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Fact-checking Obama's town hall on the economy

By Angie Drobnic Holan, Louis Jacobson
Published on Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010 at 1:17 p.m.

President Barack Obama got an earful from anxious supporters at his recent town hall on the economy broadcast by CNBC Sept. 20, 2010.

"I have been told that I voted for a man who said he was going to change things in a meaningful way for the middle class," one questioner said. "I'm one of those people, and I'm waiting, sir. I'm waiting. I don't feel it yet.

Another told Obama that his political opponents "continue to paint you as a dramatically anti-business President. I believe you are investing in this country, as small businesses invest. And yet for some reason the public just doesn't get it. I need you to help us understand how you can regain the political center, because you're losing the war of sound bites, you're losing the media cycles."

We fact-checked three statements Obama made during the town hall.

Obama said that talk of big government taking over the free markets was overblown. "Our tax rates are lower now than they were under Ronald Reagan. They're much lower than they were under Dwight Eisenhower," Obama said. We looked into the historical record to determine tax rates under President Reagan and President Eisenhower, and found that Obama was right about tax rates under Eisenhower and close to right on tax rates under President Reagan. We rated his statement Mostly True.

We looked into Obama's response to a hedge fund manager who felt that Obama was too critical of Wall Street. Obama reiterated that Wall Street and Main Street need each, but he also added, "There's a big chunk of the country that thinks that I have been too soft on Wall Street." We looked into polls to see if that was the case, even though Obama is sometimes criticized as being anti-business. We found several polls that supported Obama's point: According to one poll, a majority of people worry that Wall Street has too much influence on his administration. So we rated his statement True.

Finally, we noticed Obama's statement about automakers and how they fared under the Bush administration. Obama said that the previous administration had been "giving them billions of dollars and just asking nothing in return." We found the historical record contradicts that: The Bush administration did put conditions on the loan and set them up so that Obama could revoke the loans later. We rated Obama's statement False.

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Researchers: Angie Drobnic Holan, Louis Jacobson

Names in this article: Barack Obama

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