Another Obama Ad Fudging Numbers

October 12, 2008

Once again, Barack Obama is living up to the norm that him and Sen. McCain have set this campaign season when it comes to advertisements: If it sounds good, just make it up.

Take for example this claim that Obama makes in an ad in which he just talks to the camera about the economy:

"For eight years, you've been told that the way to a stronger economy was to give huge tax breaks to corporations and the wealthiest Americans, and somehow prosperity would trickle down. Well now we know the truth. It didn't work. Instead of prosperity trickling down, pain has trickled up. Working family incomes have fallen by $2,000 a year."

This is such an outrageous claim that it should be taken off the air tonight. Yes, he said "$2,000 a year." This is more egregious than the rightchange.com anti-Obama ads that we have debunked. It's not even in the ballpark. How off-the-mark is this claim? If you were standing in Alaska, I wouldn't even be close to you if I was standing in Russia.

Let's look at the facts (something Barack Obama doesn't seem to care about):

Real incomes for working families have not even fallen by $2,000 in the entire eight year period of the past eight years, according to the Census Bureau; and that's even judging by an income metric (cash money income) that doesn't include in-kind benefits like the value of employer-provided health insurance.

Let's go to the Census Bureau for the record and track real median family income for families that work (i.e. earners):

Family Income for Earning Families (in 2007 dollars)

Year Median Working Family Income Mean Working Family Income
2007 $61,355 $78,845
2006 $60,064 $79,508
2005 $59,683 $77,855
2004 $59,342 $77,266
2003 $59,389 $77,295
2002 $59,563 $77,185
2001 $60,026 $78,307
2000 $61,083 $79,193
1999 $60,764 $77,857

The table shows that median family income in 2007 (most recent year data is available) was at an all-time high, and mean working family income (which can be skewed by very high income earners) has actually only fallen by about $348 in real terms since 2000. The latter implies an average decline of about $50 per year, meaning Obama is overstating the decline by about forty-fold.

If Obama and McCain have the guts to be held accountable for their statements, they should agree to a debate that is moderated by a panel of fact checkers (from groups like CQ, Factcheck.org, etc.), and every time one of the candidates said something incorrect or misleading to voters, the panel would have a buzzer and explain to the American people why the statement was incorrect or misleading. My prediction is that the buzzer would break by the end of the night.


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