Wednesday, January 21, 2015

More Lies From Obama

President Barack Obama largely stuck to the facts in his State of the Union address, although he did cherry-pick data and exaggerate at times to put the best spin on his accomplishments.
Some highlights:
  • Obama made the inflated claim that “more than half of manufacturing executives have said they’re actively looking to bring jobs back from China.” A survey showed most “expressed interest” in it, but are not “actively looking” at doing it.
  • Obama exaggerated when he said the U.S. is “the only advanced country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee paid sick leave.” Canada and Japan also don’t mandate paid short-term sick leave, which is what Obama is seeking for the U.S.
  • The president boasted that the U.S. has gained 11 million private sector jobs in five years. Yes, but that ignores his first 13 months in office and a net loss of public sector jobs. Total employment growth during his time in office is about 6.4 million.
  • Obama also boasted that “more of our people are insured than ever before.” But that’s based on an administration analysis that compares the second quarter of 2014 to years past. We don’t have the full 2014 federal numbers yet.

Analysis
The president delivered his sixth State of the Union address at a joint session of Congress on Jan. 20. But it was his first under a Congress controlled by Republicans. Much of his speech was devoted to the improving economy.
Manufacturing Jobs
Obama made the inflated claim that “more than half of manufacturing executives have said they’re actively looking to bring jobs back from China.”
The president was referring to an August 2014 survey of 252 senior manufacturing executives in the U.S. conducted by the Boston Consulting Group. But the survey’s findings don’t exactly back up the president’s claim.
© Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg U.S. President Barack Obama, front, delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress as U.S. Vice President Joseph "Joe" Biden, left, and U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio…
While 54 percent of those surveyed “expressed interest in reshoring,” only 16 percent said they are “already bringing production back from China to the United States,” a 20 percent increase from the 2013 survey. And 20 percent of those polled said that “they would consider returning production in the near future,” up 24 percent from 2013.
Obama also said that since 2010 “[o]ur manufacturers have added almost 800,000 new jobs.” That’s true enough, but there has been a net loss of manufacturing jobs during the president’s time in office.
Since January 2010, the time frame used by the president, the U.S. has seen an increase of 777,000 manufacturing jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But since January 2009, when Obama took office, the U.S. has seen a net decline of 321,000 manufacturing jobs, the same BLS data show.
In a recent study, the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation rejected talk of a “manufacturing renaissance,” calling it a “myth,” and noting there still is a long way to go. Even with the recent increase in manufacturing jobs, there are still nearly 1.8 million fewer manufacturing jobs than there were in January 2007, BLS figures show.
“Much of the growth since 2010 appears to be caused by a cyclical recovery as demand, particularly for motor vehicles and other durable goods, returns,” the ITIF report said.
Economic Growth
The president fudged a bit when he said economic growth and job gains are the best in 16 years.
Obama: Tonight, after a breakthrough year for America, our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999.
Not quite.
As for how fast “our economy is growing,” official figures from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis put the gain in real gross domestic product at an annual rate of 5.0 percent in the third quarter of last year. Those are the most recent figures available, and they represent the best quarterly gain in some time. But not since 1999.
The BEA’s figures show real GDP grew at a rate of 6.9 percent in the third quarter of 2003, and at 7.8 percent in the second quarter of 2000.
And as for “creating jobs,” the White House has pointed to a preliminary figure of 2.95 million jobs gained in 2014, which is the best since 1999 if it holds up when the BLS completes its normal revisions of job figures, which could go up or down.
But the president spoke in present tense — saying the economy “is … creating jobs” at the fastest clip since 1999. And by more immediate measures the pace is not quite the most rapid since 1999. BLS puts the gain in total nonfarm employment during the most recent three-month period (ending in December) at 866,000 jobs. That’s a respectable number, but not the best three-month gain since 1999.
The BLS figures show other three-month stretches in 2010, 2006, 2004 and 2000 when even more jobs were added.
Three month job change © Provided by FactCheck Three month job change

