Mitch McConnell’s Nose Grew Longer As Fact-Checkers Thrashed His Lie About Obama (VIDEO)
When Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe earlier this week, he tried — and failed — to explain why Donald Trump appeals to people by using facts that might be true in some other universe but aren’t here.
“People are legitimately unhappy. The average person is about $3,000 or $4,000 a year worse off today than when President Obama came to office, [so] you can understand the anxiety and the desire for a kind of quick turnaround.”
Well, the Washington Post’s Fact Checker had something to say about that, and gave him four Pinocchios for dragging out this musty old quote.
The U.S. economy fluctuates from one month to the next. But McConnell’s talking point is older than some dinosaurs. Okay, I’m exaggerating. Slightly.
McConnell is off — Way off
Why do I say that? Because our man Mitch used moldy-oldie numbers in talking about the median household income.
Let’s have a look.
While the 2012 campaign was in full swing, the Wall Street Journal wrote an editorial that claimed middle-class incomes were being hammered. The editorial cited research done on median household incomes by the nonpartisan economic consulting firm Sentier Research. The firm published a report that highlighted the steep decline in median income that had been readjusted in the aftermath of the Great Recession — the period between December 2007 to June 2009, six months after Obama took office.
And, wasting no time, Mitt Romney’s campaign used that $4,000 figure to run the campaign ad seen here.
And the Republicans have been harping on this repeatedly — including McConnell, who cited a version of the statistic, telling “60 Minutes” that “middle- and lower-income Americans are about $3,000 a year worse off than they were when he came to office.”
But here’s the cool thing about Sentier’s research: The firm produces a tidy little monthly snapshot, using data compiled by the Census Bureau’s monthly household survey. That information is used to calculate the nation’s unemployment rate. And the Census Bureau uses this same data to come up with an annual figure.
But the Bureau’s most recent number is for 2014. However, Sentier has an income figure for April 2016, which of course means it’s more current. The firm gets busy recalculating the numbers every month, dating all the way back to 2000 to adjust for inflation. Which means the latest report has all of the information in 2016 dollars.
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Gordon Green, a representative at the firm, provided the Washington Post’s Fact Checker with a spreadsheet of the monthly data. He requested that some numbers not be posted on the Internet due to proprietary issues.
This is the median household income for key months during the recession and afterward:
- December 2007 (beginning of the recession): $56,900
- January 2009 (Obama takes office): $57,143
- June 2009 (recession ends): $55,859
- August 2011 (the lowest point in income under Obama): $52,115
- August 2012 (when the WSJ editorial came out): $53,077
- January 2015 (GOP takes control of the Senate): $55,278
- March 2016 (highest point under Obama): $57,496
- April 2016 (most recent figure): $57,243
It’s entirely clear that even if you take into inflation into account, the median household income is a bit higher than when Obama took office. Sorry, Mitchiepoo, it’s not $3,000 to $4,000 lower. It dipped slightly between March and April, but it’s not unusual for the number to fluctuate on a monthly basis, Green said.
And “it’s been on a steady increase since August, 2011. You can see that we have come back quite a bit,” he said.
The U.S. suffered a very serious financial recession, Green noted, and it takes time for that to turn around. By the time that the WSJ editorial was published, median household income was climbing. Now, it’s more than $5,000 higher than it was at its lowest point during Obama’s presidency. That’s an increase of nearly 10 percent.
Sentier reports that in the past two years, median income has increased by $2,000.
What the data compiled by Sentier and the Census Bureau also show is that since 2000, the last year of Bill Clinton’s administration, median household income was pretty much flat, at $57,576 in January. This means that this flat period extended over two presidential terms.
This is another reason why McConnell’s remark is goofy, along with being quite out of date. The recession, which caused household income to drop, began long before Obama took office. While he did make efforts to mitigate the crisis, which means he may be able to take blame or credit for how the economy is doing, but a president really only has limited power over the overall direction of the economy, The Fact Checker reports.
Republicans need to forget about that $4,000 figure that they used in 2012. It’s dead in the water, but I guess to them, it sounds like a good way to browbeat Obama.
And McConnell’s office didn’t respond much, except to forward a recent report published by Pew Research. The report showed a decline in median household income from 1999 to 2014. But that data isn’t as recent as that compiled by Sentier, which was based on the GOP’s original talking point.
McConnell’s office also sent The Fact Checker a New York Times article which reported a decline in household income after Clinton left office, and noted this was likely based on old data. And McConnell’s statement was about Obama, so why they sent this isn’t clear.
The Kentucky senator’s office also pointed to annual Census figures that showed the median household income at $54,925 in 2009 and $53,657 in 2014 (that’s the most recent year available). But even at this, it’s only $1,300 in 2014 dollars. Which is still considerably less than $3,000 or $4,000. And as has been demonstrated, it’s out of date, according to the source Republicans cited in the past.
Not only that, but unemployment is now at about five percent, which is half the level it was in Obama’s first year. Which means that McConnell should have researched that before using a talking point that should be in mothballs. But nope, he drags out a statistic that is four years old, and gives far too much credit to Obama for the state of the economy.
If there’s no growth in inflation-adjusted income since 2000, then that’s a real issue. It’s not specific to Obama, however. So McConnell needs to find a different reason to explain Trump’s rise and why people are really “legitimately angry.”
Needless to say, those Four Pinocchios are well-earned.
Featured image via Wikimedia Commons [Public Domain] with modifications from the editorial team.
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