burnishes the State of the Union through selective facts and
February 1, 2006
The President left out a few things
when surveying the State of the Nation:
He proudly spoke of "writing a
new chapter in the story of self-government" in Iraq and
Afghanistan and said the number of democracies in the world
is growing. He failed to mention that neither Iraq nor
Afghanistan yet qualify as democracies according to the very
group whose statistics he cited.
Bush called for Congress to pass a
line-item veto, failing to mention that the Supreme Court
struck down a line-item veto as unconstitutional in 1998.
Bills now in Congress would propose a Constitutional
amendment, but none have shown signs of life.
The President said the
economy gained 4.6 million jobs in the past
two-and-a-half years, failing to note that it had
lost 2.6 million jobs in his first two-and-a-half
years in office. The net gain since Bush took
office is just a little more than 2 million.
He talked of cutting
spending, but only "non-security discretionary
spending." Actually, total federal spending has
increased 42 percent since Bush took office.
He spoke of being "on track"
to cut the federal deficit in half by 2009. But the deficit
is increasing this year, and according to the Congressional
Budget Office it will decline by considerably less than half
even if Bush's tax cuts are allowed to lapse.
Bush spoke of a "goal" of cutting
dependence on Middle Eastern oil, failing to mention
that US dependence on imported oil and petroleum
products increased substantially during his first five
years in office, reaching 60 per cent of consumption
We found nothing that
was factually incorrect in the President's Jan. 31 State of the
Union address to Congress and the nation. However, we did note some
selective use of statistics. We also found that Bush omitted
some relevant facts that tended to make the state of the union look
less rosy than he presented.
1945, there were about two dozen lonely democracies in the
world. Today, there are 122. And we're writing a new chapter
in the story of self-government -- with women lining up to
vote in Afghanistan, and millions of Iraqis marking their
liberty with purple ink, and men and women from Lebanon to
Egypt debating the rights of individuals and the necessity
The President spoke of
the growing number of nations in the world that live under
democratic governments, and said "we're writing a new chapter in the
story of self-government" in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The President's numbers come from
Freedom House, a nonprofit group that tracks levels of democracy and
freedom around the globe.
It is true, just as
the President said, that there were 122 democracies in the world in
2005, but Iraq and Afghanistan are not yet counted among them by
Also, Freedom House
rates neither Iraq nor Afghanistan as "free." It rates Iraq as "not
free," with scores on civil liberties and political freedom as low
as those of Egypt. "Iraq gets points taken away for the chaos that
is associated with the insurgency, among other things," Freedom
House's Arch Puddington told FactCheck.org. Afghanistan is rated
somewhat better but still only "partly free."
We asked Puddington why the
highly publicized elections in Iraq and Afghanistan don't yet
qualify those countries to be counted as democracies. "It’s a flawed
way of thinking to believe that elections alone guarantee
democracy," Puddington said. "You have to have a reasonable rule of
law, a reasonable amount of freedom of the press, personal
security. You have to have a fair and consistent electoral process
in place, and you have to have the people who are elected then
effectively governing the society."
am pleased that members of Congress are working on earmark
reform, because the federal budget has too many special
interest projects. And we can tackle this problem together,
if you pass the line-item veto.
Line Item Veto
The President called
for enactment of line-item veto power, but failed to mention that
the Supreme Court struck
down a line-item veto as a violation of the Constitution in
1998, after President Clinton exercised the power once. The vote was
6 to 3, and one of the three Justices who wanted to uphold the power
was Sandra Day O'Connor, whose resignation from the high court took
effect earlier on the same day Bush spoke. The President offered no
explanation of how the veto might be revived by legislation in a
form that the current, more conservative Supreme Court would
approve, nor did he call specifically for a Constitutional
This was Bush's first
mention of a line-item veto in a State of the Union address, though
he and several of his subordinates have made mention of his support
for such a veto throughout his presidency. Congress has so far
shown very little interest, however. A bill to amend the
Constitution to create a line-item veto has been introduced in every
Congress during Bush's presidency, but all died in committee without
so much as a hearing. In the current Congress, Republican Sen.
Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina introduced such a bill in late
September to amend the Constitution to include the line-item veto,
and it currently sits dormant in the Judiciary Committee. There are
no co-sponsors. In the House, Republican Rep. Todd Russell Platts of
Pennsylvania introduced a similar bill in the House on Sept. 21,
2005 which was promptly referred to the Judiciary Committee, where
Our economy is healthy and vigorous, and growing faster than
other major industrialized nations. In the last
two-and-a-half years, America has created 4.6 million new
jobs -- more than Japan and the European Union combined.
Even in the face of higher energy prices and natural
disasters, the American people have turned in an economic
performance that is the envy of the world.
The President noted that the US has gained 4.6 million jobs in
the past two-and-a-half years. That's true. However, most of that
gain merely made up for the 2.6 million jobs that were lost
during Bush's first two-and-a-half years.
The graph below shows the cumulative change in jobs starting in
January 2001, when Bush first took office, and ending in December
2005, the most recent month for which the Bureau of Labor Statistics
has released figures for total nonfarm employment. (New figures for
January are due to be announced Feb. 2.)
However, when the President said "the American
people have turned in an economic performance that is the envy of
the world," he was standing on firm ground. The US unemployment rate
for December was 4.9 per cent. That's significantly lower than most
other industrialized democracies. Unemployment in Germany stands at
9.3 per cent, France at 9.2 per cent, Canada at 6.5 per cent. Only
Japan's rate of 4.6 per cent and the United Kingdom's 4.8 per cent
were better than the US, according to latest
figures from the
Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Keeping America competitive requires us to be good stewards
of tax dollars. Every year of my presidency, we've reduced
the growth of non-security discretionary spending, and last
year you passed bills that cut this spending. This year my
budget will cut it again, and reduce or eliminate more than
140 programs that are performing poorly or not fulfilling
essential priorities. By passing these reforms, we will save
the American taxpayer another $14 billion next year, and
stay on track to cut the deficit in half by 2009.
The President, speaking of being "good stewards of
tax dollars," focused on one small part of the budget and did not
mention rapid growth in overall federal spending that has
taken place under his tenure.
He said "we've reduced the growth of non-security
discretionary spending," which is true. However, that category
accounts for only about 16 per cent of the whole federal budget, and
it too has grown, though not as rapidly as other categories.
Bush said bills were passed last year that would
actually cut this category, and that is correct. The decline is
projected to be 0.5 per cent, according to figures from the Office
of Management and Budget.
federal spending is up 42 per cent under Bush,
according to figures from the Congressional Budget Office. And CBO
projects further upward pressure on spending, including rising
interest rates pushing up the cost of servicing the swelling
national debt, and rising medical costs and Bush's new prescription
drug benefit pushing up the cost of Medicare. (Neither item is
counted in the "discretionary" category). CBO projects interest
costs will increase 18 per cent in the current fiscal year, and
Medicare will go up 17 per cent.
The President proposed cutting
$14 billion worth of programs and said this would keep the US "on
track to cut the deficit in half by 2009." Not mentioned is that the
deficit is going up this year. It was $317 billion in the
fiscal year that ended last Oct. 30, and CBO projects that this
year's deficit will be at least $337 billion, and probably $360
billion by the time added money is approved for flood insurance and
military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. CBO currently projects
the deficit to decline to $241 billion in fiscal 2009, but that
doesn't include the effects of making Bush's tax cuts permanent,
something Bush urged strongly in his speech.
Breakthroughs on this and other new technologies will help
us reach another great goal: to replace more than 75
percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025.
By applying the talent and technology of America, this
country can dramatically improve our environment, move
beyond a petroleum-based economy, and make our
dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past.
The President voiced a "goal" of
replacing more than three-quarters "of our oil imports from the
Middle East" by the year 2025. He did not mention that the US has
grown more dependent on imported oil and petroleum products
since he took office.