3-Month Net Change (in thousands)
Total Nonfarm Employment, Seasonally Adjusted

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Sick Pay
Obama exaggerated when he said the United States was “the only advanced country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee paid sick leave.”
While Canada and Japan have social insurance programs that would cover an extended leave for cancer treatment, they don’t have guaranteed paid leave for an illness that lasts a few days. And Obama made the claim in calling for “a bill that gives every worker in America the opportunity to earn seven days of paid sick leave.”
A 2009 report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a group funded by various labor groups and foundations, examined policies in 22 countries “ranked highly in terms of economic and human development.” It says in the first paragraph that the U.S. is “the only country that does not guarantee that workers receive paid sick days or paid sick leave,” but it goes on to say that neither Canada nor Japan has a policy for financial support for short-term leave, for an illness such as a five-day flu. Those countries do have social insurance that would cover some of the pay for an employee needing 50 days off for cancer treatment. Those are the two scenarios examined in the study.
The report says that 11 countries guaranteed full pay for an illness requiring five sick days. Others paid for some missed time, but not all five days (and in a few cases not even one full day), because of waiting periods before the financial support would kick in.
Obama also said that the U.S. was the “only advanced country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee … paid maternity leave to our workers.” A 2014 report from the United Nation’s International Labour Organization found: “Only two out of 185 countries and territories currently provide no statutory cash benefits during maternity leave.” The two countries were Papua New Guinea and the United States, both of which provide some kind of maternity leave but no requirement for paid leave.
The U.S. Family and Medical Leave Act requires 12 weeks of unpaid leave for new mothers who have worked for one year for employers with more than 50 workers. Employers may require a substitution of paid sick or vacation days for the FMLA leave.
However, the International Labour Organization report went on to say that the benefits in more than half of those 185 countries “were neither generous nor sufficiently long-lasting.” It calls for 14 weeks of pay equal to two-thirds of previous earnings, a standard met by 85 percent of developed countries.
And not all women are eligible for benefits. “Only 28.4 per cent of employed women worldwide would receive cash benefits in case of maternity,” the report said.
Private Sector Job Growth
The president was correct when he said the U.S. has gained 11 million private sector jobs in the past five years.
Obama: And over the past five years, our businesses have created more than 11 million new jobs.
That’s true as far as it goes. The economy gained 11,215,000 private sector jobs between February 2010 and the preliminary figures for December of last year.
Of course, the president said nothing of the 4,210,000 private sector jobs that were lost during the first 13 months of his tenure as president, due to the savage recession that was raging at the time he took office.
Overall, since Obama took office, the net gain in private sector employment is just over 7 million. And the gain in total employment during his time in office is lower than that — just under 6.4 million. That’s because of a net loss in government jobs, particularly in local school systems.
 Abortion and Teen Pregnancies in Decline
Obama was right when he said “teen pregnancies and abortions are nearing all-time lows.”
Obama: We still may not agree on a woman’s right to choose, but surely we can agree it’s a good thing that teen pregnancies and abortions are nearing all-time lows, and that every woman should have access to the health care she needs.
The rate of teen pregnancies in the U.S. has been on the decline for decades, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Vital Statistics. In 2013, there were 274,641 babies born to females aged 15 to 19, a rate of 26.6 births for every 1,000 teen mothers. That was a 10 percent decline from 2012 and “the lowest number of teen births ever reported for the United States.” According to CDC, it was also 57 percent lower than in 1970, the peak year for teen births.
However, despite this progress, teen pregnancies in the U.S. still outpace many other developed countries including Canada and the United Kingdom, according to United Nations statistics.
As for abortions, the Guttmacher Institute reported in July 2014 that the rate of abortions in 2011 was the lowest since 1973. In 2011, “1.06 million abortions were performed, down 13 percent from 1.21 million in 2008.”
 China’s ‘Commitment’ on Emissions
In a section of his speech dealing with efforts to address climate change, Obama touted a recent agreement with China.
Obama: In Beijing, we made an historic announcement – the United States will double the pace at which we cut carbon pollution, and China committed, for the first time, to limiting their emissions.
Committed? Not exactly.
In a joint announcement on Nov. 12, 2014, both the U.S. and China said they “intend to achieve” emissions targets. For its part, the U.S. said it “intends to achieve an economy-wide target of reducing its emissions by 26%-28% below its 2005 level in 2025 and to make best efforts to reduce its emissions by 28%.” China, meanwhile, said it “intends to achieve the peaking of CO2 emissions around 2030 and to make best efforts to peak early and intends to increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 20% by 2030.”
The agreement was hailed by the Natural Resources Defense Council as “a turning point in the fight against global warming.” But the deal was derided by many Republican leaders, including Sen. Jim Inhofe, a Republican senator from Oklahoma and new chair of the Senate Environment Committee, who released a statement condemning the deal as a “non-binding charade.”
