Obama presser: Does Obama pay attention?

posted at 8:18 am on February 10, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

An oft-repeated aphorism instructs us that we can have our own opinions, but not our own facts — or at least not unless we get to stand behind the podium at the White House.  When Barack Obama explained his economic package last night to the American people in a prime-time press conference, he made two flat-out false statements regarding his opposition.  He also added a completely incorrect reading of history, one that turns out to be very instructive about his own economic incompetence.

First, let’s start with his lies (and that’s not too strong a word) about Republicans:

As I said, the one concern I’ve got on the stimulus package, in terms of the debate and listening to some of what’s been said in Congress is that there seems to be a set of folks who — I don’t doubt their sincerity — who just believe that we should do nothing. Now, if that’s their opening position or their closing position in negotiations, then we’re probably not going to make much progress, because I don’t think that’s economically sound and I don’t think what — that’s what the American people expect, is for us to stand by and do nothing.

Republicans in both the House and Senate have offered at least two alternative stimulus packages.  None of them demanded that Obama “do nothing”.  In fact, it was the Congressional Budget Office and not Republicans that suggested that doing nothing might have a better effect than the Obama/Pelosi/Reid stimulus bill, as our friends at Power Line point out.

This lie is particularly egregious, as Nancy Pelosi locked Republicans out of drafting the bill altogether.  Barack Obama talked about his own initiatives to reach across the aisle by naming three Republicans to his Cabinet, but what he didn’t mention was his and Pelosi’s version of bipartisanship in drafting the bill, which amounted to “we won”.  Had Republicans been given an opportunity to work on the bill, it would have been somewhat smaller with a different set of tax cuts, but probably in a range from $450-600 billion, which is what their alternatives proposed — and it would have gotten overwhelming support in Congress.

Second lie:

My administration inherited a deficit of over $1 trillion, but because we also inherited the most profound economic emergency since the Great Depression, doing little or nothing at all will result in ever — even greater deficits, even greater job loss, even greater loss of income and even greater loss of confidence. …

But what I — what I’ve been concerned about is some of the language that’s been used suggesting that this is full of pork and this is wasteful government spending, so on and so forth. First of all, when I hear that from folks who presided over a doubling of the national debt, then, you know, I just want them to not engage in some revisionist history. I inherited the deficit that we have right now and the economic crisis that we have right now.

Obama tried a couple of times to lay the deficit off on the Republicans, but more than half of that deficit came from the bailouts of last year, which the Democrats pushed through Congress.  Republicans balked at the massive TARP program, which Obama criticized in his press conference last night.  The Bush administration didn’t partner with Republican leadership to get that passed; they had to get the Democrats to pass it, and Democrats have controlled Congress for the last two years.  And the economic crisis came from the collapse of the housing market bubble created by the kind of intervention Obama proposes.

And now the historic illiteracy of Barack Obama:

I think that what I’ve said is what other economists have said across the political spectrum, which is that if you delay acting on an economy of this severity, then you potentially create a negative spiral that becomes much more difficult for us to get out of.

We saw this happen in Japan in the 1990s, where they did not act boldly and swiftly enough, and as a consequence they suffered what was called the “lost decade,” where essentially for the entire ’90s, they did not see any significant economic growth.

Er, what? Even the New York Times knows that Japan acted too swiftly, too boldly, and ran up massive deficits on infrastructure work that never stimulated the economy:

Japan’s rural areas have been paved over and filled in with roads, dams and other big infrastructure projects, the legacy of trillions of dollars spent to lift the economy from a severe downturn caused by the bursting of a real estate bubble in the late 1980s. During those nearly two decades, Japan accumulated the largest public debt in the developed world — totaling 180 percent of its $5.5 trillion economy — while failing to generate a convincing recovery. …

In the end, say economists, it was not public works but an expensive cleanup of the debt-ridden banking system, combined with growing exports to China and the United States, that brought a close to Japan’s Lost Decade. This has led many to conclude that spending did little more than sink Japan deeply into debt, leaving an enormous tax burden for future generations.

In other words, Obama gets an F in economic history despite supposedly having the best and brightest cribbers working on his staff.  He gets an F for honesty as well as an D- on bipartisanship.  It’s a lousy start to his four-year class on how to be an executive.

Update: The Anchoress says Obama knows his history all too well:

I disagree with Ed about the history part. Obama understands history very well. He understands that if you lie about history enough, then the lie becomes the “truth” as far as the populace is concerned. Just like when Obama spoke to al-Arabiya TV and completely mischaracterized the “last 20-30 years” history between the Arab nations in the Middle East and the US. “A lie told often enough becomes the truth” who said that first? Oh, right… it was first said by Lenin! See Ed? Obama knows history! And too many of us have forgotten.


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