Barackrobatics: Dimewatch VIII

It's been almost a year since Pun Salad started its occasional analyses of President Obama's use of the word "dime" in his public pronouncements. It's developed into a reliable indicator that the other words in the immediate vicinity are some combination of dishonest, misleading, or nonsensical.

That tradition was proudly upheld at the Ottumwa, Iowa Town Hall on April 27. Near the tail end of of a rambling 900-word answer in response to a local businessman's gripes (emphasis added):

THE PRESIDENT: […] So what we've been trying to do is use the SBA, the Small Business Administration. We've doubled SBA loans to small businesses. We are now -- we've told Congress what we'd like to do -- it turns out all those big banks are actually now paying back the money that we gave them.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Good!

THE PRESIDENT: It is very good. With interest, by the way. (Applause.) They've already paid back the majority of it, but my attitude is I want them paying back every dime. And that's why we've got a bank fee that we're going to impose on them until they've paid taxpayers back every dime of the money they got. (Applause.)

President Obama's entire answer is about as incoherent as this excerpt. But, as expected, the bits near the word "dime" are especially truth-challenged.

First, about the SBA loans: if you can stand to read a sycophantic CNN article about them, you'll see that (indeed) 2010 loans are so far about double 2009 loans. But you'll also see that 2010 is running well behind 2008. "Doubled" loans sound impressive, but it's less than meets the eye.

Read a more skeptical source, and you'll find even more problems with the presidential rhetoric: most businesspeople find other problems, including taxes, regulation, and governmental red tape, much more pressing than an inability to obtain credit; SBA guaranteed loans have embarrassing levels of default, leaving the taxpayer on the hook to the creditors; the SBA is also relatively insignificant in the overall credit market, accounting for around 1% of small business loans.

But never mind, because the President leaps to a different topic, which allows him to throw the friendly audience some demagogic red meat: the "big banks" and the "fee" he's putting on them, something he proposed a few months back. The WSJ critique is still on target, and shows how divorced the President's speech is from reality: (a) it's a tax, not a "fee"; (b) it's only on the "big banks", not on other TARP beneficiaries like GM, or Chrysler; (c) most of the big banks have already paid back their TARP bailouts; (d) many institutions that were bailed out via non-TARP funds—notably Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac—are exempt; (e) even the Congressional Budget Office admits that the new taxes will be borne by banks' customers, employees and investors.

But earlier that day, President Obama was in the Rose Garden, delivering remarks at the first meeting of his Tax Increase "Fiscal" Commission. And there it was again (emphasis added):

And I kept my promise to pass a health reform bill without adding a dime to the deficit.

Certainly he pretty much has to say that now, because he repeatedly "pledged" not to sign a bill that added (yes) "even one dime to our deficit over the next decade."

Unsurprisingly, repeating a lie doesn't make it any truer. A recent report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (allegedly held back from the public before the ObamaCare vote) encourages the opposite view: that the bill will add a lot more dimes to the deficit, without actually saving anyone anything on their health care costs.

(Previous episodes of Dimewatch here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.)


Last Modified 2012-10-03 3:36 PM EST