Ad Check: Tea Party Express Filters Old Lies Through New Front Group

April 12, 2011 12:27 pm ET

While the "Campaign to Defeat Barack Obama" sounds new, it is merely the newest name for the Tea Party Express (aka Our Country Deserves Better PAC). Similarly, their latest TV ad puts shiny video packaging around long-debunked attacks on President Obama's first two years in office. The ad only breaks new ground by using an image of a terrorist apprehended in 1999 to accompany the allegation that the current administration is soft on terror. In the alternate universe where this ad gets its facts, Barack Obama caused the recession and the growing national debt and has earned "a reputation for incompetence around the globe" while government workers earn double what the private sector pays. In reality, President Obama's policies have turned a spiraling economy into 13 straight months of private-sector job growth and improved world opinion toward the U.S. substantially, while the federal pay claim has been thoroughly debunked.

Tea Party Express Ad: "Barack Obama's Legacy Of Failure"

Barack Obama's legacy of failure: High unemployment rates persist after the government bailed out banks, automobile companies, and targeted our health care system. Federal employees now earn more than twice as much as those of us employed by the private sector. Obama has crippled Americans with a $14 trillion national debt — nearly $1 trillion is owed by the U.S. to China alone. And while Obama earns a reputation for incompetence around the globe, our borders here at home remain unsecured as drug traffickers and terrorists seek to exploit our negligence. But now, we the people are fighting back for fiscal responsibility, a return to constitutional principles, with greater individual liberty and less government regulation over our lives. We deserve new leadership that serves with honor, integrity and decency. Join us online at Our Country Deserves Better PAC, is responsible for the content of this ad.

Barack Obama's Actual Legacy: From Crippling Recession To Persistent Job Growth

The Economy Shed Almost 8 Million Jobs Under Republican Policies Before The Recovery Act Could Affect The Economy. According to economist Robert J. Shapiro:

From December 2007 to July 2009 - the last year of the Bush second term and the first six months of the Obama presidency, before his policies could affect the economy - private sector employment crashed from 115,574,000 jobs to 107,778,000 jobs. Employment continued to fall, however, for the next six months, reaching a low of 107,107,000 jobs in December of 2009. So, out of 8,467,000 private sector jobs lost in this dismal cycle, 7,796,000 of those jobs or 92 percent were lost on the Republicans' watch or under the sway of their policies. Some 671,000 additional jobs were lost as the stimulus and other moves by the administration kicked in, but 630,000 jobs then came back in the following six months. The tally, to date: Mr. Obama can be held accountable for the net loss of 41,000 jobs (671,000 - 630,000), while the Republicans should be held responsible for the net losses of 7,796,000 jobs. [, 8/10/10, emphasis added]

Based on Shapiro's research, the Washington Post's Ezra Klein created the following chart showing net job losses before and after the Recovery Act was enacted:

[Washington Post8/12/10]

The Private Sector Has Added 1.8 Million Jobs Over 13 Consecutive Months Of Job Growth. Minority Leader Pelosi's office prepared a chart based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data for monthly private sector job gains and losses:

[, 4/1/11]

CBO: The Recovery Act Created Jobs, Lowered Unemployment, And Boosted GDP. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office:

On that basis, CBO estimates that ARRA's policies had the following effects in the fourth quarter of calendar year 2010:

  • They raised real (inflation-adjusted) gross domestic product (GDP) by between 1.1 percent and 3.5 percent,
  • Lowered the unemployment rate by between 0.7 percentage points and 1.9 percentage points,
  • Increased the number of people employed by between 1.3 million and 3.5 million, and
  • Increased the number of full-time-equivalent jobs by 1.8 million to 5.0 million compared with what would have occurred otherwise, as shown in Table 1. (Increases in FTE jobs include shifts from part-time to full-time work or overtime and are thus generally larger than increases in the number of employed workers). [CBO, February 2011]

PolitiFact: "True" That "Most Job Losses" Happened Before Obama Policies Took Effect. According to's analysis of President Obama's statement that "most of the jobs that we lost were lost before the economic policies we put in place had any effect": "Looking at BLS data on seasonally adjusted non-farm employment from December 2007, when the recession officially began, to January 2009, the month before the stimulus was enacted (a 25-month period), the jobs number declined by 4.4 million. ... When [Obama] refers to his economic policies, we presume he is referring to his main economic stimulus, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. It passed in February 2009, but it took several months before the impact of its spending was felt in the economy. Job loss didn't stop, but Obama is right that it slowed down. In the 19 months from February 2009 through September 2010, the month of the most recent preliminary data, the overall job decline in the private and public sectors was 2.6 million. And the number of jobs lost per month has declined from around 700,000 a month at the beginning of the administration to months in which there were small net gains. ... 'I watched the president on Stewart's show last night, and I thought his basic point about the timing of the employment losses was correct and ought to be noncontroversial,' Gary Burtless, a labor markets expert at the centrist-to-liberal Brookings Institution said in an e-mail. [... T]the numbers support Obama's statement, so we rate it True." [, 10/27/10, emphasis added]

March 2011: Private Sector Added 230,000 Jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the economy added 230,000 private sector jobs in March. [, accessed 3/6/11]

As of March 2011, the unemployment rate has fallen 1.3 percentage points from its recession-fueled high in October 2010.

