Thursday, January 28, 2010

Fact check on SOTU from two sources - "YOU LIE!"


WASHINGTON -- President Obama, who once considered government spending freezes a hatchet job, told Americans on Wednesday it's now part of his solution to the exploding deficit. He didn't explain what had changed.

His State of the Union speech skipped over a variety of complex realities in laying out a "common-sense" call to action.

A look at some of his claims and how they compare with the facts:

OBAMA: "Starting in 2011, we are prepared to freeze government spending for three years. Spending related to our national security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will not be affected. But all other discretionary government programs will. Like any cash-strapped family, we will work within a budget to invest in what we need and sacrifice what we don't."

THE FACTS: The anticipated savings from this proposal would amount to less than one percent of the deficit -- and that's if the president can persuade Congress to go along.

Obama is a convert to the cause of broad spending freezes. In the presidential campaign, he criticized Republican opponent John McCain for suggesting one. "The problem with a spending freeze is you're using a hatchet where you need a scalpel," he said a month before the election. Now, Obama wants domestic spending held steady in most areas where the government can control year to year costs. The proposal is similar to McCain's.

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OBAMA: "I've called for a bipartisan fiscal commission, modeled on a proposal by Republican Judd Gregg and Democrat Kent Conrad. This can't be one of those Washington gimmicks that lets us pretend we solved a problem. The commission will have to provide a specific set of solutions by a certain deadline. Yesterday, the Senate blocked a bill that would have created this commission. So I will issue an executive order that will allow us to go forward, because I refuse to pass this problem on to another generation of Americans."

THE FACTS: Any commission that Obama creates would be a weak substitute for what he really wanted -- a commission created by Congress that could force lawmakers to consider unpopular remedies to reduce the debt, including curbing politically sensitive entitlements like Social Security and Medicare. That idea crashed in the Senate this week, defeated by equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans. Any commission set up by Obama alone would lack authority to force its recommendations before Congress, and would stand almost no chance of success.

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OBAMA: Discussing his health care initiative, he said: "Our approach would preserve the right of Americans who have insurance to keep their doctor and their plan."

THE FACTS: The Democratic legislation now hanging in limbo on Capitol Hill aims to keep people with employer-sponsored coverage -- the majority of Americans under age 65 -- in the plans they already have. But Obama can't guarantee g point of contention for the president. In December, the administration reported that recipients of direct assistance from the government created or saved about 650,000 jobs. The number was based on self-reporting by recipients and some of the calculations were shown to be in error.

The Congressional Budget Office has been much more guarded than Obama in characterizing the success of the stimulus plan. In November, it reported that the stimulus increased the number of people employed by between 600,000 and 1.6 million "compared with what those values would have been otherwise." It said the ranges "reflect the uncertainty of such estimates." And it added: "It is impossible to determine how many of the reported jobs would have existed in the absence of the stimulus package."

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OBAMA: He called for action by the White House and Congress "to do our work openly, and to give our people the government they deserve."

THE FACTS: Obama skipped past a broken promise from his campaign -- to have the negotiations for health care legislation broadcast on C-SPAN "so that people can see who is making arguments on behalf of their constituents, and who are making arguments on behalf of the drug companies or the insurance companies." Instead, Democrats in the White House and Congress have conducted the usual private negotiations, making multibillion-dollar deals with hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and other stakeholders behind closed doors. Nor has Obama lived up consistently to his pledge to ensure that legislation is posted online for five days before it's acted upon.

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OBAMA: "We will continue to go through the budget line by line to eliminate programs that we can't afford and don't work. We've already identified $20 billion in savings for next year."

THE FACTS: Identifying savings is far from achieving them. If the past is any guide, little will result from this exercise because Congress routinely rejects the White House's suggested spending cuts.

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OBAMA: "The United States and Russia are completing negotiations on the farthest-reaching arms control treaty in nearly two decades."

THE FACTS: Despite insisting early last year that they would complete the negotiations in time to avoid expiration of the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty in early December, the U.S. and Russia failed to do so. And while officials say they think a deal on a new treaty is within reach, there has been no breakthrough. A new round of talks is set to start Monday. One important sticking point: disagreement over including missile defense issues in a new accord. If completed, the new deal may arguably be the farthest-reaching arms control treaty since the original 1991 agreement. An interim deal reached in 2002 did not include its own rules on verifying nuclear reductions.

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OBAMA: Drawing on classified information, he claimed more success than his predecessor at killing terrorists: "And in the last year, hundreds of al-Qaida's fighters and affiliates, including many senior leaders, have been captured or killed -- far more than in 2008."

