Fact-Checking Obama’s State Of The Union Speech
Fact-Checking Obama’s State Of The Union Speech
We already did our post-mortem of last night’s teleprompted annual evangelizing of Barack Obama’s “straight to folks” propaganda that would make both Goebbels and Dzerzhinsky blush. So instead of repeating ourselves, here is AP with its own fact check of what can only be dubbed lie after lie, courtesy of the president of the “free world” and the head of the “most transparent administration ever.”
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AP looks at some of Obama’s claims, and the facts and the political climate behind them:
OBAMA: “At this moment – with a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry and booming energy production – we have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth.”
THE FACTS: By many measures, the economy is still recovering from the deep scars left by the Great Recession.
Job growth has been healthy, but fueled in part by lower-paying jobs in areas such as retail and restaurants, which have replaced many higher-paying positions in manufacturing and construction. Part-time jobs also remain elevated: There are still 1.7 million fewer workers with full-time jobs than when the recession began in December 2007.
And the faster hiring hasn’t pushed up wages much. They have been growing at a tepid pace of about 2 percent a year since the recession ended 5 1/2 years ago. That’s barely ahead of inflation and below the annual pace of about 3.5 percent to 4 percent that is typical of a fully healthy economy.
That has left the income of the typical household below its pre-recession level. Inflation-adjusted median household income reached $53,880 in November 2014, according to an analysis of government data by Sentier Research. That is about 4 percent higher than when it bottomed out in 2011. But it is still 4.5 percent lower than the $56,447 median income in December 2007, the month the recession began.
Booming energy production is indeed a reality, but that’s a phenomenon many years in the making, with the development of cost-effective extraction from fracking and other means playing into the rise of the U.S. as an energy production giant.
OBAMA: “I am sending this Congress a bold new plan to lower the cost of community college – to zero.”
THE FACTS: Zero for qualifying students; an estimated $60 billion over 10 years to the treasury.
Obama confronts a Republican-controlled Congress that can be expected to be wary of a new program costing that much. Moreover, the proposal requires states to contribute about a quarter of the money, and getting them to go along is bound to be tough. Many states refused to expand Medicaid under the health care law, for example, even though Washington is picking up the entire cost in the first years.
On the other hand, community college is an issue close to home for state government, perhaps more appealing than partnering with Washington on the health law, so the idea could have a fighting chance if it can get through Congress. Educators are divided on its merits, with some worrying that aid for a community college education could divert students and scholarships away from four-year schools.
OBAMA: “We’ve set aside more public lands and waters than any administration in history.”
THE FACTS: Waters is the key word here. Before expanding the Pacific Remote Islands National Monument last year from almost 87,000 square miles to more than 490,000 square miles, Obama had protected far fewer acres than his four predecessors, including President George W. Bush.
Expansion of the massive Pacific islands monument puts Obama on top. It’s nearly all water, however, and the move has limited practical implications. While it bans commercial fishing, deep-sea mining and other extraction of underwater resources, little fishing or drilling occur in the mid-ocean region now.
OBAMA: “Thanks to a growing economy, the recovery is touching more and more lives. Wages are finally starting to rise again. We know that more small-business owners plan to raise their employees’ pay than at any time since 2007.”
THE FACTS: A survey of small businesses by the National Federation of Independent Business does show that a rising proportion plans to raise wages. But plans to raise pay aren’t the same as actually raising them.
Average hourly earnings rose just 1.7 percent in December from 12 months earlier, according to the Labor Department. That’s about half the rate that is typical of a healthy economy and actually lower than the previous month. Economists generally expect wage gains to accelerate this year, as unemployment continues to fall and businesses are forced to offer higher pay to attract workers. But there is scant evidence that it is happening yet.
OBAMA: “In Iraq and Syria, American leadership – including our military power – is stopping ISIL’s advance. Instead of getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East, we are leading a broad coalition, including Arab nations, to degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist group. We’re also supporting a moderate opposition in Syria that can help us in this effort.”
THE FACTS: The U.S. also has been slow to set up long-promised training for the moderate Syrian opposition, and has yet to begin the actual vetting of the rebels. Also, despite persistent pleas from the rebels, the U.S. hasn’t sent the more lethal weapons they want. U.S. officials have expressed concerns that the weapons could end up in the hands of insurgents.
Military leaders, however, agree that coalition airstrikes and the military effort in Syria and Iraq have stopped the momentum of the Islamic State group, or ISIL, made it hard for the insurgents to communicate and travel, and hurt their oil revenues.