Obama's Calculated Deception

Obama's Calculated Deception
August 1, 2012

Peter Ferrara

Peter Ferrara is senior fellow for entitlement and budget policy at The Heartland Institute, a... (read full bio)

How the Obama campaign is trying to deceive you on the economy.

Calculated Deception. That is the central theme of the Obama campaign. Calculated Deception is the term I use for Obama's rhetorical practice of trying to take advantage of what he calculates the average person does not know, and his party-controlled, so-called mainstream media won't report. And that can be seen over and over in the Obama campaign.

Obscuring the Worst Recovery Since the Great Depression
In Monday's Wall Street Journal, Edward Lazear, former Bush chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisors, notes, "A graph titled 'Private Sector Job Creation' on the Obama-Biden campaign website… announces proudly that 4.4 million private sector jobs have been created over the past 28 months." But that factoid is meaningless out of any context, more like a pediatrician boasting to you that under his care your 16-year-old son has grown to 4 feet 4 inches. At the same point during the Reagan recovery, the economy had created 9.5 million new jobs.

Moreover, Lazear correctly adds, "there hasn't been one day during the entire Obama presidency when as many Americans were working as on the day President Bush left office." That's right, contrary to the Obama campaign's misleading claim of 4.4 million new jobs created, total jobs today are still half a million less than in January 2009 when Obama entered office.

Lazear continues, "Moreover, the unemployment rate, which we were told would not exceed 8% if we enacted Mr. Obama's stimulus package…has never fallen below 8% during his presidency. The rate has averaged 9.2% since February 2009." In sharp contrast, after Bush's tax rate cuts were all fully implemented in 2003, the economy created 7.8 million new jobs over the next 4 years and the unemployment rate fell from over 6% to 4.4%. We won't see that again until Obama is out of office.

President Obama and his chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, Alan Krueger, brag that private sector jobs have now grown for "28 straight months." Obama and Krueger apparently think most Americans do not know that job growth is the norm and not the exception for the American economy. In the 62 years from January 1946, after World War II, until January 2008, jobs grew in 86% of the months, or 640 out of 744. Reagan's recovery produced job growth in 81 out of its first 82 months, with 20 million new jobs created over those 7 years, increasing the civilian workforce at the time by 20%. Even George W. Bush oversaw 52 consecutive months of job growth, including nearly 8 million new jobs created after his 2003 capital gains and dividends tax rate cuts became effective (which Obama is dedicated to reversing).

The relevant streak of Obamanomics was extended in the June jobs report. That report established that under President Obama America has suffered 41 straight months of unemployment over 8%, which the Joint Economic Committee of Congress confirms is the worst recovery from a recession since the Great Depression almost 75 years ago. Indeed, the last time before Obama unemployment was even over 8% was December 1983, when Reaganomics was bringing it down from the Keynesian fiasco of the 1970s. It didn't climb back above that level for 25 years, a generation, which is a measure of the spectacular success of Reaganomics.

But Krueger tells us about that June jobs report, "It is important not to read too much into any one monthly report." The Obama Administration, however, has said the exact same thing for each of the last 30 months, as documented July 6 by Bryan Preston for PJMedia.

How Stupid Does He Think We Are?
President Obama keeps telling us his economic program should be judged by comparison to the worst of the recession. Look, we have turned the corner, he says, and the economy has started growing again, just like your teenage son. But the correct comparison is to prior recoveries from past recessions. As Lazear explained, "Yet we know that all recessions end and that labor markets recover eventually. What distinguishes this labor-market recovery is not that jobs are finally being created but rather the growth rate is so slow that it will be 2016 before we return to pre-recession employment levels." Obama is campaigning as if he were certain that a majority of Americans do not know that all recessions end and that labor markets recover eventually.

American recessions since the Great Depression previously have lasted an average of 10 months, with the longest at 16 months. But this latest recession began in December 2007. The June labor report showed that the most commonly cited U3 unemployment rate remains stuck at 8.2%, with the number of unemployed Americans actually rising over the last 3 months by 76,000, 54 months after the recession started, and 3 years after it was supposedly over, the longest period of unemployment that high since the Great Depression.

Barack Obama knows that history, even though he is sure a majority of you don't. That is why he was confident enough to tell Matt Lauer and the nation in February 2009 regarding economic recovery: "If I don't have that done in three years, then this is going to be a one-term proposition." And it is why the Administration so confidently labeled the summer of 2010 "Recovery Summer," as by historical standards the recovery was already way overdue by then.

Obama's tragic jobs record reflects the dismal economic growth under his administration's throwback, Keynesian economic policies. For all of last year, the economy grew by a paltry real rate of 1.7%, only about half America's long-term trend. The average so far this year has been no better. That dismal growth is further reflected in the Census Bureau reports of falling real wages under Obama, kicking median family income back over 10 years, with more Americans in poverty today than at any time in the more than 50 years that Census has been tracking poverty.

In sharp contrast, in the second year of Reagan's recovery, the economy boomed by a real rate of 6.8%, the highest in 50 years. Real per capita disposable income increased by 18% from 1982 to 1989, meaning the American standard of living increased by almost 20% in those first 7 years of the Reagan boom alone. The poverty rate, which had started increasing during the Carter years, declined every year from 1984 to 1989, dropping by one-sixth from its peak. That is the proper comparison for Obama's economic performance.

Obama cannot explain away the disgraceful failure of his Keynesian economic policies by arguing it is because the recession he inherited from Bush was so bad. The American historical experience is that the worse the recession, the stronger the recovery, as the American economy snaps back to its world-leading, long-term, economic growth trend line. Based on this historical record, we should be enjoying the third year of a raging economic recovery boom right now.

