Fox's Renewed Attack On Obama's Economic Record Is Badly Misleading
Fox News misled viewers about trends in household income, job creation, and the use of food stamps while claiming that President Obama's policies are to blame for a supposedly stagnant economy.
During an interview that aired on the September 28 edition of CBS' 60 Minutes, Obama argued that the United States “is definitely better off” economically than it was when he took office in 2009. The president said he would compare the success of his response to the “terrible, almost unprecedented financial crisis” that he inherited to the response by “any leader around the world.”
On the September 30 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy and Fox Business anchor Stuart Varney attempted to refute Obama's claim of economic achievement over the past six years, citing three major indicators -- household income, part-time job creation, and food stamp participation -- to make their case.
In each instance, Fox cherry-picked data to obscure positive trends in the overall economy:
Fox cited data from Sentier Research to show that the median household income in the United States had dropped from $55,871 in January 2009 to $54,045 in July 2014. The actual July 2014 press release from Sentier tells a different story. The press release says the recovery of median household income from a low point in August 2011 has been “uneven” but concludes that “an overall upward trend is still clearly evident” through July 2014:
Part-Time Job Creation
Fox turned to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to claim “there are far more part-time jobs” and “far fewer full-time jobs” today than in January 2009. Varney further claimed that the economy has gained 1.4 million part-time jobs under Obama, but lost full-time jobs.This is false.
According to the BLS, seasonally adjusted part-time employment in January 2009 stood at roughly 26.7 million. Part-time employment in August 2014 was roughly 26.8 million, after accounting for seasonal employment effects.
The latest available data from the BLS also demonstrates a downward trend in the percentage of part-time workers in the workforce since the recession ended. The proportion of the workforce working part-time has declined for nearly five years, as has the number of workers engaged in part-time work “for economic reasons.” Meanwhile, total employment in the United States increased by about 5 million from January 2009 to August 2014, despite millions of job losses during the recession:
Food Stamp Participation
Varney then claimed that increased participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly referred to as food stamps, indicated a downturn of the “general prosperity level of society.” According to recent reporting from The Wall Street Journal, food stamp participation had dropped significantly since peaking in late 2012, and spending on the program is projected to fall rapidly over the next decade as the economy improves:
According to a February 2014 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers SNAP and other nutritional assistance programs, SNAP participation has “broadly tracked economic indicators” for nearly two decades. The recent spike in food stamp usage coincided with the recession in the final year of the Bush administration, as more Americans qualified for and participated in the program: