Obama’s Latest Lies

First, let’s get the necessary observation out of the way: What kind of president thinks that “economic policy” = “giving another vague speech“? I’m beginning to think that this guy actually believes that the only reason things aren’t more to his liking is that some people just don’t understand things as well as he does. If he can only find les mots justes, both houses of Congress will vote unanimously to enact some economic paradise of perfect equality and robust growth. After four-and-a-half years of on-the-job-training, he still doesn’t know one single thing about economic policy. His imperviousness–or resistance–to learning is staggering.

Now let’s get to the lies.

1. What Barack Obama says:

“And so what happened was that — (applause) — the — the link between higher productivity and people’s wages and salaries was broken. Used to be that as companies did better, as profits went higher, workers also got a better deal.

And that started changing.”

The facts, via Harvard professor and former head of the National Bureau of Economic Research, Martin Feldstein:

 …the share of national income going to employees is at approximately the same level now as it was in 1970.

Feldstein shows how very important it is to measure total labor compensation instead of wages alone, because “fringe” benefits constitute a much larger share of total worker compensation now than they did years ago. A competent president should recognize this fact.

2. What Barack Obama says:

“We’ve fought our way back. (Cheers, applause.) Together we saved the auto industry…”

Actually, the original “auto bailout” was carried out by the Bush Administration in 2008–even including limits on the salaries of management. What Obama added to the mix was to override normal bankruptcy procedures in order to reorganize GM and Chrysler in ways that maximized the payoffs to key Democratic constituency groups rather than respect the legal claims of bondholders. That’s what people mean by “crony capitalism”. If the bankruptcies had been allowed to take their normal course, autos would still be produced in Detroit.

3. What Barack Obama says:

“Together we … took on a broken health care system…”

I’m not sure what he’s trying to say here, but his wording certainly seems to reveal the man’s fundamental antagonism toward the private sector. Notice that he doesn’t say “we reformed” or “we helped improve” a “pretty good but not perfect” health care system, which any rational supporter of Obamacare might say. No, he took it on, as if he were Batman taking on the Masters of Disaster. It might be a thrilling story, were it not for the unfortunate fact that this grab-bag of job-killing regulations and innovation-retarding taxes is already making it more difficult for individuals to obtain coverage that includes some of the best medical providers in its networks.

And, let me add, the US health care system, which this appalling president describes as having been “broken”, offered the highest standard of care in the world. For everyone. Only the lazy fools who think that simple average life-expectancy data are a good way to measure the performance of a health-care system have ever thought that the US system was “broken”. Anyone who looked at relevant international data like the five-year survival rates from all sorts of cancers would see just how dominant the US has been in effectively treating disease. The system was most certainly not broken before Obama took it on, but he is most certainly doing his part to break it.

4. What Barack Obama says:

“This year we’re off to our strongest private sector job growth since 1999.”

Even the New York Times isn’t swallowing this bullshit, although it does its best to bury its analysis. Our lying leader is fudging the facts here by using the simple number of new jobs rather than the percentage increase in employment those new jobs represent. In 1999, there were a lot fewer Americans than there are today, which is why percentages are the natural way to look at things like job growth. And when looked at that way, the numbers tell us that the economy continues to stagnate under Obama. Let’s just let the NYT state things plainly:

On a percentage basis, by the way, every first half from 1993 through 1999 was better than the 2013 first half.

5. What Barack Obama says:

“The cost of health care is growing at its slowest rate in 50 years.” (Cheers, applause.)

OK, first of all, what he means by “cost of health care” is actually “spending on health care”, which is a very different thing. A cost increase means you get less actual health care per dollar. A spending increase means you spend more dollars on health care, usually because you’re getting more of it.

But leave that aside, since it’s a common mistake. Let’s focus on the growth in spending on health care. Has it slowed? Yes, it has. Is that because of anything Obama’s done? Well, the decline in the rate of growth in health spending began in 2009, so it might well be attributable to the prolonged economic stagnation his policies have brought us. But it’s certainly not due to any of the Obamacare provisions that have gone into effect yet, most of which simply impose new costs on insurers.

Of course, he’s being lawyerly enough here to avoid an outright lie, because he never claims that his policies had anything to do with the declining rate of growth in health-care spending. He simply lets the low-info voters in his audience infer that, which their (Cheers, applause) suggests they did. I mean, they aren’t knowingly cheering for low economic growth, are they?

6. What Barack Obama says:

“And our deficits are falling at the fastest rate in 60 years.”  (Cheers, applause.)

So deficit reduction is a good thing now? We’ve dropped all that “stimulus” crap? Excellent. Something I’m totally on board with, although I think he’s once again using ordinary old numbers when he ought to be discussing this in terms of percentage changes.

7. What Barack Obama says:

“The average American earns less than he or she did in 1999.”

See #1.

He seems to love saying this, presumably as a way to whip up resentment against private employers. Which is the one thing he seems to be good at.

