Behind Obama's positive statistics is a lackluster economy

WASHINGTON — A remark often attributed to 19th-century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli says there are three lies used to support a weak case in government: “lies, damned lies and statistics.”

That acidly iconic remark, popularized by Mark Twain, certainly applies to the boasts, promises and outrageous exaggerations often made by President Obama.

Obama will be remembered for telling us over and over again that our existing medical insurance policies were safe from Obamacare, and that no one could take them away from us.

When millions of Americans began getting cancellation notices telling them that they had to apply for a new, more expensive policy because the one they had didn’t meet the health care law’s mandates, it was clear that what he said was untrue.

Over the past six years, President Pinocchio has been given numerous admonitions from media fact-checkers for making patently false statements about his administration’s performance. And he is still at it as he enters his seventh year in office, wildly exaggerating the impact of his actions by cherry-picking the good numbers and ignoring the bad ones.

This week, he was in Wayne, Michigan, speaking to a labor union audience at the Ford Motor Co., trumpeting his belief that the nation’s manufacturing sector is back as a result his big-spending economic stimulus policies at the beginning of his administration.

“There is no doubt thanks to the steps we took early on to rescue our economy. … America is coming back,” the president said. “The facts are the facts.”

“America’s resurgence is real. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise,” he said. Did he miss the results of last year’s midterm elections?

As he has many times before, he ticked off some the statistics that he said showed the economy was humming right along. The stock market was up (but it plunged a few days before), wages were “on the rise again,” and job creation was the strongest since the 1990s, he said.

But the truth is that wages over the course of Obama’s administration have been largely flat, and job creation numbers were far below monthly rates in the recoveries of the ’90s and ’80s under Presidents Clinton and Reagan. Annual economic growth rates remained weak.

Heading into the sixth year of this so-called recovery, the 140 million employment payroll count in November was up by a pathetic 1.2 percent over the 138.4 million in January 2008. New housing starts of nearly 1 million units in 2014 were far below the 2.1 million in 2005.

As for Obama’s boast that unemployment was down to 5.8 (a figure riddled with statistical fiction), that’s a long way from the 4.4 percent full-employment rate in May of 2007.

And the president’s boast that Detroit was churning out lots of cars conveniently leaves out the slowdown of our overall manufacturing sector, which grew at its slowest rate in six months in December.

None of these facts were mentioned in the news stories about Obama’s speech, especially the one that Michigan’s unemployment rate was 7.1 percent going into November, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Others were underwhelmed. “It has been a slog,” says economist Robert J. Samuelson. “Generally, the numbers aren’t impressive.”

Even one of Obama’s chief economic advisers and his Democratic critics in Congress are uncomfortable with the president’s exaggerated claims.

“I’m not saying it’s morning in America. I think we’re digging our way out of a really deep hole, and we’re still not all the way out of that hole,” said Jason Furman, who is chairman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers.

“Wages are certainly not all the way to where they want to be,” he added. Not even close.

In a burst of speeches, including a major address at an AFL-CIO conference here, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a leftist firebrand, says that despite the numbers claimed by Obama, many millions of Americans have not benefited and are still struggling.

The “overall picture doesn’t tell us much about what’s happening at ground level to tens of millions of Americans. Despite these cheery numbers, America’s middle class is in deep trouble,” she said.

Many Democrats on Capitol Hill agree with Warren’s criticism, though few are willing to criticize Obama and his policies for what is now considered the slowest, longest economic recovery since the Great Depression.

For the past six years, the liberal news media have been exaggerating anemic job numbers in the 200,000 range as if they were stunning, record-breaking achievements. But the fact that the numbers are swollen by large increases in part-time, low-paying work is rarely reported.

“The jobless rate is down to 5.8 percent, but that is deceptive,” University of Maryland economist Peter Morici wrote Thursday in his weekly analysis.

“For example, one in six adult males between the ages of 25 and 54 is not working. Many (discouraged workers) don’t show up in the unemployment count, because they are not actively looking for a job.”

The news media similarly went bananas over the 4.8 percent second- and third-quarter economic growth rate. But the annual growth rate for the past year is about 2 to 3 percent, not enough to push good-paying, full-time jobs up to needed levels.

In the last decade or so, the economy has grown by an average of about 1.8 percent a year and produced around 7.3 million jobs. Compare that to the tax-cutting Reagan-Clinton years of 3.4 percent growth and 43 million jobs.

Obama was scheduled to take his Everything’s Coming Up Roses sideshow to Arizona and Tennessee, where the unemployment rates are 6.8 and 7.1 percent, respectively.

It’s doubtful you will hear those numbers on the nightly news.