When Clifford Asness called advocates of President Obama's health-care overhaul "mendacious socialists who know that they will not achieve their massive imposition of state control on all aspects of life if they are honest about it," I thought it might have been a bit, as I put it at the time, "over-the-top." Now Josh Gerstein, a colleague of mine at The New York Sun and The Harvard Crimson and a straight-shooting, down-the-middle, non-ideological reporter if there ever was one, has caught Mr. Obama out in two misstatements of fact. The first is Mr. Obama's claim "I haven't signed a bill that's raised taxes yet." In fact, Mr. Gerstein points out, on February 4 Mr. Obama signed a law expanding children's health insurance funded largely by a $71 billion increase in the tobacco tax over 10 years. The second is Mr. Obama's claim that taxpayers are going to be "repaid every dime they put on the line" in the auto industry bailout. In fact, Mr. Gerstein points out, $7 billion in Chrysler loans have already been written off, and it's highly unlikely that taxpayers will recover all of the $65 billion put into GM.
Now, to qualify as mendacious, a statement has to be intentionally false. It's possible Mr. Obama is just forgetful or is speaking carelessly or has deluded himself somehow. But it's a lot easier to sell tax increases or auto bailouts to the public if the president pretends that there were no tax increases and that the bailout had no cost to the taxpayers. Particularly if most of the press and the public are not as observant as Mr. Gerstein.