October 2010: Unemployment Rate Peaks At 10.1 Percent. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate in October 2009 was 10.1 percent — the highest single-month rate since the recession began in late 2007. [, accessed 4/4/11]

March 2011: Unemployment Rate Falls To 8.8 Percent. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the unemployment rate fell from 8.9 percent in February 2011 to 8.8 percent in March 2011, the most recent data available. [, accessed 4/4/11]

Bank Bailouts Were President Bush's Idea...

Congress Passed Bailout "After Dire Warnings From The Bush Administration." According to the Washington Post: "Congress created the Troubled Asset Relief Program after dire warnings from the Bush administration that panic had seized credit markets and that the global economy was on the verge of meltdown. Barely two weeks later, Congress rushed through a measure giving Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. sweeping authority to spend up to $700 billion to inject cash into troubled financial institutions and buy 'toxic' assets such as those backed by failing mortgages." [Washington Post, 1/13/09]

Bush Administration Urged Passage Of Bank Bailout. As ABC News reported: "The architects of the Bush administration's massive $700 billion bailout for financial firms went to Capitol Hill today to urge lawmakers to act quickly and pass the bill 'cleanly' or risk a recession.  Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told the Senate Banking Committee that failing to pass the administration's big-money bailout for the financial industry would stifle consumer spending, bring more home foreclosures and cause job loss." [ABC News, 9/23/08]

President Bush: America Might "Slip Into A Major Panic" Without Bailout. CNN reported:

U.S. President George W. Bush, saying "our entire economy is in danger," urged Congress to approve his administration's $700 billion bailout proposal.

"We're in the midst of a serious financial crisis, and the federal government is responding with decisive actions," Bush said in a televised address Wednesday night from the White House.

Bush pointed out that the collapse of several major lenders was rooted in the subprime mortgage market that thrived over the past decade.

He said passage of the $700 billion bailout proposal was needed to restore confidence in the market.

"I'm a strong believer in free enterprise, so my natural instinct is to oppose government intervention," he said. But "these are not normal circumstances. The market is not functioning properly. There has been a widespread loss of confidence.

"Without immediate action by Congress, America can slip into a major panic." [CNN, 9/24/08]

...And President Obama's Auto Bailout Saved Nearly 1.5 Million American Jobs Throughout The Industry

Center For Automotive Research: Auto Bailout Saved Nearly 1.5 MILLION Jobs In 2009-10. As reported by the Wall Street Journal: "The Center for Automotive Research said today the government's bailouts of the U.S. auto industry spared more than 1.14 million jobs last year alone, and prevented 'additional personal income losses' of nearly $97 billion combined for this year and last. Another 314,400 jobs were saved this year thanks to the $80 billion in taxpayer lifelines extended to GM, Chrysler, and the GMAC and Chrysler Financial financing businesses, CAR said. The research organization based its conclusions on the potential impact of auto-industry collapse for jobs at U.S. auto makers and suppliers, and cascading effects on the economy at large." [Wall Street Journal11/17/10, emphasis added]

The Economist: Without The Bailout, GM Would Have Likely Liquidated, "Sending A Cascade Of Destruction" Through The Industry. According to The Economist: "An apology is due Barack Obama: his takeover of GM could have gone horribly wrong, but it has not. [...] Had the government not stepped in, GM might have restructured under normal bankruptcy procedures, without putting public money at risk. Many observers think this unlikely, however. Given the panic that gripped private purse-strings last year, it is more likely that GM would have been liquidated, sending a cascade of destruction through the supply chain on which its rivals, too, depended. As for moral hazard, the expectation of future bailouts may prompt managers and unions in other industries to behave rashly. But all the stakeholders suffered during GM's bankruptcy, so this effect may be small. That does not mean, however, that bailouts are always or often justified. Straightforward bankruptcy is usually the most efficient way to allow floundering firms to restructure or fail. The state should step in only when a firm's collapse poses a systemic risk. Propping up the financial system in 2008 clearly qualified. Saving GM was a harder call, but, with the benefit of hindsight, the right one. The lesson for governments is that for a bailout to work, it must be brutal and temporary." [The Economist, 8/19/10, emphasis added]

No, Federal Employees Do Not "Earn Twice As Much" As Their Private-Sector Equivalents

