President Obama came to South Florida on Tuesday, giving Congressman Allen West reason to publish an infographic bemoaning "the effects of Obamanomics
," saying the president's failed economic policies have added trillions of dollars to the national deficit and caused Florida's 9.4 percent unemployment rate. We tackled those two assertions
on Wednesday, but there are two more: It's Obama's fault that 1 in 7 Americans are on food stamps and that 1 in 4 homes are underwater.
Both accusations are hard to definitively evaluate because of the recession that Obama inherited, but let's give it a shot anyway.
3. Obamanomics caused 1 in 7 Americans to be on food stamps.
Well, there are around 312 million people in the U.S., and as of January 2010, there were about 46.5 million people on food stamps
, according to the Department of Agriculture. That's around 1 in 6.7 Americans. He's got the fraction pretty much right.
But is it Obama's fault or just the recession?
Policy changes by the Bush White House both encouraged eligible citizens to apply and increased the number of people eligible, according to Politifact
, so if it's not Bush's fault, he was at least helping
. Data shows that the number of food-stamp recipients has increased every year
since 2000, and the raw number increased by about 11 million people during Bush's presidency.
During Obama's, by contrast, about 16.5 million people have been added to the rolls. The easiest way to compare these ratios to the population:
Imagine the United States has a population of 100 people. When Bush took office, about six of them were on food stamps. When he left office, about 9.3 of them were.
Now that Obama's in the Big Chair, about 15 out of the 100 are in the program.
So yes, a huge number of people have joined the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program under Obama. But a lot of them were already there, and the recession has played no small part in getting them all that company.
West doesn't provide any evidence that it's "Obamanomics" that's responsible, because there isn't any. But the numbers are true, even if it's just a bum economy. This is the closest one to the truth that West's got.
4. Obamanomics has resulted in 1 in 4 homes being underwater.
This one works only if your calendar is broken.
The most recent housing data from CoreLogic showed that 11.1 million homes were underwater -- homes in which the owner owed more on the mortgage than the property was worth.
According to census data, there are about 132 million housing units
in the U.S. That fraction would be a little larger than 1 in 12. If you count only homes with mortgages on them, then yes, it goes up to about 23.1 percent -- which is not a good number.
But is it Obamanomics that done it? That's a hard one to prove, especially when you look at this housing market graph:
That red line is the Case-Shiller home price index during Bush's second term. It indexes prices in the residential housing market, and, even if you don't get exactly what it's saying, it's clear that the housing market fell apart before Obama was even the Democratic presidential nominee.
When house prices go down, the number of underwater mortgages goes up. So when the housing market crashes under George Bush, is it fair to blame Obama for not fixing it in one term?
How much blame Bush deserves isn't relevant -- but to blame Obama for the long-lasting results of a housing crisis that happened before he was elected seems a lot like sending your kid to summer camp with lupus and getting mad when he comes back missing some toes.