Obama Years Explained in Nine Charts-Truth! & Fiction!
Summary of eRumor:
A graphic making its way around social media shows the negative impact of President Obama’s policies and the illusion of economic recovery in nine charts.
Claims made about the impact of President Obama’s eight years in office in these nine charts are all of the above: true, false and misleading.
These charts seem to have originated in a blog posted at WND in March 2016 under the headline, “Obama’s Latest Fraud: ‘Economic Recovery’ Disproven in Just Nine Charts.” Donald Trump brought them to the fore by retweeting them during the presidential campaign.
The charts claim to show the devastating impact of Obama’s policies on student loan debt, food stamps, federal debt, health insurance costs, labor force participation, business workforce share of income, median household income and homeownership.
We’ll take a look at claims made in each of these charts.
Student Debt Grew from $146.6 Billion to $945.6 Billion from 2009-2015-Truth! & False!
It’s true that student debt totaled about $945.6 billion by the fourth quarter of 2015 — but the claim that student debt totaled $146.6 billion when Obama took office is false.
In reality, outstanding student debt totaled nearly $800 billion in 2009 when Obama took office, and by June 2010 it had reached $830 billion. It should be noted that that amount included $665 billion in federal education loans and $168 billion in private student loans, the Federal Reserve reports.
So, the end point cited in the chart is roughly correct, but the starting point appears to have been misrepresented to make it appear that Obama should share more of the fault in the country’s student debt quagmire than he actually does.
In reality, student debt has exploded over the last 15 years, under both Obama and President George W. Bush. In 2000, when Bush took office, outstanding student debt stood at $200 billion. By the second quarter of 2016, that amount had risen to more than $1.2 trillion, the Federal Reserve reports.
Food Stamp Program Grew from $54.8 Billion in 2009 to $69.4 Billion in 2014-Truth! & Misleading!
The claim that federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) program (also known as food stamps) grew from $54.8 billion in 2009 to $69.4 billion in 2014 is true — but it doesn’t tell the whole story.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports that SNAP caseloads “grew significantly” from 2007 to 2011 due to the great recession and lagging economic recovery. By 2014, however, SNAP caseloads began falling and continued to fall through 2015:
SNAP caseloads began falling in 2014 and continued falling in 2015. SNAP caseload growth slowed substantially in 2012 and 2013, and caseloads fellby about 2 percent in 2014 and another 2 percent in 2015. For more than two years, fewer people have participated in SNAP each month than in the same month one year earlier. The number of people receiving SNAP has fallen by 2.6 million people since peaking in December 2012. In 42 states, the number of SNAP participants was lower in December 2015 than in December 2012.
As a result of fewer caseloads, SNAP spending also fell. In 2014, at its peak, SNAP spending accounted for about 0.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). By 2016, SNAP spending had fallen to about 0.425 percent of GDP.
So, it’s true that there was an increase in SNAP funding through 2014 — but the chart is misleading because it doesn’t reflect increases in SNAP spending trends before Obama took office, or drops in SNAP spending in 2015 and 2016.
Federal Debt will Nearly Double Under President Obama-Truth!
This one is true. Federal Debt has more than doubled since Obama took office. By the beginning of 2016, national debt stood at $13.6 trillion — a 116 percent increase since Obama took office, the Treasury Department reports.
Health Insurance Costs Have Skyrocketed Under Obama-Misleading!
This chart argues that the consumer price index for medical care has increased from 149.952 in January 2009 to 186.961 in February 2016 — however, these numbers refer to the chained consumer price index for urban (C-CPI-U) customers, not overall medical costs.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics explains that the C-CPI-U was established in 2002 to “reflect the effect of substitution that consumers make across item categories in response to changes in relative prices.” Simply put, it’s not the best way to determine overall health insurance costs.
The Insurance Journal reports that the average health care rate increase for mid-size and large companies was 3.2 percent in 2015, marking the lowest rate increase in nearly 20 years. The projected minimum increase for 2016 was 4.1 percent.
However, despite low rate increases, the average amount that employees have to contribute toward health care has increased 134 percent over the last 10 years, the journal reports:
…Employees contributed $2,490 toward the premium and another $2,208 in out-of-pocket costs, such as copayments, coinsurance and deductibles in 2015. In contrast, the amount of employees’ premium and out-of-pocket costs combined in 2005 was just $2,001.
So, health care costs undoubtedly continue to increase. However, it’s not clear why the chart referenced here uses C-CPI-U to argue that overall healthcare costs are up under Obama.
Labor Force Participation Dropped 65.7% in 2009 to 62.9% in 2016-True!
This one is straightforward and easy to verify. The labor force participation rate was 65.7 percent in January 2009 and 62.9 percent in February 2016.
Business Workforce Share of Income Index Dropped from 103.605 in 2007 to 99.350 in 2015-Misleading!
The numbers referenced here are true — workforce share of non-farm business income was 103.605 in the second quarter of 2007 and about 99.350 in the third quarter of 2015.
However, the chart fails to provide historical context showing that workforce share of business income has been dropping significantly since 2000.
In the first quarter of 2001, the index stood at 107.659. By the first quarter of 2009, it had dropped to 99.328. So, the workforce share of business income is actually up slightly from when Obama took office, the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis reports.
Median Household Income Fell from $57,357 in 2007 to $53,657 in 2014-Fiction!
It’s true that the U.S. Census Bureau estimates the median household income from 2010-2014 to be $53,482 — but it’s not true that median household income was $57,357 in 2007.
The Census Bureau reports that the median household income decreased 1.2 percent from 2007 to 2008, from $52,673 to $52,029. That means median household income is up slightly under Obama.
Homeownership Rate Drops from 67.4% in 2009 to 63.7% in 2015-Truth!
This claim is true, and the homeownership rate actually fell more in 2016, landing at 62.9 percent, the Census Bureau reported in July 2016.
The Wall Street Journal reported that a large part of that was lingering effects of the housing market crash of 2008, as well as student debt restricting younger homebuyers:
There are many ways to interpret the numbers. Part of the story is the catastrophic housing market collapse, which was especially severe for Generation X—those born from 1965 to 1984.
Younger households may struggle to save amid student debt, growing rents, rising home prices and limited inventories of starter homes. Indeed, the homeownership rate for 18- to 35-year-olds slipped to 34.1%, the lowest level in records dating to 1994.
At 77.9%, the homeownership rate was highest for those 65 years and over.
But the broader picture suggests a degree of economic strength: Renters are spurring a steady increase in overall household formation. Renter-occupied housing units jumped by 967,000 from the same period a year earlier. Overall, household formation has been fairly steady since the early days of the expansion.
The bottom line is that these homeownership stats are true.