Crossroads GPS Ad Uses Cheap Tricks To Mislead On President Obama's Economic Record

June 27, 2011 12:35 pm ET

In a new ad titled "Shovel Ready," the misinformation mechanics at Crossroads GPS use an edited video of President Obama and a basic statistical swindle to support the claim that "Obama's $830 billion stimulus failed." The ad opens with President Obama speaking last summer at the 10,000th road project funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and it snips out 11 crucial words from his statement about the economy, thereby erasing the catastrophic recession that President Bush and supply-side, deregulatory economics left for Obama to clean up. Crossroads GPS follows up the editing tricks with a trio of claims about debt, unemployment and gas prices spiking during Obama's tenure, but that only holds water if you make Obama responsible for the months he held office before his policies could impact the economy. Economists and fact-checkers agree that that's dishonest.

Crossroads GPS: "Shovel Ready"

[President Obama clip:] "Our economy [snip] is now growing at a good clip." [Narrator:] But NBC's Meet the Press says these are the facts about the Obama record: Unemployment up 25 percent. The national debt up 35 percent. The price of gas up 104 percent. Obama's $830 billion stimulus failed. [President Obama clip:] "Shovel-ready was not as shovel-ready as we expected." [Narrator:] 14 million out of work. America drowning in debt. It's time to take away Obama's blank check.

Crossroads GPS Deceptively Edits Obama's Remarks

GPS Ad Cuts Out President Obama's Observation That Recovery Act Had Turned Around An Economy "Which Was Shrinking By 6 Percent When I Was Sworn In." From President Obama's June 18, 2010, remarks:

Since I was here last year, we've begun to see progress all across the country.  Businesses are beginning to hire again.  Our economy, which was shrinking by 6 percent when I was sworn in, is now growing at a good clip, and we've added jobs for six out of the past seven months in this country.  We were losing 700,000 jobs a month; for the last six out of the last seven months, we've increased jobs here in the United States of America, in part because of the policies that these members of Congress were willing to step up and implement.

Now, I'm under no illusion that we're where we need to be yet.  I know that a lot of families and communities have yet to feel the effects of the recovery in their own lives.  There are still too many people here in Ohio and across the country who can't find work; many more can't make ends meet.  And for these folks, the only jobs we create that matter are the ones that provide for their families. 

So while the recovery may start with projects like this, it can't end here. [President Obama Remarks, 6/18/10, emphasis added]

President Obama's "Growing At A Good Clip" Quote Comes From June 18, 2010, Remarks At Site Of 10,000 Recovery Act Road Project. From Reuters: "'Businesses are beginning to hire again,' Obama said at a ground-breaking for a stimulus-funded road project. 'Our economy, which was shrinking by 6 percent when I was sworn in, is now growing at a good clip.' However, he added, 'I'm under no illusion that we're where we need to be yet.' [...] Obama's visit to the Columbus construction site -- which the White House called the 10,000th road project funded by the 2009 stimulus package -- was meant to showcase the impact of the measure that he credits with spurring economic recovery. Many economists say the measure helped avert an even-worse crisis. Republicans opposed Obama's stimulus plan and continue to criticize it as a wasteful government overreach." [Reuters, 6/18/10, emphasis added]

President Obama Inherited Spiraling Unemployment, And Once His Policies Took Effect In Summer 2009, Unemployment Actually Fell

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. [Sonecon.com, 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]

Unemployment Rate Is Down From 9.5 Percent In July 2009 To 9.1 Percent In May 2011. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the unemployment rate has fallen from 9.5 percent in July 2009 to 8.8 percent in March 2011, before rising back to 9.1 percent in May 2011:

[BLS.gov, accessed 6/27/11]

PolitiFact: "True" That "Most Job Losses" Happened Before Obama Policies Took Effect. According to PolitiFact.com'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." [PolitiFact.com, 10/27/10, emphasis added]

Since July 2009, The Private Sector Has Gained Over 1.2 Million Net Jobs. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, there were 107,649,000 private-sector jobs in July 2009. As of May 2011, the most recent report available, the data show that total is up to 108,916,000 - a net gain of 1,267,000 jobs in the private sector. [BLS.gov, accessed 6/12/11]

BLS: The Private Sector Added 2.1 Million Jobs From February 2010 To April 2011. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics: "Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 244,000 in April, and the private sector added 268,000 jobs. Employment rose in a number of service-providing industries, manufacturing, and mining. Since a recent low in February 2010, total payroll employment has grown by 1.8 million. Private sector employment has increased by 2.1 million over the same period." [BLS.gov, 5/6/11]

There Have Been 15 Consecutive Months Of Private-Sector Job Growth. Below is a graph prepared by the Office of the Democratic Leader showing monthly private-sector job gains and losses:

[Office of the Democratic Leader, 6/3/11, via Flickr]

Part Of The Reason Debt Is "Up 35 Percent' Is That President Bush Left A $1.2 TRILLION Deficit For 2009 Behind Him

Debt Has Increased By $3.656 Trillion Since Inauguration Day 2009. As of May 1, 2011, the national debt stands at $14.282 trillion. That is an increase of $3.656 trillion over the $10.626 trillion in debt already recorded when President Obama was sworn in on January 20, 2009. [TreasuryDirect.gov, accessed 5/1/11]

Before Obama Took Office, The FY 2009 Deficit Was Projected At $1.2 Trillion. 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]

