This Obama Critic Thinks Newsweek and Andrew Sullivan Are Dumb

As NewsBusters reported Sunday, Newsweek's most recent cover astonishingly asked, "Why Are Obama's Critics So Dumb?"

This critic of the President analyzed the contents of so-called conservative Andrew Sullivan's piece and has come to the conclusion that it is he and the unashamedly liberal magazine he writes for that are lacking in intellectual capacity and/or integrity.

All one needs is read the following from Sullivan's third paragraph to understand the absurdity on display:

I write this as an unabashed supporter of Obama from early 2007 on. I did so not as a liberal, but as a conservative-minded independent appalled by the Bush administration’s record of war, debt, spending, and torture.

So, "from early 2007," this self-described "conservative-minded independent" became an "unabashed supporter" of a junior senator with two years of totally undistinguished performance at the national level and a record as an Illinois state senator of largely voting "present."

To give you an idea of the unlikelihood of this, only 20 percent of conservatives voted for Obama in 2008.

Sullivan wants Newsweek readers to believe he's part of that one fifth. Those that have been following him in recent years know that he's less conservative than Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

Maybe that's why Sullivan didn't vote for him.

But the real laughs in this piece began a tad later when Sullivan actually defended Obama's - wait for it! - economic record:

When Obama took office, the United States was losing around 750,000 jobs a month. The last quarter of 2008 saw an annualized drop in growth approaching 9 percent. This was the most serious downturn since the 1930s, there was a real chance of a systemic collapse of the entire global financial system, and unemployment and debt—lagging indicators—were about to soar even further. No fair person can blame Obama for the wreckage of the next 12 months, as the financial crisis cut a swath through employment. Economies take time to shift course.

Sounds almost exactly like the Democrat argument pathetically espoused for years: Obama inherited a bad economy and had nothing to do with causing it.

Believing this requires one to completely ignore the Democrat takeover of Congress in January 2007, a 4.4 percent unemployment rate at the time, and that the recession Obama "inherited" and therefore can't be blamed for began eleven months later.

But overlooking the past wasn't Sullivan's only sin in this piece. He also liked to cherry-pick data to support his pony in the race:

The job collapse bottomed out at the beginning of 2010, as the stimulus took effect. Since then, the U.S. has added 2.4 million jobs. That’s not enough, but it’s far better than what Romney would have you believe, and more than the net jobs created under the entire Bush administration.

So Obama's job performance should be measured from the bottom of employment well after he took office because he wasn't to blame for the recession he "inherited," but Bush's job performance starts from the day he was inaugurated despite him inheriting a recession from Bill Clinton.

If we use Sullivan's methodology of discounting an inherited recession and starting the clock from the job market's bottom to analyze Bush's record, we find that well over four million jobs were created.

But that's silly. No matter how you cherry-pick the data, the reality is that Obama was inaugurated with a 7.3 percent unemployment rate that is now at 8.5 percent having skippered an economy that experienced a net loss of 2.5 million jobs with him at the helm.

Sullivan didn't see it that way. And that wasn't the only cherry-picking he did:

In 2011 alone, 1.9 million private-sector jobs were created, while a net 280,000 government jobs were lost. Overall government employment has declined 2.6 percent over the past 3 years.


What Sullivan conveniently ignored was that the federal government - the only one Obama has control over, mind you! - increased employees by 36,000 in the past three years. Maybe more important, if you factor out the Post Office - which is in serious chaos and is therefore cutting workers to address long-term structural problems - federal employees have risen by 151,000.

Using his bizarre form of data analysis, Sullivan didn't notice this either.

Aside from cherry-picking, Sullivan also made excuses for the poor economic forecasting skills of those he supports:

The right claims the stimulus failed because it didn’t bring unemployment down to 8 percent in its first year, as predicted by Obama’s transition economic team. Instead, it peaked at 10.2 percent. But the 8 percent prediction was made before Obama took office and was wrong solely because it relied on statistics that guessed the economy was only shrinking by around 4 percent, not 9.

Where to begin?

First, this 8 percent prediction was made by Jared Bernstein - the eventual Chief Economist and Economic Policy Adviser to Vice President Biden - and Christina Romer - the eventual Chair of Obama's Council of Economic Advisers - in a document entitled "The Job Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan" published on January 9, 2009, just eleven days before Obama was inaugurated. As such, whatever miscalculations were made were the fault of members of Obama's administration.

Regardless of what the economy did in the fourth quarter of 2008, let's examine what these people predicted would be the direct result of ARRP otherwise known as Obama's stimulus plan:

As Figure 1 shows, even with the large prototypical package, the unemployment rate in 2010Q4 is predicted to be approximately 7.0%, which is well below the approximately 8.8% that would result in the absence of a plan. In light of the substantial quarter-to-quarter variation in the estimates of job creation, we believe a reasonable range for 2010Q4 is 3.3 to 4.1 million jobs created.

