In the July 21 American, Phil Grant joins the chorus of anti-Obama negativity from the extreme right wing [“The Obama/state of the economy disconnect is holding the country back”]. Grant’s academic credentials should ensure a certain level of rigor in his arguments, but in his commentary many of the quoted facts and figures about U.S. economic decline are misleading.
- Although the federal debt is indeed about $20 trillion, the interest expense on debt outstanding is quoted by Grant as $800 million; TreasuryDirect.gov shows that for Fiscal 2015 the interest expense was $402 million, half what Grant stated. Today’s low interest rates were brought about by high international demand for S. debt. Our credit is the best in the world. That is hardly a sign of decline.
- Grant notes that 109 million people are now on welfare. This is misleading. To most readers, being on welfare means receiving money from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, but there were 1.8 million on TANF in 2012. So what was Grant referring to? I found a January 2015 article by ultraconservative commentator Terry Jeffrey that used the number 109 million (from 2012) and equated being on welfare with receiving benefits from means-tested federal programs. What are the means-tested programs apart from TANF? Public or subsidized rental housing, Federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI), food stamps, other cash assistance, Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and Medicaid. Grant describes welfare as going to people who are not productive enough to pay their own way in society. With such a sweeping definition, does he blame Obama for letting companies pay workers so little that they need to go on food stamps? Should society not provide aid to people who need medical treatment beyond their ability to pay?
- Grant states that bankruptcies are up. According to www.uscourts.gov, “Bankruptcy cases filed in federal courts for the fiscal year 2015… totaled 860,182, down 11 percent from the 963,739 bankruptcy filings in FY 2014. This is the lowest number of bankruptcy filings for any 12-month period since 2007, and the fifth consecutive fiscal year filings have fallen.”
Grant concludes by asking that Obama be held accountable for being disconnected from the true condition of the economy. Given Grant’s misrepresentations, his argument falls flat. Readers interested in an up-to-date, nonpartisan accounting of economic indicators should refer to http://www.factcheck.org/2016/07/obamas-numbers-july-2016-update/.