Bill Clinton’s DNC 2012 Speech: Good and Dishonest
Bill Clinton gave what was, by all accounts, a very good speech last night. It was persuasive, articulate and inspiring, but there was just one problem: almost the whole speech was based completely on distortions or one-sided portrayals. What follows are excerpted claims from the speech (Black) and some factual corrections, context and explanations that were missing (in Red):
So who’s right? (Cheers.) Well, since 1961, for 52 years now, the Republicans have held the White House 28 years, the Democrats, 24. In those 52 years, our private economy has produced 66 million private sector jobs.
So what’s the job score? Republicans, 24 million; Democrats, 42 (million). (Cheers, applause.)
(Some context: More than half of the Democrat total here came from Clinton’s Presidency. That presidency occurred during the innovative computer and internet boom that almost automatically produced jobs. Furthermore, this ignores that during 6 out of 8 years of the Clinton Presidency; Republicans controlled Congress and set many of the nation’s policies. In fact, it was the Republican Congress that essentially forced Clinton into balancing the budgets and creating a surplus.)
It turns out that advancing equal opportunity and economic empowerment is both morally right and good economics, because discrimination, poverty and ignorance restrict growth, while investments in education, infrastructure and scientific and technological research increase it, creating more good jobs and new wealth for all of us.
(Clinton talks about investment, which a code word for spending, but the balanced budgets he signed had real cuts in such “investment”. Under Clinton, spending was near 18% of GDP, but it is currently over 24% of GDP.)
One of the main reasons we ought to re-elect President Obama is that he is still committed to constructive cooperation.
(This statement requires a complete rejection of reality. Every major legislative initiative passed by President Obama was done so along party lines and with little input from Republicans. The stimulus received 3 total Republican votes in Congress and Arlen Specter is no longer a Republican. Obamacare did not receive one Republican vote in either the Senate or the House, and 34 Democrats voted against it in the House. Furthermore, Obama has made it clear from the start that he has no interest in real cooperation with Republicans, at one point exclaiming Republicans “can come for the ride, but they gotta sit in back.”)
But it could have been because, as the Senate Republican leader said in a remarkable moment of candor two full years before the election, their number one priority was not to put America back to work; it was to put the president out of work.
(This point is a distortion because it ignores that Senator McConnell and most Republicans believe that the best way to get Americans back to work is to put Obama out of work. The two are not necessarily incompatible. Furthermore, Obama himself has quite a history of naming issues besides jobs as his top priority; does that mean he was ignoring jobs?)
They couldn’t because they want to the same old policies that got us in trouble in the first place. They want to cut taxes for high- income Americans, even more than President Bush did. They want to get rid of those pesky financial regulations designed to prevent another crash and prohibit future bailouts. They want to actually increase defense spending over a decade $2 trillion more than the Pentagon has requested without saying what they’ll spend it on. And they want to make enormous cuts in the rest of the budget, especially programs that help the middle class and poor children.
(First, it is worth pointing out that no Democrat seems to be able to answer specifically which policies Republicans supported which “got us into trouble in the first place”. The Bush tax cuts covered most Americans, not just the rich. Also, Obama and Democrats chose to extend those tax cuts which they now denounce. As explained in USA Today, the financial regulations Clinton is referencing would not actually prevent another crash or a future bailout. Lastly, the proposals by both Romney and Ryan actually end up increasing spending over the next ten years, they just cut the rate of growth for that spending.)
When President Barack Obama took office, the economy was in free fall. It had just shrunk 9 full percent of GDP. We were losing 750,000 jobs a month.
Are we doing better than that today?
The answer is yes.
(This is a completely dishonest picture. Clinton is taking the worst point of the recession and comparing it to today. The point isn’t whether Americans are better off than they were at the worst part of the recession, but if they are better off than they would be if we had a decent recovery? The answer to that question, using almost any metric, is an absolute no. Americans are far worse off than they would be with a decent recovery and also worse off than they were at the start of this presidency. Since January 2009, unemployment is up .5%, Median income is down over $4,000, gas prices have more than doubled, and the national debt has increase by an astonishing $5.4 trillion.)
In 2010, as the president’s recovery program kicked in, the job losses stopped and things began to turn around. The recovery act saved or created millions of jobs and cut taxes — let me say this again — cut taxes for 95 percent of the American people. (Cheers, applause.) And, in the last 29 months, our economy has produced about 4 1/2 million private sector jobs. (Cheers, applause.)
We could have done better, but last year the Republicans blocked the president’s job plan, costing the economy more than a million new jobs.
So here’s another job score. President Obama: plus 4 1/2 million. Congressional Republicans: zero.
(The correct number is actually 4 million and that number ignores that 4.3 million jobs have been lost since Obama became President. Furthermore, an overwhelming majority of those jobs were created after Republicans took control of the House of Representatives. One could effectively argue that it was that election that ensured a stalemate which allowed businesses to feel comfortable to begin hiring once again. Obama actually had a net loss of over 3 million jobs in the 2 years prior to Republicans taking control of the House.)
So what’s happened? There are now 250,000 more people working in the auto industry than on the day the companies were restructured. (Cheers, applause.)
