As a rule we try to keep the tone around here well-modulated, but every once and a while President Obama says something so outrageously false that it's genuinely infuriating. Such was the case earlier this week, when the president spoke Monday at a lunch in Wisconsin and uttered the following:
We got here after nearly 10 years of an economic agenda in Washington that was pretty easy to sum up: You cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires; you cut rules for special interests; you cut working folks loose to fend for themselves. If you're out of a job, tough luck, you're on your own. Don't have enough money for college? Tough luck, you're on your own. You don't have health insurance? Too bad, you're on your own. That was the philosophy of the last decade: You are on your own.
Mr. Obama repeated a similar attack again Tuesday at a lunch in Seattle:
Their basic philosophy goes something like this: We're going to cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires, folks who don't need it, weren't even asking for it. And we're going to cut rules for special interests, gut regulations that protect clean air and clean water and things that most of us value. And then you're going to cut working folks loose to fend for themselves. So if you can't find a job or you can't afford college or don't have health insurance, tough luck -- you are on your own.
Cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires? George W. Bush cut marginal tax rates for everyone who pays income taxes, not just millionaires and billionaires. And, as Bil Frezza has reported, "The rich - that is, the top 1% of taxpayers - not only forked over a trillion dollars more to Uncle Sam under Bush than under Clinton, their share of the income tax burden increased from 33% to 38%. [Edited August 25 to reflect a correction by Mr. Frezza]."
Cut rules? Not so. The Code of Federal Regulations in 2007 totaled "145,816 pages, more than 4,500 pages longer than in 2001, when Bush took office, and almost 8,000 pages longer than in 2000," according to the Heritage Foundation.
Out of a job, on your own? Not so. President Obama himself previously acknowledged, as recently as a July 19, 2010 speech, "for a long time, there's been a tradition –- under both Democratic and Republican Presidents –- to offer relief to the unemployed. That was certainly the case under my predecessor, when Republican senators voted several times to extend emergency unemployment benefits." About.com has a list of the "unemployment compensation extensions passed by Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush":
- Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2008 (HR 6867): This bill, which extended benefits, passed the House on Oct. 3, 2008, by a vote of 368 to 28. Of the 170 voting Republicans, 142 or 84 percent supported the extension. The measure passed the Senate by a voice vote, a parliamentary often used when legislation is not controversial.
- Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2008 (HR 2642): This bill provided federal money to states to make emergency unemployment compensation payments to workers who had exhausted all rights to regular compensation. On final passage, it sailed through the House by a vote of 416 to 12, with 186 or 95 percent of voting Republicans supporting it. It passed the Senate 92 to 6. Among Republicans, 42 of 48 supported the measure.
- Katrina Emergency Assistance Act of 2006 (S 1777): This bill, which made unemployment assistance available to people affected by Hurricane Katrina, passed by voice vote in the House and by unanimous consent in the Senate.
- Unemployment Compensation Amendments of 2003 (HR 2185): This bill, which extended unemployment benefits by 26 weeks, passed overwhelmingly in the House by a vote of 409 to 19. Among Republicans, 204 or 91 percent voted in favor of the measure. The bill passed by unanimous consent in the Senate.
- Emergency Wartime Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2003 (HR 1559): This bill provided extended benefits for displaced airline and related workers in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It passed the House by a voice vote and the Senate with unanimous consent.
- P.L. 108-1 (S 23): This bill, which provided for a five-month extension of the Temporary Extended Unemployment Compensation Act of 2002, passed the House by a vote of 416 to 4. Among 222 voting Republicans, 218 supported the measure.
- Job Creation and Worker Assistance Act of 2002 (HR 3090): This bill, which extended unemployment benefits for up to 13 weeks for those who had exhausted their 26 weeks of regular coverage, passed the House by a vote of 417 to 3. All 218 voting Republicans supported it. In the Senate, the vote was 85 to 9, with only one Republican opposing the bill.
Don't have enough money for college, on your own? Not so. Here's a Washington Post article from February 2007: "The Bush administration yesterday proposed boosting the nation's main financial aid program for low-income college students by the largest amount in more than three decades, the latest in a flurry of measures this week by Congress and the White House to make higher education more affordable." The Bush administration spent more than $16 billion on Pell Grants in 2008. Also under George W. Bush, Congress passed and the president signed the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007, which created the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program for federal student loans.
Don't have health insurance, on your own? Again, not so. President Bush proposed a 20% increase in funding for the State Children's Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP, to about $30 billion annually. That's on top of the Medicaid programs for the poor and Medicare for the elderly that already exist. During the Bush administration, the total government share of health care spending in America grew to 45.3% in 2007 from 42.7% during 2000, the last year of the Clinton administration. And Mr. Bush encouraged states to experiment with expanding health insurance coverage, as a Republican governor in Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, did.
At a certain point, Republicans have to wonder if competing with Democrats in expanding student aid, government health spending, and unemployment benefits is even worth it, because when they do it, the next time an election rolls around, President Obama is going to deny historical reality and refuse to admit that it ever happened. Voters looking to pick the big-spending party are going to go with the Democrats, anyway, so Republicans may figure it's not worth chasing after them.
Still, even by the Obama straw-man standard, this is really a whopper. It demonstrates a fundamental disrespect for the intelligence of the American people to go around telling these sorts of falsehoods about what happened over the past decade. Mr. Obama may really believe that "you're on your own" is the philosophy of George W. Bush Republicans, but it was hardly the economic policy or agenda that was actually implemented. Has anyone else in the press called him on it?