Attacking Obama's speech, Lowry misleads on stimulus estimates, Supreme Court case

››› ››› JOCELYN FONG

New York Post columnist Rich Lowry claimed that President Obama's 2 million job estimate of the impact of the recovery act is "from an outfit that has every incentive to make the numbers look as cheery as possible," when in fact that estimate falls within the range given by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Lowry also purported to correct Obama's statement about the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. FEC, but four Supreme Court justices and other legal experts have said the impact of the ruling is uncertain.

Lowry claimed 2 million job figure is "from an outfit that has every incentive to make the numbers look as cheery as possible"

From Lowry's January 29 column:

Ever since Scott Brown's win in Massachusetts, the left has thrown up a thick cloud of spin, rationalizations and delusion. Wednesday night, the president kept it up. He spoke for more than an hour, but the quick gloss might have been, It's not my fault, and please ignore the evidence of your lying eyes.

* Obama said that, thanks to the stimulus, "There are about 2 million Americans working right now who would otherwise be unemployed." The Web site Politifact points out that the White House Council of Economic Advisers estimates 1.5 to 2 million more jobs from the stimulus; Obama took the highest number and skipped over the fact that these numbers are elaborate guesstimates from an outfit that has every incentive to make the numbers look as cheery as possible.

In fact, nonpartisan CBO reportedly estimated that stimulus raised employment by up to 2.4 million jobs

Obama's 2 million job figure is within range given by CBO, "a nonpartisan government agency regularly cited by politicians in both parties." The PolitiFact.com item that Lowry cited notes that the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) estimated "the [American Recovery and Reinvestment Act] has raised employment relative to the baseline by between 1½ and 2 million," and that CEA said "a wide range of private and government analysts concur with our estimates." PolitiFact further stated:

Let's taker [sic] a look at some of those other private and government analyses.

The Congressional Budget Office, a nonpartisan government agency regularly cited by politicians in both parties, pegged the number of jobs saved or created by the stimulus through the fourth quarter of 2009 at somewhere between 800,000 and 2.4 million. That's obviously an extremely wide range, which the CBO said was "intended to reflect the uncertainty of such estimates and to encompass most economists' views on the effects of fiscal stimulus." Obama's number is within that range, but well toward the high end.

Lowry asserted Obama's interpretation of Supreme Court cases is "Not true"

From Lowry's January 29 column:

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito let a pained expression cross his face and muttered, "Not true." He was reacting to President Obama's description of the high court's ruling in the Citizens United case, and he was entirely right. But the words aptly sum up the entire State of the Union Address.

In a demogogic bid to score populist points, Obama claimed that the decision striking down restrictions on corporate spending opened "the floodgates for special interests -- including foreign corporations -- to spend without limit in our elections." In fact, the justices explicitly left untouched a statute that bans election spending by foreign corporations, even "indirectly."

There isn't even a "loophole" for US subsidiaries of foreign firms, as the White House later claimed in a bid to defend the president's false charge.

Four justices: Logic of decision would appear to protect "multinational corporations controlled by foreigners"

Stevens: Logic of decision "would appear to afford the same protection to multinational corporations controlled by foreigners as to individual Americans." From Justice John Paul Stevens' opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part in Citizens United v. FEC -- an opinion joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, and Sonia Sotomayor (footnotes omitted):

If taken seriously, our colleagues' assumption that the identity of a speaker has no relevance to the Government's ability to regulate political speech would lead to some remarkable conclusions. Such an assumption would have accorded the propaganda broadcasts to our troops by "Tokyo Rose" during World War II the same protection as speech by Allied commanders. More pertinently, it would appear to afford the same protection to multinational corporations controlled by foreigners as to individual Americans: To do otherwise, after all, could " 'enhance the relative voice' " of some ( i.e. , humans) over others ( i.e. , nonhumans). Ante , at 33 (quoting Buckley , 424 U. S., at 49). Under the majority's view, I suppose it may be a First Amendment problem that corporations are not permitted to vote, given that voting is, among other things, a form of speech.

Several other experts argue that decision opens door to campaign money from U.S. subsidiaries of foreign corporations. As Media Matters for America has detailed, experts on campaign finance law argued that the Supreme Court's ruling does not prohibit foreign-controlled companies operating in the United States from spending money to elect or defeat political candidates.

PolitiFact: Obama's claim "is a reasonable interpretation," "uncertainty could indeed provide a loophole." PolitiFact -- which stated that Obama "exaggerate[d]" the impact of the ruling -- said that "[u]ntil test cases proceed and further rulings are handed down, Obama's claim about foreign campaign spending is a reasonable interpretation, and nothing more." FactCheck.org noted that "strictly speaking, Obama couched his claim as something 'I believe,' making it a statement of opinion and not of fact," which Lowry did not note in his column. Moreover, Lowry stated that "the justices explicitly left untouched a statute that bans election spending by foreign corporations," but according to PolitiFact, the statute "is silent on the treatment of companies that are incorporated and headquartered in the United States but are owned by foreigners." PolitiFact added, "That uncertainty could indeed provide a loophole for spending unlimited amounts of money on politics" and concluded that "only further litigation would settle the matter once and for all."

Posted In
Economy, Jobs, Wages, & Unemployment
Network/Outlet
New York Post
Person
Rich Lowry
Stories/Interests
Attacks on Barack Obama, 2010 State of the Union
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