The Spectacle Blog

Fact-Checking Obama’s News Conference

By on 7.23.09 | 7:29AM

As promised last night, I want to correct the record on a few of President Obama’s misleading statements -- and yes -- outright lies from last night’s news conference. (Full transcript here.) I will update it as I gather more information throughout the day.

Obama Statement #1:

First of all, let's understand that when I came in, we had a $1.3 trillion deficit, annual deficit, that we had already inherited. We had to immediately more forward with a stimulus package because the American economy had lost trillions of dollars of wealth.…

Then we had to pass a budget, by law, and our budget had a 10- year projection -- and I just want everybody to be clear about this. If we had done nothing, if you had the same old budget as opposed to the changes we made in your budget, you'd have a $9.3 trillion deficit over the next 10 years. Because of the changes we've made, it's going to be 7.1 trillion (dollars).

Now, that's not good, but it's $2.2 trillion less than it would have been if we had the same policies in place when we came in.

But here is what the Congressional Budget Office had to say about Obama’s budget:

The cumulative deficit from 2010 to 2019 under the President’s proposals would total $9.3 trillion, compared with a cumulative deficit of $4.4 trillion projected under the current-law assumptions embodied in CBO’s baseline.

So in other words, Obama said his cumulative deficit is “$2.2 trillion less than it would have been,” but the CBO says the deficit is actually $4.9 trillion more than it otherwise would have been.

Obama Statement #2:

And we know that we're spending, on average -- we here in the United States -- are spending about $6,000 more than other advanced countries where they're just as healthy. And I've -- I've said this before. If you found out that your neighbor had gotten the same car for $6,000 less, you'd want to figure out how to get that deal. And that's what reform's all about, how can we make sure that we are getting the best bang for our health-care dollar.

I'm guessing that when he said “we're spending, on average...about $6,000 more than other advanced countries” he was referring to the gap between the the per person cost of health care in the United States and in other nations. While it’s true that Americans pay more than any other country, the actual health care costs per person in the U.S. were about $6,000 in 2007, according to a CBO report. So for Obama’s claim to be true -- that is, that other countries are spending $6,000 less, on average -- you’d have to believe that it costs every other advanced country  zero dollars to provide all of their citizens with health care.

For further study, here's how we compare to other OECD nations.

UPDATE: My $6,000 figure is from this CBO report. The OECD pegs the number at $7,290, but Obama's number still doesn't add up. See more here.

Obama Statement #3:

I am very appreciative that people like Chuck Grassley on the Finance Committee, in the Senate, people like Mike Enzi, people like Olympia Snowe have been serious in engaging Democrats in trying to figure out, how do we actually get a system that works? And even in those committees where you didn't see Republican votes, we've seen Republican ideas.

So, for example, in the HELP committee in the Senate, 160 Republican amendments were adopted into that bill, because they've got good ideas to contribute. So the politics may dictate that they don't vote for health-care reform because they think, you know, it'll make Obama more vulnerable. But if they've got a good idea, we'll still take it.

But Enzi, who Obama favorably cites, said last week: "In 12 days of mark-up, we had 45 roll call votes on Republican-sponsored amendments, and only 2 prevailed."

Why is there such a discrepancy? I posed that question to Enzi spokesman Craig Orfield, who explained in an email:

The 160 refers to what we call technicals - these are amendments drafted to either correct technical errors in the bill language - and that can be anything from an amendment which cites the wrong section and paragraph of existing law (ex: Section 302 when we meant section 304) to errors in punctuation or transposed words.

Moreover, the vast majority of these were so non-controversial that the majority didn't even demand a vote - they were simply adopted by unanimous consent.

As you note from Sen. Enzi's remarks only 45 GOP amendments, which we consider to have made substantive changes or improvements, were allowed a vote. 2 of those were agreed to.

POTUS is echoing the same nonsensical line on this as Axelrod and Emanuel last week.

Agreement on technical amendments is no pedigree of bipartisanship.

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