Boehner’s SOTU Fact-Checking Blames Obama for Income Inequality

John Boehner’s undisguised loathing was on full display last night


Speaker of the House John Boehner dismissively called last night’s SOTU “political theater.” He also promised to fact-check President Obama, and he delivered: SOTU FACT: President’s Policies Have Failed the Middle Class.

In fact, Boehner’s so-called “fact-checking” is as a tendentious and mendacious collection of lies and misrepresentations as anything put forward by the GOP since 2008. The sheer gall of John Boehner suddenly pretending to be a champion in the struggle against income inequality is, for want of a better word, staggering.

Check it out:

CLAIM: “Today, thanks to a growing economy, the recovery is touching more and more lives. Wages are finally starting to rise again.” (President Obama, State of the Union Address, January 20, 2015)

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SOTU FACT: All the growth the president is taking credit for tonight has done nothing to boost middle-class families. Income equality has gotten worse on his watch.

Yes. You just saw Boehner blame Obama for the rich getting richer at our expense.

FACT: President Obama has been attacking rising income inequality for his entire presidency.

FACT: Income inequality would almost certainly be worse today if we had a Republican president, according to an “exclusive analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, conducted at the request of The Washington Post” in July 2014, “that compared today’s income distribution with what it would look like if President George W. Bush’s tax policies were still in place.”

When Obama attacked income inequality before the 2010 midterms, Politico reported, the 1 percent “freaked out” and “appear[ed] to be having a collective meltdown.”

This obvious point aside, let’s look at three big problems with Boehner’s “fact-checking”:

  • Boehner’s “SOTU fact” doesn’t address what Obama said. It is a straw-man argument. Obama did not say income inequality is not a problem. In fact, he spent much of his SOTU addressing income inequality;
  • Second, what Obama did say IS true: wages are rising again. As Reuters put it last night, “it is true that earnings are rising.” And yes, Reuters qualifies that statement by adding “multiple government surveys suggest income growth remains much slower than before the 2007-09 recession,” but the point needs to be made that the GOP caused the recession and Obama has spent much of his presidency turning the economy around. Any growth at all is near-miraculous, considering where we were when he took office. But even if wages were not rising, Boehner did not fact-check this point;
  • Income Inequality is a serious problem precisely because of John Boehner’s own party, which favors tax breaks for the rich and corporations and tax hikes for the Middle Class. President Obama wants to lift people into the Middle Class. Boehner refuses to create Middle Class jobs. It was just the Sunday that Paul Ryan again called for tax hikes for the Middle Class.
    And on Monday, Democrats unveiled a plan to give the Middle Class a $2,000 tax cut. None other than John Boehner, who last night accused President Obama of failing to help the Middle Class, shot it down, saying it’s “the last thing we need.”

Boehner’s SOTU fact actually indicts his own party. If we fact-check Boehner’s fact-checking, we find that Republicans have repeatedly accused President Obama of “class warfare” when he has tried to help the Middle Class, including as recently as the occasion of Obama’s proposal on Saturday for tax cuts for the Middle Class and tax hikes for the rich.

In July 2013, Fox News’ senior network political analyst Brit Hume, attacked President Obama for having an irrational fixation on income inequality. Forging ahead, in December of that year, President Obama doubled down by declaring that income inequality is “the defining challenge of our time.”

Yet after six years of attacking Obama’s every attempt to help the Middle Class, here we have John Boehner attacking President Obama for not being fixated enough on income inequality. Really?

Here are a couple of facts for you:

FACT: Healthcare reform, the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, is itself an attack on income inequality. The Republican response has seen John Boehner himself oversee literally dozens of attempts to repeal Obamacare.

FACT: The number of attempted repeals of Obamacare are greater than the number of permanent jobs that will be created by the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Boehner’s official response to last night’s SOTU was to claim,

The State of the Union is a chance to start anew, but all the president offered tonight is more taxes, more government, and more of the same approach that has failed middle-class families. These aren’t just the wrong policies, they’re the wrong priorities: growing Washington’s bureaucracy instead of America’s economy.

More taxes. Like Paul Ryan’s plan to hike taxes on the Middle Class?

So what we have here is a House which has for six years stymied every attempt by President Obama and the Democrats to help the Middle Class. Apparently, raising Middle Class taxes somehow helps the Middle Class and Obama’s plan to cut Middle Class taxes hurts the Middle Class, and Obama’s plan to tax the rich – bizarrely – hurts the Middle Class and Republican plans to cut taxes for the rich – again, bizarrely – helps the Middle Class.

If this kind of math makes sense to you, then perhaps trickle-down economics makes sense to you as well. The rest of us aren’t into water sports, thank you very much.

The Speaker of the House did not address Obama’s point about wages increasing for the simple reason that wages are starting to rise again, and President Obama has been a champion of increasing the minimum wage while Boehner has been staunchly against any such move, to the extent that he has said he would rather kill himself that vote for a minimum wage hike.

Let’s face it: Invoking suicide in opposition to raising wages makes it kind of hard to criticize Obama’s statement directly.

Because Boehner could not dispute that fact then, he chose instead to pose as a champion of the Middle Class and blamed the president for the very income inequality his own party – and he himself – has repeatedly championed.

The sad fact of Republican fact-checking is that their fact-checking needs to be fact-checked, and this was never more true last night. Boehner’s alleged fact-checking is appallingly dishonest, misleading, and grotesquely hypocritical. And those are the facts.

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