5 Obama quotations

The Washington Post /

“Independent analysis shows that my plan would cut our deficits by $4 trillion. Last summer, I worked with Republicans in Congress to cut $1 trillion in spending.”

Obama repeated a claim made by former President Bill Clinton the night before, but even less accurately. Clinton referred to a “plan of $4 trillion in debt reduction over a decade.” Obama leaves off the time line and makes it sound like the current $1 trillion deficit would be eliminated, resulting in a surplus.

But, while the numbers seem large, the results are unimpressive. At the end of the 10-year budget window, Obama would have the national debt at a 76.5 percent of gross domestic product. That actually would be an increase over the 74.2 percent of GDP in this year. In contrast, the debt reduction plan envisioned by the Simpson-Bowles commission — cited by the president — would reduce the debt-to-GDP ratio close to 60 percent.

Moreover, independent analysts have criticized the administration for claiming some $800 billion in phantom savings from winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, even though the administration had long made clear those wars would end. (The Bush administration had started the wars on borrowed funds.) Then, the president proposes to spend a good chunk of the nonexistent money on other spending — as he put it in his speech, “rebuilding roads and bridges; schools and runways.”

The $1 trillion in savings negotiated with Republicans, mentioned by the president, actually accounts for the bulk of his proposed reduction in spending. Indeed, much of the president’s debt reduction would come from tax increases on the wealthy, not spending cuts.

“We will keep the promise of Social Security by taking the responsible steps to strengthen it — not by turning it over to Wall Street.”

This is a bit of a straw man. Romney briefly supported private accounts as part of Social Security in the 2008 campaign but no longer does.

In his 2010 book, “No Apology,” Romney makes it clear that the 2008 stock market turmoil had changed his thinking on the issue. “The 2008 stock market collapse is proof, however, that we can’t always count on positive returns from these investments,” Romney writes. He said individual accounts could still be considered but would need to be phased in over time. Most important, he added, “I would prefer that individual accounts were added to Social Security, not diverted from it, and that they were voluntary.”

In other words, Romney has concluded that mandatory private accounts won’t work. The plan he supports now is strikingly similar to what then-Vice President Al Gore proposed in the 2000 presidential campaign, what Gore dubbed “Social Security Plus.” Gore said the accounts would be voluntary and “not be the product of any reduction or diversion of Social Security revenues.”

Meanwhile, Obama’s recent budgets have had limited Social Security reforms.

“I’ve signed trade agreements that are helping our companies sell more goods to millions of new customers.”

Obama did sign into law new trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama — which were negotiated by the Bush administration. The trade deals were held up for months by a bitter dispute between the administration and Congress over restoring aid for workers hurt by free trade.

Obama has not negotiated any other free-trade agreements.

“Over the last 31⁄2 years, we have focused on righting the ship, making sure that we didn’t slip into a depression, saving an auto industry, creating 4.5 million new jobs, getting health care done, helping young people go to college.”

The president actually road-tested this remark, because it nicely recaps his first-term accomplishments, and he loves this jobs figure — and it was, indeed, cited many times elsewhere at the Democratic National Convention. But it is quite misleading, because it refers to private sector jobs, not all jobs, and because it is based on a date (February 2010) that puts the president’s jobs record in the best possible light.

The total number of jobs — private and government — created in the United States from February 2010 is 4 million. The job growth number is still negative if you start counting from the beginning of Obama’s presidency.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job creation in Obama’s entire presidency is plus or minus a few hundred thousand jobs, depending on whether you date his presidency from January or February of 2009. At this point, Obama is on track to have the worst jobs record of any president since World War II.

“Nearly 7 million young people have health insurance because they’re able to stay on their parents’ plans.”

Obama has framed this assertion different ways, sometimes more accurately than the quotation above.

The Department of Health and Human Services in June reported that more than 3 million young adults would not have health insurance without the health care law. So how does Obama get to say that nearly 7 million “have health insurance” because of the law? He is relying on a private survey, published by the Commonwealth Fund, that showed that 6.6 million young adults “stayed on or joined their parents’ health plans” in 2011.

Not all of those people were uninsured; some simply joined their parents’ plans for other reasons. The HHS report notes this fact in a footnote: “This number exceeds our calculation because it includes some individuals who were already insured, often through their own private coverage.”

Obama is more accurate when he frames his quotation this way: “Nearly 7 million young people can stay on their parents’ plan because of the health care law I passed.”