Saturday, September 6, 2014

PolitiFact Wisconsin serves up more baloney on Obama cutting the deficit in half

PolitiFact defines its "True" rating as "The statement is accurate and there’s nothing significant missing."

Thus we greet with derisive laughter PolitiFact's Sept. 5, 2014 bestowal of a "True" rating on President Obama's declaration "We cut our deficits by more than half."

Curious about what "we" cut the deficits? PolitiFact Wisconsin is here to help:

"We" is "he": Obama (image from
"We" is "he." Obama did it. Obama cut the national deficit in half. The statement is accurate and there's nothing significant missing. Right?

Well, no. It's a load of hooey that PolitiFact has consistently helped Obama sell.

Here are some insignificant things PolitiFact Wisconsin found:
  1. "When you use Obama's methodology to compare the deficit Obama inherited -- the 2009 result minus the stimulus package to that in 2013 --  the drop in the deficit is slightly under half, at 48%."
  2.  "'The economic recovery, wind-down of stimulus, reversal of TARP/Fannie transactions, and lower interest rates are really what has caused our deficit to fall so much,' Goldwein told us. He mentioned cuts in discretionary spending as well."
  3.  "(Ellis) and Goldwein emphasized that while the deficit has been halved, it’s been halved from a skyscraping peak."
The second point is significant because TARP and other bailout spending was heavily focused on FY2009. As that money is repaid, it counts as lower spending ("negative spending"). The government has turned a profit on the TARP bailouts, so a fair bit of the "skyscraping peak" came right back to the government, making its later spending appear lower.

Here are some insignificant missing things PolitiFact Wisconsin didn't bother to mention:
  1. PolitiFact claims it takes credit and blame into account. But Obama carries little (if any) personal responsibility for reducing the deficit by half.
  2. Remember those obstructionist Republicans who block the Democrats' every attempt to pass jobs bills and keep critically important entitlement benefits flowing?
  3. PolitiFact's expert, Goldwein, mentioned cuts in discretionary spending. Way to go, Obama! Oh, wait, that was largely a result of the sequestration that the president blames on Republicans.
So, yeah, the deficit was cut in half. But given the nature of the FY2009 deficit spike, cutting the deficit in half by the end of Obama's first term in office should have been a layup. It wasn't a layup because the economy stayed bad. Democrats would have continued spending investing in jobs and education if Republicans hadn't gained control of the House of Representatives in 2010.

Obama tries to take this set of circumstances largely beyond his control to fashion a feather for his own cap.

To PolitiFact Wisconsin, none of that is significant. What a joke.


For more on Obama's effect on the deficit and debt, see the following Zebra Fact Check articles: says federal spending has increased ‘far more slowly’ under Obama than under Bush

Is the federal deficit ‘falling at fastest rate in 60 years’?

Edit 11/08/2014 - Added link to original PFW article in second paragraph - Jeff


  1. There's a number of things wrong with saying that the president cut the deficit in half. The first one being that he approved of the non-binding FY2009 budget outline as a senator, and then added to it as president.
    To understand this completely, you can read my post here:

    Basically, there was no Fy2009 budget. Democrats didn't want Bush to cut spending, and they were afraid he would veto their "more generous" spending. So they created a non-binding budget that didn't have to be signed by Bush, and then spent the money piecemeal. The final part of the spending was passed in 2009... with Obama signing the document.

  2. You're exactly right, ChicagoJohn. In fact, I remember reviewing your post at KarlRoveSaid when I was writing up the fact checks linked at the bottom of this post. I included this explanation in the fact check:

    "The budget for fiscal year 2009 was unlike 2001 in a number of respects, however. Some appropriations bills that ordinarily would have borne Bush’s signature were delayed by congressional Democrats. As a consequence, those bills were signed by Obama and included additional expenses."