Right-wing media have seized on a line from a Peggy Noonan column -- "he made it worse" -- and have begun repeating the false message that President Obama's policies have worsened the economy. In reality, there is broad agreement among economists that the stimulus boosted growth and employment, and most of the deficit is attributable to Bush policies and the recession.
Noonan: "Four Words: He Made It Worse"
Noonan: Obama Decisions Worsened "Financial Collapse, Deficits, and Debt." From Peggy Noonan's June 3 column in The Wall Street Journal:
Barack Obama is different, not a political practitioner, really, but something else, and not a warm-blooded animal but a cool, chill character, a fish who sits deep in the tank and stares, stilly, at the other fish.
He doesn't know how to confuse his foes with "outreach," with phone calls, jokes, affection. He doesn't leave them saying, as Reagan did, "I just can't help it, I like the guy." And because he can't confuse them or reach them they more readily coalesce around their own explanation of him: socialist, destroyer.
This isn't good, and has had an impact on the president's contacts with Republicans. And it's added an edge to an emerging campaign theme among them. Two years ago I wrote of Clare Booth Luce's observation that all presidents have a sentence: "He fought to hold the union together and end slavery." "He brought America through economic collapse and a world war." You didn't have to be told it was Lincoln, or FDR. I said that Mr. Obama didn't understand his sentence. But Republicans now think they know it.
Four words: He made it worse.
Obama inherited financial collapse, deficits and debt. He inherited a broken political culture. These things weren't his fault. But through his decisions, he made them all worse. [The Wall Street Journal, 6/3/11]
National Review: Noonan "Finds The Campaign Theme"
National Review's Ponnuru Titles Blog Post "Peggy Noonan Finds The Campaign Theme." The day Noonan's column was published, National Review senior editor Ramesh Ponnuru posted an entry to the National Review Online blog The Corner that excerpted from the column and declared that she had found the campaign theme. [National Review Online, The Corner, 6/3/11]
Fox Figures Hammer Home False Message That Obama "Made It Worse"
Doocy Touts Noonan's Claim In "Great Editorial": "It Comes Down To Four Words: 'He Made It Worse.' " From the June 6 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
STEVE DOOCY (co-host): You know what, Gretch? There was a great editorial by Peggy Noonan in The Wall Street Journal over the weekend. And what she --
BRIAN KILMEADE (co-host): From Massapequa. But go ahead.
DOOCY: That's right. Her sister lives in my town.
KILMEADE: But I deserve credit for that somehow.
DOOCY: Anyway, what she wrote was, you know, the president does have a lousy economy on his hands right now, and it was lousy when he took over. But he was able to make a bunch of decisions on which way to turn the ship. And she says the decisions he made got us where we are today. And she says it comes down to four words: "He made it worse." And when you think about it, we had all those different arsenal tools in Ben Bernanke's toolbox. We did what the president wanted. He made it worse, according to Peggy Noonan. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 6/6/11]
Charles Krauthammer: "I Think You Can Argue Strongly That The Obama Administration Made It Worse." From the June 7 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
KRAUTHAMMER: Look, I don't think it's a communication problem. This is not Cool Hand Luke. This is a reality problem. No matter what Obama said, no matter how he spun it. If he used the phrase "a bump in the road" or a blip or whatever, it wouldn't make any difference in the world. It's the fact that we have historically high unemployment, and it is staying there.
With Reagan, you had a really deep recession like the one that we have just had, but we had this remarkable snap back. We had 6, 7 percent growth. Even though he had high unemployment on Election Day in 1984, everybody had a sense that we were in recovery, and you could, with a straight face, run an ad saying, "It's morning in America." You can't now. It's dusk in America. It's evening in America. It's midnight in America. But it's not morning in America. That's why no matter what he says, it's not going to make any difference.
And I think you can argue strongly that the Obama administration made it worse. In the midterm election last year, the idea that Republicans ran on was that he's a left liberal. What they're going to run on in 2012 is he's a failure. He tried all of this stuff. He promised us we'd get improvement, and it hasn't worked. It was a huge Keynesian experiment, and it hasn't panned out. [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier, 6/7/11]
Bill O'Reilly: To Say "Obama Administration Has Not Made" Economy Worse Is "To Just Ignore The Statistics." From the June 7 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: Here's the problem with that, with your analysis. The private sector is sitting on a tremendous amount of money, a trillion dollars, easy. OK? The banks aren't lending it. They're not giving it out. You go to a bank, very hard to get a mortgage, very hard to start up a business. The reason is they don't have any confidence in Barack Obama. Because he's breaking the bank with the entitlement spending. Now, that includes Medicare, that includes Medicaid and all of that. The banks are going, "You know what? We don't have confidence in this guy. We think it's a nanny state coming, and if he gets re-elected, it's going to be worse." So they're sitting on the money.
ALAN COLMES (Fox News Radio host): How do you know it's about Obama versus the economy? Why is this specific to Obama, if the economy has not done well because the Republicans drove it into the --
O'REILLY: Because he's driving the policy.
