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Obama State of the Union: New Obama, Same as the Old Obama

January 24, 2012

When President Obama delivers his State of the Union address tonight, Americans will likely be asking themselves two questions:  “Where are the jobs?” and “Haven’t I heard this before?”  Instead of working with Republicans in the House and Senate to get Washington’s runaway spending under control and the more than 13 million unemployed Americans back to work, the President is expected to use his address to call for higher taxes and more government spending while invoking the same campaign-like rhetoric he has used throughout his presidency.  However, many of the President’s most oft-repeated statements show that his rhetoric does not always match reality.  

“The tax cuts I’m proposing we get rid of are tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires; tax breaks for oil companies and hedge fund managers and corporate jet owners.” (June 29, 2011)

  • A USA Today article notes that, “Taken together, the three tax breaks come to about $64 billion, or less than 1% of the projected 10-year deficit.”

“Middle-class families shouldn’t pay higher taxes than millionaires and billionaires.” (September 19, 2011)

  • Data from several non-partisan sources show that, on average, high-income Americans are paying taxes at a higher rate than middle-income Americans.
  • Since 2009, President Obama has broken his promise to not raise taxes on the middle class 16 times. 

“[W]e signed into law the biggest middle-class tax cut in history, putting more money into your pockets.” (September 5, 2011)

  • The Washington Post “Fact Check” gave President Obama’s claim 4 Pinocchio’s calling it “ridiculous” and went so far to name it as one of the biggest Pinocchio’s of 2011.

“We cannot play games with unemployment insurance when we still have an unemployment rate that is way too high.  I’ve put forward a whole range of ideas for reform of the unemployment insurance system, and I’m happy to work with Republicans on those issues.” (December 5, 2011)

  • On December 13, 2011 the House passed a yearlong extension of unemployment insurance benefits that included several meaningful reforms to improve the education and training unemployed Americans receive to help them get back to work.  Many resembled or were drawn directly from proposals the President had previously made.  However, the President refused to urge the Senate to consider the legislation.

Economic Mobility
“You know, a few years after World War II, a child who was born into poverty had a slightly better than 50-50 chance of becoming middle class as an adult.  By 1980, that chance had fallen to around 40 percent.  And if the trend of rising inequality over the last few decades continues, it’s estimated that a child born today will only have a one-in-three chance of making it to the middle class – 33 percent.” (December 6, 2011)

  • Scott Winship of the Brookings Institute notes, “[T]he evidence behind the president’s mobility claim is irreparably flawed… the data provide absolutely no evidence that economic mobility declined, whereas the president said it had fallen by ten percentage points.”
  • Mark Perry at the American Enterprise Institute shows that between just 2001 and 2007, 44 percent of those in the lowest 20 percent of the income ladder (i.e. “the poor”) moved up to a higher income quintile – that is, became “richer.”