Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Obama's Reign of Error

Calvin Woodward and Jim Kuhnhenn have prepared a helpful guide to Obama's speech, which subjects the President's many misstatements to the cold hard light of Fact.

Here's the intro:

President Barack Obama knows Americans are unhappy that their taxes will be used to rescue people who bought mansions beyond their means.

But his assurance Tuesday night that only the deserving will get help rang hollow.
That's an odd way to open a fact-checking article...but perhaps it's called for, given the shamelessness of Obama's lies.

Or perhaps not:
OBAMA: "We have launched a housing plan that will help responsible families facing the threat of foreclosure lower their monthly payments and refinance their mortgages. It's a plan that won't help speculators or that neighbor down the street who bought a house he could never hope to afford, but it will help millions of Americans who are struggling with declining home values."

THE FACTS: If the administration has come up with a way to ensure money only goes to those who got in honest trouble, it hasn't said so.
No sane person expects a program of this scale to winnow out every single case of fraud or speculation. Only the most anti-social cranks would consider the program a failure if it didn't, and those people would oppose the program even, or especially, if it were administered flawlessly.

That said, it doesn't seem like it'd be too hard to screen out speculators; you could look at their bank records and tax statements, for starters, and maybe take a gander at the number of other properties they've bought and sold in the last year or two. If I can come up with a couple of valid parameters in two seconds, I assume Obama's team can come up with others. More to the point, it seems kinda obvious that a modest refinancing plan will be of limited use to speculators and frauds.

Granting that Obama's using a bit of poetic license to explain that his program is not designed to bail out wildly irresponsible people, he's doing so advisedly, in response to a specific, longstanding political pathology that views all such programs as handouts to perverts, layabouts, and criminals. (It's basically the opposite of God's calculation in regards to Sodom and Gomorrah: if a city contains even ten unrighteous people, it must be destroyed.)

Obama also claimed that we import more oil than ever before. Au contraire, say Woodward and Kuhnhenn:
Oil imports peaked in 2005 at just over 5 billion barrels, and have been declining slightly since. The figure in 2007 was 4.9 billion barrels, or about 58 percent of total consumption. The nation is on pace this year to import 4.7 billion barrels, and government projections are for imports to hold steady or decrease a bit over the next two decades.

This next "correction" is wonderful, inasmuch as it corrects something Obama didn't actually say:
OBAMA: "Regulations were gutted for the sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market. People bought homes they knew they couldn't afford from banks and lenders who pushed those bad loans anyway. And all the while, critical debates and difficult decisions were put off for some other time on some other day."

THE FACTS: This may be so, but it isn't only Republicans who pushed for deregulation of the financial industries.
But this correction is even better:
OBAMA: "In this budget, we will end education programs that don't work and end direct payments to large agribusinesses that don't need them. We'll eliminate the no-bid contracts that have wasted billions in Iraq, and reform our defense budget so that we're not paying for Cold War-era weapons systems we don't use. We will root out the waste, fraud and abuse in our Medicare program that doesn't make our seniors any healthier, and we will restore a sense of fairness and balance to our tax code by finally ending the tax breaks for corporations that ship our jobs overseas."

THE FACTS: First, his budget does not accomplish any of that. It only proposes those steps.
The importance of this point can't be overemphasized: Obama has not actually done the stuff he says he'll do once his budget is passed. He's simply describing the things he wants to do, in hopes of gaining political support for those policies, much as Hitler did in Mein Kampf.

That's not all. The fraud he's targeting might not add up to much money, when all is said and done. And besides, some people in Congress may fight him. That Obama failed to mention these crucial details is symbolic of the failure of communication that has plagued his moribund presidency.

Before moving on, let's pause over the claim that the savings realized by cutting "waste, fraud and abuse...seldom amount to significant sums," and contrast it to the white-hot outrage over the idea that some "people who bought mansions beyond their means" may get an undeserved helping hand. Fretting over the cost of no-bid contracts in Iraq is an act of sheer pettiness, it seems. But allowing unwise mansion owners to refinance is an affront to the deep moral seriousness of our nation.

The archfiend Obama continues: "Thanks to our recovery plan, we will double this nation's supply of renewable energy in the next three years." As if!
While the president's stimulus package includes billions in aid for renewable energy and conservation, his goal is unlikely to be achieved through the recovery plan alone....If Obama is to achieve his much more ambitious goal, Congress would need to mandate it. That is the thrust of an energy bill that is expected to be introduced in coming weeks.
Touché, I guess.

Last but not least, zOMG Obama LIED about job creation!!
Job creation projections are uncertain even in stable times, and some of the economists relied on by Obama in making his forecast acknowledge a great deal of uncertainty in their numbers.
To be strictly accurate, Obama should've said that his plan might or might not create or save an unknown number of jobs over the next two years. At which point, Woodward and Kuhnhenn could point out that his proposal is laughably vague, and doesn't take into account the likelihood that al-Qaeda will exploit America's current deficit in Decisive Leadership by spraying our cities with smallpox, which could render all Obama's silly little schemes null and void.

Just by way of contrast, here's what actual fact-checking looks like.


Doctor Biobrain said...

Yeah, I also found this sort of "fact" checking to be a bit mind-boggling. Apparently, not only does Obama have to say what he's planning to do, but to be truthful, he also has to explain how his plans might fail, every flaw that his plan entails, what his critics will attack him for, as well as actually having completed the plan before he presents it. They did this sort of thing before the election and it didn't make sense then either.

Of course, it's my guess that this isn't really an issue of ideological bias, but rather that some editor gave the job to an unqualified boob who never was that blessed with critical thinking skills to begin with. But I suppose these days, that's what qualifies as conservativism, so the distinction is fairly moot.

Jazzbumpa said...

Phila -

You have a great blog. I stumbled across it recently, for some now-forgotten reason. You're going to be on my daily reading list.

You have attitude, a keen sense of irony, and you might be even more of a smart ass than I am. Wow!

Playing off Dr.B's comment, I started reading THE CONSERVATIVE MIND by Russell Kirk. I'm only on Pg 30 and have discovered these pillars of the conservative mind set. Honest to God, I am not making this up. They are ignorance, magical thinking, prejudice, and false choices.

Kirk is proud of this stuff. It's terrifying.

ginandtacos said...

I laughed at this. Heartily. Good work. I blog a lot in the format of deconstructing idiotic right-wing attempts at logic, and I can (and do) tip my hat to anyone who hits one out of the park.

LittlePig said...

Well done P. (Thers pointed me here from the Baby Blue Satan).

Anonymous said...

Jeb Bush on "the truth" in 1986, during a visit to Jeb's Bush Codina Realty office in Miami:

"The truth is useless. You have to understand this right now.

"You can't deposit the truth in a bank.

"You can't buy groceries with the truth.

'You can't pay rent with the truth.

'The truth is a useless commodity that will hang around your neck like an albatross -- all the way to the homeless shelter.

"And if you think that the million or so people in this country that are really interested in the truth about their government can support people who would tell them the truth, you got another think coming.

"Because the million or so people in this country that are truly interested in the truth don't have any money."

"Bushwhacked: Inside Stories of True Conspiracy"
By Uri Dowbenko
Paperback: 384 pages; $19.95
Published by New Improved Media Corporation
ISBN: 0971004218
Publication Date: September 2002

Posted by White Male, Jew of Liberal Fascism