Conservative Cato Institute: Assertion That Obama Exploded Deficits "Is Largely Untrue" Because Most 2009 Spending Was Done By Bush Administration. From the Cato Institute's Cato-At-Liberty blog: "In addition to being theoretically misguided, critics sometimes blame Obama for things that are not his fault. Listening to a talk radio program yesterday, the host asserted that Obama tripled the budget deficit in his first year. This assertion is understandable, since the deficit jumped from about $450 billion in 2008 to $1.4 trillion in 2009. [...] But there is one rather important detail that makes a big difference. The chart is based on the assumption that the current administration should be blamed for the 2009 fiscal year. While this makes sense to a casual observer, it is largely untrue. The 2009  fiscal year began October 1, 2008, nearly four months before Obama took office. The budget for the entire fiscal year was largely set in place while Bush was in the White House. So is [sic] we update the chart to show the Bush fiscal years in green, we can see that Obama is partly right in claiming that he inherited a mess (though Obama actually deserves a small share of the blame for Bush's last deficit since earlier this year he pushed through both an "omnibus" spending bill and the so-called stimulus bill that increased FY2009 spending)." [Cato-At-Liberty.org, 11/19/09, emphasis added]

When President Bush Took Office, The National Debt Was $5.727 TRILLION. As reported by CBS News: "But what Mr. Bush didn't mention, and what he almost never mentions, is the National Debt. With good reason. On the day he took office, the National Debt stood at this unfathomable number: $5,727.776.738,304.64 In fiscal shorthand, that's $5.7 trillion dollars. Trillion with a 'T.'" [CBSNews.com, 6/16/07]

  • Before President Bush Took Office, There Was A Projected Surplus Of $128 Billion. As reported by CNN: "President Bush inherited a budget surplus of $128 billion when he took office in 2001 but has since posted a budget deficit every year." [CNN.com, 7/28/08]

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:

[CBPP.org, 5/10/11]

Blaming Gas Prices On Obama Is Ridiculous — Prices Were Artificially Low At The End Of 2008 Because Of The Recession, Making Higher Prices  An "Inevitable" Component Of Recovery

GOP Economist Holtz-Eakin: "As Economies Recovered, It Was Inevitable That [Gas] Prices Were Going To Rise." In an interview with CNN, Republican economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin said: "Lesson number one is we have oil at $140 a barrel in 2008. And it went down not because we somehow discovered a lot more oil. No, it went down because we went into a massive global recession. As economies recovered, it was inevitable that prices were going to rise. And this was utterly foreseeable." [State of the Union3/27/11]

Recession Drove Rapid Decline In Gas Prices. As reported by CNNMoney in 2008: "If there's one bright spot in a bad economy, it's that gasoline prices have fallen, and they're expected to drop even further. As the global economy falters, demand for oil has dropped. And since the price of oil makes up about half of the cost of a gallon of gas, analysts see more relief ahead at the pump. ... The national average price for a gallon of regular, unleaded gasoline fell 2.4 cents to $3.480 from $3.504, according to a daily survey released Tuesday by AAA. That's down 18% from an all-time high of $4.114 a gallon hit on July 17." [CNNMoney, 10/7/08]

Gas Prices Have Risen During Obama's Term, But Only From Recession-Fueled Lows Back To Normal. Two graphs of gas prices over time show that while prices appear to shoot upward if one looks only at 2008-2011 numbers, the longer view confirms that prior to political upheaval in the Middle East, prices had in fact returned to normal after falling dramatically during the recession:

Gas Prices 2008-Present

[EIA.DOE.gov, accessed 6/27/11]

Gas Prices, January 2000-March 2011

[Data from EIA.DOE.gov, accessed 3/13/11]

"Oil Prices, Already Climbing As The World Economy Grew, Soared When Unrest Hit The Mideast And North Africa." As reported by the Kansas City Star: "Oil prices, already climbing as the world economy grew, soared when unrest hit the Mideast and North Africa. [...] The federal Energy Information Administration said Monday that Libyan oil production was down as much as 90 percent. The country contributes about 2 percent of the world's oil supply and little to the United States. But the agency said that the longer Libyan supplies were disrupted, the more it could affect the United States. Countries scrambling for replacement barrels could make for tighter supplies. The fear of more supply disruptions by itself has been enough to cause oil prices to soar, especially because of worry that the unrest could spread to Saudi Arabia. It has most of the world's surplus oil production capacity and provides the United States with 10 percent of its oil. 'We'll have a risk premium for the next six months to a year because of what's going on in the Mideast,' said James Williams, an analyst for WTRG Economics." [Kansas City Star3/7/11, emphasis added]

Crossroads GPS Ad Content Is Straight From A Rove Op-Ed

Karl Rove Op-Ed On June 23 Used Same Edited Quotes From Crossroads Ad. In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal published June 23, 2011, Karl Rove wrote: "Let's start with the economy. Unemployment is at 9.1%, with almost 14 million Americans out of work. Nearly half the jobless have been without work for more than six months. Mr. Obama promised much better, declaring that his February 2009 stimulus would cause unemployment to peak at 8% by the end of summer 2009 and drop to roughly 6.8% today. After boasting in June 2010 that 'Our economy . . . is now growing at a good clip,' he laughingly admitted last week, 'Shovel-ready was not as shovel-ready as we expected.'" [Wall Street Journal, 6/23/11]

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