Accuracy in Media

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The Washington Post Fact Checker has taken President Obama to task once again for being less than truthful when he blamed Republicans for his administration’s economic failures:

“So far this year, Republicans in Congress have blocked every serious idea to strengthen the middle class.”

–President Obama, weekly address, July 12, 2014

That may be a great sound bite for a President who‘s trying to help Democrats facing reelection in November, but according to the Fact Checker’s Glenn Kessler, it’s largely untrue.

Kessler noted that Obama used a variation of this theme during a speech in Minnesota on June 27—and repeated it on July 1—leading up to his latest attack last week, before pointing out the problem with what the President said:

But here’s the odd thing: on the very day the president recorded his weekly address, the office of House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) released this photo under the happy headline of “What Working Together Looks Like.” It showed Boehner, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and other lawmakers signing the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which streamlines job training programs, so it could be sent to Obama for his signature.

“This morning, leaders of both parties in the House came together to get something done for the millions of Americans who continue to struggle to find work in today’s economy,” the news release said.

Obama had earlier said he looked forward to signing the bill. “This bipartisan compromise will help workers, including workers with disabilities, access employment, education, job-driven training, and support services that give them the chance to advance their careers and secure the good jobs of the future,” he said in a statement on July 9. “Today’s vote helps ensure that our workers can earn the skills employers are looking for right now and that American businesses have the talent pool it takes to compete and win in our global economy.”

Kessler said that what constitutes a “serious idea” will differ from person to person, especially when they are on opposite sides of the aisle. But that doesn’t mean the bills that were passed this year weren’t “serious,” and he proceeded to list some of the bills that were passed by the Republican controlled Congress:

The Water Resources Reform and Development Act, which advocates claimed could sustain as many as 500,000 new jobs.  “The first bill I’ll sign today is the Water Resources Reform and Development Act, also known as WRRDA, which will put Americans to work modernizing our water infrastructure and restoring some of our most vital ecosystems, the president said when he signed it.  “During my State of the Union address, I asked Congress to pass this bill by the summer, and I congratulate this outstanding crew for getting it done.”

The Farm Bill, which the White House called “a jobs bill, an innovation bill, a research bill, and a conservation bill.” The White House claimed it would generate $35 in economic benefits for every dollar invested and put together a graphic to share on Twitter and Facebook that showed “Five ways the Farm Bill strengthens the economy.”

There were also bills like Home Heating Emergency Assistance Through Transportation Act and the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, which took steps to help speed up delivery of propane and home heating fuel and delay flood insurance premium increases, respectively.

Oops!

Obama also ignored the bills that the House passed that haven’t been acted on or have made little progress in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Those include the Keystone-XL pipeline, which has wide support among Americans, according to a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The Pinocchio Test

We make no judgment on which side has the surplus of “serious ideas,” but the president is engaging in rhetorical overkill. Certainly this congressional session has resulted in few major laws. Perhaps he could make a case that Republicans have blocked many bills that he has sought—or even that his most prized initiatives have been stymied.

But to claim that “every serious idea” has been blocked is going too far–given that the president lauded at least three bills as aiding the middle class. (Update: In a speech the morning this column appeared, the president adjusted his language appropriately: “Republicans in Congress keep blocking or voting down some of the ideas that would have the biggest impact on middle-class and working families.”)





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