Fact-checkers look at Obama and immigration decision, Deal and taxes

How does PolitiFact Georgia’s Truth-O-Meter work?

Our goal is to help you find the truth in American politics. Reporters from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution fact-check statements by local, state and national political leaders, including lobbyists and interest groups. We then rate them on the AJC Truth-O-Meter.

To fact-check a claim, reporters first contact the speaker to verify the statement. Next, the research begins. Reporters consult a variety of sources, including industry and academic experts. This research can take hours or a few days or even longer, depending on the claim. Reporters then compile the research into story form and include a recommended Truth-O-Meter ruling.

The fact check then moves on to a panel of veteran editors who debate the statement and the reporter’s recommended Truth-O-Meter ruling. The panel votes on a final ruling; majority prevails.

Truth-O-Meter rulings

The goal of the Truth-O-Meter is to reflect the relative accuracy of a statement.

The meter has six ratings, in decreasing level of truthfulness:

TRUE – The statement is accurate and there’s nothing significant missing.

MOSTLY TRUE – The statement is accurate but needs clarification or additional information.

HALF TRUE – The statement is partially accurate but leaves out important details or takes things out of context.

MOSTLY FALSE – The statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression.

FALSE – The statement is not accurate.

PANTS ON FIRE – The statement is not accurate and makes a ridiculous claim.

PolitiFact scribes last week dissected statements on immigrants and the president’s authority to address the topic. We also took a look back at a 2010 campaign promise of soon-to-be two-term Gov. Nathan Deal.

First up was a claim about people living here who were not born here. Then it was the president’s own words put to the Truth-O-Meter: “My position hasn’t changed” on using executive authority to address immigration issues.

Lastly, we tackled a Thanksgiving-appropriate fact check: Has Tom Turkey become Tubby Turkey?

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Abbreviated versions of our fact checks are below.

Full versions can be found at www.politifact.com/georgia/.

Nathan Deal 2010 campaign promise: Will cut corporate income taxes by one-third.

Republican Nathan Deal promised in 2010 that, if elected governor, he would cut the state corporate income tax rate from 6 percent to 4 percent.

“We need to give businesses in Georgia every possible incentive to create new jobs, as well as preserve the jobs we have now,” Deal said on Oct. 13, 2010.

Four years later, Deal is preparing to assume a second four-year term as governor. He has signed into law a series of tax breaks. But he is no longer talking of reducing Georgia’s corporate income tax rate to 4 percent.

“We discussed a corporate tax cut, but, when we talked to businesses, we found a better way,” Jen Talaber, a Deal spokeswoman, told PolitiFact. “In the end, we still lowered taxes for job creators.”

Instead, Deal supported a series of tax breaks that will cost the state less money.

We ruled his 2010 pledge to reduce the corporate income tax a Promise Broken.

Barack Obama during a press conference Nov. 16 in Australia: “My position hasn’t changed” on using executive authority to address immigration issues.

President Barack Obama’s decision to act unilaterally without going through Congress on immigration is controversial. But could it also be a change in direction for the Obama administration?

When asked to explain why he suddenly feels he can use executive action to address immigration issues, Obama said, “My position hasn’t changed.”

Obama has been asked about his ability to use his office to change immigration rules in the U.S. in many ways throughout the years. Sometimes, he has been asked broadly. But other times, he was asked about very specific measures, such as not splitting up families or freezing deportations for parents of DREAMers.

In answering those questions, Obama’s position has clearly changed. Whereas he used to say his ability to take action ended at deferring action on DREAMers, he now is saying there are at least some things he can do.

We rated the president’s statement that his position hasn’t changed as False.

Mother Jones in a Facebook post Monday: “Turkeys today weigh 29.8 pounds. In the ’30s, they weighed 13.2 pounds.”

The liberal magazine Mother Jones made a timely claim on its Facebook page: “Turkeys today weigh 29.8 pounds. In the ’30s, they weighed 13.2 pounds.”

The claim was posted Monday, three days before Thanksgiving.

It made our mouths water and, well, whet our appetite for some holiday fact-checking.

The Facebook post took us to a November 2013 report from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economics & Statistics Administration.

That report contained the figures Mother Jones cited, saying turkeys have more than doubled in weight — from an average of 13.2 pounds in 1929 to 29.8 pounds in 2012.

We found that, if anything, Mother Jones might be light on its claim.

The average weight for 2013 is actually a half-pound higher, at 30.3 pounds, said Michael Klamm, an agricultural statistician at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

We rated the statement True.

Rick Santorum during an interview Nov. 23 on CNN’s “State of the Union”: “There are more people living in this country who were not born here than at any time in the history of the country.”

Former GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum warns that President Barack Obama’s recently announced executive action will entice more illegal immigrants and

hurt the American-born population that he said is struggling for better employment and wages.

“The last 20 years have been the largest wave of immigration in the history of this country, ” Santorum said. “There are more people living in this country who were not born here than at any time in the history of the country.”

In terms of the absolute number of foreign-born individuals living in the United States, Santorum is correct.

However, in terms of the number of immigrants as a percentage of the total population, he’s not. Immigrants made up a bigger share of the total population from 1860 to 1920 than they do today.

Whether it’s even worthwhile to compare immigration levels of today with other points in U.S. history is up for debate, given drastic economic and political shifts over time.

We rated Santorum’s statement as Half True.