FACT CHECK: 10 Dubious Claims from Obama’s State of the Union
Lachlan Markay /
President Obama made a number of questionable statements in his State of the Union address on Tuesday night. Heritage experts took on some of the policy issues he raised, but we at Scribe thought we would address the simple factual accuracy of 10 of the more outlandish statements from the president.
Quotes are drawn from the president’s prepared remarks.
Claim: “On the day I took office, our auto industry was on the verge of collapse. Some even said we should let it die. With a million jobs at stake, I refused to let that happen … And together, the entire industry added nearly 160,000 jobs.”
Fact: Using the relevant dates, that number is actually between 33,000 and 63,000.
It appears the president is comparing today’s auto industry employment with numbers from November 2009. The industry – vehicle and parts manufacturers, dealers, wholesalers, and repair and maintenance shops – employs 158,900 more people today than it did then, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But why choose November 2009? When comparing today’s employment with the month the president took office or with the month during which the federal bailout took place, the numbers are not nearly as impressive. Since February 2009, when Obama was inaugurated, the industry has added only 33,700 jobs. Since the following month, when General Motors and Chrysler were bailed out, it has added 63,100 – nearly 100,000 fewer than Obama claimed.
Claim: “It’s not fair when foreign manufacturers have a leg up on ours only because they’re heavily subsidized.”
Fact: Obama has targeted manufacturers with punitive tax hikes.
According to the National Association of Manufacturers, it is, on average, 20 percent more expensive to do business in the United States than it is abroad. The reasons: “our policies on taxes, energy, tort, and trade.” American policies cause that imbalance, not subsidies by other countries.
And while Obama touted manufacturing on numerous occasions during his speech, he has backed policies that would deal body blows to American manufacturing. His incessant refrain to raise taxes on high-income individuals by allowing the Bush tax rates to expire would also ensnare more than 70 percent of manufacturers, according to NAM. “President Obama’s call for tax increases on small businesses, individuals and investors is a poison pill for our economy,” noted NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons.
Claim: “[M]y administration has put more boots on the border than ever before.”
Fact: The vast majority of that increase was proposed and implemented before Obama took office.
Congress passed the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act in 2004, which called for adding at least 2,000 border patrol agents per year. President Bush followed up by sending another 6,000 agents to the border. When that mandate was fulfilled, there were 20,119 active border patrol agents. As of last summer, there were 20,700.
Claim: “We’re also making it easier for American businesses to sell products all over the world. Two years ago, I set a goal of doubling U.S. exports over five years. With the bipartisan trade agreements we signed into law, we’re on track to meet that goal ahead of schedule.”
Fact: Obama chose to delay seeking congressional approval of those agreements for more than two years.
Congress waited for the president to send the free-trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. He “call[ed] on Congress to pass them without delay,” but it was his administration that was delaying consideration of the measures while it worked to shore up political support and tie stimulus-like spending programs to the agreements.
Claim: “American oil production is the highest that it’s been in eight years.”
Fact: No thanks to Obama.
The president made a similar claim while informing Americans that he would forego the economic windfalls of the Keystone XL pipeline. He did not mention, of course, that the vast majority of that production has occurred on private lands.
On federal land, over which the president has control, oil and gas production is down by 40% under Obama. He has actively pursued policies that limit oil and gas exploration on federal land. There were fewer onshore leases in 2010 than in any year since 1984. The Obama administration held only a single offshore lease sale in 2011.
Claim: “[W]ith only 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves, oil isn’t enough.”
Fact: The United States has more recoverable oil than the rest of the non-North American world combined.
The 2 percent statistic is a frequent canard of this administration, but is woefully misleading when used to suggest, as Obama clearly did, that the country only has 2 percent of the world’s oil. In fact, the 2 percent figure refers to the amount of oil that is recoverable at current prices and under lands currently available for development.
According to recent study by the Institute for Energy Research, the United States has more than 1.4 trillion barrels of recoverable oil, more than the rest of the world (excluding North America) combined. That’s enough to fuel every passenger car in the country for 430 years. As IER explains, in what could be a direct response to the president’s claim, “It is merely semantics—not a scientific assessment of what America has the capacity to produce—that allows critics to claim repeatedly that America is running out of energy.”
Furthermore, Obama’s Energy Information Administration, noted Heritage’s David Kreutzer, predicts a steady rise in U.S. reserves even on land currently available for exploration. “It projects that improvements in technology and the economics of extraction, production, and sales actually will lead to a 23.7 percent increase in U.S. reserves,” Kreutzer wrote, “even after extracting billions of barrels of oil in the interim.”
Claim: “[I]t was public research dollars, over the course of 30 years, that helped develop the technologies to extract all this natural gas out of shale rock – reminding us that government support is critical in helping businesses get new energy ideas off the ground.”
Fact: Government funding only marginally contributed to the development of hydraulic fracturing.
The federal government began spending money on natural gas extraction research during the oil crisis in the late 1970s, noted CNN in its own “fact check.” The methods they tested – which included setting off nuclear weapons underground – were expensive and ineffective. Federal support declined as gas prices went back down. Private companies, not the federal government, developed hydraulic fracturing technology that has allowed gas to be extracted inexpensively and en masse.
Claim: “[W]e don’t have to choose between our environment and our economy.”
Fact: Obama just rejected both.
The president killed TransCanada’s application for the Keystone XL pipeline due, he claimed, to insufficient information on its environmental impact. But Obama’s own State Department had already concluded that the pipeline posed “limited adverse environmental impacts during both construction and operation.”
The Keystone XL pipeline would have been an economic windfall, and an environmentally sound project. So the president is correct that we don’t have to choose between a strong economy and environmental stewardship. He seems intent on choosing neither.
Claim: “I ask the Senate to pass a simple rule that all judicial and public service nominations receive a simple up or down vote within 90 days.”
Fact: The president has already demonstrated his complete lack of respect for the separation of powers.
After making his four illegal recess appointments to federal office, the president now wants to impose a timeline on the Senate’s advice and consent duties. And while it’s heartening that he will at least pay lip service to those duties, Obama’s insistence that he will pursue his agenda “with or without this Congress” suggests he is ready and willing to yet again spurn the Constitution he is sworn to uphold.
Claim: “Do we want to keep these tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans? Or do we want to keep our investments in everything else – like education and medical research; a strong military and care for our veterans? Because if we’re serious about paying down our debt, we can’t do both.”
Fact: Entitlements drive our national debt, not discretionary spending or tax rates.
This false dichotomy underscores one of the largest omissions of the State of the Union speech. It is not tax cuts that threaten the “investments” the president describes; it is entitlement spending, especially Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. In less than 10 years, as Heritage’s Patrick Louis Knudsen noted last night, total entitlement spending will cost almost as much as the entire federal budget today, crowding out other programs (such as national defense).
Reforming entitlements would eliminate the need for either cuts to Obama’s favorite federal programs or ruinous tax hikes. But the president neglected to discuss entitlement reform in the State of the Union.