Thursday night's vice presidential debate was heavy on both theater and substance. Shortly after the MSNBC panel gave Joe Biden high marks for his combative debating persona, MSNBC contributor Ezra Klein fact-checked the policy substance of Paul Ryan's response. Regarding both the economic recovery and his own record on Medicare and Social Security, Klein said, Ryan just didn't have his facts straight.
For example, Klein said, Ryan misled when he claimed that the economy had gotten worse under the Obama administration. The Republican candidate advanced that claim when talking about Biden's home town of Scranton, Pa.
"Do you know what the unemployment rate in Scranton is today?" he said. "It's 10%. You know what it was the day you guys came in? 8.5%. That's how it's going all around America."
"In fact, that's just completely not true," Klein said. The nationwide unemployment has not risen since Obama took office. "In January 2009, unemployment was 7.8%; today, nationally, it's 7.8%. So it went up, and it came back down. And if you go from February of 2009, which is the first full month of Barack Obama's presidency, it was above 8% already. So it is actually lower than when Obama entered office."
Ryan, Klein said, was trying to suggest that there was no recovery. But in fact, "we are having a slow recovery, but it is a recovery, and things are getting better."
Klein also fact-checked Ryan's insistence that he and Romney were "not going to jeopardize" Medicare and Social Security. Debate moderator Martha Raddatz replied that Ryan had "stood with [President George W.] Bush on privatization" of Social Security.
"It wasn't just that Paul Ryan stood with Bush on privatization," said Klein. "He actually stood well to the right of Bush on privatization." In fact, he said, Peter Wehner—a member of Bush's own economic team—called Ryan's privatization plan "irresponsible."
Ryan "continued to promote different forms or privatization throughout the next decade," Klein added.
"If you saw what happened to George W. Bush with Social Security," summarized MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, "if you liked that, buckle up."