Radio host Thom Hartmann recently observed that conservatives tend to base their philosophy on works of fiction, rather than on data and hard evidence. He offered libertarian conservatives’ love of the works of Ayn Rand, particularly Atlas Shrugged, as an example of what he was talking about.
Right wingers believe all sorts of myths and stories, too many to cover in the scope of this article. Since many conservative myths of today are focused on the economy, and President Obama’s handling of it, we’ll take a look at those.
5. The Obama economic stimulus didn’t work.
As 2008 came to an end, things were looking a lot like 1929 to many. After taking office in January, 2009, President Obama and congressional Democrats pushed through an $832 billion stimulus package to try and get the economy back on track. Republicans immediately said that the stimulus wouldn’t work. House Speaker John Boehner was still claiming that the stimulus was a failure, in February 2014, five years after its passage.
The stimulus was probably the first major success of the Obama presidency. And, had the administration listened to some economists, such as Paul Krugman, and gone for a bigger package, the stimulus might have been an even bigger success.
The New York Times editorial board outlined some of the successes of the stimulus, in a February, 2014 commentary:
- It prevented a second recession.
- It created or saved an average of 1.6 million jobs over four years.
- It raised American economic output by between two and three percent between 2009 and 2011.
- It prevented a huge number of people from slipping into poverty.
4. The budget deficit has exploded under Obama.
The federal budget deficit ballooned as the recession kicked in, jumping to a massive $1.55 trillion (adjusted for inflation) in 2009. “Yes,” conservatives will say, “Obama created a massive budget deficit.” But the 2009 budget deficit largely belonged to George W. Bush, as pointed out by Daniel Mitchell, from the libertarian CATO Institute.
As the recession has wound down, and things returned to pre-recession levels, so too has the budget deficit diminished. The Wall Street Journal reports that the 2014 deficit, as a share of Gross Domestic Product, or GDP, is below the average of the last 40 years. In inflation-adjusted dollars, the 2014 deficit is lower than the last pre-recession Bush deficit, from 2008. The projected 2015 deficit is even lower.
3. The size of government has dramatically increased under Obama.
Conservatives are certain that the federal government has grown tremendously under Barack Obama. In April, 2012, congressman, and soon to be failed vice presidential candidate, Paul Ryan, made the claim that Obama had “doubled the size of government.” Politifact reviewed that claim and awarded it a “pants on fire” rating.
According to Forbes columnist Rick Ungar, President Obama is the smallest government spender since Eisenhower. In fact, President Obama has cut the federal workforce more than conservative hero, Ronald Reagan. Were it not for the reduction in government jobs, on both the federal and state levels, the unemployment rate would be lower, and the economic recovery would likely have been quicker, and stronger.
2. Unemployment numbers are going down because so many people have quit looking for work.
This is a favorite of many conservatives. While everyone admits that the true unemployment rate is higher than the official unemployment rate, conservatives love to claim that the only reason the unemployment rate is declining is because so many people have stopped looking for work. In other words, when those people stop trying to find a job, and stop going to their local unemployment office, the official unemployment rate artificially declines.
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics proves this to be untrue. The table below shows that, like the official unemployment rate, the number of “discouraged workers” who have stopped looking for work has declined every year since 2010. (To see this information, you have to go to this page, and select “Total Not in Labor Force: Discouraged Workers”)
1. Obamacare is destroying jobs and hurting the economy.
The very first time Republicans tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act, they titled their bill “Repealing the Job Killing Health Care Law.” Republicans are still claiming that Obamacare is hurting the job market, and slowing the economy. Tell that to health care companies.
CNN reported in January that health insurer stocks have soared since the beginning of Obamacare. Not only have hospital stocks also risen since passage of the Affordable Care Act, they recently rose again, after oral arguments before the Supreme Court left observers believing that the court will rule in favor of the government in King v. Burwell.
Conservatives love to claim that, due to requirements that employers provide health care coverage for full-time employees, businesses are reducing workers to part-time status. While some employers have reduced the hours of their employees and blamed Obamacare, data does not match the anecdotal evidence that conservatives love to repeat.
A September, 2014, report by the Urban Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation says that there is little evidence that workers are being forced into part-time work due to mandates of the Affordable Care Act. The report notes that part time jobs have been declining since peaking in 2011. While there was a slight uptick in part time jobs in 2014, researchers say it was only slightly above their predictions, and they believe that it was likely due to lingering effects of the recession.
There you have it. Five things about the “Obama Economy” that conservatives believe that just ain’t so. So, the next time your conservative uncle wants to tell you a story about how President Obama has wrecked the economy, you can tell him another story, one with actual facts and data.
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