Sara Gonzales reports: The Washington Post marked the end of the Obama administration with a list Thursday that likely didn’t please the outgoing president’s supporters.
For the last five years, the Post has made its political Fact Checker a staple of the publication. Ranked by “Pinocchios,” contenders receive one Pinocchio for a little lie and can earn up to four Pinocchios for the most outrageous of fibs.
Though the Post ran its trademark Fact Checker during President Barack Obama’s first campaign, it wasn’t until 2011 that it became a fixture there, so admittedly the publication missed some blatant dishonesty.
But the newspaper has fact-checked more than 250 statements made by the current president. On his last full day in office, the Post published a catalogue of Obama’s 10 biggest lies.
Included on the list, unsurprisingly, was Obama’s statement to the American public while rallying for Congress to pass his signature health-care legislation, Obamacare: “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it.”
“If you like your health-care plan, you can keep it”
This memorable promise by Obama backfired on him in 2013 when the Affordable Care Act went into effect and at least 2 million Americans started receiving cancellation notices. As we explained, part of the reason for so many cancellations is because of an unusually early (March 23, 2010) cutoff date for grandfathering plans — and because of tight regulations written by the administration. So the uproar could be pinned directly on the administration’s own actions.
Another whopper was Obama’s claim that all but 10 percent of the federal deficit was due to former President George W. Bush’s policies. Pushing back against criticisms of running up the deficit at an unparalleled rate with stimulus packages and bailouts, Obama made this claim during his 2012 campaign.
“90 percent of the budget deficit is due to George W. Bush’s policies”
During the 2012 campaign, Obama repeatedly reminded voters that he became president during a grim economic crisis. But he went too far when he claimed that only 10 percent of the federal deficit was due to his own policies. About half of the deficit stemmed from the recession and forecasting errors, but a large chunk (44 percent in 2011) were the result of Obama’s actions. At another point, Obama also falsely suggested that the Bush tax cuts led to the Great Recession.
And throughout Obama’s two terms in office, he has been quick to dismiss clear acts of terrorism — using phrases like “workplace violence” or blaming a YouTube video for an attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya. The Post also included his categorization of the Benghazi attack as “an act of terror” and his reference to ISIS as a “JV team.”
“The day after Benghazi happened, I acknowledged that this was an act of terrorism”
Obama did refer to an “act of terror” in the immediate aftermath of the 2012 Benghazi attacks, but in vague terms, wrapped in a patriotic fervor. He never affirmatively stated that the American ambassador died because of an “act of terror.” Then, over a period of two weeks, given three opportunities in interviews to affirmatively agree that the Benghazi attack was a terrorist attack, the president obfuscated or ducked the question. So this was a case of taking revisionist history too far for political reasons. Read the rest of this entry »
President Barack Obama rejected the idea of a bigger meaning in the election results.
Sarah Wheaton writes: Sure, the Democrats suffered crushing losses last week, President Barack Obama acknowledged Monday. But, he argued, it wasn’t any sort of repudiation of his party leadership or presidency.
If Obama has done any second-guessing since President-elect Donald Trump’s shocking victory last week, he didn’t betray any of it during his most extensive set of comments since the election.
In a press conference and in two separate conference calls with supporters, Obama rejected the idea of a bigger meaning in the election results. His policies? Helped millions and maybe even billions. His personal popularity? Still sky-high. His party? Well, he was busy with Syria and the economy – you can’t expect him to do everything.
“We are indisputably in a stronger position today than we were when I came in eight years ago. Jobs have been growing for 73 straight months. Incomes are rising. Poverty is falling. The uninsured rate is at the lowest level on record. Carbon emissions have come down without impinging on our growth,” Obama said during Monday’s press conference, his first since Election Day.
“We’ve helped millions of people in this country and probably billions of people around the world,” he added on another call with donors, elected officials and other supporters organized by the Democratic National Committee.
During the campaign, as Trump threatened to undo much of what Obama is most proud of — whether it was tearing up his landmark executive order on carbon limits, reneging on the Iran deal or repealing Obamacare — Obama saw justification to argue repeatedly that “our progress is on the ballot.”
But on Monday, Obama shot down the idea that rhetoric like what he used on the campaign trail should be taken seriously.
