A few weeks before his recent re-election, a liberal friend and I were talking when they told me how happy they were with President Obama and how pleased they were with all the things he had accomplished during his first term as President. They finished by saying
“[Obama] managed to do all of that with budgets that spent less than any president since Eisenhower.”
I immediately expressed doubts about the accuracy of that statement, but they maintained that they had read an article that proved it was true. I asked them if they could send me the article and they were happy to do so. The link to the article is right here. It is an opinion piece written by Forbes’ self proclaimed “official token lefty” Rick Unger.
Now, there is surface level here where the claim is patently false because spending during the Obama Administration has clearly been a larger dollar amount than the presidents since Eisenhower, but I will cut my friend some slack because the title of the article they sent me actually makes the same misleading impression (although it does make me wonder if they actually read the article). Rick Unger actually claims that Obama “increased spending by less than any president since Eisenhower”. Not that he spent less than any president since Eisenhower.
In fact, I was very interested to read the story because Unger’s claim seemed so counter-intuitive to what I had heard elsewhere. The article is brief and rather short on specifics that provide support to the headline claim. So, I immediately decided to dig a little deeper and follow Unger’s reference to the original article by Rex Nutting of MarketWatch. I read the entire original article, but it turned out to be almost the same as Unger’s. A little more detail was included however, providing slim basis for the claim.
Next, I did what I think everybody should do when faced with something that seems difficult to believe – a little fact checking. I would also like to point out that just going to a web-site that says they do fact checking or have “factcheck” or “fact” in their URL may be a good way to get started, but I would generally recommend investigating further.
Anyway, I was quite astounded to find, rather immediately, that Nutting’s analysis has been debunked by several of the most reputable independent news sources and fact-checking groups available. These organizations have determined that the Nutting analysis is extremely dubious.
The consensus seems quite clear that the claim has no factual basis and that both Nutting and Rex were engaging in something between yellow journalism and manipulative propaganda.
Here are the links for just a few of the debunkings. Rather than rewrite all their excellent work, I recommend taking a look for yourself.
The Washington Post Fact Checker
The Washington Post Fact Checker (another article):
(This one is actually easier to follow if you are a more visual person, but the author is a little heavy on the sarcasm.)
(I am not really sure how reputable this particular source is, but after having read the more well known ones above I didn’t see any reason to not list this one because it has a very nice summary of the original claims by Nutting and includes several of the other analyses above.)
Therefore, to my liberal friend, I say this.
You may want to reconsider using that particular article (either Unger’s or Nutting’s really) as a basis for any kind of argument you want to win.
I am glad that you shared that link with me. I believe that it is absolutely invaluable to have my preconceived notions challenged. I enjoy the opportunity to carefully investigate those challenges and examine them for merit.
I hope that if any statement I make challenges you in a similar fashion, that you do the same and share back the results with me so that I too may better myself.