Fact-checking President Obama's speech on fiscal policy
In an April 13, 2011, speech at George Washington University, President Barack Obama laid out his vision for America's fiscal future and took shots at the alternative Republican plan presented by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.
Obama threw around a lot of numbers to make his case, and we jumped in to fact-check some of them.
We'll start with a striking statistic offered by the president about the future burden of interest on the national debt.
"By the end of this decade, the interest we owe on our debt could rise to nearly $1 trillion," Obama said.
We found Obama's number only gets close if you consider a "budget window" at the end of the 10 years ending in 2021. Using the figures for 2019 or 2020 as "the end of this decade" instead, Obama’s numbers are off by anywhere from 13 percent to 29 percent. Obama’s underlying point is still sound -- the United States will have hundreds of billions of dollars of debt on the books -- but we think the most obvious numbers fall short of "nearly $1 trillion." On balance, we rated the statement Half True.
Next, we looked at a remark the president made to back up his contention that politicians often focus their deficit-cutting rhetoric on hot-button programs that are just a small portion of the federal budget.
Politicians in both parties, Obama said, "suggest that we can somehow close our entire deficit by eliminating things like foreign aid, even though foreign aid makes up about 1% of our entire budget."
We checked his numbers and found that he was right. We rated the statement True.
During his speech, Obama made it clear that, although he agreed to an extension of the President George W. Bush tax cuts in a compromise deal at the end of 2010, he will resume his fight to end Bush's tax cuts for people making more than $250,000 a year.
Obama justified his position, in part, on the following statistic:
"In the last decade, the average income of the bottom 90 percent of all working Americans actually declined," Obama said. "The top 1 percent saw their income rise by an average of more than a quarter of a million dollars each."
This turns out to be a controversial statistic, and we found that it takes a careful selection of years and a number of assumptions about income for Obama's statistic to hold up. We rated the president's claim Half True.
Stay tuned to the site, as we will be posting more fact-checks of the president's speech soon.
See individual items.
Names in this article: Barack Obama
We want to hear your suggestions and comments.
For tips or comments on our Obameter and our GOP-Pledge-O-Meter promise databases, please e-mail the Obameter. If you are commenting on a specific promise, please include the wording of the promise.For comments about our Truth-O-Meter or Flip-O-Meter items, please e-mail the Truth-O-Meter. We’re especially interested in seeing any chain e-mails you receive that you would like us to check out. If you send us a comment, we'll assume you don't mind us publishing it unless you tell us otherwise.
Keep up to date with Politifact:
- Sign up for our e-mail (about once a week)
- Put a free PolitiFact widget on your blog or Web page
- Subscribe to our RSS feeds on Truth-O-Meter items
- Subscribe to our RSS feeds on GOP Pledge-O-Meter items
- Subscribe to our RSS feeds on Obameter items
- Advertise on PolitiFact
- Shop the PolitiFact store for T-shirts, hats and other PolitiFact swag