8. What Barack Obama says:

“This growing inequality not just of result, inequality of opportunity, this growing inequality — it’s not just morally wrong; it’s bad economics because when middle-class families have less to spend, guess what? Businesses have fewer consumers.”

Hold on there, my friend. How are all those fat cats getting rich when the businesses they own are losing customers? Not following your logic here, Barack. Think you could, you know, explain that to the fat cats who own stores like Wal-Mart, which I thought was finding more customers than ever thanks to your anti-growth policies?

He goes on:

“And that’s why reversing these trends has to be Washington’s highest priority. (Applause.) It has to be Washington’s highest priority. It’s certainly my highest priority. (Applause.) Unfortunately, over the past couple of years in particular, Washington hasn’t just ignored this problem. Too often, Washington’s made things worse.” (Applause.)

Wow. They love this crap out there in West Bumfuck, Illinois. But I’m thinking, maybe if Obama spent more time  in Washington–where, y’know, he has a house and an office and all that–instead of giving lame speeches to adoring crowds mobilized by Organizing for Obama America Action, he might be able to influence what goes on there. (Yes, I know–crazy talk.)

You might be thinking, “Oh yeah? It’s easy for some obscure blogger like you to criticize the president. But what could he do differently?”

I’m glad you asked that question. Because if he’s really worried about wage stagnation, particularly toward the low end of the income distribution, then there’s something he could do about it–stop the inflow of immigrants whose presence in the labor force depresses low-skilled wages.

But, as you may know, Barack Obama doesn’t want to do that. In fact, he wants to grant a “pathway” to citizenship for all the people who are already here illegally–just about all of whom are low-skilled workers. Now, why on earth would our super-smart president advocate such an immoral (his implication) policy? Could it possibly be that he’s more concerned about signing up more Democratic voters than he is about raising wages at the low end of the distribution? Hmmm….

9. What Barack Obama says:

“Then, rather than reduce our deficits with a scalpel, by cutting out programs we don’t need, fixing ones that we do need that maybe are in need of a reform — making government more efficient — instead of doing that, we’ve got folks who have insisted on leaving in place a meat cleaver called the sequester that’s cost jobs. …”

I must have missed all those smartly targeted spending cuts that were in the last couple of budget proposals sent by the president to the Congress. He totally did that, right? ‘Cause he already bragged about lower deficits (#6 above).

Or is he kind of confused? Because his next sentence started out like this:

“Almost every credible economist will tell you it’s been a huge drag on this recovery…”

So, dramatically lower deficits are really good, unless they’re lower for the wrong reasons. So the next thing in his speech must be where he specifies all the really good spending cuts he proposes, right?

Wrong. Here’s what he says next about that:

“And if you ask some of these folks, some of these folks mostly in the House, about their economic agenda, how it is that they’ll strengthen the middle class, they’ll shift the topic to out-of-control government spending, despite the fact that we’ve cut the deficit by nearly half as a share of the economy since I took office.” (Cheers, applause.)

So I think what he’s saying is that the deficit’s been slashed thanks to higher taxes on the rich. Well, here are the numbers so far:

actual 2012 personal income tax revenues, $1,132 billion

estimated 2013 personal income tax revenues, $1,234 billion

So that’s about a $100 billion increase in personal income taxes collected. No data are yet available on how much of that is from which income groups, but let’s be generous and suppose that it’s all due to the higher tax rate on the upper 2%. Is that what’s driving the deficit reduction Obama’s touting as the fastest in 60 years?

For comparison purposes, Social Security payroll taxes are predicted to rise this year by $110 billion. Remember why?  (The deficit, by the way, is predicted to fall by about $115 billion, or about 10%.)

So President Class Warfare is boasting about a reduction in the deficit that was made possible as much by higher taxes on the middle class as it was by higher taxes on plutocrats, while complaining about the crushing economic impact of a 2.5% increase in spending? Is that right?

What we have here, of course, is a president who only knows how to do one thing–campaign. He can’t seem to stop himself from making accusations of bad faith and evil intent on the part of those with whom he claims he wants to work. Of course, he doesn’t actually want to work with anyone. He doesn’t want to work, period, as far as I can tell.

What he wants is to talk. To community-organize the US into a crappy socialist economy, even though anyone who looks across the Atlantic can see that there’s nothing there but dysfunction.

For the next few years our only hope is the dreaded “gridlock”.

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3 Comments

Filed under Barack Obama, Economics

3 responses to “Obama’s Latest Lies

  1. yashu

    Excellent post, Chip. Glad someone’s deconstructing Obama speeches so skillfully (glad I don’t have to, too much bullshit for my blood, my kidneys can’t take it).

    His rhetorical style is surprisingly consistent. Characteristic patterns in the way he structures the lies and fallacies. Characteristic rhythms and rhymes to his sophistry. The O beat.

  2. Well thought out and detailed post, as usual, Chip. Only time for one quick comment: presiding over deficit reduction, point 6 and echoed in 9, is easy when you begin your term with the largest recorded deficits in history. It’s like a jewelry store marking everything up 100% before declaring a 50% off sale.

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