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Fact Checking the State of the Union Address


“President Obama put a rosy spin on several accomplishments of his administration in his 2013 State of the Union address.

  • The president claimed that “both parties have worked together to reduce the deficit by more than $2.5 trillion.” But that’s only an estimate of deficit reduction through fiscal year 2022, and it would be lower if the White House used a different starting point.
  • Obama touted the growth of 500,000 manufacturing jobs over the past three years, but there has been a net loss of 600,000 manufacturing jobs since he took office. The recent growth also has stalled since July 2012.
  • He claimed that “we have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas.” Actual mileage is improving, but Obama’s “doubled” claim refers to a desired miles-per-gallon average for model year 2025.
  • Obama said the Affordable Care Act “is helping to slow the growth of health care costs.” It may be helping, but the slower growth for health care spending began in 2009, before the law was enacted, and is due at least partly to the down economy.

The president also made an exaggerated claim of bipartisanship. He said that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney agreed with him that the minimum wage should be tied to the cost of living. But Romney backed off that view during the campaign.


President Barack Obama gave his State of the Union address to Congress Feb. 12, laying out his legislative agenda for the coming year and achievements of his time in office. But Obama puffed up his record.

Deficit Reduction

Obama said the administration and Congress “have worked together to reduce the deficit by more than $2.5 trillion.” A bipartisan group called the estimate “very reasonable.” But it is only an estimate — and a debatable one at that — for deficit reduction from budgets through fiscal year 2022. Exactly how much will be cut will be up to future Congresses.

And, even if Congress meets those deficit-reduction goals, deficit spending will continue and the federal debt will grow larger — unless much more is done.

Obama: Over the last few years, both parties have worked together to reduce the deficit by more than $2.5 trillion — mostly through spending cuts, but also by raising tax rates on the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. As a result, we are more than halfway towards the goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction that economists say we need to stabilize our finances.

Obama has cited the $2.5 trillion figure on numerous occasions, including at a Jan. 14 news conference. It is based largely on two pieces of legislation: the Budget Control Act of 2011, which placed caps on discretionary spending beginning in 2012, and the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, which prevented tax hikes on most Americans in 2013 but allowed rates to go up on the top 1 percent of taxpayers. There was some additional savings from reductions in discretionary spending in the fiscal 2011 appropriations bills.

Republicans challenge the $2.5 trillion figure with some justification, because the amount of savings depends heavily on the baseline — that is, the starting point of comparison. The White House told us it used the Office of Management and Budget’s January 2011 baseline…..”

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