Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

Barack Obama in 2012: The re-election effort begins

Supporters of President Obama discuss their ideas about the 2012 campaign.

It wasn’t really ever in question, but it’s official now: President Barack Obama intends to seek re-election in 2012.

Obama declared his candidacy in an e-mail message to supporters sent Monday morning. "We're doing this now because the politics we believe in does not start with expensive TV ads or extravaganzas, but with you -- with people organizing block-by-block, talking to neighbors, co-workers, and friends. And that kind of campaign takes time to build," Obama said.

"This will be my final campaign, at least as a candidate," he added. "But the cause of making a lasting difference for our families, our communities and our country has never been about one person. And it will succeed only if we work together."

The campaign also posted a video the BarackObama.com website that shows supporters discussing their views of the upcoming campaign.

We’ve fact-checked almost 300 statements from President Obama, more than any other individual we’ve rated on our Truth-O-Meter. (See his scorecard here.) With the launch of his 2012 campaign, it’s a good time to review some of the most notable recent fact-checks from the Barack Obama file.

Under the White House’s budget proposal, "we will not be adding more to the national debt" by the middle of the decade. It’s true that Obama’s 2012 budget gradually stops additional spending. But interest costs on the debt will continue to build, creating annual deficits. That means the public debt will still rise every year through 2021. We rated Obama’s statement False.

Twelve judges have thrown out legal challenges to the health care law because they rejected "the notion that the health care law was unconstitutional." Obama was defending his signature health law, arguing that courts will eventually approve the individual mandate, which requires the public to buy insurance or pay a fine. But we found most judges dismissed the cases on procedural grounds. Among the judges who looked at whether the mandate was constitutional at the time of our report, two said it was and two said it wasn’t. We rated Obama’s statement False.

"I lowered taxes over the last two years." Obama’s eventual Republican opponent might try to make the case that Obama is a tax raiser. Obama does want to raise taxes on the wealthy, but he’s said he wants to leave them the same for everyone else. Last year, Obama cut a deal with Republicans in Congress to extend the current rates for everyone, including the wealthy, and to provide a year-long payroll tax cut for workers. About 80 percent of tax payers end up with a tax cut under the deal. So we rated Obama’s statement Mostly True.

"I didn't raise taxes once." Notwithstanding the actions noted above, Obama has raised taxes a few times to pay for various health initiatives, including increasing taxes on cigarettes and indoor tanning. Most significantly, the health care law increased taxes for Medicare on the wealthy, starting in 2013. The higher rates are expected to generate $210 billion over 10 years, or just over half of all the new taxes, fees and penalties the health care law authorizes. We rated Obama’s statement False.

"When Social Security was passed, there were all kinds of lawsuits," just as there have been in the legal battle over the new health care law. Obama was making the case that there might be challenges to the new  law but that he expected it to stand. We went to the history books and found several significant lawsuits that challenged the constitutionality of the Social Security program. In one case, an employer claimed it was unconstitutional to force him to pay payroll taxes for the new retirement program. The courts rejected that argument, and the program survived. We rated Obama’s statement True.

"There are polls showing right now that the American people for the most part think it's a bad idea to provide tax cuts to the wealthy." Lost in the furor of the last fall’s tax battle was that fact that a significant number of  Americans told pollsters it was fine to raise taxes for the rich. We looked at the numbers then and found that in most polls, a plurality of respondents said the expiring tax rates for the wealthy should be allowed to expire. We rated Obama’s statement Mostly True.

The health care bill "cuts the deficit by over $1 trillion dollars." Obama had made the point several times that the health care law is projected to reduce the deficit. But saying it does so by $1 trillion over 20 years is highly speculative. It’s a number extrapolated from official estimates by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The CBO noted that the uncertainties over 20 years are too great to create detailed projections. We rated Obama's statement Half True.

"Our tax rates are lower now than they were under Ronald Reagan. They're much lower than they were under Dwight Eisenhower." Basically, there are many ways to slice and dice the tax brackets, but when you look at the top brackets, rates today are indeed lower than under Reagan and much lower than under Eisenhower. We rated Obama’s statement Mostly True.

"There's a big chunk of the country that thinks that I have been too soft on Wall Street." Some of Obama's political opponents say he is anti-business, so we looked into this statement Obama made in September. There aren’t a lot of polls on the topic, but the few that exist show a stark picture. When asked, "Do you think the financial institutions on Wall Street have too much influence, too little influence, or the right amount of influence on the Obama Administration?", a whopping 59 percent said "too much." We rated Obama’s statement True.

"Some Republican leaders in Congress" are "pushing to make privatizing Social Security a key part of their legislative agenda if they win a majority in Congress this fall." Obama and other Democrats have said regularly that Republicans want to privatize Social Security. When we rated this in August, we found that the only "Republican leader" who was really talking about allowing personal retirement accounts was Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc. And even his plan is a far cry from a wholly privatized system. We rated the statement Barely True.

"If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan." Obama said this regularly during the health care debate. It’s true that there’s nothing in the health care law that requires people to switch plans. But the law also includes a number of new regulations for health insurers and providers that mean health plans will inevitably change. Employers could change their plans after the new regulations go into effect. (And employers often changed health care plans even before the health law.) On balance, we rated Obama’s statement Half True.

On mandating health care coverage. Because of all the controversy over the individual mandate, some may have forgotten that candidate Obama actually opposed the individual mandate back in 2008. In fact, he was vigorous in his attacks on candidate Hillary Clinton for including a mandate in her health plan. Now that it’s law, he's fine with it. And he admitted he changed position even before the law passed.  So we gave him a Full Flop on our Flip-O-Meter.

"If you actually took the number of Muslims [sic] Americans, we'd be one of the largest Muslim countries in the world." We’ve found three Pants on Fire statements from Obama, including two when he was running for office. This statement, which he made as president. Obama was way, way off about how many Muslims are in the United States. Even with the most generous estimate we found of 8 million, the United States still ranks 29th of 60 Muslim countries. So we rated his statement Pants on Fire.