As we wrote in a story about the climate deal with China, it’s true, as Inhofe said, that the deal is not a legally binding treaty, which would need Senate ratification. As the language in the announcement makes clear, the countries said they “intend to achieve” specific targets, but that’s not quite a binding commitment.
Health Insurance
Obama’s boast about the decline in the uninsured is supported by early estimates from inside and outside his administration.
Obama: And in the past year alone, about 10 million uninsured Americans finally gained the security of health coverage.
That figure is echoed by a quarterly survey conducted by the Urban Institute and a report by researchers with the Department of Health and Human Services and Harvard School of Public Health.
But we don’t yet know if Obama can claim that “more of our people are insured than ever before,” as he said earlier in his speech. An analysis of the percentage of uninsured by the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers shows that, but compares the second quarter of 2014 to years past. We don’t have the full 2014 federal numbers yet.
The Urban Institute’s Health Reform Monitoring Survey says the number of the uninsured dropped by 10.6 million nonelderly adults between September 2013 and September 2014. (The Affordable Care Act’s first open enrollment period for policies purchased by individuals was from Oct. 1, 2013, through March 31, 2014.)
An earlier estimate from researchers with the Department of Health and Human Services and Harvard School of Public Health put the decline of the uninsured at 10.3 million adults from January 2012 through June 2014. Their report, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, noted that “depending on the model and confidence intervals, our sensitivity analyses imply a wide range from 7.3 to 17.2 million adults.”
Estimates from the most recent National Health Interview Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics show a drop of 6.8 million people (of all ages) who were without health insurance at the time they were interviewed in the first six months of 2014, compared with 2013 (see Table 2). Those numbers were just released in December, so we won’t have a fuller look at the changes between 2013 and 2014 overall for some months.
Obama cited a statistic from his own Council of Economic Advisers in saying that “more of our people are insured than ever before.” The CEA used National Center for Health Statistics data and estimated that “the nation’s uninsured rate is now at or near the lowest level recorded across five decades of data.”
The data go back to 1963, and CEA had to make some adjustments due to changes in survey construction over the years. As we said, figures for all of 2014 aren’t yet available, so CEA compares the percentage of uninsured for the second quarter of 2014 (11.3 percent) to figures from past years. That’s the lowest rate in CEA’s chart, but only 0.1 percentage points below the rate in 1974, 1978 and 1980 (see the table on page 11).
The figure for the first six months of 2014, not just the second quarter, is higher, however, at 12.2 percent (see Table 1). It remains to be seen how 2014 as a whole will compare to the past.
The National Center for Health Statistics’ trend numbers for those without health insurance under age 65 (see Table 3) show that the first six months of 2014 had a lower percentage of uninsured than most of the past years — but not all. The percentage of the uninsured under age 65 was lower in 1974, 1978, 1980 and 1982.
Deficits
In ticking off his accomplishments, Obama listed this one: “our deficits cut by two-thirds.” That’s accurate, but as we have written before, the deficits have fallen from high levels and are on pace to return to high levels.
When Obama took office in January 2009, the federal deficit for fiscal year 2009 was already on pace to be $1.2 trillion and topped $1.4 trillion by the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, 2009. Annual deficits remained above $1 trillion for three more years before dropping to $680 billion in fiscal 2013.
The U.S. finished the most recent fiscal year with a deficit of $483 billion — roughly down two-thirds from what it was in fiscal 2009, as the president said.
But, as we noted in our quarterly report on Obama’s presidency, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects that annual deficits will soon rise again if Congress doesn’t act. In a report it issued in August, CBO projected that under current law the deficit will rise above $500 billion in fiscal 2016 and hit nearly $950 billion by 2022.
Drones
Obama said his administration has “worked to make sure our use of new technology like drones is properly constrained.” Whether the use of drones has been “properly constrained” is a subjective matter. The Stimson Center, a global security think tank, for one, warned in 2014 that heavy reliance on drones “risks increasing instability and escalating conflicts.”
But as a matter of independent analysis, Obama has ordered many more drone strikes than his predecessor, George W. Bush.
Obama: As Americans, we respect human dignity, even when we’re threatened, which is why I’ve prohibited torture, and worked to make sure our use of new technology like drones is properly constrained.
No official figures are available, and for a time the Obama administration would not even publicly admit that such CIA-controlled attacks were taking place. But independent reports have found a dramatic increase in the use of covert, remote-controlled drones and missiles to attack targets in Pakistan and Yemen.
An independent estimate by the nonpartisan New America Foundation, based on what it deems to be “credible news reports,” puts the number of attacks at more than 450 since Obama took office, more than nine times as many as took place while Bush was in office. In Pakistan, the group concludes, somewhere between 1,838 and 3,041 people were killed by drones approved by Obama. Most of them were militants, the report states, but about 150 of them were civilians. As we noted in a story in April 2013, estimates by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in Britain, while slightly different, give a similar picture.