So — now, we all know that Governor Romney opposed the plan to save GM and Chrysler. (Boos.) So here’s another job score. (Laughter.) Are you listening in Michigan and Ohio and across the country? (Cheers.) Here — (cheers, applause) — here’s another job score: Obama, 250,000; Romney, zero.
(Notice the sleight of hand in the first statement. The restructuring only applied to GM and Chrysler, but Clinton is randomly comparing the number of jobs in the whole auto industry. Also, this ignores that the Obama administration actually forced dealership closing and job losses right before the restructuring. The truth is that the auto bailout costs taxpayers millions, didn’t prevent a bankruptcy and allowed Obama to shift the burden of restructuring from the UAW to the bondholders and taxpayers.)
Now, the agreement the administration made with the management, labor and environmental groups to double car mileage, that was a good deal too. It will cut your gas prices in half, your gas bill.
(Clinton fails to mention that the new standards don’t go into effect until 2025, so it won’t really be cutting your gas bill right now. In addition, these new standards actually come with huge costs for those trying to buy a new car: “The nonprofit, unaffiliated Center for Automotive Research anticipates an increase of $4,000 to $11,000 between 2008 and 2025. If that occurs, fewer motorists will buy new cars and employment in the auto industry will suffer.” So these standards will actually hurt families looking to save money.)
The president’s energy strategy, which he calls “all of the above,” is helping too. The boom in oil and gas production, combined with greater energy efficiency, has driven oil imports to a near-20- year low and natural gas production to an all-time high. And renewable energy production has doubled.
(Obama does not actually have an “all of the above” strategy. While it is true that oil production has increased on private lands, it has actually decreased on federally owned lands. The Obama administration was actually held in contempt by a court for their continuous and illegal attempts to impose a drilling moratorium. Obama also rejected plans for building the valuable Keystone Pipeline, which would also create quite a few jobs. This administration has also imposed numerous regulations that have hindered coal production.)
Even more important after a decade in which exploding college costs have increased the dropout rate so much that the percentage of our young people with four-year college degrees has gone down so much that we have dropped to 16th in the world in the percentage of young people with college degrees.
So the president’s student loan is more important than ever. Here’s what it does — (cheers, applause) — here’s what it does. You need to tell every voter where you live about this. It lowers the cost of federal student loans. And even more important, it give students the right to repay those loans as a clear, fixed, low percentage of their income for up to 20 years. (Cheers, applause.)
Now what does this mean? What does this mean? Think of it. It means no one will ever have to drop out of college again for fear they can’t repay their debt.
(The implication Clinton is making here is that student loans are hard to come by right now, which is the exact opposite of the truth. The problem is that student loans have become too available and as a result, the cost of tuition has sky-rocketed. The policies being advocated here will make it easier for students to take out more and bigger loans, which will then incentivize school to increase their tuitions. Students will just end up with more debt and less value from their degrees. As a Moody’s analysis warns, “[u]nless students limit their debt burdens, choose fields of study that are in demand, and successfully complete their degrees on time, they will find themselves in worse financial positions and unable to earn the projected income that justified taking out their loans in the first place.” That is the path that Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are advocating for them to take. )
First, individuals and businesses have already gotten more than a billion dollars in refunds from insurance companies because the new law requires 80 (percent) to 85 percent of your premium to go to your health care, not profits or promotion. (Cheers, applause.) And the gains are even greater than that because a bunch of insurance companies have applied to lower their rates to comply with the requirement.
(I have not found any evidence of refunds from insurance companies. Despite Obama having previously promised that premiums would go down, it is now clear that Obamacare has actually severely increased premiums.)
Fourth, soon the insurance companies — not the government, the insurance companies — will have millions of new customers.
(This is likely true, but only because millions of Americans will lose their employer-provided health coverage under Obamacare.)
First, both Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan attacked the president for allegedly robbing Medicare of $716 billion. That’s the same attack they leveled against the Congress in 2010, and they got a lot of votes on it. But it’s not true. (Applause.)
Look, here’s what really happened. You be the judge. Here’s what really happened. There were no cuts to benefits at all. None. What the president did was to save money by taking the recommendations of a commission of professionals to cut unwarranted subsidies to providers and insurance companies that were not making people healthier and were not necessary to get the providers to provide the service.
And instead of raiding Medicare, he used the savings to close the doughnut hole in the Medicare drug program — (cheers, applause) — and — you all got to listen carefully to this; this is really important — and to add eight years to the life of the Medicare trust fund so it is solvent till 2024.
(1) Just because the cuts were not directly to benefits, does not mean they do not affect beneficiaries. Providers will raise their prices if their costs go up. The second part of this is just false. While it is true that Obama did do that on paper, he also took the same money and applied it to fund part of Obamacare. So essentially he counted the same money twice and is now pretending only the one application that sounds good should count. The reality is if Obamacare is implemented, that is where that money shall be spent and Medicare will be weakened.)
When Congressman Ryan looked into that TV camera and attacked President Obama’s Medicare savings as, quote, the biggest, coldest power play, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry — (laughter) — because that $716 billion is exactly, to the dollar, the same amount of Medicare savings that he has in his own budget.
