Fox News used yet another dishonest graphic to paint a misleading picture of President Obama's handling of the economy.
In a graphic labeled “Growth of Government Spending (As A Share Of GDP),” Fox & Friends suggested that government spending increased from 3.2 percent of the economy at the end of the Bush administration to an average of 23.8 percent under Obama. But in doing so, Fox compared the level of deficits under Bush to overall spending under Obama -- two completely different measures of government spending.
The figure for “government spending” during the Obama administration is in line with historical data for overall spending as a percentage of the economy, a figure that does not take into account federal revenue. By contrast, the 3.2 percent figure used to illustrate “government spending” under Bush and the figures for the 1940s are in line with historical data for deficits, a figure that does take into account revenues.
The actual figures for government spending ( “outlays” ) as a percentage of the economy were 20.8 percent in 2008 and 25.2 percent in 2009. An honest graphic of the data would indicate that government spending as a percentage of the economy has increased only slightly since 2008 and actually dropped since 2009, not show the massive increase that Fox's mismatched data presents.
In fact, the very source cited by Fox's graphic makes this point clear. According to the related September 24 Wall Street Journal column: “The deficit in fiscal 2008 was a mere 3.2% of GDP.” The column further claimed that federal spending would amount to 23.8 percent on average during Obama's tenure, a figure marginally higher than an average of 20.1 percent under Bush.
And here's another glaring problem with the graph: Under the averages for 1943-1945, years during which Roosevelt was president, the Fox graphic showed a picture of Harry S. Truman. But Truman wasn't sworn until April 1945 upon Roosevelt's death.
Fox & Friends was recently forced to correct a chart that dishonestly compared two completely different measures of unemployment -- a distortion that suggested the unemployment rate has nearly doubled under Obama's watch. At the time, Washington Post media blogger Erik Wemple wrote:
[E]ven by the low standards of informed opinion on cable television, on the Internet and in printed matter, “Fox & Friends” occupies a special wacko cubbyhole. It's not so much commentary as blind bomb-throwing, morning after morning after morning.
Just last week, the morning show corrected -- via Twitter -- the false claim that Obama met with a pirate rather than meeting with world leaders the day before. That claim was based entirely on a photo of the president from 3 years ago.
Co-host Steve Doocy wrote on his Twitter feed, “By the way, our picture of the President with a pirate was from 2009. How time flies!”
UPDATE: On September 28, Fox & Friends addressed the dishonest chart. Guest co-host Eric Bolling stated: “We mixed up the numbers on Wednesday, so we wanted to clear things up.”
But far from clearing things up, Bolling did not explain how Fox made such an error or note that government spending as a percentage of the economy has actually increased only slightly since 2008. Rather, Bolling hosted Wall Street Journal assistant editorial page editor James Freeman to throw out different numbers to make the case that Obama is responsible for huge increases in debt.
In fact, experts -- including a former adviser to President Reagan -- say that Bush's policies are almost entirely to blame for the country's deficit problems.