Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

February 1, 2014

Fact Check: Obama makes overstatements in State of the Union

We found a few overstatements and cherry-picked numbers among the applause lines and proposals in President Obama’s State of the Union address.

He boasted of businesses creating “more than 8 million new jobs” in the last four years. But that leaves out a loss of government jobs, not to mention the loss of jobs earlier in Obama’s presidency.

Obama credited the Affordable Care Act with signing up more than 9 million Americans for private insurance or Medicaid. But Medicaid estimates include renewals, along with new enrollees.

Obama boasted that the U.S. “reduced our total carbon pollution more than any other nation on Earth.” Yes, but the U.S. produces a lot of emissions. Looking at percentage change, dozens of countries did better.

Federal deficits have been “cut by half,” as he said, but they’re still at historically high levels.

It’s also true, as Obama said, that for the first time in 20 years, domestic oil production was greater than imports. But the increase in U.S. production is primarily due to new technology, not government policy.

Analysis

The president spoke to Congress and the nation Jan. 28.

Selective job growth stat

Obama referred to “more than 8 million new jobs our businesses have created over the past four years.” That’s true as far as it goes, but it’s a highly selective statistic.

It’s true that nearly 8.2 million private sector jobs have been added since February 2010, which was the low point of the great job slump that began a year before Obama took office and continued through his first year. But total employment has risen less — by 7.6 million — held back by layoffs of state and local government workers. Obama was technically correct, as he was careful to speak of jobs “our businesses have created.”

His 8 million figure also leaves aside the nearly 4.2 million private sector jobs that were lost between the time he took office and the time the slump bottomed out. Overall, the net job gain since he took office stood at just over 3.2 million (or nearly 4 million if counting only private sector jobs), as of the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics figures for December.

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