According to most recent figures
from the Energy Information Administration, the US imported 60
percent of its oil and petroleum products during the first 11 months
of last year, up from just under 53 percent in President Clinton's
last year in office. Last year, of all the oil and petroleum
products consumed in the US, 11.2 percent came from Persian Gulf
countries, according to the EIA. That is actually down somewhat from
Clinton's last year, when the Persian Gulf countries supplied 12.6
Whether imports from the Middle
East can ever be "a thing of the past" is open to question. It is
true that the US currently imports nearly as much oil from nearby Canada (2.1
million barrels per day last year) as it does from all Persian
Gulf countries combined (2.3 million barrels per day), but
that's still a lot of oil to do without.
--By Brooks Jackson, with Justin Bank, James Ficaro and Emi
Bush Delivers State of the Union Address," Office of the White
House Press Secretary, 31 Jan 2006.
in the World 2006:
Select Data from Freedom House's Annual Global Survey of Political
Rights and Civil Liberties." Freedom House. 2006.
Clinton v. City of New York,
U. S. 417, 429
of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2006
." Summary Tables.
Office of Management and Budget. February 2005. Table S.2
Tables, Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2006."
Office of Management and Budget. February 2005. Pp. 52, 97, 105,
Monthly Energy Review,
Table 1.7: "
Overview of U.S.
" US Energy Information
Administration 25 Jan 2006.
A DNC TV ad
accuses Bush of breaking his word, but it strains some facts in the
January 31, 2006
An ad released by the Democratic
National Committee in advance of President Bush's Jan. 31 State of
the Union address accuses him of breaking his word on
jobs, education, body armor for troops and the federal deficit.
We find it misleading in most respects, but close to the mark on
Jobs:The ad gives
a misleading picture of Bush's record on jobs, which is weak but not
as weak as the ad implies. It uses a misleading statistic that
focuses only on one category of employment: manufacturing. In fact,
counting all categories of employment, the economy has squeezed out
a gain of nearly 2 million jobs since Bush took office five years
Body Armor: The ad
also takes liberties with a New York Times
story that said the lives of 300 troops might have been saved with
"improved" body armor. The ad calls it "proper" body armor, a term
not used by the Times story. Actually, some
military experts say the bulkier, heavier new armor would unduly
weigh down troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Education: The ad says Bush's
"No Child Left Behind" legislation has been "underfunded" by nearly
$10 billion. That's misleading because federal aid for elementary
schools and high schools actually has increased 33 percent under
Bush, according to the Congressional Research Service. The "underfunding"
refers to the gap that remains between the higher spending levels
signed by Bush and the authorization level – the theoretical maximum
that could be appropriated. In fact, federal appropritions
usually fall short of their authorized levels for education
programs, in both Republican and Democratic administrations.
Deficit: The ad is close to
the mark, however, when it chides Bush on the deficit, which the
President said four years ago would be "small and short-term." In
fact, the deficit projected for this year is close to a record in
dollar terms and higher than average even as measured as a
percentage of US economic output. It is nearly the same as in 1968,
when Lyndon Johnson was spending heavily for the Vietnam War and his
Great Society programs, though less than half what it reached in
1983 under Ronald Reagan.
The Democratic National Committee announced
Jan. 27 that it would air a 60-second TV television ad on Las
Vegas television stations. National Journal's "Ad
Spotlight" later reported that the ad would also run Feb. 1 in
Nashville, TN where the President is scheduled to make his first
speech after the State of the Union address. The new ad is called
"Broken Promises" and it features a series of quotes from President
Bush, some of which have also been featured in a Kerry Campaign
television advertisement that ran in 2004.
We make a pledge. We keep our word.
On screen: Really?
Bush: When America works, America prospers.
So, my economic security plan can be summed up in one word:
On screen: 2.8 Million Manufacturing
Jobs Lost. [BLS, 1/06]
Bush: The "No Child Left Behind Act" is
opening the door of opportunity to all of America's
On screen: No Child Left Behind
Underfunded By Almost $10 Billion. [CRS, 1/2006]
Bush: Our budget will run a deficit
that will be small and short-term.
