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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Who is McCain, Reagan?

In a recent interview in the Washington Times, McCain had this to say about the Bush years: “spending, the conduct of the war in Iraq for years, growth in the size of government, larger than any time since the Great Society, laying a $10 trillion debt on future generations of America, owing $500 billion to China, obviously, failure to both enforce and modernize the [financial] regulatory agencies that were designed for the 1930s and certainly not for the 21st century, failure to address the issue of climate change seriously.”

McCain is frantically trying to distance himself from Bush the younger. Keep in mind that he would like to be compared to Ronald Reagan.

Lets examine some of McCain’s comments:

“laying a 10 trillion debt on future generations of Americans” – It was John McCain’s hero, Ronald Reagan who laid the foundation for the Republican tradition of massive deficit spending.  Zfacts.com has a short analysis of the National Debt that illustrates the point.  Earlier in the campaign, when asked how he planned to balance the budget, McCain said he would follow the example of Reagan, leaving out the small detail that the federal deficit tripled under Reagan.

In an detailed analysis of the US National Debt, Steve McGourty demonstrates that when Reagan took office, the percentage of debt relative to GDP was at 33%.  In his 8 years as President, he managed to grow the debt to 51.9% of GDP, a 64% increase.  Since 1989, the only period during which the debt decreased occurred under the Clinton administration.  By the time Clinton left office, debt as a percentage of GDP dropped 10%.

…”growth in the size of Government (under Bush has been) larger than any time since the Great Society.”  What he didn’t say was that revenue during the Johnson years exceeded spending.  As McGourty shows, all Democratic Administrations from Johnson forward took in more in revenue than they spent.  The reverse is true for all the Republican administrations since 1969.  Under Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush I and Bush II spending exceeded revenue.  McCain should be citing the Great Society, or the Clinton administration as a model for responsible fiscal policies.

On the point of  “failure to both enforce and modernize the [financial] regulatory agencies that were designed for the 1930s and certainly not for the 21st century” remember that McCain has been against regulatory policies his entire career, even saying he is “fundamentally a deregulator.”  But now, amid turmoil, McCain turns to regulation.

And finally, he bashed Bush for “failure to address the issue of climate change seriously.”  What has McCain done for climate change?  His first order of business was to select a running mate who believes the human impact on global warming is overstated.  In an article on Bloomberg.com Edward Chen points out that McCain has made global warming a priority, but his voting record on environmental issues has been abysmal – voting for pro-environment legislation only 25% of the time.  He favors reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 65%.  For the record, Barack Obama’s plan calls for reducing emissions by 80%.  Which plan takes a more serious approach to global warming?

McCain is no Bush – ok, I’ll give him that, even though his voting record suggests otherwise.  But he wants to be compared to Ronald Reagan, so here is what we could expect were McCain to fashion his policies after his hero: massive defense and deficit spending; a ballooning national debt; a dismissive approach to environmental concerns – a la Sarah Palin – see Reagan on the Environment; more deregulation and questionable foreign policy dealings – remember the Iran-Contra affair?

Who is McCain?