Media conservatives are pushing the narrative that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's attacks against President Obama over the economy will be effective because Obama favored health care reform rather than focusing on "fixing the economy." However, this narrative falters when confronted with the facts, including that Obama pushed through the first of many economic initiatives a month after he was elected -- more than a year before health care reform became law.
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Media Push GOP Narrative That Obama Neglected Economy In Favor Of Health Care
Byron York: Republicans Will Use "Devastating Critique" That Obama Focused On Health Care, Not Jobs. On Fox News Sunday, Washington Examiner columnist and Fox contributor Byron York said:
YORK: If the law is struck down in whole or in part, Republicans will say that in 2009 and 2010, when the public was desperate for a president to concentrate on creating jobs and fixing the economy, the president instead spent all of his time passing this massive, new, intrusive health care law, and it turned out to be unconstitutional. That is a devastating critique of the president, and certainly Democrats don't want that. [Fox Broadcasting Co., Fox News Sunday, 4/8/12]
MSNBC's Joe Scarborough: If Obama Had Lost, Congress Wouldn't "Have Been Distracted By The Health Care Bill." After saying that the Republican message on the economy should be that Obama "made it worse," former Republican Congressman and MSNBC host Joe Scarborough claimed that if Sen. John McCain had won the 2008 election, "I certainly don't think Congress would have been distracted by the health care bill." He added that "there would have been more of a focus on jobs." [MSNBC, Morning Joe, 4/16/12]
Fox's Steve Doocy: "The President Made Health Care His Number One Initiative In The Beginning." Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy said the current condition of the economy is "the president's fault" because "the president made health care his number one initiative in the beginning." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/16/12]
Fox's Megyn Kelly Uncritically Repeated GOP "Line Of Attack" That Obama "Took His Eye Off The Ball" On Jobs "By Focusing On Health Care." Fox News host Megyn Kelly said:
KELLY: That seems to be a line of attack that they're getting ready to unleash -- the Romney camp -- that is health care, in addition to being something that's unpopular, was - he took his eye off the ball. Same way they went after President Bush for, he took his eye off the ball in Afghanistan by going in Iraq. It's going to be, President Obama took his eye off the ball on the economy by focusing on health care, which was something unpopular that the American people didn't want. Is that effective? [Fox News, America Live, 4/17/12]
In Fact, The Obama Administration Was Focused On Economy From The Beginning
Obama's First Speech To Congress Focused On The Economy.Obama's first address to Congress on February 24, 2009, focused on the economy, as CNN noted in an article that included the transcript of his speech. The headline CNN used read: "Obama speech to Congress focuses on economy." From Obama's speech:
I have come here tonight not only to address the distinguished men and women in this great chamber, but to speak frankly and directly to the men and women who sent us here.
I know that for many Americans watching right now, the state of our economy is a concern that rises above all others, and rightly so. If you haven't been personally affected by this recession, you probably know someone who has: a friend, a neighbor, a member of your family.
You don't need to hear another list of statistics to know that our economy is in crisis, because you live it every day. It's the worry you wake up with and the source of sleepless nights. It's the job you thought you'd retire from but now have lost, the business you built your dreams upon that's now hanging by a thread, the college acceptance letter your child had to put back in the envelope.
The impact of this recession is real, and it is everywhere.
But while our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken, though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this: We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.
The weight of this crisis will not determine the destiny of this nation. The answers to our problems don't lie beyond our reach. They exist in our laboratories and our universities, in our fields and our factories, in the imaginations of our entrepreneurs and the pride of the hardest-working people on Earth. [CNN.com, 2/24/09]
February 2009: Obama Signed Stimulus Bill. On February 17, 2009, President Obama signed the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law, which the Associated Press described as "an ambitious package of federal spending and tax cuts designed to revive the economy and save millions of jobs." [Associated Press, 2/17/09]
May 2009: Obama Signed Credit Card Reform Into Law. From the White House website:
Today, President Obama signs the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure (CARD) Act of 2009, marking a turning point for American consumers and ending the days of unfair rate hikes and hidden fees.