“This notion that somehow all the work we did suddenly gets stripped away,” Obama said on the DNC call. “Let me tell you something: We got more done than any administration in the last who-knows-how-many decades and if they roll back 15 or 20 percent of that, we’re still 80 percent ahead.”
He added, “And that’s not going to be as easy as I think some people feel, particularly if we continue to make the case and mobilize.” Read the rest of this entry »
(Washington, D.C.) – The Senate Ethics Committee has cavalierly dismissed a June 25, 2015 complaint from the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW) and nine other signatories alleging that senators or Senate employees committed fraud and broke federal laws when they submitted applications to the Washington, D.C. Small Business Exchange, claiming status as a “small business.” As a result, rather than being subjected to the Obamacare healthcare exchange as individuals, senators and their staff were able to buy insurance and qualify for taxpayer-funded subsidies as employer and employees. The September 21, 2016 response from the committee stated that the allegations had been “carefully evaluated” and “that there had been no violation of Senate Rules.” The committee made clear that it would not reconsider its decision or take any further action.
“The Senate and Senate offices are plainly not small businesses. The falsified documents were a blatant attempt by senators to shield themselves from the harmful effects of Obamacare. This committee’s arbitrary and capricious decision is another sad example of why taxpayers have such contempt for their elected officials.”
The Affordable Care Act (ACA), better known as ObamaCare, required members of Congress and their staff to enroll in individual plans through the new healthcare exchanges. As open enrollment approached in 2014, members and staff realized that by enrolling as individuals, they would no longer receive generous taxpayer-funded contributions to help pay their insurance premiums as they had for decades under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. They would instead only qualify for subsidies if their household income was less than 400 percent of the federal poverty level, just like tens of millions of other Americans who had to purchase insurance in the individual market.
To get around this problem, senators from both sides of the aisle worked with the White House and the Office of Personnel Management to convince the agency to issue special guidance permitting them and their staff to enroll in the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP), which was also created under Obamacare. The applications that were submitted to the D.C. Small Business Exchange farcically claimed that the Senate and/or each Senate office is a small business with fewer than 50 employees. The employer was identified as “Twenty Congress,” and the statements were sworn to be true. Read the rest of this entry »
Lawmakers, press and the public need to understand the strength of this “doubling down” phenomenon of and guard against it when adopting policy positions.
In simplified form, the dynamic runs as follows:
1) Government, in response to a perceived need, takes action to meet that need in a manner that distorts economic behavior and produces predictable adverse effects.
2) The public consequently experiences problems and expresses concern.
3) The problems themselves become justification for additional government actions that worsen the distortions and the resultant problems.
4) As problems worsen, the public more urgently demands corrective actions.
5) Steps #3 and #4 are repeated ad infinitum.
We have seen and continue to see this dynamic operate in many areas of economic policy. To cite but a few:
Worker Health Benefits
With the best of intentions the federal government has long exempted worker compensation in the form of health benefits from income taxation. Lawmakers aren’t scaling back the flawed policy that fuels these problems.There is wide consensus among economists that the results of this policy have been highly deleterious. As I have written previously, this tax exclusion “depresses wages, it drives up health spending, it’s regressive, and it makes it harder for people with enduring health conditions to change jobs or enter the individual insurance market.” Lawmakers have reacted not by scaling back the flawed policy that fuels these problems, but rather by trying to shield Americans from the resulting health care cost increases. This has been done through the enactment of additional health programs and policies that further distort health markets and which themselves drive personal and government health spending still higher.
Federal Health Programs
The federal government has enacted programs such as Medicare and Medicaid to protect vulnerable seniors and poor Americans from ruinous health care costs.
The positive benefits of these programs co-exist with well-documented adverse effects. For example, it is firmly established that creating these programs pushed up national health spending, driving health costs higher for Americans as a whole. Consumer displeasure over these health cost increases subsequently became a rationale for still more government health spending, rather than reducing government’s contribution to the problem. Examples of this doubling down include the health exchange subsidies established under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), as well as its further expansion of Medicaid. As the problem of high health care costs remains, proposals have proliferated to expand government’s role still further; for example, some have proposed making Medicare available to the entire US population. Though intended to provide relief, such legislation inevitably adds to national health spending growth. Read the rest of this entry »