core believe are age appropriate and will help students reach the benchmarks.

It is true, however, that the federal government did have a role in encouraging states to adopt the standards.

In order to qualify for grants under President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top program, states must show that they have standards to prepare students for college and the working world. Common Core standards are one way to qualify for those grants and the states get incentives to implement Common Core standards. RTTT basically made Common Core standards a de facto requirement for states to receive education grants from the federal level.

We rate Trump’s claim that Common Core standards have been taken over by the federal government as it’s complicated because the federal government has not been involved in the development of the benchmarks students should meet throughout their school years, but they have played a large role in compelling states to implement the Common Core standards in order to receive education funding.

Marco Rubio

Reality Check: Rubio on entitlements’ impact on the federal budget

By Tami Luhby, CNNMoney

In talking about solving Social Security’s looming shortfall Florida Sen. Marco Rubio once again mentioned how much that entitlement program — and others — eat into the federal budget.

“In less than five years, only 17% of our budget will remain discretionary. 83% of the federal budget in less than five years will all be spent on Medicare, Medicaid, the interest on the debt,” Rubio said.

CNN’s Reality Check team has looked at that claim before. We found that those three programs and interest payments actually are projected to make up only 60% of the federal budget in 2021, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center, citing Congressional Budget Office estimates. They currently make up 54% of the budget.

It looks like Rubio was referring to the increase in government spending, not the actual budget. Social Security, major federal health programs and interest will account for 83% of the increase in government outlays between 2016 and 2026, the center said.

Verdict: False.

Ted Cruz

Reality Check: Cruz on trade pact positions

By Theodore Schleifer, CNN

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said he has “always opposed” the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the massive trade deal that would be the largest trade agreement in history if it becomes law.

“There are two different agreements, there’s TPA and TPP. I oppose TPP and have always opposed TPP, which is what you asked about,” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper, drawing a distinction with the Trade Promotion Authority that the White House asked for to help the deal be reached.

Cruz used to vocally support TPA which allows the president to negotiate trade deals and then to have the Senate consider them without attaching any amendments, which is meant to ease passage of an agreement. In a Wall Street Journal column authored with Paul Ryan, the now-speaker allied with the House’s business wing, Cruz wrote that, “Congress needs to strengthen the country’s bargaining position by establishing trade-promotion authority.”

But two months later, Cruz changed his mind, telling Breitbart that TPA had changed since he last wrote a column.

“TPA in this Congress has become enmeshed in corrupt Washington backroom deal-making, along with serious concerns that it would open up the potential for sweeping changes in our laws that trade agreements typically do not include.”

While his position on TPA has changed, Cruz is correct that he never publicly backed TPP. He was long skeptical of the trade deal on the campaign trail, but he did not come out formally against it until he told a crowd in Harlan, Iowa, in November.

Verdict: True.

By CNN’s Reality Check Team

CNN’s Katelyn Newman, Chad Weaver and Justin Gamble contributed to this report.

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