Americans need a healthy flow of credit in our economy, but for too long credit card contracts and practices have been unfairly and deceptively complicated, often leading consumers to pay more than they reasonably expect. Every year, Americans pay around $15 billion in penalty fees. Nearly 80 percent of American families have a credit card, and 44 percent of families carry a balance on their credit cards. To tackle these problems, the Administration moved swiftly with the Congress to enact reforms. [WhiteHouse.gov, 5/22/09]
July 2009: GM Exited Bankruptcy. On July 10, 2009, General Motors exited bankruptcy protection with the assistance of the Obama administration. From Reuters:
A whirlwind 40-day bankruptcy for GM concluded with the closing of a deal that sold key operations to a new company majority-owned by the U.S. Treasury.
The development, which follows a similar fast-track reorganization of Chrysler, represented a victory for the Obama administration and its commitment to save jobs and prevent a liquidation of the largest U.S. automaker.
At the same time, the U.S. government has taken on substantial new risks as a 60 percent owner of the new GM with a $50 billion equity investment and $10 billion in debt and perpetual preferred shares.
Analysts said the government intervention had given GM a new chance and sharply lower operating costs, but left management facing deep challenges given the weak economy and GM's long-running slide in market share. [Reuters, 7/10/09]
October 2009: Obama Announced Small Business Lending Initiatives. On October 21, 2009, the Obama administration announced several initiatives it was seeking to implement to help small businesses acquire loans. The New York Times reported:
On the Small Business Administration side, the administration will ask Congress to raise the loan limit on the 7(a) lending program to $5 million; on the 504 program to between $4 million and $5.5 million, depending on the type of loan; and on the microloan program to $50,000. These caps are identical to those proposed in legislation by Senator Olympia Snowe, the Maine Republican, whose support is crucial to the administration on another front -- health-care reform.
In addition, community banks will be able to borrow up to 2 percent of their "risk-weighted assets" in TARP money at 3 percent interest (down from 5 percent) for five years. In exchange, banks will have to demonstrate how they plan to increase small business lending and they will have to follow up with quarterly reports.
Finally, microlending community groups in poor urban and rural areas that are regulated by the Treasury Department and known as community development financial institutions will be able to borrow money from the federal government at 2 percent interest for eight years. [The New York Times, 10/21/09]
Obama Administration Measures Have Helped Grow The Economy
CBO: Stimulus Increased Employment By Up To 2 Million Jobs During Fourth Quarter Of 2011. A February 2012 CBO report estimated that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act "lowered the unemployment rate by between 0.2 percentage points and 1.1 percentage points" and that the law "increased the number of people employed by between 0.3 million and 2.0 million" during the fourth quarter of 2011. [Congressional Budget Office, February 2012]
CEA: More Than 4 Million Private Sector Jobs Added In Past Two Years Of Obama Administration. Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Council of Economic Advisors Chairman Alan Kreuger stated that "the economy has added private sector jobs for 25 straight months, for a total of 4.1 million jobs over that period."
[WhiteHouse.gov, 4/6/12; Bureau of Labor Statistics, accessed 4/19/12]
CBPP: "Private Payroll Employment Has Grown For 25 Months." The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that job losses "slowed dramatically" following the passage of the Recovery Act in 2009:
The pace of monthly job losses slowed dramatically soon after President Obama and Congress enacted the Recovery Act in February 2009. The trend in job growth in 2010 was obscured by the rapid ramp-up and subsequent decline in government hiring for the 2010 Census (which is now over), but private employers added 4.0 million jobs to their payrolls in the last 25 months, an average of 162,000 jobs a month. Private employers added 121,000 jobs to their payrolls in March, while losses in local government employment led to a total payroll employment gain of 120,000 jobs. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 4/10/12]
GDP Has Grown Under Obama Administration. Data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis shows that the negative Gross Domestic Product growth inherited by the Obama administration has turned positive during Obama's time in office:
[Bureau of Economic Analysis, 3/29/12]