For those who watched the (arguably) presidential press conference yesterday, what were the main arguments Barack Obama tried to communicate? Tax breaks for corporate jet owners have gotten in the way of student aid and food safety, that hedge-fund managers and CEOs have never had it so good in taxes, and that he’s making “unprecedented” efforts to reduce government regulations to aid businesses. Most of these claims were laughable on their face, but Glenn Kessler at the Washington Post puts them through the fact-check cycle — and discovers that Obama didn’t tell the truth:
In a bit of class jujutsu, the president six times mentioned eliminating a tax loophole for corporate jets, frequently pitting it against student loans or food safety. It’s a potent image, but in the context of a $4-trillion goal, it is essentially meaningless. The item is so small the White House could not even provide an estimate of the revenue that would be raised, but other estimates suggest it would amount to $3 billion over 10 years.
Meanwhile, student financial assistance, just for 2011, is about $42 billion. So the corporate jet loophole — which involves the fact that such assets can be depreciated over five years, rather than the seven for commercial jets — just is not going to raise a lot of money. It certainly wouldn’t save many student loans.
That “unprecedented” reduction of regulation ignores the 2800 pages of ObamaCare, much of which were placeholders for even more regulation from Health and Human Services. The phrase “The Secretary shall determine” appears dozens of times throughout the bill, if not hundreds, and makes ObamaCare not just a massive amount of regulatory expansion but a massively ambiguous one at that. But Kessler focuses on just the reductions, and declares the statement baseless in even a narrow context:
Watch out when someone says “unprecedented.” It’s almost never true.
That’s the case here. Obama clearly has forgotten Al Gore’s “reinventing initiative,” which supposedly resulted in the elimination of16,000 pages of federal regulations. (Frankly, we were always suspicious of that claim.) Other presidents, such as George H.W. Bush, also pledged to cut down on red tape. It’s a hardy perennial.
Average tax rates are relatively low over the last six decades, but aren’t at their lowest point. The CBO concluded that the effective rates were lowest in 1986, when Ronald Reagan used tax cuts to stimulate the economy. It’s worth pointing out that while Obama seems to be taking credit for historically low tax rates, he’s only doing so to argue for hiking them.
For a bonus, let’s take a look at Obama’s dodge on Libya. He came out swinging on the suggestion that the Libya mission was unconstitutional and poorly handled, saying:
Moammar Gaddafi, who prior to Osama bin Laden was responsible for more American deaths than just about anybody on the planet, was threatening to massacre his people. . . . As a consequence, a guy who was a state sponsor of terrorist operations against the United States of America is pinned down, and the noose is tightening around him.
Kessler points out that Obama himself didn’t seem to think this was a problem before March:
Yes, Gaddafi is a bad guy, but Obama conveniently ignores the fact that until the uprising, the administration was rushing to do business with him. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met with one of Gadhafi’s sons, Mutassim Gadhafi, in 2009, declaring, “I’m very much looking forward to building on this relationship.”
Kessler gives Obama two Pinocchios for his effort yesterday. I’d say that’s letting him off the hook a little too easily.