In Some Professions, Government Pay Is Lower Than Private Sector Pay. As reported by PolitiFact: "When we checked individual jobs using the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics employment data (from 2008), we found many federal salaries were indeed higher, but some were lower. Higher: A government-employed nurse makes about $74,460 on average, while someone in the same position working for the private sector makes about $65,130. A cashier working for the government makes on average $34,470 while a cashier working in a store only makes a mean of $18,880 annually. And a public-relations manager working for the government makes about $132,410 a year compared to $101,220 in the private sector. Lower: Petroleum engineers working for the government earn an average of $93,140; in the private sector, they make an average of $119,140. An editor working for the government only makes $42,210, compared to an average of $57,180 in the private sector." [, 1/31/10]

PolitiFact: Federal Pay Claim "False" Because "It Is Not An Apples-To-Apples Comparison." PolitiFact investigated a similar claim by Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) in January 2010:

Secondly, it's important to understand that a big reason for the disparity is the different mix of jobs in the federal work force. It has more higher-paying white-collar jobs, experts told us, while there are more lower-paying, blue-collar jobs in the private sector that bring the average down. So it is not an apples-to-apples comparison.

Finally, we found it's a mixed bag when comparing individual private and public sector occupations -- the "private counterparts" he spoke of. Some public jobs pay more, some pay less. And the public ones that pay more are not consistently double as he claimed.

So he's wrong to say it's double and wrong to suggest that it's always the case when comparing specific jobs. We rate his claim False.

[, 1/31/10]

Disparity In "Average" Compensation Arises Because Federal Workforce Is More Educated, Skilled Than Private Sector Workforce. According to PolitiFact:

The first is that there's an imbalance in the types of jobs that make up the federal workforce compared to the private-sector workforce. The federal workforce is disproportionately composed of employees with higher educational attainment. Think of all the low-wage burger-flippers, gas station attendants and domestic workers in the private-sector economy. The federal government has some of these types of employees but proportionately far fewer -- especially after nearly two decades of aggressive contracting-out of duties that need not be handled by salaried federal employees. This has further expanded the federal government's disproportionately large numbers of lawyers, scientists and other highly skilled professionals.

If the federal sector today is hiring a lot of people with specialized expertise and the private sector is hiring a lot of people with skills that don't require a college, or even a high school, degree, then it's no surprise that the average salary levels in each sector are going to be at odds. [, 11/7/10; emphasis added]

Rising Debt Is A Bush Legacy

On The Day President Obama Took The Oath, Bush-Era Policies Had Already Created $1.2 Trillion FY 2009 Deficit. As reported by the Washington Times: "The Congressional Budget Office announced a projected fiscal 2009 deficit of $1.2 trillion even if Congress doesn't enact any new programs. [...] About the only person who was silent on the deficit projection was Mr. Bush, who took office facing a surplus but who saw spending balloon and the country notch the highest deficits on record." [Washington Times1/8/09, emphasis added]

CBPP: Deficit Grew By $3 TRILLION Because Of Policies Passed From 2001 To 2007. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: "Congressional Budget Office data show that the tax cuts have been the single largest contributor to the reemergence of substantial budget deficits in recent years. Legislation enacted since 2001 added about $3.0 trillion to deficits between 2001 and 2007, with nearly half of this deterioration in the budget due to the tax cuts (about a third was due to increases in security spending, and about a sixth to increases in domestic spending)." [, accessed 1/31/10, parentheses original]

The Bush Tax Cuts Are The Primary Driver Of Federal Budget Deficits Over The Next Decade. Below is a chart from CBPP showing the deficit impacts of war spending, financial recovery spending, the recession itself, and the Bush tax cuts:

[, 6/28/10]

"A Reputation For Incompetence Around The Globe"? Pres. Obama Has Elevated America's Standing With The World

2010 BBC World Service Poll: 20 Of 28 Countries Surveyed Now View U.S. As Positive Influence. As reported by the Japan Times:

Despite widespread talk of a rising China and an America in decline, the latest BBC World Service poll shows not just strong residual American soft power but actually an increase. At the same time, the data depict a China whose influence is viewed as more negative than positive in an increasing number of countries.

A year and a half after the election of President Barack Obama, views of the United States around the world have improved, according to the poll of about 30,000 adults interviewed either in person or by telephone in 28 countries who were asked to consider the influence of various countries as mostly positive or mostly negative.

The survey found that the U.S. is viewed positively on balance in 20 of the 28 countries surveyed, confirming a trend that was discernible two years ago.

Surveys in 2008 by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the Pew Global Attitudes Project found signs that America's global image was recovering after having plummeted following its decision to invade Iraq in 2003.