– by Eugene Kiely, Brooks Jackson, Lori Robertson, Robert Farley, D’Angelo Gore, Carolyn Fante and Eden Everwine

Sources
Boston Consulting Group. “U.S. Executives Remain Bullish on American Manufacturing, Study Finds.” Press Release. 24 Oct 2014.
White House. “Year in Review: Creating Economic Opportunity for All Americans in 2014.” Press Release. 18 Dec 2014.
U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. “Table 1.1.1. Percent Change From Preceding Period in Real Gross Domestic Product” 1999-2014. 23 Dec 2014. Data extracted 21 Jan 2015.
Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Employment, Hours, and Earnings from the Current Employment Statistics survey (National); Total Nonfarm Employment, Seasonally Adjusted” 3-month net change 1999-2014. Data extracted 21 Jan 2015.
Furman, Jason. “The Employment Situation in December” White House Council of Economic Advisers. 9 Jan 2015
New America Foundation. “Drone Wars Pakistan: Analysis.” Accessed 21 Jan 2015.
Jackson, Brooks. “Obama’s Numbers (Quarterly Update).” FactCheck.org. 16 Apr 2013.
Bureau of Investigative Journalism. “Covert Drone War.
Long, Sharon K. et. al. “Taking Stock: Health Insurance Coverage under the ACA as of September 2014.” Health Reform Monitoring Survey. Urban Institute. 3 Dec 2014.
Sommers, Benjamin D. et. al. “Health Reform and Changes in Health Insurance Coverage in 2014.” New England Journal of Medicine. 28 Aug 2014.
International Labour Organization. “Maternity and Paternity at Work: Law and practice across the world.” 2014.
Heymann, Jody et. al. “Contagion Nation: A Comparison of Paid Sick Day Policies in 22 Countries.” Center for Economic and Policy Research. May 2009.
Furman, Jason and Fiedler, Matt. “2014 Has Seen Largest Coverage Gains in Four Decades, Putting the Uninsured Rate at or Near Historic Lows.” Council of Economic Advisers. 18 Dec 2014.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Trends in Health Care Coverage and Insurance for 1968-2011.” page updated 15 Nov 2012.
New America Foundation. “Drone Wars Pakistan: Analysis.” Accessed 21 Jan 2015.
Jackson, Brooks. “Obama’s Numbers (Quarterly Update).” FactCheck.org. 16 Apr 2013.
Bureau of Investigative Journalism. “Covert Drone War.
National Vital Statistics Reports. Births: Preliminary Data for 2013. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 29 May 2014.
Guttmacher Institute. “Fact Sheet: Induced Abortion in the United States.” July 2014.
White House Website. “U.S.-China Joint Announcement on Climate Change.” 11 Nov 2014.
Natural Resources Defense Council Staff Blog. Frances Beinecke’s Blog:  “Historic Announcement Shows US and China Are Serious about Fighting Climate Change.” 12 Nov 2014.
Sen. James Inhofe Website. “Press release: Inhofe: U.S.-China Climate Deal a Non-Binding Charade.” 12 Nov 2014.
Farley, Robert. “Checking Inhofe’s Energy Statistics on China.” FactCheck.org. 14 Nov 2014.
Farley, Robert. “Deficits Falling (From Way Up).” FactCheck.org. 1 Aug 2013.
Jackson, Brooks. “Obama’s Numbers (January 2015 Update)” FactCheck.org. 9 Jan 2015.
Department of Treasury Bureau of the Fiscal Service. “Monthly Treasury Statement.” 13 Nov 2014.
Congressional Budget Office. “An Update to the Budget and Economic Outlook: 2014 to 2024.” 27 Aug 2014.
Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Employment, Hours, and Earnings from the Current Employment Statistics survey (National).” Data extracted 20 Jan 2015.
Nager, Adams and Robert D. Atkinson. “The Myth of America’s Manufacturing Renaissance: The Real State of U.S. Manufacturing.” The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation. 12 Jan 2015.