Fact Checking Cat Blasts Holes in GOP Chart

Great Depression Food Line

Great Depression Food Line (Photo credit: Kevin Burkett)

Warning:  If you are sick and tired of politics, don’t read this post.  Disclaimer:  I am sick and tired of politics and don’t plan to blog anymore about the elections until after November 6.  I just felt the need to respond to a right wing anti-Obama cheap shot.

I’ve seen this graph put out by an outfit called Being Conservative:

This is from the group’s facebook page which has over 2 million likes.  The graph above has been shared some 77,000 times.  And it’s misleading.  Here’s why:

First, let’s look at unemployment.  For a little historical context (because that’s what is lacking in the chart) in late 2008, the U.S. economy crashed under George W. Bush’s leadership.  When President Obama took over in 2009, he inherited the worst recession since the Great Depression.  I repeat, inherited an economy on the brink of utter collapse.  Thanks to the TARP bailout and ARRA stimulus spending, the economy has recovered, albeit slowly.  At the end of 2009, the unemployment rate was 9.3%, 9.6% in 2010, 8.9% in 2011 and now down to 7.9%; it is not 8.3% as the graph indicates.  For comparison sake, in the Depression Era from 1930-1939, the unemployment rate averaged 18.34%.  But get this, in years that would not be considered depression-like, the unemployment rates under Republican leadership were also high.  President Gerald Ford finished 1975 with an unemployment rate of 8.5%.  Under President Ronald Reagan, the unemployment rate at the end of 1982 was 9.7%; 9.6% in 1983.  At the end of 1992, under President George HW Bush (the elder), unemployment was 7.5%.

Now let’s look at gasoline prices. The graph shows that when the President took office, the price at the pump was $1.84; actually, the average price was $1.787.  It shows that the current price is $3.82 but that’s wrong too – it is, for the record as of this writing, $3.712 and for the year $3.684 on average, about 16 cents higher than it was in 2011.  For the sake of comparison, in June and July of 2008, under President George W. Bush, gas prices surged to over $4 nationwide.  I’m not making this stuff up.  To be fair, what is forgotten in all this is that the President has little direct influence on daily gasoline prices, which are largely a product of global events and global demand, that is higher now than ever before with India and China’s growing consumer class increasingly dependent on fossil fuels.  Now it is true that a comprehensive energy policy could impact the demand equation, but drilling isn’t the solution to lower gas prices.  Becoming less dependent on fossil fuels is the long term answer to a more sustainable planet.  As demand for oil decreases, so too will the price at the pump.  Investing in clean alternative energy sources not only could help us break our dependence on oil, it would reduce the amount of CO2 we spew into the air and slow down global warming and climate change, something I pray is not too late to do – I mean the ice is already melting and I believe it was Governor Cuomo who said, and I am paraphrasing, that we are seeing 100 year storms every two years.

Next, let’s look at the National Debt.  From Reagan through Bush I and II, the national debt increased by 12 trillion. This is not a misprint.  My cat Ella fact checked it.  How did they manage to rack up 12 trillion in debt? Well, it was a combination of reduced revenue from tax cuts, increased defense spending, unpaid for wars and ever expanding entitlement obligations, oh, and there is the not so little thing of the interest on the debt.  President Obama inherited this mess; he did not create it.  And he’s trying to work on the revenue side by raising taxes on the wealthy and ending corporate welfare, but with no cooperation from the Republicans who have all taken the Grover Norquist no taxes pledge. On the spending side, the President has ended the two Republican initiated wars (which of course had the full approval of Congress) and recommended reductions in military spending.  Now with the sequester set to trigger automatic cuts, there is hope that a balanced deal on revenue and spending can be negotiated.

And finally, declining wages.  Consider this:  The Republicans have blocked attempts to raise the minimum wage and voted against the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.  And corporations have been making record profits, as they have outsourced jobs and begged for more subsidies, arguing that the uncertainty is “killing” them and accounts for their reluctance to hire.  Notwithstanding this “uncertainty”, the rich have gotten richer and the middle class and poor even poorer.  Extending the Bush tax cuts didn’t help much.  An inherited wrecked economy that has recovered slowly, hasn’t helped things either.  Partisan gridlock has made matters even worse, that and the heightened rhetoric from the right questioning the need for a social safety net and blaming the poor, homeless, elderly and infirm for not taking responsibility for themselves.  The point being that the President is not solely responsible for declining incomes among the middle class.

I just wanted to give this graph a little context to show how misleading it is.  And now I am done.  The end.

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Thoughts on the Inaugural Address

oiaPresident Obama’s inaugural address was not one for all time, but one for our times. While critics have said it wasn’t his best, comparing it to his speeches on the campaign trail, or to the inaugural addresses of former Presidents serves no purpose. His global address was not intended to inspire – he’s already accomplished that mission. Nor was the speech designed to spread goodwill. I believe he saw the need to capitalize on the feeling of hope, inspiration, energy, and the spirit of goodwill that has been in such abundant display here and abroad since the election. Rather than inspire with another lofty public address, Obama’s goal was to lay out his assessment of the challenges ahead and to provide a set of instructions, a prescription for all to follow. It is no accident that he used the word we 46 times. We the people. Shared responsibility.

Despite the “gathering clouds and raging storms” around us, we know what to do – “We the People” have been there before and we must and can carry on.

Interestingly, he and his speech writer decided against a frontal attack on enemies, never naming them – no direct reference to rogue leaders, or unfriendly nations. No Axis of Evil. No specific mention of any terrorist group. However, a new reference surfaced to replace the War on Terrorism – now we are at war with the Network of Violence and Hatred“. I like this euphemistic phrasing better because it suggests a clear alternative – peace and love.

Nor did he choose to assign specific blame for other ills that plague our nation. No mention of Wall Street, corporate greed and corruption, deregulation, dependence on foreign oil and other policies that favor the business class, over the middle class. He carefully described our crisis using passive verb constructions – “our economy is badly weakened….homes have been lost, jobs shed, businesses shuttered”, saying only that our problems are the result of “greed and irresponsibility on the part of some” and “our collective failure to make hard choices”. On this point, though, I disagree. I don’t think that most of you reading this feel responsible for the recession or feel like if only you had not been so greedy and had made a hard choice your retirement plan might not have lost half its value.

But I do agree that collectively we can meet the challenges ahead – to restore our image and credibility abroad so that we can be an agent of peace, not war; “to restore science to its rightful place”; “to harness the sun and the winds”; to bring relief to people of impoverished nations “to make farms flourish and “clean waters flow… to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds”. Perhaps this means a renewed financial commitment to the Peace Corps to embrace and expand the “spirit of service”?

And to those “nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to the suffering outside our borders.” And here, I am in complete agreement. Down with the fences. Let’s create a humane immigration policy to allow our brothers and sisters “in search of a new life” the right to safely cross our southern border to live, work and prosper in this great nation of ours; this nation of immigrants. “For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness”.

There are many challenges ahead which require thoughtful debate, shared responsibility and decisive action. Together we can, we must and we will. That is what he said. That is what President Barack Obama said.