THE FACTS: It is an impossible claim to verify. Neither the Bush nor the Obama administration has published enemy body counts, particularly those targeted by armed drones in the Pakistan-Afghan border region. The pace of drone attacks has increased dramatically in the last 18 months, according to congressional officials briefed on the secret program.
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AP’s ten whoppers from the SOTU speechposted at 9:30 am on January 28, 2010 by Ed Morrissey
Share on Facebook printer-friendly Only ten? Maybe the Associated Press got as tired as everyone else listening to Barack Obama’s lengthy State of the Union speech last night and stopped paying attention after an hour. AP’s headline focuses on the “toothless commission” that Obama demanded, but the other nine fails on their fact-check test are just as interesting and revealing (via Geoff A):
President Barack Obama told Americans the bipartisan deficit commission he will appoint won’t just be “one of those Washington gimmicks.” Left unspoken in that assurance was the fact that the commission won’t have any teeth. …
OBAMA: “I’ve called for a bipartisan fiscal commission, modeled on a proposal by Republican Judd Gregg and Democrat Kent Conrad. This can’t be one of those Washington gimmicks that lets us pretend we solved a problem. The commission will have to provide a specific set of solutions by a certain deadline. Yesterday, the Senate blocked a bill that would have created this commission. So I will issue an executive order that will allow us to go forward, because I refuse to pass this problem on to another generation of Americans.”
THE FACTS: Any commission that Obama creates would be a weak substitute for what he really wanted — a commission created by Congress that could force lawmakers to consider unpopular remedies to reduce the debt, including curbing politically sensitive entitlements like Social Security and Medicare. That idea crashed in the Senate this week, defeated by equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans. Any commission set up by Obama alone would lack authority to force its recommendations before Congress, and would stand almost no chance of success.
Of course, even his first proposal was a rather dishonest dodge of accountability, especially for Democrats. A bipartisan commission that recommended tax hikes as a means of raising revenue would allow Democrats to shove part of the blame for raising taxes in a recession on Republicans. It would allow more of them to tell voters, “Well, we committed to doing what the commission demanded,” or “We had to accept the commission’s findings in toto based on the rules established for it,” or other such nonsense. We already have a bipartisan commission with 535 members to handle budgetary decisions — it’s called Congress.
The other whoppers:
Spending freeze – The AP points out that it will save less than 1% of predicted deficits over the next ten years — and that Obama scoffed at such a plan when John McCain proposed it in 2008.
Health care – Obama said the Democratic plan would allow people to keep their insurance and their doctors, but the bill doesn’t guarantee either. Their plan has massive cuts to Medicare Advantage, which would definitely affect coverage of a large portion of America’s seniors and disabled.
Lobbyists – Obama has not “excluded” lobbyists from his administration; he’s hired over a dozen for key posts, and the AP notes seven of those waivers were for White House posts. Obama called for restrictions on lobbyist contributions, but those already exist.
Two million jobs saved through Porkulus – The CBO puts the theoretical range between 600K and 1.6 million, but also cautions that the methodology of estimating jobs “saved or created” is “uncertain.” The last detailed numbers the White House produced totaled 650,000 — and were found to be highly inaccurate.
Openness: “Obama skipped past a broken promise from his campaign — to have the negotiations for health care legislation broadcast on C-SPAN “so that people can see who is making arguments on behalf of their constituents, and who are making arguments on behalf of the drug companies or the insurance companies.” Instead, Democrats in the White House and Congress have conducted the usual private negotiations, making multibillion-dollar deals with hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and other stakeholders behind closed doors. Nor has Obama lived up consistently to his pledge to ensure that legislation is posted online for five days before it’s acted upon.”
The last two are on the rate of killing al-Qaeda leadership and the status on START talks with Russia. In both cases, the AP suspects that Obama overstates his case, but also reports that it’s difficult to measure either. The US has never given body counts on fighting AQ in the Af-Pak theater, mainly because many of the operations are covert, and because enemy body counts fell out of favor with the Vietnam War and have been only reluctantly shared in other conflicts.
Let me add at least one other whopper that the AP doesn’t mention. Obama repeatedly insisted that he inherited massive budgetary problems from George Bush, but the Con Law professor may want to retake his high-school civics class. Congress passes budgets, not the President, and the last three budgets came from Democrats. In three years, they increased annual federal spending by $900 billion, while the admittedly profligate and irresponsible Republican Congresses under George Bush increased annual federal spending by $800 billion — in six years. And during the last three years before taking office as President, Obama served in the Senate that passed those bills, and he voted for every Democratic budget put in front of him.

1 comment:

Mowhawk on the Dartmouth said...

Will someone please tell this jackass the election is over? Never has a State of the Union sounded so much like a campaign speech. SOTUs aren't for you to lay our your political platform, they're to inform congress of the "state" of our union. Obama used the traditional speech as a plitical platform instead, all the while telling the same lies everyone bought the first time around.