On screen: Deficit Of $337 Billion in
2006. [CBO, 1/26/06]
Bush: We should and must provide the
best care for anybody who's willing to put their life in
On screen: Hundreds Of Lives Could Have
Been Saved With Proper Body Armor. [NYT, 1/6/06]
Bush: We make a pledge, we mean it. We
keep our word.
On screen: 2.8 Million Manufacturing
Jobs Lost. No Child Left Behind Underfunded By Almost $10
Billion. Deficit Of $337 Billion In 2006. Proper Armor Could
Have Saved Hundreds Of Lives.
Bush: We keep our word.
On screen: America Deserves The Truth.
Democratic National Committee is responsible for the content
of this advertisement.
The ad shows Bush delivering his
2002 State of the Union address,
saying "my economic security plan can be summed up in one word:
jobs." It then shows a statistic from the Bureau of Labor
Statistics (BLS): "2.8 million manufacturing jobs lost."
That is misleading. Actually, in
the four years since Bush delivered that line, the economy has
gained nearly 3.9 million jobs. So to that degree, at least, he
has kept his word.
It's true the economy struggled
during Bush's first term, and it is also literally true that latest
BLS figures show 2.8 million fewer manufacturing jobs than
when the President first took office. But relatively few people work
on production lines these days. Manufacturing counts for only 10.6
percent of all employment. More people work in professional and
business employment (12.8 per cent), education and health services
(13.0 per cent) or government (16.3 per cent) for example.
Furthermore, the decline in
manufacturing jobs began years before Bush took office. Between
March of 1998 and the time Bush took office in 2001, the economy
already had lost 536,000 manufacturing jobs. During his entire
eight-year tenure President Clinton barely broke even in this
category, holding onto a small net gain of 311,000 manufacturing
jobs despite the decline in his last three years.
Looking at total
employment, it is fair to say that Bush's record on jobs is weak,
especially compared to Clinton's. The economy started to lose jobs
within two months of Bush's taking office in January 2001, and
continued to do so until the low point of May 2003. Latest figures
show a net gain of nearly 2
million jobs. But that compares to 17.6 million for Clinton during
his first five years, and 22.7 million for all eight years of
The ad says "proper body armor
could have saved hundreds of lives," citing a New York Times
news story on screen. That's also misleading. The Times story
refers to "extra" body armor, and does not use the word "proper" to
describe it. Furthermore, the story places no blame on Bush or the
White House for failing to supply the bulkier, heavier type of
armor, which has been the subject of debate among military planners
at the Pentagon.
The Times story cites a
“secret Pentagon study” by medical examiners of 93 Marines who died
of upper-body wounds. The study found that in 31 of those cases
larger body-armor plates "'would have had the potential to alter the
fatal outcome." The Times reporter said this "suggests" that 300 or
more lives might have been saved with "improved" body armor, though
this is the reporter's conclusion, extrapolating the findings over
all combat deaths in Iraq, and not part of the study itself.
Body armor already has
undergone considerable improvements since the Iraq War began. And
not all military experts agree that the added bulk and weight
of more armor would be a good thing. After the Times story ran,
The Associated Press reported from Iraq quoting
several soldiers who didn't like the idea. Among them was Capt.
