President Obama’s war on facts

Jonathan Strong | Contributor

Mayday! Mayday!

President Obama’s “corporate jet” line from his press conference Wednesday is crashing along with a host of other claims that fact-checkers dismissed in the hours after his speech.

Obama referred to private jets six times in his remarks, essentially describing the Republican position on how to decrease rampant deficits as being “willing to compromise their kids’ safety so that some corporate jet owner continues to get a tax break.”

The tax incentive at issue was enacted to counteract the airplane industry’s woes in 2001 after 9/11 and reauthorized in, drum roll,  Obama’s stimulus package, signed into law by the president himself.

More fundamentally, eliminating that tax break would bring in $3 billion in new taxes over ten years. That is less than 1 percent of the $400 billion in tax increases the Obama administration is proposing behind the scenes. It is about .15 percent of the spending cuts Republicans would like to see enacted.

In other words, by highlighting such a small issue, Obama cherry-picked an effective tool for making the debt ceiling vote a “clash of classes,” in the words of National Journal’s Ron Fournier, while wildly distorting its importance. Given the relatively tiny scale of the tax incentive, it does not force Congress to choose between it and “kids’ safety” in any meaningful way.

(Obama turns spotlight on Republicans for not being willing to give up ’sacred cow’)

Moving on, Obama claimed Wednesday to have been the only president in the history of the United States to have ever tried to eliminate unnecessary regulations.

“What I have done — and this is unprecedented, by the way, no administration’s done this before — is I’ve said to each agency, don’t just look at current regulations or don’t just look at future regulations, regulations that we’re proposing, let’s go backwards and look at regulations that are already on the books, and if they don’t make sense, let’s get rid of them,” Obama said.

As Calvin Woodward of the Associated Press notes, every president since Jimmy Carter has ordered a similar review of federal regulations to cut red tape.

Obama also claimed Wednesday that every informed person on the planet who isn’t being willfully dishonest realizes you can’t tackle federal deficits without raising taxes.

“Every single observer who’s not an elected official, who’s not a politician, says we can’t reduce our deficit in the scale and scope that we need to without having a balanced approach that looks at everything,” Obama said. (This “balanced approach” refers to, as he put it, “spending in the tax code,” i.e. tax increases.)

However, there is an “observer” who disagrees. He happens to be an Obama appointee. That person, as National Review’s Daniel Foster notes, is Ben Bernanke.

Questioned in a congressional hearing whether Congress could tackle deficits merely with spending cuts, Bernanke said, “of course.” Here’s a video.

Another whopper from yesterday’s press conference was Obama acting like Congress has been stubbornly holding up three free trade deals with South Korea, Columbia and Panama that could be helping the economy.

“Right now, Congress can advance a set of trade agreements that would allow American businesses to sell more of their goods and services to countries in Asia and South America -– agreements that would support tens of thousands of American jobs while helping those adversely affected by trade. That’s pending before Congress right now,” Obama said.

Come on, Congress – right now! Obama might have mentioned he just broke an impasse with Congress on Tuesday, i.e. less than 24 hours before he acted like they’ve been sitting there for months. Immediately afterward, Democrats angered Republicans by attaching the trade agreements to a controversial bill.

And, as Alana Goodman at Commentary notes, the trade agreements were originally negotiated by then-President George W. Bush in 2007. Democrats then in charge of Congress didn’t bring them up for consideration.

During the first two years of his presidency, Obama was widely faulted for having virtually no trade agenda, and the trade agreements sat dormant. Finally, several months ago, he began negotiating with Congress about the deals and Tuesday they broke a key stalemate.

Similarly, Obama blamed Congress for leaving town while he’s been here, in D.C., waiting to work hard on a budget deal.

“I think members of Congress need to understand we are going to start having to cancel things and stay here until we get it done,” Obama said Wednesday, “They’re in one week, they’re out one week. And then they’re saying, Obama has got to step in. You need to be here. I’ve been here. I’ve been doing Afghanistan and bin Laden and the Greek crisis. You stay here. Let’s get it done.”

Nice bin Laden reference, Mr. President. A few relevant points:

First, members of the president’s party have faulted him for failing to lead on budget issues.

Second, Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, the GOP’s top man on the Senate Budget Committee, has been the loudest voice urging the Senate not to recess until it made progress on a debt deal.

Third, only a few top leaders from each party are part of negotiations over the deal, meaning those negotiations aren’t exactly dependent on whether every lawmaker is in town.

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