Fact-checking the Kansas Declaration

Barack Obama declared in Kansas this week that his re-election bid would constitute a fight against income inequality.  According to a fact check by the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler, it’s also going to be a fight against hard facts and inconvenient truths.  Obama lashed out at Republicans and George Bush for economic outcomes that have mainly come during his own stewardship of the economy:

Obama’s claim of the “slowest job growth,” in fact, includes the loss of jobs under his administration. The White House provided as evidence a report on a New York Times blog  that was based on gross domestic product data through 2010, or the first two years of Obama’s administration.

The White House also cited a Center on American Progress report on job growth through 2007, which showed monthly job growth of 68,000 jobs during the Bush business cycle. But, since the recession ended, job growth has been even more anemic under Obama — just 40,500 jobs a month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. … [I]t seems odd to keep blaming poor job growth on the Bush tax cuts, especially because Obama himself pushed through a nearly $1 trillion stimulus and took other actions that have affected the economy, for better or worse.

It’s more than just odd — it’s asinine.  The rate cuts took place in 2001 and 2003, and have remained in place ever since.  If they damaged job creation, then we wouldn’t have seen the explosive job growth we did in 2004-2006, when the economy added over 6 million jobs.  The loss of those jobs had nothing to do with the maintenance of existing tax rates, but in a financial crush caused by the collapse in housing prices which turned government-backed mortgage securities largely worthless, wiping out trillions in accumulated capital.

That’s hardly the only asinine assertion in Obama’s speech, though:

Finally, Obama blames the Bush tax cuts for “massive deficits.” It is certainly true that the Bush tax cuts helped blow a hole in the budget. But they did not do it all by themselves. Welooked at length at this issue earlier this year, assisted by new Congressional Budget Office data.

The data showed that the biggest contributor to the disappearance of projected surpluses was increased spending, which accounted for 36.5 percent of the decline in the nation’s fiscal position, followed by incorrect CBO estimates, which accounted for 28 percent. The Bush tax cuts (along with some Obama tax cuts) were responsible for just 24 percent.

Thus it is simply wrong to blame only the Bush tax cuts for the deficits now faced by the country, especially three years into another presidential term.

Kessler misses another problem, which is the massive increase in budgetary and non-budgetary spending by Democrats after taking control of Congress and the White House.  The last fully Republican budget, FY2007, spent $2.77 trillion.  Democrats took control of Congress and raised annual spending levels in just three years by over a trillion dollars, while tax receipts declined because of the deep recession.  On top of that, Obama pushed through an $800 billion stimulus that supposedly was going to restart job creation, and which failed miserably.  Blaming Bush for deficits in 2009, 2010, and 2011 isn’t just wrong, it’s a flat-out lie, and a very self-serving lie at that.

Finally, Kessler strikes at the heart of Obama’s crusade for fairness, which Obama framed thusly: “Some billionaires have a tax rate as low as 1 percent — 1 percent. That is the height of unfairness.”  What factual support did the White House provide for this argument?  Well … none, as Kessler reports.  They took the claim from a Think Progress post about a conversation that took place on Bloomberg TV.  That puts the intellectual substance of this claim, and the entire presidential address, at the same level as a poorly-sourced gossip column.  Kessler did a little research an discovered that more than half of the country’s 400 billionaires had a marginal tax rate of 35% or more, while only 17 had a marginal rate of 0-26% — and even those probably didn’t see much income, but mainly received capital gains instead.

In response to Obama’s nonsense, Kessler gives the President three Pinocchios.  Maybe he should have added an Elmer Gantry or two as well.