In the bid to shape his legacy, President Obama played fast and loose with the facts Tuesday night during his final State of the Union address.
The president exaggerated his record on job creation, citing “more than 14 million new jobs” on his watch. But he didn’t mention that figure referred only to private-sector jobs, while government jobs have fallen by a half-million during that time.
Traveling to the heartland a day after his speech, Mr. Obama stuck to the 14 million figure but this time made clear that it didn’t include government job losses.
“We’re in the midst of the longest streak of private-sector job creation in history — 14 million new jobs,” he said Wednesday at the University of Nebraska in Omaha.
The net gain of jobs since January 2009 is about 9.3 million, because more than 4 million jobs were lost during the first year of Mr. Obama’s presidency. Similarly, his citing of 900,000 manufacturing jobs created “in the past six years” omitted the fact that manufacturing jobs have declined overall by 230,000 since Mr. Obama took office.
The private sector gained 14 million jobs since February 2010, when losses reached their peak.
The president’s claim that he has cut budget deficits by “almost three-quarters” overlooks the fact that he contributed about $200 billion to the deficit with increased spending in fiscal 2009, when the deficit hit $1.4 trillion. In fiscal 2015, which ended Sept. 30, the annual deficit was $439 billion.
Of course, Mr. Obama didn’t mention that the total national debt is on a course to nearly double during his presidency, to close to $20 trillion by the time he leaves office.
The president also credited Obamacare with slowing the rate of increases in health care costs. “Nearly 18 million people have gained coverage so far,” Mr. Obama said. “And in the process, health care inflation has slowed.”
But the facts don’t bear out a correlation. Health care spending began to slow down in 2009, a year before Congress enacted the Affordable Care Act. As noted by FactCheck.org, health care costs rose in 2014, “a year in which the major coverage provisions of the law went into effect, including the establishment of the health care exchanges and expansion of Medicaid.”
Mr. Obama also painted a too-rosy picture of his record on energy, saying wind power’s price has dropped during his tenure to below the cost of “dirtier conventional power.” He also said the U.S. has cut imports of foreign oil by “nearly 60 percent.”
But the federal Energy Information Administration’s figures undercut that claim. The EIA’s latest data show imports of foreign crude oil dropped from 303 million barrels in January 2009 to 221 million barrels in October 2015 — a reduction of just 27 percent.
Evaluating the price of wind energy is more complicated because of the many factors involved. The EIA projects that for power plants coming online in 2020, the cost of wind power will have dropped below that of coal and all other sources of energy, with the exceptions of geothermal and some types of natural gas.
But a July study led by academics at Utah State University said that when government subsidies are factored as part of the cost, wind energy becomes far less competitive, undercutting arguments such as the one by Mr. Obama.
“The true cost of wind energy is higher than most cost estimates calculate,” the researchers concluded. “U.S. policymakers have essentially decided that electricity consumers will have wind energy, even if it is more expensive.”
Also on Wednesday, Mr. Obama said Republican presidential candidates are full of “baloney” with their criticism that America has become weaker on his watch and called it “weird” that some Republicans failed to applaud America’s strength during his State of the Union address.
“It’s not true when you hear folks talking about how America’s so weak,” Mr. Obama said. “It’s bluster. It’s not serious. There’s another word for it that starts with a ‘b’ — it’s baloney.”
The president said he found it odd that some Republican lawmakers didn’t clap when he proclaimed during his speech that the U.S. is the strongest nation on earth.
“It was strange that some in the chamber didn’t agree and applaud with that,” Mr. Obama said. “That’s kind of a weird thing. That should not be a controversial statement. We can all clap about that. But that’s how crazy our politics has gotten. We now feel obliged to not root for America doing good.”
The president evoked guffaws from the audience when he apparently couldn’t remember how many years the U.S. has been a country.
“The United States of America for 250 years has been working to make us the strongest, but that should not be a controversial statement,” he said to laughter.
Americans will celebrate the 240th birthday of their country on July Fourth.