America is now viewed positively in 20 of the 28 countries, with an average of 46 percent saying the U.S. has a positive influence in the world, while 34 percent say that it has a negative influence. By contrast, China is viewed positively in 15 of those countries. [Japan Times4/30/10, emphasis added]

Pew Global Attitudes Project, 2010: "Favorable" Attitude Towards U.S. Has Increased In At Least 17 Countries Compared To 2007. According to data from the Pew Global Attitudes Project, of the 21 countries surveyed in both 2007 and 2010 on the question, "Do you have a favorable or unfavorable view of the U.S.?" 17 countries have shown an increase of five or more percentage points in "favorable" views of the U.S.:

[Pew Global Attitudes Project, accessed 2/20/11]

Pew Global Attitudes Project Finds Much More Confidence Around The World In President Obama Than In President Bush. The Pew Global Attitudes Project charted global confidence in U.S. leadership under President Bush and President Obama:

Pres. Bush, 2008:

[Pew Global Attitudes Project, accessed 2/20/11]

Pres. Obama, 2010:

[Pew Global Attitudes Project, accessed 2/20/11]

While Republicans Cut Border Funding In February, President Obama Boosted Funds For Border Security

House GOP Passed A Spending Bill That Cut Border Security Funding By $272 Million. As the Washington Post reported: "In a mammoth spending bill that ended up being about principle more than achievable cuts, the tea-party-charged House Republicans began to define who they are and what kind of government they value. [...] Yet in last week's feverish scramble to shrink government, House Republicans also ran the budgetary buzz saw through costly defense and homeland security programs that their party had historically protected. [...] House Republicans also gave up an opportunity for bipartisanship. The bill passed a divided House at 4:40 a.m. Saturday; after five days of debate, not one Democrat supported it. [...] For instance, the bill would cut at least $272 million in border security and immigration enforcement, including fencing and surveillance technology. A Democratic analysis shows this would scale back the number of agents patrolling the Mexican border from 21,370 to 20,500." [Washington Post, 2/21/11]

PolitiFact: President Obama Has Increased Overall Border Security Funding, And GOP Talking Point Is "False." In May 2010, the nonpartisan fact-checking website examined the Republican claim that President Obama has cut funding for border security:

The fact is, between 2007 and now, while spending on border fencing has gone down, overall spending on border security has increased.

Let's get to some numbers. 


The 2011 proposed budget, for example, includes $94 million to expand the number of Customs and Border Patrol officers -- putting the country on target to reach Bush's goal of 20,000 officers. Between 2007 and 2011, the Border Patrol budget increased from $2.3 billion to $3.6 billion. The budget for inspections at ports of entry increased from $1.8 billion in 2007 to $2.9 billion in 2011. In addition, Obama's proposed 2011 budget calls for $1.6 billion for customs enforcement programs to identify and remove illegal aliens who commit crimes; and $137 million to expand immigration-related verification programs.

"I would not say the Obama administration has cut back on border enforcement in general," said Marc Rosenblum, senior policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute. Rather, Democrats have shifted funding from border fencing to other border security items, such as increasing the number of border patrol officers.

"Most immigration experts will tell you that adding personnel is much more important than additional fencing," Rosenblum said. "No one thinks building fences, in and of itself, is very effective."

That's a policy debate.

But when Pence said "this administration and this Congress have been systematically cutting funding to border security since the Democrats took control," that's wrong. Funding for fencing is down, but funding for border security is up. In fact, discretionary spending on border security is up 55 percent between 2007 and 2011, even with a small proposed cut in 2011. We rate Pence's claim False. [, 5/2/10, emphasis added]

Warning That "Terrorists Seek To Exploit Our Negligence," Ad Shows Image Of Terrorist Arrested In 1999

Ad: "Terrorists Seek To Exploit Our Negligence." In the "Barack Obama's Legacy of Failure" ad, the image below appears on screen when the narrator says "...and terrorists seek to exploit our negligence."

Image Is Of Ahmed Ressam, Who Was Arrested In Late 1999 For Plotting To Bomb Los Angeles International Airport. From the CBC News timeline of Ahmed Ressam's plot, arrest, trial, and sentencing:

July 27, 2005:
A federal judge in Seattle sentences Ressam to 22 years in prison. Prosecutors were seeking a 35-year term after Ressam refused to co-operate in the conviction of two co-conspirators. A deal with prosecutors would have put Ressam in prison for 27 years. Defence lawyers asked for a 12½-year sentence, saying Ressam has denounced extremism and aided investigators. 


Dec. 17, 1999:
Ressam is charged with bringing explosives into the United States three days after he was stopped at the Port Angeles, Wash., border crossing. He arrived in the U.S. by ferry from Victoria, B.C. He was carrying two Canadian driver's licences, each in a different name, and a Canadian passport - and 50 kilograms of explosives. 


August 1999:
Ressam begins working out the details of his plan to bomb the Los Angeles airport. By fall, he is building timing devices for the bomb and gathering other chemical ingredients. [CBC.CA, 7/27/05]