- - Tuesday, April 15, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

President Obama and the Democrats have been peddling some whoppers lately about women in the workforce and Obamacare that are patently untrue or based on questionable, exaggerated data.

Mr. Obama and his party are betting they can get away with such falsehoods because the news media swallow them whole, regurgitating their charges as facts. Washington’s ultraliberal press corps rarely digs into the veracity of his claims.

The first is the White House’s election-year claims that average working women are paid a great deal less than men, often for the same amount of work.

Here’s what Mr. Obama said April 8 on equal pay for equal work: “Today, the average full-time working woman earns just 77 cents for every dollar a man earns in 2014, that’s an embarrassment. It is wrong.”

When Mr. Obama and the Democrats get into trouble, they usually reach for the weapon they’ve used so many times before; namely, demagoguery. That’s what they’re doing now to boost the women’s vote, as midterm election polls show they’re going to get another “shellacking” in the Senate races in November.

Is the president’s statement true? On Sunday, The Washington Post’s highly respected “Fact Checker,” Glenn Kessler, gave the statement Two Pinocchios out of four, but he said he was “tempted to go one step further to Three Pinocchios.”

Pinocchio is the 19th-century tale, made into a 1940 Disney film, of a little boy whose nose grows longer when he doesn’t tell the truth.

Mr. Kessler has been warning Mr. Obama about his wage-gap claim for quite awhile. In the 2012 presidential election, he looked into the math “and found it wanting.” He questioned Mr. Obama’s statement again when he used it in his 2013 and 2014 State of the Union addresses.

“He keeps using it, as do many other Democrats. So now it’s time for a reassessment,” Mr. Kessler writes.

What he found is that the claim is based on very simple math that does not account for a wide and complex variety of factors and differences “in the life choices of men and women” that “make it difficult to make easy comparisons.”

June O’Neill, the former Congressional Budget Office director, who has been a critic of the 77-cent statistic, says the gap is a result of various statistical factors. Among them: the average woman has less work experience than the average male; more of the weeks women work tend to be part time instead of full time; women tend to leave the workforce for periods of time to raise children; they often want and obtain flexible work hours with lower pay; and tend to choose lower-paying work.

Mr. Kessler points out that the U.S. Bureau of Labor’s data “show that women who do not get married have virtually no wage gap; they earn 96 cents for every dollar a man makes.”

Moreover, a 2011 study by the Federal Reserve of St. Louis found the wage gap is much lower when women are compared to men with similar characteristics.

Mr. Kessler agrees there appears to be some sort of wage gap, but adds, “it’s a bit rich for the president to repeatedly cite this statistic as an ‘embarrassment.’”

Notably, after an earlier online version of his fact-check column appeared, Mr. Obama dropped any mention of the 77- cent wage gap in his weekly radio address Saturday.

Another questionable figure Mr. Obama boasted about last week was his flat statement that under the Obamacare law, “7.1 million Americans have now signed up for private insurance plans … .”

Mr. Kessler has deep problems with this claim, too. “Note the phrase ‘signed up,’” he cautions us.

As he and health care experts have said before about the sign-up numbers, they’re not all they’re cracked up to be. Signing up is not the same as “paying up” month after month.

The key test for Obamacare will be “how many people actually pay the first month’s premium.” While no one yet knows what the payment trend will be, Mr. Kessler applies an 85 percent payment rate, the same rate that’s occurring in California.

“An 85 percent payment rate would translate into about 6 million actually paying premiums,” he writes, well below the much-ballyhooed White House figure. That’s closer to the Congressional Budget Office’s downwardly revised forecast after it learned that many more people were on the plan for only one month.

There are other statistical misinterpretations sprinkled throughout Obamacare’s figures. “When all is said and done, the administration might only just meet the CBO’s revised estimate of 6 million people or even fall short,” Mr. Kessler says.

Mr. Obama made another shaky claim about sign-ups last week when he said the new number was “on top of the more than 3 million young adults who have gained insurance under this law by staying on their family’s plan … .”

It turns out this is a questionable, two-year-old statistic from a government estimate that has not been updated. “The factoid is therefore fairly dubious,” says Mr. Kessler. The “administration’s claims about the under-26 enrollment should be treated with extreme caution.”

“Are Obama’s latest health-care enrollment figures accurate?” the headline over his column asked its readers.

Clearly, Mr. Obama’s figures are deliberately exaggerated — or worse — for political purposes in the belief that no one is going to check these numbers, least of all the network news shows that never question any of his claims.

He’s made a practice of playing fast and loose with the facts throughout his presidency, and the base of his party is all too willing to swallow them whole.

In a 2008 presidential debate, he talked of the death of his mother from cervical cancer, saying she spent “the last months of her life in the hospital arguing with insurance companies because they’re saying this may be a pre-existing condition and they don’t have to pay for her treatment.” That story was repeated in his 2012 campaign film.

It was eventually revealed that the dispute wasn’t about her health insurance, which covered her medical bills.

More recently, the policy falsehoods keep coming, and President Pinocchio’s nose is growing longer and longer.

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and contributor to The Washington Times.


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