By Dan Calabrese
Ah, the “fact check” genre of journalism. Legacy journalists love it because it allows them to appear all about “facts” while actually giving them a platform to editorialize.
The classic journalism fact-checker used to check things like the spelling of names, the correctness of addresses and dates – you know, actual objective facts. The new wave of “fact-checkers” takes statements by Republicans, particularly Donald Trump, and attempts to instruct you they are wrong using “facts” that could including anything from the opinion of some “expert” to a government body’s future projections.
I have seen “fact-checkers” claim it was “false” when a Republican predicted an economic bill would spur a certain level of growth, because a projection from the Congressional Budget Office said otherwise. So Party A’s forecast for the future is “false” because Party B’s projection for the future is different. That is not fact-checking. That is editorializing.
So it’s in this vein that today we consider the latest effort from CBS News, which can’t let stand the claim by President Trump that the present economy is better than the one we had under Barack Obama. That this is true seems wholly beyond dispute just by looking at the GDP growth numbers of the last several quarters. But CBS has to defend its hero, so this is how they tried to do it:
HASSETT: “There was an inflection at the election of Donald Trump, and … a whole bunch of data items started heading north.”
THE FACTS: If you look at a chart of monthly job gains or the economy’s growth rate, that inflection point is hard to spot. Hassett notably did not include in his presentation any mention of overall job creation or the broadest measurement of the economy’s output, GDP.
That’s probably because the growth rate Mr. Trump repeatedly cites, the 4.2 percent expansion at an annual rate that occurred in the April-June quarter, isn’t out of line with Obama’s record. The economy grew more quickly than thatduring Mr. Obama’s eight years in office.
Economists generally acknowledge that growth has accelerated this year compared with 2016 and 2017, and most of them partly credit last year’s tax cuts for fueling more consumer and business spending. The economy is on pace to grow at a 3 percent or faster pace in 2018, which would be the first time since 2005 it would reach that mark.
Yet it barely missed that cutoff in 2015, when it expanded 2.9 percent under Mr. Obama.
(Hassett is White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett.)
So what has CBS tried to do here? It’s attempted to rebut Trump and Hassett on the 4.2 percent growth rate in the second quarter by pointing out that Obama had four different quarters that hit that mark or did better. That’s true.
But talk about “lacking context,” which is a favorite thing of media “fact-checkers” to do . . . Trump has been president for six full quarters. He’s averaged close to 3 percent GDP growth and he’s already topped the vaunted 4 percent mark once, with many economists thinking he’ll do it again in the current quarter, which would make him 2-for-7 topping 4 percent.
Obama was president for 32 quarters and he only topped 4 percent four times. More relevant, though, Obama’s average annualized growth for his entire presidency – which is the much more relevant number – was only 1.9 percent. The fact that we saw expansion of 2.9 percent in 2015 is OK, but it’s by far the best number Obama ever hit, which means that in eight years as president he didn’t have a single year in which he topped 3 percent growth. That’s pathetic, especially when you consider that he inherited the Great Recession, and the last 11 recessions prior to this one were followed by very fast bouncebacks.
Generally speaking, the deeper the recession, the faster the rebound. Obama is the only president to defy that trend, and that is not a good thing. His anti-growth, anti-free market policies held back what should have been a robust recovery. We got a long recovery, but it slogged along and never really hit serious fast growth like we’re seeing now.
Obama’s running around now trying to take credit for Trump’s economy, which is one way you know the economy is good. But the claim is absurd, and any serious fact-checker would be raking him over the coals for it. All you have to do is look at Obama’s overall economic record and you realize that the thing the economy needed the most was the end of Obama’s policies.
But we’ve got the media we’ve got, not the media we should have, so instead we have to deal with “fact-checks” like this garbage.
Dan writes Christian spiritual warfare novels and does all kinds of other weird things too. Follow all his activity by liking him on Facebook!