Jamey Turner, 35, of Baton Rouge, La. "You've got to sacrifice some
protection for mobility," The AP quoted him saying. "If you
cover your entire body in ceramic plates, you're just not going to
be able to move." A few days later the Times ran an opinion
piece by military writer Andrew Exum, a former infantry officer in
Iraq and Afghanistan, who said newer body armor unveiled by the
Pentagon doubles its weight, from 16 pounds to 32 pounds for a
medium-sized soldier. "At some point, the public's desire to wrap
our troops in a protective blan
The ad also faults Bush for "underfunding" his No
Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) by almost $10 billion. The NCLB Act
instituted mandatory testing of students in reading and
mathematics and requires schools to make progress toward statewide
The DNC cites as its
source a recent Congressional Research Service report, which
actually shows that federal appropriations for federal programs
supporting grades kindergarten through 12th grade have increased
by one-third under Bush, to more than $37 billion in the current
fiscal year ending Oct. 30. The CRS report does not offer any
support for the Democratic claim that Bush promised additional
federal funds when the NCLB ad was passed with bipartisan support in
Since then, the CRS report notes, "there has been a
continuing discussion regarding the appropriations 'promised' and
the resulting 'shortfall' when the enacted appropriations are
compared to authorization levels." Authorization levels are dollar
amounts contained in the legislation that creates federal programs.
But before any money can be spent a separate appropriation measure
must be passed, which seldom provides the maximum amount of money
that is authorized. As the CRS report notes, "In the past, education
programs with specified authorization amounts generally have been
funded at lower levels; few have been funded at levels equal to or
higher than the specified authorization amount."
In the case of programs affected by NCLB, the CRS
report calculated that appropriations were $9.1 billion less than
the authorization levels last year, and $12.0 billion less in the
current fiscal year. That is what the DNC ad calls "underfunding." W
e find it misleading to use the term "underfunding"
without explaining what that really means.
The ad quotes Bush as
saying "Our budget will run a deficit that will be small and
short-term," and shows on screen: "Deficit Of $337 Billion in 2006."
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is cited as the source.
Democrats have a point here. Bush’s deficit is not “small” by any
measure. The CBO in fact predicts it will be even larger than
the $337 billion figure shown in the ad, assuming that Congress
approves spending that CBO says will probably be needed to fund
military activities in Iraq and Afghanistan, and for flood insurance
claims. Those increases would push the deficit to $360 billion. That
would be close to the record of $413 billion recorded in 2004.
Bush’s deficit this
year is larger than average even measured the way most economists
prefer, as a percentage of the entire US economy (gauged by Gross
Domestic Product, or GDP). CBO expects the deficit to be about 2.8
percent of GDP this year. The average since 1962 has been 2.2
Viewed in historical
context, the current deficit is nearly the same as the 2.9
percent of GDP recorded in 1968, when Lyndon Johnson was pressing
both the Vietnam War and domestic spending for his Great Society
programs. Bush's projected deficit would be less than half what it
was in 1983 under Ronald Reagan, when tax cuts and military spending
pushed the deficit to 6 percent of GDP.
Like the jobs
statement, the Bush quote comes from his State of the Union address
Jan. 29, 2002:
To achieve these great national objectives -- to win the war,
protect the homeland, and revitalize our economy -- our budget
will run a deficit that will be small and short-term, so long as
Congress restrains spending and acts in a fiscally responsible
Note that Bush left himself an out –
saying "so long as Congress restrains spending." However, Bush has
yet to veto any congressionally approved spending measure and has
pushed to renew and extend tax cuts. While Democrats criticize him
mostly for tax cuts, his own party's conservatives have criticized
him at times for allowing spending to rise rapidly.
By Brooks Jackson & Emi Kolawole
Bureau of Labor
Statistics, "The Employment Situation: December 2005,"
news release, 6 Jan
"Pentagon Study Links Fatalities To Body Armor, New York Times 7 Jan
Ryan Lenz, "U.S. soldiers
question use of more armor despite Pentagon study," 7 Jan 2006.
Andrew Exum, "All
Dressed Up With No Way to Fight," New York Times 14 Jan 2006:A15.
"Ceradyne, Inc. Receives $70
Million Ceramic Body Armor Order," press
release, Ceradyne, Inc. 20 Jan 2006.
"Army signs emergency contract
for body armor," The Associated Press, 21 Jan 2006.
Paul M. Irwin, "K-12 Education
Programs: Recent Appropriations," Congressional Research Service, 4
Budget and Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2007 to 2016,"
Congressional Budget Office, 26 Jan 2006.