Sharron Angle pushes faulty, incomplete data
LAS VEGAS (AP) – Nevada tea party favorite Sharron Angle says she is on a mission to reclaim the constitution, but her journey isn’t always being fueled by facts.
Angle, a former state Assemblywoman who won the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate last year, blasts modern government and politics in her recently self-published political memoir, “Right Angle.” She has framed the book as the tale of a family-orientated conservative attracted to politics by a sense of patriotism and duty.
But Angle, who ultimately lost her Senate bid to Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid in November, doesn’t always support her arguments with accurate numbers, according to an Associated Press analysis of “Right Angle.”
Angle’s grasp of reality could come up in future political fights. In the book, Angle said she will likely seek political office in the future. She recently launched a political action committee to target Democratic candidates endorsed by Reid in the 2012 election cycle and has been promoting her book in northern Nevada and on national television. She did not respond to requests for comment.
Here’s a look at some numbers Angle cited in her book and how they compare to data analyzed by The AP:
THE CLAIM: “Obama has piled up more spending and debt than all other presidents combined!”
THE FACT: The swelling federal budget in recent years has prompted many tea party leaders to label President Barack Obama a spendaholic, and Angle is no different. Angle, like Republicans Sarah Palin and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, insists Obama has spent more than all his predecessors combined. But that’s just false.
In a chapter titled, “Who is Really Ruining the Economy?” Angle didn’t specify whether she was singling out public debt or gross federal debt, which includes Social Security or Medicare trust funds. Still, neither measurement supports her statement.
The public debt was $6.31 trillion when Obama became president in January 2009. It had grown by $3.45 trillion to $9.76 trillion as of last week, according to the U.S. Treasury Department. The debt growth under Obama is smaller than the total debt Obama inherited, so it’s impossible that he piled up more “debt than all other presidents combined.”
Such basic math holds true when it comes to the gross federal debt, as well. The nation’s overall debt was $10.63 trillion when Obama was sworn in. It had increased by $3.72 trillion to $14.34 trillion as of last week. To be sure, $3.72 trillion is a lot of money, but it doesn’t come close to $10.63 trillion.
Meanwhile, federal spending reached a combined $6.97 trillion in 2009 and 2010, Obama’s first full two years in office, according to the Office of Management and Budget. Federal spending is expected to reach $3.82 trillion in 2011, bringing Obama’s spending total to roughly $10.79 trillion through the end of this year.
The nation spent more than that from 2004 to 2008, or roughly $13.08 trillion. That means Obama has not spent more than all the other presidents combined. He hasn’t even outspent his predecessor, George W. Bush.
THE CLAIM: “The disconnect between principles and reality has caused a deep schism of cynicism in many Americans. So great is the disgust and frustration with what can only be termed corruption, that 50 percent, or less, of those eligible to vote even register: only 50 percent or less of those registered even cast a vote.”
THE FACT: Americans may not be known for their 100 percent civic participation, but Angle’s assessment of the U.S. voting population is misleading, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Angle does not provide a source to support her comment and she doesn’t clarify whether this disgust is happening at the federal, statewide or local level. But because she refers to “Americans,” the AP reviewed national voting estimates.
The Census estimates roughly 71 percent of those eligible to cast a ballot were registered to vote in 2008. Overall, 64 percent of voting-age citizens voted in the 2008 presidential election.
In 2004, 72 percent of those eligible to vote registered. Roughly 64 percent of voting-age citizens voted.
“Historically, the likelihood that an individual will actually vote once registered has been high, and 2008 was no exception. Of all registered individuals, 90 percent reported voting, up slightly from 89 percent in the 2004 presidential election,” the Census report determined.
The Census won’t publish 2010 voting and registration estimates until at least August, a spokeswoman said.
A separate report published by the American National Election Studies and endorsed by the Census shows that more than 52 of registered voters have cast ballots since 1952 except in 1990, when only 47 percent of registered voters voted. Overall, at least 71 percent of registered voters voted in most elections reviewed by the study.
In Nevada, the state does not keep track of how many voting-eligible citizens register to vote. But it does track turnout among registered voters. In the 2010 election where Angle lost to Reid, anywhere from 58 percent to 82 percent of all registered voters in Nevada counties voted.
THE CLAIM: “France gets 85 percent of its electric power from nuclear energy (we get about 20 percent).”
THE FACT: In one chapter titled, “Science Fiction is Not Science,” Angle supports her opinion about the nuclear industry in the United States with a look at France’s energy supply.
It’s true that France, a nation slightly smaller than Texas, uses more electricity generated by nuclear power as a percent of its total electric use than any other nation, but Angle’s 85 percent number is a stretch and the statement lacks context.
The International Atomic Energy Agency estimated in a 2010 report that France gets 74 percent of its power from nuclear energy, far more than any other country. Slovakia, in second place, gets 52 percent of its electricity from nuclear power.
The United States, meanwhile, gets 20 percent of its electricity from nuclear power.
The Nuclear Energy Institute also lists France as the top nation for nuclear generated electricity, at 74 percent. The Institute estimates that nuclear power plants provided 14 percent of the world’s electricity production in 2009 and only 15 countries relied on nuclear energy to supply at least one-quarter of their total electricity. The United States wasn’t one of them.
However, nuclear analysts said France and the United States are two politically and geographically opposite nations, so comparisons based on one measurement are incomplete. France’s energy policies are driven by the government, which decided to focus on nuclear energy after oil shortages in the 1970s. At the time, France had few natural energy resources. The United States’ energy market, however, is dictated by private businesses, which choose which energy type to develop and market.
Overall, the United States has more than 100 nuclear reactors, the most of any country and nearly twice as many as second-place France, which has roughly 58 reactors, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency. The United States also has the highest nuclear capacity in the world, representing nearly a third of total nuclear capacity, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute.
Clearly, France is a leader in the nuclear industry, but Angle’s analysis was incomplete.
“The two countries are pretty different,” said Jeremy Gordon, an analyst with the London-based World Nuclear Association. “One major difference is the state-controlled nature of France’s main utility EDF (the state-owned Electricite de France) and the nuclear technology and services company, Areva (the state-controlled nuclear power company).”