But the dismal economic performance we have suffered instead, with no real recovery from the steep 2008-2009 recession at all, is because Obama has so thoroughly followed the opposite of every policy of Reaganomics. I first argued in the Wall Street Journal in February 2009 that Obamanomics was going to produce the opposite of Reaganomics as a result. That is what is now just beginning to happen.

"The Rich" and Their Fair Share
We can see the same Calculated Deception in regard to President Obama's tax policy, where he has been barnstorming the country for three years now telling us that "the rich" (whatever that is supposed to mean) do not pay their fair share of federal taxes, and the middle class pays more as a result. But the CBO issued a report last month that proves him grievously wrong.

"The Distribution of Household Income and Federal Taxes, 2008 and 2009," issued by CBO on July 10, reports that the top 1% of income earners paid 39% of federal individual income taxes in 2009, while earning 13% of the income. That means their share of federal income taxes was three times their share of income.

And that is down from 2007, before President Obama was even elected. In that year, after 25 years of Reagan Republican tax policies, the top 1% paid 40% of federal individual income taxes. That was more than double the 17.6% of federal individual income taxes paid by the top 1% when President Reagan entered office in 1981.

Also in 2007, again before Obama was even elected, and after 25 years of Reaganomics, the bottom 40% of income earners on net as a group paid less than 0% of federal income taxes. Instead of paying at least some income taxes to help support the federal government, the federal government paid them cash through the income tax code.

Does that reality sound like what you hear in President Obama's deceiving speeches?

CBO further reported that in 2009 the top 20% of income earners, those earning more than $74,000, paid 94% of federal individual income taxes, virtually all of the net total. That was 85% more than the share of national income they earned.

Yet, in that same year, the middle 20% of income earners, the true middle class, paid 2.7% of total federal individual income taxes on net, while earning 15% of before-tax income. And the bottom 40% of income earners, instead of paying some income taxes to support the federal government, were paid by the IRS cash equal to 10% of federal individual income taxes on net.

That means altogether the bottom 60% of income earners, which includes the middle class, paid less than 0% of total federal individual income taxes as a group on net. Instead, as a group, they received net cash payments from the IRS on net.

Ignorant or Lying?
The Obama campaign continues its Calculated Deception in saturating the Internet with advertising alleging that Mitt Romney's "tax plan" would raise taxes on the middle class and working families. Not only has Romney proposed no such thing. House Republicans have already voted for Rep. Paul Ryan's tax reform plan that would cut the federal income tax rate for all families earning less than $100,000 to 10%, and Romney has endorsed that as well.

Indeed, the whole history of Republican tax policy going back to Reagan is that Republicans have never raised income taxes on the middle class and working people. Quite to the country, Reagan and his Republicans abolished federal income taxes on what the Left calls the working class, and almost abolished them for the middle class, as the official data discussed above shows.

That began with the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which grew out of then Governor Ronald Reagan's famous testimony before the Senate Finance Committee in 1972, where he proposed exempting the working poor from all Social Security and income taxes as an alternative to welfare, with the credit serving as a way to offset payroll taxes for the poor and low income workers. As President, Reagan cut federal income tax rates across the board for all taxpayers by 25%. He also indexed the tax brackets for all taxpayers to prevent inflation from pushing working people into higher tax brackets.

In the Tax Reform Act of 1986, President Reagan reduced the federal income tax rate for middle and lower income families all the way down to 15%. That Act also doubled the personal exemption, shielding a higher proportion of income from taxation for lower income workers than for higher income workers.

Newt Gingrich's Contract with America adopted a child tax credit of $500 per child that also reduced the tax liabilities of lower income people by a higher percentage than for higher income people. President Bush doubled that credit to $1,000 per child, and made it refundable so that low-income people who do not even pay $1,000 in federal income taxes could still get the full credit. Bush also adopted a new lower tax bracket for the lowest income workers of 10%, reducing their federal income tax rate by 33%.

That is how we reached the point by 2007 where the bottom 40%, or even 60%, of income earners as a group on net were being paid by the federal income tax code instead of paying federal income taxes. So when then candidate Obama said in 2008 that Republicans cut taxes for the rich, but haven't "given a break to folks who make less," was he ignorant or lying?

Obama's lying allegation regarding Romney flies in the face of that reality. Rather, it is Obama who has raised taxes on the middle class, in gross violation of his 2008 campaign pledge not to do so. That has been held, in fact, by the United States Supreme Court, which ruled that the individual mandate in Obamacare is constitutional precisely because it is a tax. And that individual mandate tax applies to the middle class, and working people. Moreover, Obamacare includes several other tax increases that apply to the middle class, and working people, such as the new tax on medical devices, the new tax on health insurance, the new tax on prescription drugs, and others.

Blame Obama on the Democrat Party
The Obama campaign is trailblazing new realms of dishonesty in the history of American politics, bringing to America for the first time Soviet-style propaganda that flies in the direct face of reality, buttressed by dishonest, party-controlled media operations. Moreover, it is a classically abusive Saul Alinsky trick to accuse your opponent of planning to do exactly what you have done, as Obama does in continually accusing Romney of proposing to raise taxes on the middle class. Only an idiot can fail to see that the entire Democrat party's spending plans require sweeping tax increases on the middle class.

The bottom line is that the entire Democrat party needs to be held responsible for Obama, the abusive dishonesty of his campaign operation, and the accelerating downward spiral of America his neo-Marxist policies are producing. Those policies in fact are not unique to Obama, but represent the heart and soul of today's Democrat party. This is a Paul Revere moment for the American people. The only way to save your country is for each of you to rally your friends, neighbors, and relatives this fall to come out in force and defeat the entire Democrat party root and branch.

Peter Ferrara

Peter Ferrara is senior fellow for entitlement and budget policy at The Heartland Institute, a... (read full bio)