(Ryan had these cuts included in his because they were already part of the CBO baseline. However, Ryan applied these cuts back to Medicare trust in the way Clinton mentioned above, but did not spend the same money on another program such as Obamacare.)
So if he’s elected, and if he does what he promised to do, Medicare will now grow (sic/go) broke in 2016. (Boos.) Think about that. That means, after all, we won’t have to wait until their voucher program kicks in 2023 — (laughter) — to see the end of Medicare as we know it. (Applause.) They’re going to do it to us sooner than we thought.
(Not only are the numbers here incorrect, but Clinton is also inadvertently pointing to the fact that Romney/Ryan actually have a plan to save Medicare (which allows individuals to choose traditional Medicare or a voucher to purchase a plan of their choice), which Obama has no such plan and will inevitably lead to the end of Medicare.)
Now, folks, this is serious, because it gets worse. (Laughter.) And you won’t be laughing when I finish telling you this. They also want to block-grant Medicaid, and cut it by a third over the coming 10 years.
(The sad thing about this demagoguery is Clinton knows better and has been caught on camera admitting these problems need to be addressed. Only one side is providing solutions.)
It’s a big deal. But I am telling you the claim that President Obama weakened welfare reform’s work requirement is just not true.
(This is false and was confirmed to be false by the Government Accountability Office yesterday. It is absolutely true that Obama attempted to weaken the requirement.)
But they keep on running the ads claiming it. You want to know why? Their campaign pollster said, we are not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.
(Democrats keep using this line to attack Romney, but ignore the underlying premise that just because a “fact-checker” said something does not make it a fact. It would be troubling if Romney’s campaign was saying they will ignore facts, but that is not what this statement means.)
Now, what has the president done? He has offered a reasonable plan of $4 trillion in debt reduction over a decade, with 2 1/2 trillion (dollars) coming from — for every $2 1/2 trillion in spending cuts, he raises a dollar in new revenues — 2 1/2-to-1. And he has tight controls on future spending. That’s the kind of balanced approach proposed by the Simpson-Bowles Commission, a bipartisan commission.
(This “plan” is essentially the same one that was voted down 99-0 in the U.S. Senate. Not one Democrat would support it because it was completely unserious. The Congressional Budget Office looked at this budget and found it would actually increase the debt over the baseline by $3.5 trillion by 2022. As for Simpson-Bowles, Obama completely ignored their very serious and real recommendations. The Democratic Co-Chair, Erskine Bowles, has said that Obama failed to lead on deficit-reduction.)
If — arithmetic! If — (applause) — if they stay with their $5 trillion tax cut plan — in a debt reduction plan? — the arithmetic tells us, no matter what they say, one of three things is about to happen. One, assuming they try to do what they say they’ll do, get rid of — pay — cover it by deductions, cutting those deductions, one, they’ll have to eliminate so many deductions, like the ones for home mortgages and charitable giving, that middle-class families will see their tax bills go up an average of $2,000 while anybody who makes $3 million or more will see their tax bill go down $250,000. (Boos.)
Or, two, they’ll have to cut so much spending that they’ll obliterate the budget for the national parks, for ensuring clean air, clean water, safe food, safe air travel. They’ll cut way back on Pell Grants, college loans, early childhood education, child nutrition programs, all the programs that help to empower middle-class families and help poor kids. Oh, they’ll cut back on investments in roads and bridges and science and technology and biomedical research.
(None of this is actually factual or true. The $5 trillion claim comes from an article by Josh Barro. Barro assumes that a rate reduction will result in a huge revenue loss that can’t be made up for with growth. However, Barro has admitted that this number is a guess and the idea that Romney’s plan would add to the deficit is more “an opinion than a factual statement”. Finally, Romney has not proposed any tax hikes on the middle class or direct cuts such as the ones Clinton’s suggests, so to say he would implement them is pure speculation.)
Or three, in spite of all the rhetoric, they’ll just do what they’ve been doing for more than 30 years. They’ll go in and cut the taxes way more than they cut spending, especially with that big defense increase, and they’ll just explode the debt and weaken the economy. And they’ll destroy the federal government’s ability to help you by letting interest gobble up all your tax payments.
(This statement requires a complete disconnect from reality. Clinton forgets that it was Republicans, less than 30 years ago, that forced him to cut spending and sign balanced budgets. Furthermore, it is pretty astonishing that Clinton would feign such concern for debt while advocating for a president that has added more debt than any other in our history.)
If you want every American to vote and you think it is wrong to change voting procedures — (jeers) — just to reduce the turnout of younger, poorer, minority and disabled voters — (jeers) — you should support Barack Obama. (Cheers, applause.)
(This is clearly a reference to voter identification laws. Of course Republicans actually want to pass Voter ID laws to prevent voter fraud, like the type that decided the MN Senatorial election in 2008. Furthermore, there is almost no evidence that Voter ID laws would actually significantly impact voting in the groups Clinton mentions.)
The point of this is that while Clinton’s speech might have sounded good, it wasn’t actually based in reality. The electorate made the mistake of trusting empty promises and good speeches in 2008, but they won’t repeat that mistake in 2012.