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.That's an odd way to open a fact-checking article...but perhaps it's called for, given the shamelessness of Obama's lies.
But his assurance Tuesday night that only the deserving will get help rang hollow.
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."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.
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.
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.Impeach!
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."But this correction is even better:
THE FACTS: This may be so, but it isn't only Republicans who pushed for deregulation of the financial industries.
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 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.
THE FACTS: First, his budget does not accomplish any of that. It only proposes those steps.
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.