Last week, my mother… as she does almost weekly… sent me another one of the Right-Wing chain letters that her Republican friends send her, asking me to debunk it so she can send it back. I’ve had to tell her on more than one occasion to cut back on the amount of “nonsense” she sends me because it’s a bit like trying to sweep back the tide (not to mention a tad depressing). To help her filter out what is worth my time or whether something can be deleted unread, I pointed out to her Two sure signs the chain-email you received is CRAP:
1) It’s in 58 point type, and
2) No links to support their claims. None. Nada. Zip.
I could include a third identifier now, the claim: “I CHECKED IT OUT ON SNOPES AND IT’S TRUE! (sometimes even including a link), which I then click or check Snopes for myself and find (to no great surprise), No. It’s not true. Snopes says no such thing. Her most recent email even included the line: “PLEASE FORWARD WITHOUT EDITING! DO NOT CHANGE A WORD!” to add some gravitas to the claim. And no wonder they don’t want you to edit the story or comment on it in any way. It was “a total work of fiction.” I don’t mean it was just one big lie, I mean they actually tried to pass off a piece of political parody written by a humorist, as actual comments by President Obama. They even cite the precise episode of “Meet the Press”… DOWN TO THE SECOND (an episode he didn’t even appear on – I checked), where President Obama supposedly made the ridiculous claim that he wants to “disarm America to make peace with our Muslim brothers” and “change the National Anthem” to the Coca-Cola theme song. You read that right. There are people out there that actually believe that “then Senator Obama” (yes, this email has been floating out there for four years) said on National TV that he wants to change the National Anthem to “I ‘d Like to Teach the World to Sing”, and somehow no one noticed, electing him anyway. For these hapless fools, it’s the Gawd-honest truth (because it confirms what they already believe to be true), and pass it along to the next hopelessly gullible Right-Wing idiot. So maybe confronting Right-Wingers with “facts” is a fools errand. But we do it anyway. We must. Because as last Tuesday’s Presidential Debate proved: When you don’t set the record straight and you allow your opponent to lie with impunity, the automatic assumption is that they’re telling the truth.
Back in May of 2010, I wrote a highly researched column entitled, “Who’s Better at Running the Economy?”, examining the economic record of every president since (and including) Jimmy Carter. It’s no secret that the Right still loves to vilify Carter as “one of the worst presidents in American history”, when in fact, his record was actually quite good. Over 10-million jobs created in just four years in office (ibid original column) compared to their beloved Reagan who created 16-million in eight… the ONLY Republican to do so. And while Republican’s today love to rewrite history and claim “Reagan inherited a worse economy than Obama did”, that isn’t even CLOSE to the truth. While unemployment grew by 1.2% in Carter’s final year, unemployment grew almost THREE FULL POINTS (2.9%) in Bush’s final 11-months. And Reagan’s job creation record doesn’t hold a candle to Clinton’s record 22.5-million jobs. On a President-by-President basis, the economy has consistently done better under Democrats than it has under Republicans, with the three most abysmal records going to Ford, Bush-41 and Bush-43… in that order (unless you account for “years in office”, upon which Bush-43 wins hands down.)
Last Friday, the latest jobs report came out announcing that unemployment was now as low (or arguably lower) than it was the day President Obama took office (7.8%). Immediately, the Right-wing went nuts, claiming (w/o “facts” natch) that the Obama Administration somehow “manipulated” the numbers in order to help President Obama following a poor debate performance:
Yet oddly, they accepted the word of the BLS as gospel for the 44-months prior, especially when the Unemployment rate went UP last July. And ya gotta wonder, if the Obama Administration was going to cook up “fake” employment numbers, don’t you think they would claim more than just a paltry 114,000 jobs added? Not even as many jobs as the month before. If they’re “cooking the books”, they’re awfully bad at it.
I adore the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In the Battle of “Reality vs Right-Wing Fantasy”, the BLS is the “BFG” (ask a “Doom” player) of Debate Weaponry. And when the “Jobbers” (the equivalent of “Birthers” for those who believe the BLS “manipulated” the Unemployment Rate just in time for the election) started to make the absurd claim that this was “the biggest one month drop in unemployment in 50 years” (I guess they’re not counting December of 2010 when it fell 0.4% in one-month?), I knew right where to look for the truth, and in the process (inadvertently) found something startling: Unemployment on Election Day in presidential election years has ALWAYS been lower under Democrats than under Republicans (lone exception: Reagan). I plotted the November unemployment rate of every presidential election since FDR and produced the following amazing graph:
…Down when Democrats are President. Up when Republicans are president. Can’t get any more basic than that. (BLS data only goes back to 1948.)
In other words, unemployment is always HIGHER after a Republican has been president for four years (sans Reagan), and LOWER after four years of a Democrat in the White House. President Obama will also be an exception unless unemployment should miraculously fall a full point next month to 6.8%. But no other Democrat ever had to contend with the most obstructionist Congress in history, either. And of course, if I had data going back to 1932, the last time a Republican president left his predecessor an economic collapse, it would show Obama’s UE figure would not be an anomaly.
I find these numbers stunning. EVERY SINGLE TIME a Democrat has been president, the unemployment rate was lower by the next presidential election, with the lone exception of Ronald Reagan, who spent like a drunken sailor and expanded public-sector hiring like mad. Also notice that unemployment above 5% has been pretty much the norm since Nixon was elected in 1968. And in that time, seven of the last ten presidential terms have been held by Republicans.
So just who’s better at running the economy? It’s not a matter of “opinion”. It’s math.
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