So, Bernstein and Romer predicted that by the end of 2010, between 3.3 and 4.1 million jobs would have been created by ARRP resulting in an unemployment rate of 7.0 percent.

The real numbers were a decline of 4.1 million jobs and an unemployment rate of 9.4 percent, 2.4 percentage points worse than Bernstein and Romer predicted if ARRP was passed and 0.6 percentage points worse than they predicted would happen if it wasn't.

Yet Sullivan had the gall to say "the stimulus did exactly what it was supposed to do."

But let's cut these guys some slack and admit that Q4 '08 was worse than anyone had imagined, and that this set the positive impact of ARRP back a bit. Certainly their predictions would have come true with the addition of one extra year for the program to more fully take effect.

Hardly, for by the end of 2011, the unemployment rate was still 1.5 percentage points worse than Obama's team predicted, and the economy still showed a net loss of 2.5 million jobs compared to the 3.3 to 4.1 million promised.

You've got to be quite a shill to look at these numbers and still give ARRP high marks.


But Sullivan wasn't close to finished, for he next resorted to just flat out lying:

Under Bush, new policies on taxes and spending cost the taxpayer a total of $5.07 trillion. Under Obama’s budgets both past and projected, he will have added $1.4 trillion in two terms.

Although I object to looking at this matter from a fiscal year perspective given Obama's involvement in passing the FY2009 budget as well as TARP while he was still in the Senate, let's look at these numbers Sullivan's way first.

His fiscal debt figures for Bush are correct. However, according to TreasuryDirect.gov, the total outstanding debt grew by almost $3.9 trillion from the end of FY2009 to the end of FY2011.

However, given Obama's increases to the FY2009 budget - ahem, ARRP! - and the fact that he and members of his administration voted for that budget while they were still in Congress, it is preposterous to begin his debt creation on October 1, 2009.

As such, our total federal debt has grown by $4.6 trillion since Inauguration Day 2009.

As for future projections, Obama's own Office of Management and Budget predicts deficits of $828 billion, $727 billion, $706 billion, and $752 billion the next four fiscal years.

Therefore, the only explanation for Sullivan's claim that Obama "will have added $1.4 trillion [in debt] in two terms" is his "unabashed" support for the current White House resident.

Moving forward:

The great conservative bugaboo, Obamacare, is also far more moderate than its critics have claimed. The Congressional Budget Office has projected it will reduce the deficit, not increase it dramatically, as Bush’s unfunded Medicare Prescription Drug benefit did.

It's almost like he got his talking points directly from the White House.

Clearly unbeknownst to Sullivan, CBO has walked back its original predictions of ObamaCare reducing the deficit. As director Douglas W. Elmendorf wrote in January, 2010:

In the December 19, 2009, cost estimate for PPACA, CBO and JCT estimated that the direct spending and revenue effects of enacting PPACA would yield a net reduction in federal deficits of $132 billion over the 2010–2019 period.1 Thus, the act’s effects on the rest of the budget—other than the cash flows of the HI trust fund—would amount to a net increase in federal deficits of $226 billion over the same period. Those two aspects of the legislation would have differing effects on debt held by the public: The changes to HI revenues and costs, by themselves, would reduce that debt, while changes in other revenues and costs would increase it.

For the decade beyond 2019, CBO expects that enacting PPACA would reduce federal budget deficits relative to those projected under current law—with a total effect during that decade in a broad range between one-quarter percent and one-half percent of gross domestic product.2 The legislation would have positive effects on the cash flows of the HI trust fund in that decade that would be larger than its effects on federal budget deficits as a whole. Therefore, leaving aside the cash flows of the HI trust fund, CBO expects that PPACA would yield a net increase in budget deficits during the decade beyond 2019. [...]

Therefore, enacting PPACA would increase debt held by government accounts more than it would decrease debt held by the public, and would thus increase gross federal debt.


House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) thought CBO was still being conservative with its figures. The real cost of ObamaCare over the next ten years in his view is $701 billion.

As for Bush's Medicare Prescription Drug benefit, The Boards of Trustees of the Federal Hospital Insurance and Federal Supplementary Medical Insurance Trust Funds projected in their 2009 annual report that the ten-year cost of the program through 2015 would be $549 billion.

Not only isn't this a dramatic increase in the deficit as Sullivan claimed - the original cost of Medicare Part D when first enacted was estimated to be $400 billion over ten years - it is less than what Ryan predicts ObamaCare will cost.

Add it all up, and this self-described "conservative-minded independent" sure was playing fast and loose with the facts to express his devotion to the current White House resident.

Some nerve from a guy and a magazine calling Obama's critics dumb.

On the other hand, maybe he and Newsweek believe their readers are the stupid ones and are expecting them to buy this nonsense hook, line and sinker.

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.