COLMES: Thank God we had the stimulus we had and helped save the auto industry. And we need a bigger stimulus.
O'REILLY: You're missing the point. If a Republican says, "I'm going to cut taxes," instead of Obama saying, "I'm going to raise them," the economy -- the private sector is going to cheer that.
COLMES: It didn't work for Bush. Where were the jobs? Bush cut the -- we paid the --
O'REILLY: You just heard Schieffer say 5 percent versus 9 percent.
COLMES: You know why? Because it's where we're coming from. We're coming off a terrible recession, and so right now, 8 percent looks really good.
O'REILLY: The Obama administration's made all of it worse.
COLMES: No, they didn't make it worse.
O'REILLY: Yes, they did.
COLMES: They would have made it better if we had a bigger stimulus.
O'REILLY: They would have. They would have.
COLMES: And imagine what the Republicans would be saying if the auto industry were not saved and hundreds of thousands of jobs were gone. They'd be going crazy. They'd be going crazy.
O'REILLY: I was OK with the auto industry, but for you to sit there and say the Obama administration has not made it worse --
COLMES: They made it better.
O'REILLY: -- is for you to just ignore the statistics. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 6/7/11]
Monica Crowley: "Barack Obama Took A Bad Situation And Made It A Thousand Times Worse." From the June 7 edition of The O'Reilly Factor:
CROWLEY: In the fall of 2008, you had a financial crisis. That crisis then spread like a contagion to other aspects of the economy. Barack Obama took a bad situation and made it a thousand times worse with a massive expansion of government, with unprecedented spending -- as you point out -- record-breaking deficits and debt, which hangs like a suffocating overhang over this economy. And then regulations, new requirements like ObamaCare, where businesses -- small, medium, and large -- have no idea what it's going to cost them to hire an employee tomorrow.
O'REILLY: That's right. She's right. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 6/7/11]
Analyses Agree: Stimulus Curbed Unemployment And Boosted Growth, And Most Debt Is Attributable to Bush Policies And Economic Downturn
Independent And Private Analysts: Stimulus Significantly Raised Employment. As Media Matters has previously documented, many analysts confirmed that the stimulus significantly raised employment. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that the stimulus increased the number of people employed, as of the second quarter of FY2010, by "between 1.4 million and 3.3 million." Moody's Economy.com estimated it would have created 1.9 million jobs by 2010. [Media Matters, 9/26/10]
Economists: "The Effects Of The Fiscal Stimulus" On Economy "Appear Very Substantial." Economists also agreed that the stimulus was effective. A March 2010 study in The Wall Street Journal found that 70 percent of economists surveyed said the stimulus "boosted growth and mitigated job losses." ABC News reported on February 18, 2010, that most of the economists on its panel thought the economy "would be worse today without the big aid package." And a February 2010 survey of 203 members of the National Association for Business Economics (NABE) found that "[e]ighty-three percent believe that GDP is currently higher than it would have been without the 2009 stimulus package (ARRA)." [Media Matters, 9/26/10]
Wash. Post Graphic Shows Bush Tax Cuts And Iraq Wars Contributed Most To Current Deficit. From a June 4 post on The Washington Post blog PostPolitics:
In the debate over the nation's rising debt, rhetoric trumps reality. In January 2001, the U.S. budget was balanced for the first time in decades and the Congressional Budget Office was forecasting surpluses totaling $5.6 trillion by 2011. A decade later, the national debt is larger, as a percentage of the economy, than at any time in U.S. history except for the period shortly after World War II.
In fact, 75 percent of the members currently serving in Congress voted for at least one -- and in most cases more than one -- of three policies that contributed to fully one-third of the $12.7 trillion swing from projected surpluses to real debt: President George W. Bush's 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, funding for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and President Obama's 2009 stimulus bill.
The post also included the following graphic illustrating the CBO's estimates on how much Bush's tax cuts, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the 2009 stimulus contributed to the current debt:
[The Washington Post, 6/4/11]
CBPP: "[V]irtually The Entire Deficit Over The Next Ten Years" Due To Bush Policies, Economic Downturn." The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) published an analysis of federal deficits in December 2009, which was updated on June 28, 2010, titled, "Critics Still Wrong on What's Driving Deficits in Coming Years: Economic Downturn, Financial Rescues, and Bush-Era Policies Drive the Numbers." The report noted:
Some critics continue to assert that President George W. Bush's policies bear little responsibility for the deficits the nation faces over the coming decade -- that, instead, the new policies of President Barack Obama and the 111th Congress are to blame. Most recently, a Heritage Foundation paper downplayed the role of Bush-era policies (for more on that paper, see p. 4). Nevertheless, the fact remains: Together with the economic downturn, the Bush tax cuts and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq explain virtually the entire deficit over the next ten years.
The report also graphed the effects of Bush's policies and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on the deficit. From the report: