During the debates and politicking in Iowa this month, there has been a lot of “truth” bandied about regarding the President’s performance and his long-term successes and failures. The one issue that can be taken with their discussion is that they are really not very factual. As President Obama said, “You are entitled to your opinion, but not your own facts!”
Let’s start with Michelle Bachmann‘s story of the recession.
Bachmann gave a false and confused comparison of debt figures under President Bush and under President Obama. She said in 2007 “our debt for the entire year was $160 billion,” but under Obama, “we’re going into debt $1.5 trillion every year.” It’s true that the federal budget deficit (not the “debt”) for fiscal year 2007 was $161 billion, one of the lowest annual shortfalls during Bush’s term. It shot up to $459 billion the following year, which started and ended with Bush still in office and signing all the spending bills.
The truth is less tortured and complicated. According to the fact checkers at Politifact and the Huffington Post,
In fact, total debt went up by $4.9 trillion, an 85.5 percent increase, from the day before Bush was inaugurated in 2001 until Jan. 20, 2009, when Obama took office. Under Obama, the debt has gone up by $4.47 trillion, a 42 percent jump. Of course, Obama has only been in office less than three years, and Bush was president for eight. Clearly, the debt has been increasing at a faster rate under Obama, but Bachmann twists her figures to make the difference look far larger than it actually is.
This inaccuracy didn’t stop any of the other Republican Candidates either. Candidate Mitt Romney was discussing the deficit in the December 15, 2011 debate with other candidates when he said:
“We all understand that the spending crisis is extraordinary, with $15 trillion now in debt, with a president that’s racked up as much debt as almost all of the other presidents combined.”
That term “almost‘” as noted above has made it difficult to decide the accuracy of the claim. Still, it must be recognized that no matter how you parse that sentence, it isn’t true with the gross federal debt, nor is it true for the public debt. Either way, it’s mis-stated.
This list would not be complete without taking the words of the colorful and very controversial ex-Speaker Newt Gingrich. His mis-statements and “over the top” allegations are not only interesting in their time, they are usually very wrong.
“This is actually weird . . . I’ve been investigating this for the last three days. I am told that this is actually a 20- or 30-year-old law, which I have to say I find strange, and I would advocate repealing the law. Apparently if the president sends out Christmas cards, they are paid for the Democratic or Republican National Committees because no federal official at any level is currently allowed to say ‘Merry Christmas.’ And the idea, I think, is that the government should be neutral. … I’m going to go back and find out how was this law written, when was it passed. We’ve had this whole — in my mind — very destructive attitude in the last 50 years that we have to drive religion out of public life.”
Not true. This allegation collected a “pants on fire” from Politifact, and a series of Pinocchio guys from the Post. When challenged on his activities with the mortgage giant “Freddie Mac” he stated:
Gingrich took the broad view to defend his position, saying “when you look for example at electric membership co-ops, and you look at credit unions, there are a lot of government sponsored enterprises that are awfully important and do an awfully good job.”
This also earned a huge “pants on fire” from Politifact. In actuality, while neither pays taxes to the federal or state government, no one has ever referred to an electric co-op as a GSE.
The truth is factually accurate and tends to find it’s way to everyone. When politicians start creating their own “Truths” for the purpose of creating confusion, or worse, self-aggrandizing, truth will become even more potent. It is necessary to be certain of your facts if you are running for President of The United States. There are just too many people who need help to take chances with the truth. It is up to all of us to make sure that the truth is as powerful a message to people as the untruths that have been spread.
- Paul Abrams: PaulitiFact’s Top 10 Lies of 2011 (huffingtonpost.com)
- Bachmann Busted By PolitiFact On Claim About PolitiFact (huffingtonpost.com)